Many families include the ritual of “telling the birthday child’s story” as part of the way they celebrate birthdays. All children seem to enjoy hearing “their story.” The retelling of those never to be forgotten moments and feelings which occurred around the time of your child’s adoption, can become an important part of his birthday celebration.
Families marvel at their sons and daughters, now in their teen years, who still look forward to the telling of their special story. Tell your child how much you wanted him, how it felt to wait for a child to adopt, and what it was like when you were first told about him. What did you do after receiving that call? Were there tears? Who did you call? How did you get ready for his arrival? What about any meetings with the birth family? Who was there and what was said? Were the birth parents sad? What about hospital involvement? When did you first see your child? Try to remember the exact moment. Describe that moment in great detail. Who held the child first? Describe those feelings.
The story could go on to include bringing the child home. Who was there, what did everyone say and do? What is important is that you are telling your child his story; the story of his incredibly beautiful and astonishingly important arrival into your family. Hearing his story, the child understands, in a very special way, that he belongs in this family and that he is valued for who he is.
Recreate the day your child came to live with you. If you picked your child up at the hospital, call ahead and see if you can gain access to the maternity floor. Visit the nursery and the waiting room. If placement occurred at the agency, try to arrange a family tour. What was the route home? Getting in the car and driving down those roads allows everyone to re-experience the thrills of the day. Families can go to the courthouse. Often the judge will make special arrangements to meet your child. Was the day of finalization important? If so, tell your child how it felt to know he was coming home with you.
Take a few minutes alone to remember for yourself the sheer joy of those moments. Children pretty much pick up where their parents are emotionally, so if your are re-experiencing the delight, they will know it and relish the moment in their own special way.
Another way you can help your children to develop a strong sense of belonging in their family is through the use of claiming behaviors. Positive claiming in adoptive families helps children feel that they are “like” their parents, and that they “fit” into the family. Claiming statements separate the “we” from the “they;” who is in the family and who is not.
Physical characteristics help young children define themselves and how they are like or unlike others. Looking like people in your family provides a sense of security and belonging. Individuals who look alike seem to naturally “go together”. For adopted children, looking different often makes them feel different. You can help your child feel “like” you by recognizing and pointing out ways, other than physically, that your child is like you. Shared interests and talents provide opportunities for claiming. Take a look at the examples below:
“Jack, you can take apart a vacuum and put it back together in no time at all. I used to enjoy doing those sorts of things when I was your age, too.”
“Michelle is very interested in how things work. I like that too.”
“Joey’s like me, he would rather curl up and read a book than do just about anything else.”
Common abilities, behaviors, and personality characteristics also help children feel “like” their family. Consider the following claiming statements, thinking about the kinds of statements that might fit for your family:
“Janie ties her shoes like bunny ears, that’s how I learned too.”
“Alexis is a good reader, just like her older brother.”
“All of our children get nervous stomachs before try-outs.”
“Our family likes to go out for Sunday breakfast.”