The holidays can be a time of joy and celebration for birth mothers, but they can also be a time of sorrow and grief. This time of year, oftentimes, can be a stark reminder of just how distant we are from our own placed children and leave us feeling anxious or detached. Most birth mothers who have open adoptions struggle to figure out their place during the holidays and try not to impose on the adoptive family and their plans but want to be included somehow. Unfortunately, there is no rule book on how to navigate the holidays as a birth mother so I’ve compiled tother a basic guide below that might offer some insight to those who just aren’t quite sure where to begin. I know there is much to be said about the holidays and each adoption is going to be different, but I hope this sparks ideas for birth parents and possibly helps adoptive parents understand how complex the holidays can be for birth parents.
- If you don’t know, just ask: Whether you have a very open adoption or not, when it comes to sending gifts during the holidays, figuring out what to give your child during the holidays can be confusing. We feel like we should know what to get our child, yet some of us don’t even know where to begin, especially if you don’t have a close relationship with your child. This can be a hard reality to face as we might experience guilt for not knowing our own child. Don’t fret too much if this is you! It is OK to ask your child’s adoptive parents for gift ideas. Let them know you are having trouble figuring out what to get your child and would like some gift ideas. That way you aren’t taking shots in the dark and can learn a little more about your child.
- Write a Christmas card: This suggestion is better for those who have closed or strained adoptions. If you are unable to give gifts to your child during the holidays, consider writing them a Christmas card of sorts. Write a letter to your child that includes what you have done that year. Give life updates talk about your accomplishments and some of the things you enjoyed that year. If you are not able to send the letter to your child, put them in a keepsake box just in case you are ever in reunion with your child. They will be able to go through each year and read about you and your life and know you were thinking of them every holiday season.
- Include other siblings: If your placed child lives in a household with other children and you have the means to do this, think of including the siblings in the holiday gift giving. This gesture can be especially impactful if your child’s siblings are adopted too. It can help them feel included and give the siblings a feeling of unity. I recommend asking the adoptive parents if this is okay before giving them gifts as well just in case it brings up some difficult emotions for the children.
- Make ornaments: If you are able to see your child during the holidays, a fun way to stay connected is to make ornaments each year for them to hang on their tree. Maybe they are ornaments that include a picture of the two of you or represent something meaningful to you and your child. Work together to make these ornaments as a way to build that relationship and create memories.
- Experiences: For those who see their child during the holidays, find a fun holiday event to go to or find a volunteer opportunity to do if your child is old enough to attend too. This could be a great way to get the whole family involved and do something to give back to the community. Volunteer opportunities are typically free too in case getting gifts is not within your budget.
While there are many more things birth parents can do during the holiday to create closeness, I hope this guide is a good starting point. Holidays can be hard to navigate but just know you are not alone. Ask your birth mom friends what they do for holidays and pick and choose which ideas are going to work for you and your adoption. I hope this holiday season brings joy instead of longing and I hope you can celebrate your child without worrying about overstepping. You are important to your child and hold the keys to their success in forming their identity. May this holiday be the best one yet.