In 1976 Governor Michael Dukakis announced Adoption Week in his home state of Massachusetts to promote awareness of the need for adoptive families. Eight years later, President Ronald Reagan announced the first ever National Adoption week in the U.S. Finally, in 1995, President Bill Clinton expanded that week to National Adoption Month. Now, every November people come together to advocate for adoption, adoptive families, and children who need forever families. Below is a list of ways you can get involved and to help change people’s perspective about adoption and celebrate your family.

Retell your child her adoption story.

Look at family photos, watch home movies, or even try making your own story book as a keepsake for your child. Check some of the creative ideas and tutorials on YouTube of how to make your own books. Here is a link to one that can show you how to make your own picture album/scrapbook.

Share a family tradition or start a new tradition.

It’s not the gifts they remember at this time of year, it’s the family traditions. Think of a tradition your family had when you were a child. Did your family sit down to eat at the dinner table every night or cut down your own Christmas tree every year when you were growing up? You probably have a much clearer memory of those times together than of any present you got for Christmas. Try to think of ways you could begin doing these same things with your children.

Celebrate your child’s heritage.

Cook a traditional meal. Go online and look for traditional recipes from your child’s birth country, and cook a meal for your family. Ask you child if there are any foods he remembers specifically, and let your children help prepare the meal. Hint: You can also do this even if your child came from just the next county or state over.

Watch a positive adoption themed movie.

Be careful that you pick a movie that portrays adoption in a positive light. Babe, Tarzan, The Prince of Egypt, Stuart Little, The Rescuers,Despicable Me, and Superman are all good choices, but steer away from titles like Annie, Tangled, and Thor that portray adopted children or adoptive families in negative ways.

Use #National Adoption Month or #NAM2015 on social media

Word of mouth can be a powerful tool for raising awareness and educating people. Check out the National Adoption Month website for tips on how to use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to change people’s perspective about adoption.

Get your church involved.

Ask your church to display a floral arrangement in honor of all the children still waiting for forever families or in honor of a birth mother who chose adoption. You could also consider taking up a love offering for organizations that work in orphanages or with local foster families.

Get Grandma and Grandpa involved.

Take your child’s grandparent to an adoption conference to help educate your extended family about adoption. You might consider coming to our Ask and Eat workshop Friday November 13 at 6:30 pm or Saturday November 14 at 9:00am at Parkway Church in Madison, Ms. (To register contact Kasy Ates by email at kasy@newbeginningsadoption.org or phone at 601.421.7999.)

Book it!

Buy an adoption related book for your child’s classroom or ask your child’s school or local library to display books about adoption to commemorate National Adoption Awareness Month.

Print it!

Print out a list of positive adoption language vocabulary words or common myths about adoption and pass them out to teachers, preachers, doctors, state legislators and the local media.

Write it!

Write a letter of encouragement for a family in the middle of the adoption process, or write thank you notes to the judges, social workers, or other professional who made your adoption possible.

We know you have many other creative ideas for celebrating National Adoption Month. Leave us a note (or even better a picture!) in the comments.

Having said all of that, from the “experience vault” of international adoptive parents who began the process in the 1980’s, “Sometimes our children will say, ‘I’m an American. I want to look and be dressed like my friends. I want to eat hamburgers and French Fries—not…” They encourage adoptive parents to not “force” a child to embrace a culture. In cases where this may occur, talk positively about it, offer opportunities, but don’t expect a child to agree with our thinking. Also, as one agency director in another country told Tom Velie when he was talking about offering cultural experiences for the children coming from that country, “Please don’t force a child to remember AgapeLand (fictitious name). They were abused here. They were institutionalized here. Let them be Americans and be proud of their new homeland and culture. Someday, if they choose, they can come back.” The experienced parents summation, “Honor your child’s processing and desires above your own or what others may say YOU SHOULD be doing.”