It’s supposed to be “warm and fuzzy time,” and during the holidays most families anticipate spending time with relatives. Thanksgiving and Christmas get-togethers give us a chance to build connections with people we love who live far away. For the adoptive parent however, these get-togethers can be the source of a lot of holiday anxiety.
Adoptive parents want their children to be loved and accepted by their extended families, but many are anxious about how to approach the subject. Often times family members need to be educated about adoption. Many may not know positive adoption language, and we worry that someone may say something that hurts our child. We wonder if our relatives will be sensitive to our children’s feelings. Other relatives may feel entitled to details about your child’s birth family or may not fully understand the need to respect our children’s privacy when it comes to their adoption stories.
As an adoptive parent, you have learned much in your journey about your child and her needs. Honestly, did you know what positive adoption language was or what questions were inappropriate before you started your adoption journey? Fostering relationships between your child and your extended family will take time, but there are ways to get your family up to speed.
- Politely but strongly emphasize that your child’s story and the details of it belong solely to your child. She is the only one who can share that information and will only share as much as she is comfortable sharing.
- Explain how certain aspects of your child’s behavior may be influenced by experiences before adoption. For example, if your child has trouble sharing, explain to your family that she is especially protective of her toys because in the orphanage she did not have items that belonged only to her. Then explain how you are trying to help her overcome this.
- Having your child meet with your relatives before the holidays can take the pressure off. It’s much easier to bond in a low-key situation where expectations are not so high. If this is impossible because your relatives live far away, write them a letter and include a picture of your child. Explain your concerns, what positive adoption language is, and why it is important to be respectful of your child’s birth family.
- If your relatives are up for reading, suggest articles and books for them to read, or send them to websites like Creating a Family that have useful resources for anyone who wants to learn more about adoption.
- Observe similarities between your child and your relatives to encourage connections. Maybe your daughter is sassy like Aunt Martha, or maybe your son likes toy cars like Uncle Carl did as a child. Maybe your child likes to tell stories like Grandpa or bake like Grandma.
As your child grows, these people will become a network of support, so it’s very critical that your child feels that they accept her as one of their own. These bonds will provide your child with peace of mind that she, her children, and her grandchildren will forever be a part of your family.