THE IMPORTANCE OF HONORING BIRTH PARENTS
Did you know that adoption has its own symbol? It’s a triangle intertwined with a heart:
The triangle represents the three sides of an adoption: at the apex is the adoptee, while the birth parents and the adoptive parents form the foundation. Tying the sides together is a heart, representing the love shared in the relationship of adoption. All three sides are integral to the shape, and all three are joined together in love.
Your child’s birth family is the most significant factor in your child’s history. As adoptive parents, we can wonder how much of our child is endowed by the genetic influences of his birth family and how much is shaped by the way we raise him. Blue eyes and blond hair – likely a legacy from the birth parents. Intelligence, creativity, love of spicy food, stubbornness, shyness, athleticism – are these things born or made? It’s a web we can’t possibly untangle, but in the end, it might not really matter. He is perfect exactly the way he is.
Whether you have an open adoption, with ongoing contact with your child’s birth family, or you adopted a child who was abandoned on the streets of China, it is important to honor the people who gave life to your child. Here are some ways to do that:
- Talk about her birth parents, and give her opportunities to talk about them too. Bring up her birth parents in casual conversation, something like, “You have such beautiful brown eyes; I bet your birth mother has brown eyes just like you” or “You must get your musical ability from your birth family because I can’t carry a tune in a bag.” Then let her decide if she wants this to lead to a discussion. Be open to her questions and listen to her thoughts and feelings about her birth family.
- Plant a tree for the birth family. Trees have long symbolized family, with roots that dig deep into the earth and branches that grow and spread. A tree planted in your backyard is a wonderful visual reminder of the legacy of adoption.
- Create a prayer balloon. Write wishes and prayers for the birth family on little slips of paper. Put the slips of paper in a helium balloon and release the balloon into the air to bring the prayers to your daughter’s birth family in another state or another country.
- Celebrate Birthmother’s Day. Most people know that the second Sunday in May is Mother’s Day; what many people don’t know is that the second Saturday of May (the day before Mother’s Day, which is fitting) is Birthmother Day. Established in 1990, it is a day to honor your child’s first mother and the sacrifice she made in giving birth to your child. You will be hard-pressed to find a card in a Hallmark store, but you can create your own. This would be a good day to plant that tree or release that balloon, too. Side note: I don’t know of an equivalent “Birthfather Day,” you could start one!
- Dedicate a page in his baby book to his birth family. If you know who they are, you can include pictures and information about them. If they are nameless people in another country, you can include items representing their birth culture: a sticker of the flag of India, a map of China with his birth city circled, a poem in Amharic. Let your child have input in creating the page, if possible, and talk about why each item on the page is an important part of his identity.
It is a true statement that the adoptive parents’ attitudes toward birth parents will have a significant impact on the child’s perception of his or her birth family. Adoptive parents who speak of birth parents with tenderness and respect will teach their children that adoption is a wonderful way to form a family. In honoring your child’s birth family, you will honor your child as well.
This article was written by Diane Hood, Clinical Supervisor with America World Adoption, and the Director of Social Services in our Georgia office. Diane has more than 20 years experience in the adoption field and she is a parent by birth and by adoption.
ACT (Adoption Coaching and Training) is a ministry of America World Adoption designed to support families through training, support groups, and individualized coaching. Explore ACT services on our website here, and reach out to us today for a free consultation to make a plan to meet your needs.