I’m not for writing “How-tos,” but planning birthday parties with my foster or adopted child’s birth families is something I know a thing or two about. So I’m going to get straight to it:
1. You don’t HAVE to have a birthday party with your child’s birth parents. Maybe you had good intentions, but the stress of the day is getting to be too much? Rethink it. Children pick up on their parents’ stress, so it’s important for you to be comfortable as well. Consider alternatives, such as celebrating a few weeks before or after the actual birth date. Or…
2. Have a few small parties instead of one giant one. Worried Uncle Jim is going to say something offensive to your daughter’s birth mother? You’re probably right. If you don’t have to put them in the same room, don’t. You can have your family party, a kids party, a party with your child’s birth parents and some of your friends — whatever combination works for you. And don’t hesitate to ask a few close friends to attend more than one party. My friends were happy to help with my son’s birth family party and they loved meeting them. Their family was so big I wouldn’t have been able to have a unified party, anyway.
3. Reconsider your definition of birthday party. What are the key elements? Pretty much a cake or a variation (cupcakes, granola bars, whatever) and maybe candles. But what it’s really about is being together and celebrating. It’s your job to invite and everyone else’s job to show up. That’s it! You can do 20 of those parties, right? Right!
4. Photos. It’s all about the photos. If focusing on being the photographer is a bit too much to juggle, hire a local photography student or pass the duties to a willing friend. Think about what kind of photos your child will want in the future, and try to get as many as possible. A photo alone with birth mom? Alone with birth dad? Together with birth mom and birth dad? Just siblings? Just sisters? Just brothers? If you don’t see the family often, snap away!
5. Consider a special ribbon or name badge that proudly proclaims “Proud Birth Mom” or “Proud Birth Dad” and so on. It’s important to your child and your child’s birth parents that their family status is not only recognized but celebrated! It’s also a fantastic ice breaker for your friends and family to introduce themselves. “So you’re the birthday boy’s birth mom. I see where he gets his beautiful eyes from!” And on that note…
6. Don’t be shy about prepping your friends and family about your child’s birth family being present. They’ll appreciate it! For example, “Julian calls his birth mom ‘Ba-ma.’ Her real name is Jackie. Please don’t hesitate to introduce yourself to her and compliment her on how handsome/smart/witty and all around awesome Julian is. Kindly don’t ask about the birth father please.”
7. Other ways to make your child’s birth family feel special include having a photo of them in a centrally located place (maybe not a photo of the actual birth day, perhaps something more recent and less emotional? It depends, you’ll know what’s best), having games that incorporate them, or even just giving a bouquet of flowers with a private message.
8. Ask your child’s birth family about traditions or cultural customs around birthdays. There might be something very simple that you could incorporate into the celebration that could add a lot of meaning for everyone.
For more Posts from Rebecca this month: