Saturday, December 6, 2014


Birthdays come once a year for all of us, whether we like it or not. Most children count the days until their celebration. Depending on the age, they may plan parties, make lists of wanted gifts and party goers.

If you have maintained a relationship with your child’s birth family, you may decide to celebrate the birth day together or create a separate celebration to honor your child’s history.

Where you have not maintained a relationship - for adopted children (and their parents) - this may also bring up thoughts of birth parents and birth siblings. Typical questions at this time of year:

·   Where are they?
·    Do they think of me?
·    Do they remember it’s my birthday?

What can you do as a parent to help your child through their “birthday”:

·  Listen to your child.
·     Answer questions with information you have and that you feel your child is ready to hear.
·    Admit when you don’t know the answer and agree to try to get information.

What you and your child can do together:

·  Add an extra candle on their cake in recognition of their birth parents.
·  Help your child write a letter to their birth parent, expressing their feelings and include       questions they have. You can decide together if you will actually send the letter (directly or through an intermediary). Either way, it is a great exercise in communicating.
·    Write a letter yourself expressing how you feel and asking anything you want to know. Mail it (directly or through an intermediary) or keep it as a marker of what you were thinking and feeling at that time.

An exercise for you:

Review the past year - how your child has grown, what they have accomplished and what new skills they have learned. You made it through another year of parenting. You should be gaining courage to include adoption in your lives. You should be less fearful of talking about adoption. Your child has bonded with you for another year and is that much more a part of the family. If you are struggling with being a parent through adoption or your child is grappling with being adopted, seek the assistance of a professional.

Birthdays can be a wonderful annual check-in of how you and your child are feeling about being an adoptive family, and how it (if at all) is influencing your relationship or your child’s relationships with others. Embrace birthdays and the opportunity to discuss your child’s past and how you became a family. Create new rituals and family traditions. Look through old photo albums and see how you have both grown. Learn together – how adoption has influenced your lives and how it has made you a strong resilient family.

One more year – one more chance to talk – one more step to a strong parent/child bond.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. She has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled adoptive parents and parents-to-be, and has trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001 and has a private practice in New York City. She has been Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA since 1992. You can follow her at or email her at