Thursday, March 31, 2016


Everyone is raised in a family with particular routines, rituals and traditions. Think back upon your upbringing. There were holiday and birthday celebrations, weekday and weekend routines and dinners for weeknights or special events. While you probably have continued some of these traditions, you can create new ones for your growing family.

When your child is very young, you will be deciding what, when and how to include individual family member’s cultures, early experiences and the birth family (either in thought or actually present). As soon as your children can indicate likes and dislikes, they are old enough to be included in planning and carrying out these events.

There are many opportunities for  new rituals and celebrations. Start by making a list of your and your child’s daily activities, including routine tasks. Look for repetitive tasks (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) - Waking up and bedtime, bath time, mealtime or family time. Don’t forget milestones like birthdays and adoption day, starting school and school graduations, religious celebrations or passages, such as baby namings and bar/bat  mitzvahs, getting a driver’s license, high school graduation, leaving for college, marrying or becoming a grandparent. All should include your family and their milestones as a growing unit and how you interrelate with one another and your community.

What does a particular event or activity mean to you, your child, your family and community? Did you or your child create it? Did you learn it from your parents or grandparents? Does it have a spiritual or religious basis? Does it hold a family value? Is it tied into your community, such as attending synagogue or lighting candles?

Check your list carefully and how your family has recognized or celebrated these events in the past. Are you comfortable with these familiar routines? Does it accurately represent the meaning of the event? Does it encompass all family members? Does it encompass your religious observances?

This is a good time to personalize these occasions. Decide what you would like to include or omit. Think about ways to incorporate adoption, family or religious traditions or multicultural aspects of your family. Consider who you would like to include and how you would like to perform or celebrate this event.

Talk to your child and other family members to make sure they are in agreement. This is an opportunity to discuss how adoption has influenced their life and that of your family. There will be shifts in how adoption is experienced and viewed by all family members, including birth families. While everyone has a right to express their feelings, it must be done in a respectful manner.

Even wondering what it would have been like to do daily tasks, such as preparing meals, washing up for bed, getting ready for school or learning to drive,  is a great time to help your child think through their adoption and how their life might have been different. It is a good time for you to think through how your life might have been different, as well.

Make the planning and implementation of the new celebration or ritual a family activity. Do not include your child’s adoption, culture or birth family without assessing your child’s comfort in exposing that part of their history with others. For example, for children who think about birth family on their birthday – there are options. The celebration can include adding an extra candle on their cake, inviting birth family to a party orseparate  celebration, or including a cultural aspect of their early life. Other children may want no public mention or symbol of their early life at this event, although they may want to recognize the milestone or event more privately.

While any ceremony, even a weeknight dinner, can include foods of another ethnicity, try blending all family cultures. For example, look for similarities, such as kreplach and dumplings, blinis and silver dollar pancakes or potato pancakes and mofungo.

Decorate your child’s room, home or party location using various country color schemes or symbols. For a party, you can include an activity such as coloring pictures or an art project that reflects a family value, culture, religion or composition.

Play music of several styles, genres or countries. This may include your child’s favorite music from a particular part of the US or from overseas. Sing songs in several languages.

Have fun with this opportunity to explore your creative side, while helping your child integrate all aspects of who they are and who they will become.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed 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 Director of the Ametz Adoption Program from March 1992 to March 2015. She is Head Writer for, member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and has a private practice in New York City. She was a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series and named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. Follow or reach her at ADOPTION MAVEN BLOG or EMAIL