Thursday, October 5, 2017

Dear Sugar: What to Include in Updates to your Child's Birth Family

Dear Sugar:

You sit down at your computer to type an update to your child's birth family and you wind up looking at a blank screen for several minutes, even hours.   Then perhaps you shut down the laptop, go get some ice cream (because that makes everyone feel better), and vow to try again tomorrow.  Yet the cycle repeats itself.  WHAT IN THE WORLD DO I WRITE?, you ask yourself.  

Most domestic infant adoptions these days have some level of openness, and this openness often includes what we call "updates."  An update is pretty self-explanatory.   Doesn't it sound hopeful and reasonable?  But for someone who isn't a writer (or talker or sharer) by nature, updates can be daunting.   So today, I'm here to help!

If you're new to the WSBS community, here's a quick summary of our family.  We've been in the adoption community for a decade.  We have four children, all adopted domestically and at birth, and all of the adoptions are open.  So that means four kids, four open adoptions, and yes, four updates to be written at once!  (I like to send updates at the same time in order to stay consistent and organized). 

Here are some things to include in updates:

  • the child's growth, which may include his or her height, weight, size in clothing.  This is especially true of infants who grow rapidly!  
  • favorites.  What does the child most enjoy?  Include foods, activities, even specifics like books or tv shows or songs.    
  • dislikes.  What drives the child bonkers?  Again, include foods, activities, etc.
  • milestones and firsts.  What new accomplishments have occurred since your last update?  First tooth?  First trip to the beach?  First word?  
  • medical info.  Did your child have a cold last month?   What about that first broken bone after a bike incident?  How did he or she bounce back?   
  • family fun.  Did you take your child on vacation?  What about a weekend visit to Grandma and Grandpa's?  Maybe on Friday nights, your new tradition is popcorn-and-movie nights in your pjs.   
  • personality.  Is your child serious or silly?  Does he or she have a certain "look" given to strangers or to a silly aunt? What makes your kiddo special and awesome?  
  • holidays and celebrations.  Talk about things like baking sugar cookies together, decorating the Christmas tree, that epic Easter egg hunt with the cousins.  
  • funny or sweet quotes.  Have a talker?  Share something funny or sweet the child said.  
  • changes.  Is your daughter no longer into Doc McStuffins, but is now on a Nella the Princess Knight kick?  Are the twins trying to potty train?   
  • hopes.  What are you looking forward to in the coming month?  A scheduled trip to the zoo?  A certain holiday celebration?  School starting?  
Some have asked me, but shouldn't I ONLY share the "good stuff"? I don't want the birth parents thinking there's something wrong with us (as parents) or the child.   The answer is no!  No you shouldn't just include the "good stuff."  Your child is a human being with likes and dislikes and quirks and flaws.   Illness happens.   Tantrums happen (oh help me, Jesus, with ages 2-4).   

How often should you send an update (however you choose to send it)?   That's really between you and the birth family.  Though infants change SO rapidly, that I think sending updates more frequently in the beginning is perfectly reasonable.   It can also be reassuring and healing for both you and the birth family to update frequently at the beginning of the post-placement relationship.  

Join me on Facebook to discuss adoption updates.  What do you include?  What are you struggling with when it comes to post-placement relationships?  

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