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5 Ways To Celebrate Birthdays While Waiting
Brooke Randolph, LMHC
I have been a fan of the Biggest Loser for years. I even got to be a part of the finale when Bernie Salazar
won the at home prize on Season five. As a therapist I love watching people work hard and be rewarded in changing their lives. There have been a lot of connections to adoption with the Biggest Loser as well, which I believe says more about how common adoption really is than it does about the Biggest Loser. Last season Dolvett
shared part of his adoption story. Last seasons winner is an adoptive father. Jillian Michaels has been very public in her international adoption journey in Congo
and now Haiti
. This week, Kim Nielsen shared that she was adopted also.
The adoptive parent paying attention will have been reminded of Adoption Preparation Education
as Kim shared that each birthday as a child she wondered if her birth mother was thinking about her. Kim shared her story this week because she was missing her daughter's sixth birthday while at the ranch, and she didn't want her daughter to think she wasn't thinking about her. As a therapist, I would like to reassure Kim that her birth mother was likely thinking about her a lot on her birthday. Many birth mothers share that they think about their child nearly unceasingly for weeks surrounding the birthday, as well as throughout the year. As a therapist, I would also like to reassure Kim that missing her daughter's birthday will not likely scar her.
Not being able to spend a birthday together is often hard on parents in the midst of the international adoption process. Unlike Kim's daughter, children that have been in orphanages are likely not used to birthday celebrations, and many may not even know their birthdates. While the children may not yet recognize a birthday as a day to be celebrated, there are things parents can do to mark the birthday of the child for whom they are waiting and start to introduce the idea that the child is worthy of celebration, an aspect of attachment
that is important to building trust and self-esteem.
- Birthday Sign - I get some of my best tips from creative clients. One family they told me they created a poster that read "Happy Birthday, Maria!"* and posed for photos with it. They sent a copy of the photo to the child, but if that is not possible in your country program, the photo can be saved or scrapbooked for the child to see later.
- Letter - Whether you send or save the photo, a letter can be included with it. Many parents write letters to their children each year on their birth dates. While you may not be able to spend your child's birthday with him or her, you can write down how you feel to be read later. Often parental words mean much more when read later in life.
- Cake - Sending a photo of a birthday cake that a child cannot eat may not help a child feel special. If you celebrate with cake in the birthday child's absence, you may want to save the photos until later. If packaged well, wedding cake lasts for a year; in the same way, you could freeze your child's birthday cake to be enjoyed after he or she is in your home. Rather than an entire cake, I will likely freeze a cupcake. You could also just recreate the cake or cupcake later.
- Half birthday Party - A half birthday may be a great day to celebrate if you missed the actual birthdate. Children with summer birthdays or December birthdays often have half birthday parties rather than celebrations on their actual birthdates. You will want to determine if this will become a tradition or simply a one time event.
- Gift - Having a present to unwrap, even months later, can communicate worth to a child and let him or her know he or she was on your mind. If you do this, give only one gift to not overwhelm a child still adjusting to the idea of personal property.
*names changed for child's safety and privacy
photo credit Diets in Review and Free Digital Photos
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