Helping Children with a Dual Reality of Birthdays

Birthdays are a time of great joy for children, and for families as they celebrate the gift of their child. Yet some adopted persons report feelings of sadness around their birthdays. Persons who were adopted must deal with the dual reality that on their birth date, something joyous happened certainly, but often something sad happened as well. Perhaps they were born into sad circumstances, or their birth was the occasion for their permanent separation from their birthmother.

Other children hear, nearly every birthday, details surrounding their birth, how their parents couldn’t wait for it, how wanted they were. But around first or second grade, adopted children begin to see a second side of the “chosen child” story we often use to help them feel good about themselves. They realize that before someone chose to be their parent, someone else first chose not too. Even if that was a loving and appropriate choice, it may be a hard one for a child (or anyone) to understand. Eventually the child must come to terms with (I do not say “understand”) why they were taken from their birthparents or, perhaps even more confusingly, why birthparents gave up the right to parent them.

There are two children’s books which reinforce that all children are special and wanted. These are great for adopted children, though not written specifically for adopted children.

The first is Debra Frasier’s On the Day You Were Born. Also available as a book and musical CD set, this book tells the tale of how the winds, the animals and all creation prepared for the coming of a new life. This book helps a child see that the universe rejoiced at her coming, even if, at the time, her birthparents could not. The book is not specifically religious but conveys the sense of a larger purpose to each individual’s life.

The Twelve Gifts of Birth, by Charlene Costanzo, starts where legends and fairy tales leave off—with the wise women (in some cultures fairies, in some godmothers, or the grandmothers of the village) who show up to pronounce gifts for royal babies. The book explains that the wise women realized these “twelve royal gifts of birth were for every child, born anywhere, at any time”. They yearned to proclaim these gifts to all children, not just royal ones, but the customs of the land did not allow that. But the wise women are gradually making the secret known: “At the wondrous moment you were born, as you took your first breath, a great celebration was held in the heavens.” The book shows photos of children as it describes twelve gifts and a wish for how the child will wisely use each one. The gifts include strength, compassion, reverence, love, joy, faith, etc.

The dedication page of the book quotes Psalm 110:3: “Royal dignity was yours from the day you were born” And also Meister Eckhart, medieval Christian mystic, “Every human person is noble and of royal blood.” Nothing else in the book is tied to a specific religion (the wish accompanying the gift of faith is, “May you believe”) and I think would appeal to a wide audience.

See these related blogs:

Birth Parents Love Their Kids

11 Things Some Adoptive Parents Would Like Birth Family by State Adoption to Know

Book Review: Real Parents, Real Children

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About Pam Connell

Pam Connell is a mother of three by both birth and adoption. She has worked in education, child care, social services, ministry and journalism. She resides near Seattle with her husband Charles and their three children. Pam is currently primarily a Stay-at-Home-Mom to Patrick, age 8, who was born to her; Meg, age 6, and Regina, age 3, who are biological half-sisters adopted from Korea. She also teaches preschoolers twice a week and does some writing. Her activities include volunteer work at school, church, Cub Scouts and a local Birth to Three Early Intervention Program. Her hobbies include reading, writing, travel, camping, walking in the woods, swimming and scrapbooking. Pam is a graduate of Seattle University and Gonzaga University. Her fields of study included journalism, religious education/pastoral ministry, political science and management. She served as a writer and editor of the college weekly newspaper and has been Program Coordinator of a Family Resource Center and Family Literacy Program, Volunteer Coordinator at a church, Religion Teacher, Preschool Teacher, Youth Ministry Coordinator, Camp Counselor and Nanny. Pam is an avid reader and continuing student in the areas of education, child development, adoption and public policy. She is eager to share her experiences as a mother by birth and by international adoption, as a mother of three kids of different learning styles and personalities, as a mother of kids of different races, and most of all as a mom of three wonderful kids!

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