Letters to birthparents....the very thought of it to a new adoptive mom or dad can be intimidating, nerve-wracking, and scary. Not because adoptive parents don't want to write a letter, it's that they want to write a great letter...one that is honest, authentic and that the birthparents will be pleased to read. Trying to come up with the perfect letter is sometimes a barrier to communication because it takes so long to create the final draft that you are happy with sending. Let yourself off the hook - it doesn't have to be perfect, just genuine!
Here are some practical tips from our agency:
1. Include the "high points" and "milestones" of your month or time frame since the last letter (first smiles, first trips to the zoo, first time in the pool, first steps, etc.).
2. Describe special events, parties, or activities that your family enjoyed.
3. If you are sending pictures, link your letter to the pictures by describing what's going on in the photos to bring them alive for the birthparents.
4. In addition to updating about your child, be sure to include things about the whole family. The birthparent is getting to know you as much as you are trying to get to know them, so it's important to share things that help him or her to understand your personalities as well. Remember - for many years, your relationship is primarily between adoptive parents and birthparents until the child is older.
5. Ask questions to encourage a response from the birthparents. We often hear birth parents say that they don't have any idea what to write about or share about, yet they know that you want to get to know them. Help them out by asking the things that you're curious about so they can address them in the response letter.
6. Understand that you may not get a response from every letter that you send - and understand that this is ok. During the first year, especially, birthparents work through a range of difficult emotions. At times, receiving your update will be very helpful and healing and, at other times, it may be painful. However, it's important that you continue to write and keep in contact unless the birthparent requests a change to the communication plans. You are fulfilling your commitment that you made to him or her and honoring your commitment helps them to build trust.
These letters will be cherished by the birth parents. I suggest that you make a copy of every letter or email that you send to your child's birth parents (and their responses) to keep them in a notebook to share with the child later. Some of you have been writing letters for many years to birth parents, what are your ideas to new adoptive parents to keep them fresh and new?