A bonus in raising a child you don't have a biological tie to is you will never saddle them with watching their every move and declaring their musical talent as "that's from your dad's side".
― Nia Vardalos, Instant Mom
When your friend becomes pregnant, you know exactly what to do―bump watch, shower, and then congratulations. But what if she’s adopting instead? Do you have a shower? When? What kind of things change?
First of all, the most important thing is to ask your friend what she wants and what she needs. The occasion is one to celebrate, but depending upon the age of the child, the gifts and timing could change. Timing also depends upon the process, as adoptions are frequently complicated matters, and teeny little legal things can trip them up very easily. So, while you are looking forward to welcoming that bundle of joy in your friend's life, here are a few things you might want to consider.
Ideas for Celebrating an Adoption
Shower or Welcome Party
The rule of thumb is that, a shower is appropriate for a child under two years old, but a welcome party is more appropriate for an older child. Reason being, a shower is mostly for the parents, while a welcome party centers around the child. Once the child is old enough to be aware of what’s going on, including him in the celebration is a better way to make him feel like a part of the family, especially older children, who will definitely understand that the whole purpose of the party is to celebrate their arrival. For a child who may have never felt welcome, this is huge, and has to be delivered with serious responsibility.
Timing is Everything
Timing is a biggie. For a pregnancy, the shower is generally held shortly before the birth. With adoption, there is a lot more to the timeline to consider. For instance, it’s not a good idea to have the party when your friend first finds out she’s getting the child. There’s still way too much that could go wrong and keep the adoption from going through. In fact, the adoption isn’t definite until the paperwork is signed, so most adoption parties happen once the child is already there. But that can pose a problem too, because new parents need a few weeks to devote to their new child at first to facilitate bonding―and the older the child, the longer that could take. So, instead of a surprise, talk this through with your friend, and then plan a party for her. Surely, it will be equally appreciated.
Adoption can stir unwanted discussions amongst family members, relatives, and friends. This can turn certain relationships sour. While planning a party of your friend's adopted child, take the history into consideration, and send the invites accordingly. Avoid spoiling the party with a few unwanted guests. Make this celebration about the child and the parents, and not just about the people who will turn up.
Traditional baby showers were meant to provide the new mom with all the baby-wrangling devices she would need. If your friend is adopting an infant, and it’s her first, these gifts would still be appropriate. If the child is older, clothing and age-appropriate toys may be more needed. With school-age children, it’s important to consult the parents before buying extravagant gifts. While the urge to spoil the child is understandable, the new parents are trying to set the tone of the household, and set the child’s expectations as to what life there is like. If he gets showered with iPads, Xboxes, and drum sets during the first week, you’re setting him up for disappointment when he realizes that all holidays don’t bring the same level of bounty.
If your friend is adopting a child she is fostering, things can be tricky. She’ll still need all of those things that she would need with a non-foster adoption, but she’ll need them at the beginning of the foster, long before the adoption. Here’s the thing―in many places, any gift given at a party the child attends belongs to the child, and must leave with him if the adoption doesn’t go through. It would only increase your friend’s heartache if she had to pack up the car seat and crib along with saying goodbye to her child. But gifts given to the parents before the foster child arrives belong to the parents. If something goes wrong with the adoption, at least your friend will have the things to use for her next foster child.
Bringing a parentless child to its new family is a beautiful thing, and it’s only natural to want to celebrate. But if you’re planning a party, remember that surprises can have unintended consequences. So, just involve the new parents, abide by their wishes, and do what you can to smoothen the transition for both the new parents and the child. A celebration as such is about making the moment enjoyable and memorable, and not a memory only worthy of gossip.