Friday, January 13, 2012

CAUTION: Sending Gifts To Our Child Pre-Adoption

Sending a small gift and/or photobook to a child before they come home has become nearly universal.  It has also become quite common for parents to use an in-country service to send additional gifts.

But caution is needed.

And no, I'm not talking about the legalities of sending gifts.  That's a whole topic in itself.  The caution hits much closer to home--our child's heart.

It's exciting to pick out gifts for our child, when what we really want is to gift them with our presence--and a plane ticket home to forever.  A photo album is incredibly important to help them begin to transition and prepare for adoption.  A gift can give them a sense of belonging and love.  Parents send small stuffed animals, toys, candy, hair clips, and other cool stuff--whatever they can fit in a manila envelope (the gift size most agencies allow--at least when adopting an older child). 

But a gift can also bring pain.


Unfortunately, I've learned it through my own children's experiences.  And I've also learned through multiple other families experiences; which is what this post is all about. 

Yes, a gift can make a child feel loved and special.  It can be exciting for them to finally have a gift from someone--someone who LOVES them.  It might be the first gift they have ever received.  But, here are some questions to consider:
  • Will the gift cause jealousy amongst the other children in the orphanage or foster family?  Will this jealousy manifest itself in harm to our child--not just at the time the gift is given, but later?
  • Even if it doesn't cause jealousy, will it cause emotional pain for the other children who may never get a family of their own--let alone a special gift?
  • Will the gifts suddenly disappear in the night?  (Remember, there are multiple children in orphanages, sometimes older teens, multiple caregivers/foster parents living hand-to-mouth, and the blackmarket will pay enough on many small gifts to feed a family for a week.)
  • If the gift "disappears" how will my child feel?
  • Will the gift make my child feel guilty?  Sad?  Many children give their gifts away, because they feel sad for the other children without a family.  Or they leave the gifts with their foster families, because they know they have so little.  And yet, our child feels conflicted, because they really did want to keep their gifts.
  • How will our child feel if they have to leave the gifts behind on adoption day?
  • How will our child feel if they never receive a gift that we sent?  How will we feel?  Anger?  Resentment? Frustration?  Sometimes gifts don't make it to the intended child--for multiple reasons. 
Knowing what I know now, I made gift selections carefully for our Mei Mei.  I sent things that could be shared with a group, things that she wouldn't be sad to leave behind/give away.  We even included a note saying in English and Chinese to share with friends.  Not only does this avoid the jealousy/guilt issue, it also gives my child the chance to be the popular girl with the "goods" to share.  It's a party for everyone!

 Gift ideas and considerations:
  • Any item that can be shared with a group--stickers, coloring pages, games, a lullaby CD
  • Food that can be shared with a group--fruit leather, fruit snacks, dried squid, lollipops
  • Educational items like math flashcards, workbooks, crayons, a pack of mechanical pencils
  • Crafts, beads, friendship bracelet kit, set of blow-up balls or hacky sacks--again, think group
  • Shirt or outfit, which will most likely be saved for adoption day
  • Social stories can also be printed and sent (available on Holt's website  --scroll down to the bottom of the page.)
  • Buy doubles of everything you send--one set to send, one to keep at home--then, if your child leaves the gifts behind, they will arrive home to all their "things." 
  • Think in terms of institutional child safety, choking hazards, cultural difference, e.g.stuffed animals are not usually given to children for sanitation reasons.
  • A photo album; translated letter; homemade DVD showing family, home, community; art work from the other children in the home--the most important gifts!
Sending gifts to our children is a wonderful way to form a connection, but caution and consideration is needed.  In the end, I just keep reminding myself that once we get our Mei Mei home, we can shower her with gifts--FOREVER!  Especially the gift of LOVE! 

Here is one gift we have waiting for our Mei Mei--OSU pajamas to match with the family! I sent her a picture!


"Are These Kids All Yours?" said...

Wow....never thought about all those things. Very insightful!

Sooo exciting to see your next journey!

Hank said...

Yeah I guess that would be something to consider. Sophie was with her foster family from referral through placement, so I guess we never considered if she had been in the child wellness center in Binh Duong

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Anne for the thoughtful post. We are just this weekend in the process of putting together a package to send to our little 3 1/2 year old boy waiting for us in Anhui province. We hope to travel in April. I had considered many of your points but it was great to read them and especially great to see your suggestions. I love the idea of sending things with a note to share with everyone.

I have never left a comment before, but would like to say how encouraging I find your blog. I refer to it often when talking to my husband who thinks himself too old to still be in this adoption business, (he is quickly approaching 50). I love so many adoption blogs, but have a soft spot for families who are, shall we say, of our generation! thanks so much for your humour and honesty. --MayLynne

Ann said...

MayLynne, I am so glad you left a comment! I sometimes wonder if anyone reads my blog! LOL! I'm glad it has blessed you.

About being too old--when you think about it, looking at the range of fertility years typical of men and women, we were meant to be mothers and fathers of young children for many years!!! I think it keeps us young!

Congrats on your little boy! You are so close!


Stevens Family said...

Thank you for this. We're about to send Ash's first care package and your post really had me thinking. I feel what we've chosen will be a nice first care package and good first birthday presents but from here on I'm really going to focus on the pictures, letter and some artwork from Autumn.

I know with Autumn, she only really received the photo book. Everything else we sent for her never made it to her. I saw the blanket on a baby in the baby room so that made me feel good.

Stephanie said...

Ann, Could we post this on WAGI?
co-administrator of WAGI
smurphy28 AT juno DOT com