A Guide to Gift Etiquette in Open Adoption


The holiday season is approaching yet again, and along with the general cheer of the season can come some anxiety about gift-giving. If you are part of an open adoption, whether as an adoptive parent or a birth parent, it can be a struggle to find the perfect present to give to the other party.

With this in mind, then, we’ve come up with some basic gift-giving guidelines no matter what your relationship to adoption.

For birth moms giving gifts to their children:

If you have placed a child for adoption, the holidays can bring on a specific kind of pressure. You want to get your child something he or she will like, but you don’t want to overstep or give something the adoptive parents had already planned to purchase. Of course, it will depend on how old your birth child is as well as what type of relationship you have with the adoptive family, but the following ideas are typically safe bets for a gift for your child:

  • A scrapbook or picture frame 

    As much as you want to see what your child looks like, he or she will want to have photos of you around, too! You can make a personalized scrapbook that shows your child photos of you throughout your life, or you can keep it simple with a current photo in a frame.

  • Jewelry

    Of course, this idea may not be suitable for all age ranges, but giving your birth child a nicer, sentimental piece of jewelry can be an amazing holiday present. And it’s not just limited to girls. If you have a birth son that might not necessarily be interested in traditional jewelry, try giving him cufflinks or a tie clip!

  • Something that represents one of your passions 

    Are you into a particular hobby, such as basketball or sewing? Why not get your birth child something that you really enjoy, so that maybe you’ll have something in common you can do together one day? If nothing else, your birth child will appreciate the opportunity to learn more about one of your passions.

  • Clothing

    There is no rule that says a gift for your birth child has to be sentimental. If you would prefer to stick to something practical — or if you’d just like to have a chance to shop for your son or daughter — clothes are always a great idea for kids who are still growing. He or she will think of you every time they wear the outfit, but it’s a more casual gift that may come with less pressure.

For adoptive parents giving gifts to their child’s birth mom:

If you are an adoptive parent shopping for your child’s birth mom around the holidays, your selection may vary depending on how well you know her at this point. If you developed a close relationship with her during her pregnancy, you may not even need this list! However, if you’re worried about getting something appropriate or sentimental, here are a few suggestions:

  • Postpartum self-care supplies 

    If the holidays are coming soon after the birth of your child, please keep in mind that this is most likely a very difficult year for his or her birth mother. A gift basket of self-care items like face masks, lotions, teas, candles, etc., is a tasteful way to let her know you’re thinking of her and wishing her well during a time of year that may be especially difficult for someone newly beginning their grieving process.

  • A photo album 

    Chances are good that you’re already taking about a million photos of your child. (Hey, that’s your right as a parent!) Why not compile duplicates of these into an album to give to your child’s birth mother? While you may already be sending her photos via email or through your adoption professional, having them all together in one nice scrapbook will be a meaningful gift that she treasures forever.

  • A quilt or blanket 

    It’s inevitable that a birth mom will have bad days, and while you can’t prevent that, you can send her something to hopefully make them better. If you’re handy with embroidery, making her a blanket or quilt to cuddle up with when she’s feeling sad will serve as an extremely thoughtful present.

  • Jewelry

    You can never go wrong with jewelry. This can be as subtle or as personalized as you wish; whether it’s a simple gold necklace or something that includes your child’s birthstone, it will be a way for her to keep a reminder of her baby close to her at all times.

No matter what you get the other party in an adoption, know that it really is the thought that counts. Your gift, no matter what you choose, will go a long way in continuing to develop your open adoption relationship.

Comments 2

  1. What if you are invited to the adoption proceedings as a friend. One child is female, 17 yrs old, the other child 6 yrs old. What would be appropriate to give these children.

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