Caution: Sending Gifts to Your Child Preadoption
Sending a small gift and/or photobook to a child before he or she comes 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 him or her to finally have a gift from someone–someone who LOVES them. It might be the first gift he or she has 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 (keep in mind, however, that some orphanages do not want sweets since the children do not get dental care)
- 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 here on the bottom of the page) to help with communication
- 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 differences (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!
Ann Henderson currently finds herself wife to one and mom of ten, including a son in heaven and a daughter waiting in China. Several of her children are adopted—though she can’t always remember which ones. Ann works in child welfare with a passion for helping children in need and a desire to see every child have a loving family. She spends a ridiculous amount of time grocery shopping, carpooling, side-line cheering, and trying to teach at least one of her children to replace the toilet paper roll. Her motto? “I don’t suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it!” Join her Journey of Life at Crazy for Kids.
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