Most domestic infant adoptions today involve some level of openness. An open adoption is an adoption in which both families agree to open contact with each other. In most instances, the families will meet, get to know each other a bit, and exchange contact information right before or right after the baby’s birth. As part of their ongoing relationship, the adoptive family often send monthly updates about the child to the birth family.
Writing a monthly update sounds simple enough. While it’s not a complicated task, at first it’s overwhelming for many adoptive parents, especially those who don’t consider themselves to be writers. As someone who does consider herself to be a good writer (not trying to brag), it’s still tough to know where to start, what to include/not include, etc.
I’m still relatively new to the world of adoption and certainly not an expert on any aspect of adoption, including monthly updates to birth families. However, I’m nearly a year into writing updates and have received a lot of positive feedback about my updates from both Tommy’s birth family and my own family. I’m sharing an overview of what to include in monthly updates for birth families to make the process as straightforward as possible for adoptive families.
What to include in monthly updates for birth families
I start each monthly update with Tommy’s height and weight. If we had a doctor’s appointment that month, I also include the height and weight percentiles and his head circumference. Additionally, in the update, I cover his current diaper and clothing sizes and any notable updates to his eating routine and sleep schedule. After the first couple of years, most likely you won’t include these type of monthly stats, instead just mentioning any significant changes, such as a major growth spurt.
I try not to make likes/dislikes a laundry list but instead discuss a few key things Tommy is loving the past month and anything he’s really not loving. If there’s anything new of note that he’s really liking, such as a toy or food, I make sure to talk about it. As children are old enough to communicate their likes and dislikes verbally, you may want to get their input for this section of the update.
Milestones or accomplishments are always worth including in monthly updates. During the first couple years of a child’s life, there will be major milestones and accomplishments every single month. As a child grows older, the nature of the milestones and accomplishments will change. Instead of talking about crawling and first words, you may be talking about number of hits in a baseball game or an A on a big project at school.
Holidays and family gatherings
When the past month includes a holdiay or other family gathering (i.e. birthday party, wedding, graduation), I always mention it in the monthly update. For holidays or gatherings with lots of pictures, sometimes I’ll create a separate post or photo gallery, which is completely optional.
Outings and other social events
Those of you who read my blog regularly know that most months, Tommy and I take at least one or two outings, such as to the art museum or conservatory. I try to snap at least one picture of him during an outing, so I can include it in the monthly update. An outing doesn’t have to be a major excursion to be worth a mention in a monthly update. Talking about how you’ve been enjoying the beautiful weather and going to your favorite local park every day is a perfect piece of information to include in an update.
I try to keep my monthly updates focused on what actually happened over the past four weeks and not talk too much about what we’re looking forward to over the coming months. I feel like it’s way too easy to get into the “I can’t wait until my kid is old enough to [fill in the blank]” mentality, which isn’t helpful for anyone. However, sometimes it’s nice to mention briefly that you’re looking forward to anything from a class field trip to starting piano lessons to a week-long vacation.
A few general tips
Include pictures and videos
I think that it goes without saying but birth families LOVE to see pictures and videos. Writing monthly updates keeps me conscious about taking new pictures and videos every single month and then getting them posted in a timely fashion, which is a good thing. I pick about half a dozen pictures for the update post and upload the rest of my monthly photos to a private photo account for people to view as they like. It’s rare I have more than half a dozen videos worth sharing from a single month. I upload them to YouTube (unlisted) and link them with brief captions at the end of each update.
Personally, I feel strongly about sharing appropriate photos of kids, adopted or otherwise, even in private blog posts or photo albums. I don’t think it’s okay to share pictures of kids naked, throwing tantrums, in embarrassing, uncomfortable, or private situations (i.e. at the doctor), etc. under any circumstances. Your pictures don’t all have to be perfect staged shots. Families love to see candid phone captures of silly moments. I just urge anyone writing monthly updates to choose the photos they share carefully.
Don’t feel like you can only share the good stuff
As a parent, you want to put your best foot forward and share your child in the best light that you can. Monthly updates should be an honest portrayal of your child’s life, not just a highlight reel of the Instagram-worthly moments. No one is going to judge your parenting skills because you talk about an injury, an ongoing behavior issue, or a tough doctor’s appointment.
Keep the update focused on the child
The whole point of the monthly update is to share info about your kid. It’s not to write commentary about yourself in this stage of life. I read a lot of monthly updates from both biological and adoptive parents that have as much of their own commentary as they do real updates about their kids.
Let me be clear that there is nothing wrong with writing general parenting commentary. However, it’s not really the point of a monthly update, especially in this situation. For example, I could write a whole post about my own feelings about Tommy’s helmet therapy. How initially I was worried we were spending a lot of money and it wouldn’t work, how I miss close face snuggles so much, how I hate hiding his cute little face behind a helmet most of the day, etc. These feelings are 100% valid. They have nothing to do with how Tommy is doing with the helmet and the progress he’s making with it.
Write in full sentences
I think that a monthly update reads better when the majority of the post is written in full sentences. Filling in numbers or listing off statistics survey-style makes it look like you’re just filling out a form. It works, but it’s a bit boring and doesn’t read very well. Flesh out each section into full sentences for a more well-developed, engaging update.
Finally, I post all of my monthly updates for Tommy in the Family section of my blog. Reading real updates will give you even more insight into what to include in monthly updates for birth families and how to structure your posts.
Do you have any additional tips for what to include in monthly updates for birth families?
Adoptive moms and dads, I’d love to hear your perspective on this topic!
More open adoption resources: