My family recently celebrated the fourth anniversary of our daughter’s adoption. It’s always a special day for us, in which we try to honor her heritage; we pull out photo albums, eat at a Korean restaurant, and send updates to her adoption workers. But most of all, we express gratitude for the child we can’t imagine life without.
If your family is looking for some creative adoption anniversary celebration ideas too, I wanted to share some of my own favorites, gathered from lots of other adoptive parents I know.
My favorite meaningful adoption anniversary ideas
Before you read these, it’s worth nothing that some children are unsure how to feel about this day — they’re may want to celebrate their forever family, but an adoption anniversary may also remind them of what they may have lost before adoption. If your child feels this way, keep the day simple and focus on your family as a whole.
Some parents will also find that their kids don’t want to celebrate their adoption anniversary at all, and that’s fine. As a parent though, you can still schedule some private activities to honor a day that’s so meaningful to you. So some of these ideas I’m sharing don’t even have to involve your children.
I will also note that my own child was adopted from a foreign country, so it’s important to me to honor and incorporate her heritage into our home as much as possible. The activities below reflect that, even though I of course recognize that many adopted kids share the same heritage as their parents.
With these thoughts in mind, I hope you find a creative adoption anniversary idea that feels right for you and your family.
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1. Take the day off work to celebrate your family being together
You can keep things very simple by taking the day off work and just spending the day together as a family, if your job allows. This can be an easy one to do on the sly with your kids, if they’re not fans of a big celebration.
Do something fun like going to the zoo, having a picnic in a park, or visiting a museum — bonus if they have an exhibit honoring your child’s heritage.
2. Blow out candles on an adoption-day cake
Celebrate this day like a “family birthday” or an anniversary, and eat cake! Of course there’s no shortage of ideas for what kind of cake — try a no-bake cake if it’s summer; make one of these gorgeous cakes with the help of the kids; buy store-bought cupcakes and frost them yourselves; or make a number-shaped cake with candles candles to represent how many years your family has been together.
One new tradition I’m hoping to add for my own family is to bake a traditional Korean dessert, since that’s my daughter’s heritage, and there are tons of wonderful ideas from Korean-American food blogger, JinJoo of Kimchi Marie.
Getting the whole family in the kitchen to try a new-to-us recipe together is a beautiful way to honor my daughter’s background.
3. Go out to eat at a restaurant representing their heritage
My daughter’s heritage is different from everyone else in our family, and it’s important for me to show her how much we love and enjoy her native culture. We do that through art, stories, and TV shows…but one of the easiest ways is food!
Our tradition for the last four years has been to go to a Korean restaurant with the entire extended family, order tons of food, and just enjoy what she’s brought to our family.
4. Add a special new book to your home library
This is such a simple adoption anniversary idea: Each year, choose a meaningful book to add to their collection; it could be a picture book about adoption, a book of fairy tales from their home country, or one that honors their Asian, Hispanic, or Black heritage, for example.
A book celebrating anything they love or something that makes them extra special in your eyes. Order some custom book name stickers like these, from Minted to place in each book each year, to commemorate the anniversary.
And of course, this is one of the adoption anniversary ideas that your child doesn’t even need to know about, if you prefer not to tell them. They may appreciate it later, or it could just be something meaningful to you as a parent.
5. Thank those who cared for your child before they were adopted
Every year, I send a short email update with photos to the workers who cared for our daughter before she lived with us. The employees at her adoption agency in Seoul always love to see updates. I also keep in pretty regular contact with her foster parents on social media, and am sure to send them a note acknowledging the day to them as well.
It’s a small, private thing but it means a lot to those who loved her early in her life, and have had to let her go.
6. Make a donation to support another family’s adoption costs
Adoption is expensive. Crazy expensive. In fact, American Adoptions says the average adoptive family will spend $43,000 to adopt their child. When we were in the last days of our process, wondering how we were going to book round-trip flights to South Korea, we received several unexpected contributions from other families who had adopted, and I will never, ever forget how meaningful that was to us.
If you’re in a financial place where you can give back, then donating to support another family’s costs or making a donation to an organization that gives adoption grants is a wonderfully meaningful way to honor your own child’s journey.
7. Research a fun heritage tradition
One friend of mine mentioned that she learned it’s common in Chinese culture to give girls a jade bracelet when they’re sixteen, so that’s what she gave her teen, who was adopted from China, on her adoption anniversary. The jade beaded bracelet shown here is from Qian Bachhuber of Lucy Red Design on Etsy.
Another friend said that in Congo, they drink Fanta Orange from glass bottles to celebrate, so that’s what they do at dinner with the family on their adoption anniversary.
These little details help your child feel like they don’t have to shed their own culture as they grow up.
7. Honor your child’s birth parents
Something that my husband and I do privately each year is take a moment to honor our daughter’s birth parents. I don’t have any communication with them or know how they feel about her birthday each year, but I know that they gave me a tremendous gift by bringing her into this world.
You can light a beautiful handmade candle, write a letter that you mail to them, or just stash away in a special storage box if you are not in contact. (The rattan letter box above is from the Marie Kondo collection). You can spend some time mindfully looking at a photo of the birth parents if you have one, or just carve out a quiet moment to appreciate them on this date each year.
9. Choose a gift you can add to each year on the adoption anniversary
Some parents I’ve spoken with like to choose a small gift that evolves with time, like a charm bracelet (above, from James Avery) or an add-a-pearl necklace. Add to it each year and it’s a special adoption anniversary idea that becomes a meaningful annual tradition.
Other ideas: A collection of small figurines that represent their home country or state, like the gorgeous Haitian animal figurines from Paper Isle on Etsy, above. You can search for heirloom fishing lures, collectible coins, a Christmas ornament — so many ideas.
10. Acknowledge your child’s siblings in a special way
I was so moved when, on my daughter’s first adoption date, my mom took the time to write a card to each of her older siblings. She wanted them to know how much she sees the way they love and care for their younger sister. In our case, their younger sister has special needs and her brothers and sisters been able to show a different kind of patience, understanding, and selflessness with her.
Any time you adopt, your family dynamic changes and so it’s really thoughtful to recognize the relationship that adoptive siblings have with one another.
11. Set aside money for a trip to visit your child’s place of birth
It is our dream to go back to Korea as a family of six, so that our daughter can see her foster parents again and her siblings can get to experience the city where my youngest lived her first several years of life. But, that’s a big undertaking. If you have a similar goal, set aside some money each year on your child’s adoption anniversary — or even a little every month on their anniversary date — so you can take that trip together one day.
12. Create an entirely new tradition for your adoption anniversary
Be flexible with your celebrations! Is there something new that your child has brought to your family? Think about what they love; our daughter loves puzzles, so we could all sit around the table on her adoption anniversary and work on a puzzle together. Lately, she also loves her “walks with Dada,” so we could also take a walk together as a family.
It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture; just a little detail that celebrates who you are as a family now is all you need to celebrate an adoption anniversary.
If you have other ideas, please feel free to mention them in comments below; I’d love to hear them!
Top photo by Foto Phanatic on Unsplash