Who Participates: Adoptive parents, older children, adopted children ages 2 and up

When It Takes Place: On a special family day or an anniversary of the child's adoption

Materials: Large piece of paper, crayons, pens, paints, magazines, colored paper, glue, scissors

The Ritual: Adoption support group leader Rose Bailey came up with a fun ritual to celebrate the new family identity that comes with the addition of an adopted child. Together, the family creates a "coat of arms" representing their new household.

First, a large piece of paper is cut into a circle, square, or any other shape desired. Together, the family uses crayon, pens, paints, and paper collage to illustrate what is important to the new family group: their heritages, hobbies, joys, dreams, attributes. The coat of arms can be simple or elaborate, depending on the ages of the children involved.

When Bailey, an adoptive mother, did the ritual with her family, her sons chose to cut the paper into the shape of a shield. The family illustrated it with pictures of what they like to do together: a mountain symbolized camping trips around the Pacific Northwest, musical notes represented a shared love for playing and listening to music, and beloved family pets were depicted. Another family adopted a daughter from Columbia and included in their coat of arms illustrations and designs representing her country of birth. If the family chooses to do this ritual early in the adopted child's relationship with the family, they might include pictures of things that they hope to do together as a family in the future.

The new family's emblem can be hung on the wall or taken out each year on the anniversary of the adoption to renew a feeling of solidarity.

The Meaning: A coat of arms symbolizes the creation of a new household, unifying the family under a common banner.

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