Tag Archives: tips and advice

Help with Writing Letterbox

Today Sarah from The Puffin Diaries  shares her experiences and ideas about writing letterbox contact…


I remember having to write my first letterbox contact and feeling a little bit lost. Yes we had been giving some advice by social workers but actually coming to do it, and suddenly sitting in front of a computer screen, it was all a very different matter.  For some letterbox comes as part of a child’s profile, something you need to be prepared to take part in for certain children. For me it never seemed like something I couldn’t do, however as the years have gone on I have struggled at times. It’s great therefore that I have a strategy for doing the letters, a plan to help you through and get the job done.

As I’m writing this post from my own experiences, not as a complete expert if anyone else has any good suggestions please let us know in the comments below.

  • I try and cover a couple of main subject areas, achievements, likes and dislikes, health and any major events.
  • Don’t give too much personal detail, as in names of places or other people in your lives.
  • On the whole I keep it positive.
  • As your children get older ask them if there are things they would like to share in the letters.
  • I try to write at least a page of A4 in double spacing.
  • If you have to write a number of letters, duplicate what you’ve written with slight personal amendments. For example I write to birth mum and grandma, I add a little extra for mum but on the whole the letter is the same.
  • Keep copies of the letters and any pictures you send. I think it’s great for the children to see what you’ve written and it can make a good diary of events through their life.  I keep all ours in a folder.
  • We include photographs in our letterbox. I made a decision early on that I didn’t really like sharing our family pictures. What I do is send copies of school pictures and make sure that they have the shots done with no sweatshirt on, so the school can’t be identified.
  •  I usually ask politely that we receive a response, even though we have only ever received a couple of letters in the early years. The children ask why we don’t get replies and ask that I write that they would like to hear.

It’s not always easy maintaining this contact, especially when you don’t receive replies. However, I believe it’s important for your children to know that you have tried your hardest to keep to an agreement you made. As children get older it is good to include them in the process. I am still happy to write the letters, but do always ask if they want me to write and what they would like to be included. I am aware that some older children do not wish this contact to be continued and I believe this is very much a point of discussion and thought for each individual family.

As I said above, if you have any useful tips of your own I would really like to read them, as I’m sure others would too, so please add in the comments below.

Coping with Christmas

Christmas affects us and our children in different ways.

For many, the change in routines at school, the excitement, the number of parties, anxieties about the school play add up and make it difficult for children to manage.
For others, birthdays, Christmas and other celebratory times can bring mixed emotions and feelings – with reminders about past times – good and bad.

As much as we try not to show it, as parents we get stressed about shopping for presents, managing money, inviting the relatives over and cooking that big turkey dinner.

And there are many more reasons for stress around this time.

We wanted to bring you a post that had some tips and advice and we’ve been collating these from our followers, readers and contributors. We recognise that not all of these will work for everyone. You know yourself and your children best, so pick and choose what you think will suit you…and if you have any tips of your own, please leave them in the comments for others to see.

Keep it low-key.  Fewer presents and fewer people will mean less stress, judgement and excitement for everyone. Matt, an adoptive dad.

It’s not for everyone I know elf on the shelf– but we do Elf on the Shelf. We’ve tweaked it so it works for us – the kids look after the elf, rather than the elf spying on the children and reporting to Santa. We find it takes the focus off Christmas day, spreads the build up making it more manageable on a daily basis, and the children are more interested in what the elf is doing rather than arguing/fighting/stressing themselves. Helpfully, the elves also bring activities (crafts usually) for after school and weekend entertainment. Vicki, The Boy’s Behaviour.

Think like snow deep crisp and even!
Deep: stories and candle for each night of advent. Crisp: choosing favourite food meal to share one evening of Christmas. Even – even though it’s Christmas, keep the gentle ‘normal’ routines of bed times and rhythms going. @wonkywarrior, via Twitter.

My son struggles with Christmas, he loves the idea of Christmas but cannot manage the emotional connection that previous Christmas’ have given him so we keep Christmas very low key and short. Christmas decorations and tree go up a couple of days before Christmas and come down soon after so it’s not too drawn out. Donna, an adoptive mum via Facebook.

Structure to the days – presents eked out over time -i.e. Santa Christmas morning, other relatives gifts after lunch – similarly with selection boxes! Limit parties, take long walks, go swimming / biking etc. Take 2 ibuprofen with a large quantity of wine and retire to a dark room til jan 6th. We also take down decorations just after New Year’s Day so that we start the run up to school with a clear (ish) house. Helen, an adoptive mum via Facebook.

Hibernate and wake up in January. @jayandaitch, via Twitter.

Keep it low key…no mad rush to open presents…make plans that work for you, don’t worry about upsetting others. Naomi, via Facebook.

adventNo tree/decs up until they’ve broke up school. Home is Xmas free apart from advent calendars. @purdy2233, via Twitter.

Work hard to reframe advent with different / new experiences and constant narrative. Also use “less is more” approach to events, keep excitement / new stuff low. Instil family rituals -Xmas film/ repeat events. @elhypno, via Twitter.


Making up own traditions is one delight of adoption actually. Mine choose anything they like for breakfast. This Christmas breakfast has been lemon curd on ice cream for button! @wonkywarrior, via Twitter.

We go to park to feed ducks & let off steam between opening pressies! Xmas eve always go for lunch the 4 of us, local posh cafe. Wearing Xmas jumpers! @Purdy2233, via Twitter.

We stagger presents. Family presents when they visit/or we visit. Boys have special jobs. Homemade chocolate truffles by the bucket load (boys love the smell). @3beesandahoney, via Twitter.

Def echo visual diary. And escape route. Son can whisper in my ear if he needs to get out and we seek peace together no matter what the situation. Other than that v low key here. No pressure to join in with games etc. And Santa was busted v early on as too scary. Difficult keeping that a secret from other kids though. @sallydwrites, via Twitter.

And if you need any more tips, then Adoption UK have a Coping with Christmas article on their website.

We’d love to hear how you manage Christmas, or perhaps you’d like to share the things you find especially difficult – as a parent, as an adoptee or as a birth parent. It can be a difficult time for all…