The holiday season is officially here. For parents, it can be a BUSY time of year. To do lists are long, schedules are full, and expectations and anticipation can take it to a whole new level.
For Adoptive & Foster Parents, holidays with an Adopted or Foster Child can be more complicated and challenging. Holidays often mean transitions, change in routines, increased expectations. It also can be a time when grief and loss resurface.
As at any time of year, being intentional is key. It’s about being proactive in your choices, rather than just reacting and always feeling behind the 8 ball. Being intentional includes meeting your child right where he or she is at. It’s important to take into account the child’s history, his or her emotional age, attachment style, and so on.
5 Things to Put Into Place for a Happier Holiday
1. Family and Friends
Often, family and friends don’t truly understand the struggles we are facing as adoptive and foster parents. They don’t see the hurdles that our adopted and foster children are trying to get over. They mean well, their intentions are good, but sometimes their comments and questions hurt. We feel judged, misunderstood, questioned. Sometimes their comments and actions get in the way of our relationships with our children. It’s not intentional. It’s really about not fully understanding.
As Adoptive and Foster Parents, we have to advocate for our children. A LOT. Having to do it with our family and friends can often feel uncomfortable. But, if you can look at it is a way that your family can best support you and your child rather than going into the conversation accusatory or defensive…or avoiding it all together….everyone will be benefit.
BEFORE the holiday celebration is the best time to communicate. Often a letter or email works as a good starting point. Let your family know how much your family celebrations mean to you, as well as how hard you are working on giving your child a “one and only”. Also, it can help for some people if you can introduce them to the impacts of trauma on adopted and foster children. We have a video in CONNECT for members to share with their friends and family so they can best support you and your child.
Gifts can be fun to pick out and to give. The key here is to not go overboard. A whole pile of presents can be overwhelming to a child, and certainly overstimulating.
In addition, it adds a whole lot of expectations for a child. They may worry how they should react, what is expected of them, what if they are not worthy of all of it, and so on. And all of that increases anxiety…and often increases behavior.
Keep it simple.
One great idea is the Gifts of 4.
If you have family members who buy your child gifts, suggest a gift certificate for your family for a fun activity…a favorite museum, the zoo, the movie theatre. Those often work good because it not only takes some of the expectations for the child down in the moment, it fosters spending time together as a family.
If your holiday table looks like ours, it is filled with tons of yummy foods. Family favorites, Great Grandma’s special cookie recipe, traditional foods such as lefse, and usually some new ones to try. Remember though, you are going into this holiday as an INTENTIONAL PARENT. That means make sure you have foods that you know your child likes. If the old stand by of a PB&J sandwich is his favorite, then make sure that is part of the meal…even if it means bringing it to dinner at Grandma’s house. Food is a basic assurance of life so it’s important at this time where anxiety can be high, that your child knows YOU’VE got him covered!
Holidays are often steeped with traditions. From favorite recipes, to the ornaments that hang on the tree, to activities. Those are all great.
Holidays can be a great time to include your child’s traditions (or from his culture or country). Include on your menu some special treats from your child’s country. Do some research and find some new traditions to start that honor your child’s story.
It's also important to make new family traditions. Sledding on the first snow fall, baking cookies on a weekend, family movie nights at home on Friday nights. Make it a time that is relaxing, fun, and connecting. Keep the stress low!
3. Self Care
This one seems obvious, but it is so often pushed to the bottom of the list…and sometimes off the list entirely. You are juggling a lot. You have a lot on your plate. And to be able to pour into your family as much as you want to do, it is VITAL that you take care of you too. So…get out your calendar. Find some time where you can do self care.
Holidays are hectic. They can be hard. But they can be HAPPY. It takes intention.
This month in CONNECT, our Intentional Parent Coaching Group for Adoptive & Foster Parents, we have a new class about Getting Your Plan for a HAPPY Holiday Season, as well as access to other classes. You’ll also get the video How to Support an Adoptive, Foster, Guardian, Kinship or Step Family 101 to share with your family and friends so they can best support you and your child. And as always, you’ll have access to an entire hub of training, and the get support from an incredible tribe.
Join us today, click here.
Children who’ve been impacted by trauma often lack good self-regulation. In other words, they have a hard time regulating their emotions.
Teaching children about feelings is important. As parents and teachers, helping your child or students identify and understand their feelings and to manage their emotions can make a big difference in their day to day.
For some kids, this will take time. And practice.
A child who understand their emotions is less likely to use behaviors such as tantrums and hitting to express his or her emotions.
5 Ways to Teach Children About Feelings
1. Talk About Feelings
A great place to start is how someone other than your child or student is feeling. Use yourself as a learning tool. “I feel sad today because…” “I feel frustrated that my car won’t start.” Also, others around you can be great examples too. “That little boy looks like he feels sad that he has to leave the park.”
Books and movies can provide good opportunities to talk about feelings. “How do you think the little boy feels?” “What do you think the mom in the movie is feeling?”
2. Help your Child Identify Feelings
Children often are unable to identify feelings. Naming the feeling for your child can help. "It looks like you are feeling sad that we can’t go to the park today."
Mealtime can be a great time for discussions about feelings. Be a role model. Share a story about something that happened in your day and then say how you felt. As kids are ready to talk about their day and feelings, you can encourage them to do the same.
3. Acting Out Feelings
Use puppets or stuffed animals to act out emotions. Make it fun. This can be a safe place for children to talk about their feelings through an animal or puppet.
4. Learning About Feelings Through Play
Make it fun.
Play Guess the Emotion game. For example, make a sad face and have your child guess how you are feeling. Another one is for the child to match his or her face with the emotion on your face.
5. Children’s Books and Games About Feelings
Books and games are great tools for teaching children about feelings. They can be a great teaching tool, as well as an open door for discussions. We’ve listed some of our favorites below…with affiliate links to make it easy to find them.
The Feelings Book: The Care and Keeping of Your Emotions by Lynda Madison
The Feelings Book will help you understand your emotions, and deal with them in positive ways. You’ll get tips on how to express your feelings and stay in control, plus get sensitive advice on handling fear, anxiety, jealousy, and grief. Learn how to stay in the driver’s seat of your own emotions!
B is for Breathe: The ABCs of Coping with Fussy and Frustrating Feelings by Dr. Melissa Munro Boyd
From the letter A to the letter Z, B is for Breathe celebrates the many ways children can express their feelings and develop coping skills at an early age. Fun, cute, and exciting illustrations, this colorful book teaches kids simple ways to cope with fussy and frustrating emotions. This book will inspire kids to discuss their feelings, show positive behaviors, and practice calm down strategies.
The Way I Feel by Janan Cain
Feelings are neither good nor bad, they simply are. Kids need words to name their feelings, just as they need words to name all things in their world. The Way I Feel uses strong, colorful, and expressive images which go along with simple verses to help children connect the word and the emotion. Your child will learn useful words, and you will have many chances to open conversations about what’s going on in her/his life. Recommended by parents, teachers and mental health professionals, The Way I Feel is a valuable addition to anyone's library.
How Do You Doodle? by Elise Gravel
Meet Otti, Ugga, and Flibb—They like to doodle.
They doodle all the time!
They doodle when they are mad, they doodle when they are glad, and they doodle when they are sad.
They doodle just about anything they want!
How Do You Doodle? has over 40 doodle games for you to doodle, scribble, and draw out your thoughts, emotions, and feelings. You can draw or write whatever you want in this book — cute drawings, silly drawings, even ugly drawings.
Be creative and express yourself! Your doodles will help you to understand and recognize your emotions and feelings.
How do You Doodle? can be used alone, or in association with a therapist or parent to help kids better realize and understand their emotional responses to situations, and to help promote better emotional health. A "Note to Parents" is included.
Feelings in a Jar: A Fun Game for All Ages for Endless Play & Interaction
Everyone needs to know how to name and express feelings. Each jar holds 365 little slips printed with ";feelings words";€”gleeful, insecure, grateful, angry, cranky, courageous, hopeful, and many more. Pull a slip and act out the feeling, or invite someone else to act it out. Use as discussion starters, journaling prompts, or icebreakers for groups. Ages 8 & up.
CBT 123 Version 2.0: The Hilariously Fun Game That Empowers Kids and Teens to Take Charge of Their Thoughts, Actions, and Emotions
EXCITING GAMEPLAY: Players work to pick up sets of 1, 2, and 3 cards, acting out the fun situations on the sets