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.