Surviving the Holidays with Foster and Adoptive Kids

The Holidays are a very stressful time for everyone. A mixture of too much and not enough. Too much food, too much family, too little time, and too little money. It is even more stressful for our kids from hard places. With all the parties, lights, smells and sounds can make this time of year more stressful than joyful for both our children and for ourselves.

This             This time of year is very emotionally charged. Our children are most likely experiencing feeling of loss, guilt, anxiety, despair and anger.  As foster/adoptive parents it is up to us to help our children navigate the very stressful Holidays. The sights, sounds and smells may be triggering old memories. These memories may be good or bad. Many children miss family traditions left behind. Take time to notice body language and mood swings. 

To keep the both of you from going crazy, give yourself permission to let the little things slide. Don't try to discipline every single wrong behavior that comes up; only tackle the big things. Forgive your child, and forgive yourself at the end of every day. 

To strengthen your personal bond with your child, develop some new family traditions together. This will help your child dismiss feelings of being an outsider in a family where traditions may already have been established long ago

Create a new holiday ornament, as a family, every year.

Light a candle for the joys and sadness you and your child may be feeling at the holidays, and discuss both openly

. Watch your favorite holiday movies together in a "holiday movie night," and make popcorn balls and cookies for the occasion. 

Avoiding Problems:
            Be sensitive to the way your extended family treats your adopted child at family functions. If you notice problems, address the issues with your child and with your extended family members. If your child says something to you acknowledging the problem, explain that not all people respond to adoption in the same way. This may be hard for your child to hear, and harder for you to say, but covering or denying the issue won't make it go away. By acknowledging the problem, you show your child that you understand their feelings and that you can face the problem together. Talk to your extended family about these problems. Be firm and stand up for the rights of your child.

            It helps if you can build up to the holidays gradually. Start talking about holiday plans and traditions early to avoid unexpected problems. Make your holiday plans clear, so that your child knows what to expect. If you can avoid it, stick to your regular daily routines, and don't change plans at the last minute. This is especially important if your child struggles with hyperactivity or anxiety. For a child who is new in your family, practice giving and receiving gifts. This is important because expectations may have been different in your child's previous homes. This way you can avoid embarrassing or aggravating situations, and your child will know what to expect. 

         Finally, don't chase the perfect holiday. Keep a sense of humor and be realistic