Christmas & Adoption
Updated: Dec 9, 2022
December 09, 2019 •Adoption Christmas
It’s all go go go for Christmas and it’s so lovely to see all the trees going up (and our baubles being popped up for another year!!) but I wanted to take a moment to have a little chat about Christmas and adoption. We were talking at work about how Christmas has changed once we have little ones (birth or adopted) and our expectations to relive the magic of Christmas from our youth, or create a Christmas that we wished we had. This got us thinking about how much of the Christmas festivities we want for our own need and excitement and how much of it all the children actually want. Unfortunately for adopted children Christmas isn’t always that exciting time of year. Abuse may have happened more around that time of year due to family stresses or relatives visiting. Domestic violence could have increased. Family Christmas dinners may not have looked anything like we expect, and sadly some children may not have been visited by Father Christmas. Our children may have also just arrived at their forever home feeling overwhelmed and lost. All that they see around them is Christmas. Then every year when they see those lights and the tree this could trigger feelings of sadness and being unsettled. It is a reality that some of our children will dread Christmas. It may also be a time of year that they associate with being removed from their family. There are many many reasons why adopted children may fear / dread Christmas and we must take time to empathise with them and not expect them to be grateful for everything we are doing. Is it your need or theirs? Adjusting to a much quieter Christmas may leave you feeling really sad, but you might have to do this in order to help regulate your little one and ensure you get through the day. It will be a much better day if everyone is regulated and happy. Too many presents / seeing lots of family might be overwhelming. Not to mention the sensory overload of lights, trees, seeing multiple father Christmas’ on the lead up to the big day. The excitement can become so overwhelming that they don’t know what to do with how their are feeling or they may try and sabotage Christmas because they don’t feel they deserve such lovely things.
Family I always find a letter / email works well with friends & family just giving a little update and then outline what you expect from Christmas. This means everyone has had the same information, you have said what you need to and hopefully they will respect this (like laying down the rules regarding personal space, for example when relatives expect a kiss when they say hello / goodbye and your child not wanting to do this). Stay strong and go with what your child can cope with. We don’t all get it right first time and it’s trial and error working out triggers and what may upset them; but talk to them about your plans for Christmas, get them involved with decorations and ideas for what they would like to do and follow their lead.
If your child is non verbal try and work out their physical and emotional cues to let you know what they can and can't cope with. Add in things slowly (tree etc) and you'll be able to judge if it's all getting too much.
Christmas might not always be paired back, as your child grows, they may be able to cope with more, or not.
Another word of warning is for the pressure you put on yourself. You don’t have to be the ‘Instagram perfect’ parent. You just have to be there and having the perfect Christmas will be listening to your child and seeing what makes it perfect for them. You don’t have to see 10 Santa’s, have the biggest tree and do all the crafts. Trust me I tried, I burnt out and in the end he didn’t care, he just wanted to rip all the presents open and then was too overwhelmed to play with any of it. It will all take some adjustment and new family routines and traditions will be made in time, just take it easy and enjoy the little things.
I have definitely found less is more, but it's taken me a fair few years to figure out what works. As he's getting older it's changing again, conversations have been had!!!!!(if you know what I mean!!) but a quieter and less pressured Christmas is here to stay in our family and even though we are out of Covid restrictions we have kept Christmas Day to just us, because it works.
I wish you all the best, let me know how you get on,
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