The holidays are typically such a fun time for families. Memories, based on traditions, will stick with the whole family! Sometimes, though, children have very unpleasant memories of the holidays from previous homes they have lived in ~ so there may be a lot of trauma-related responses also associated with this time of year….
Some potential holiday related triggers for children can be:
· Sometimes children have very unpleasant memories of the holidays from their experience in their birth family home and/or in the foster homes they have lived in. For them, there may be a lot of stress and trauma associated with the holidays.
· The holidays may be a painful reminder of all that your child has lost or missed. If this is an issue for your child, talk openly with your child about these losses in an age appropriate manner. Frequently check in to touch base about how they are feeling. If emotions seem too big to manage on your own, please bring this to the attention of your social worker and/or seek the assistance of a therapist.
· There seems to be extra pressure and stress in general for many people over the holidays, and this stress in the family can be an unhealthy trigger for a newly placed child. Take care of yourself so that you can take good care of your child.
· Large family gatherings at holiday time can be very overwhelming to a new child, who may just be meeting some of the relatives and friends for the first time. As you’ve likely been told – It is often best to make your child’s first holiday season in your home as “low key” as possible, avoiding celebrations with large groups of people. You’ll have subsequent years together to better manage larger affairs. Stick to routines. We know change to be hard and predictability is comforting.
· All of the gift giving can also overwhelm the child, as they may not used to receiving a lot of presents. Keep in mind that giving your child large amounts of gifts or very extravagant gifts might end up being more of a trigger than a joy. Tailor your own expectations to be accepting of the level of gratitude they are capable of displaying. When overwhelmed, they may demonstrate reactions that seem ungrateful or unusual.
It is very important to remember that each family has their own culture and holiday traditions, and while the way that your family celebrates the holidays is very “normal” for you, it may be completely foreign to your child. With a little bit of patience, planning, and understanding, you can help make the holidays more manageable and happy for your newly adopted child.
If you have a holiday tradition that may be of use to others & you’d like to share, please submit it to email@example.com. Ideas from peer families are of such value to new families who are following in your footsteps!