Holidays for adopted child brings extra feelings

rner you may be feeling a mix of emotions. Holidays can be a happy time while celebrating each other’s company. Holidays are a chance to celebrate your traditions and spend more time as family. Holidays can also bring feelings of sadness about the people who will not be around.

Holidays come with their own challenges and children who have been adopted or have spent time in foster care may face some extra challenges. Whether it is your child’s first holiday with you or their tenth, the holidays tend to bring up extra emotions. It is important to support your child’s feelings and allow them the freedom to express those emotions. Celebrations may be associated with loss and upsetting memories. Some children may have experienced trauma during the holidays and may not have good positive experiences. It is important to allow children the freedom to express their thoughts and open the discussion for reassurance that they are loved, wanted, and important to you.

I have compiled a list of tips that I hope you find helpful in your navigation of the holidays.

Prepare your child(ren

It’s a good idea to talk about how your family celebrates certain holidays before the holiday arrives. If a child is newer in your home and has not gone through the holidays with you, they do not know what to expect and this can lead to feelings of anxiety. This also allows children to have realistic expectations on how the holidays will go. If you have an open adoption with the birth family, make sure your child knows what to expect. Some families use this time to have a visit with their birth family. This helps create a strong sense of identity if you have a working relationship with the birth parents. If your child has been adopted internationally, preparing them will give them those realistic expectations of the holidays versus coming up with things they may have seen on TV. For children who have been or are in foster care, they may have had different kinds of holiday celebrations depending on the amount of placements. You want your child to have a good idea of how things will go in your celebrations of the holidays.

Let children play a role

Holidays may leave adopted children with feelings of abandonment and resentment. It’s a good idea to keep an open mind and possibly add new traditions that they may have enjoyed in the past. When children have been in foster care there may have been traditions that they have enjoyed. Incorporating new traditions may be the missing piece a child needs to feel like they belong. If your child was adopted internationally, it is important to incorporate their culture in your traditions, whether it is making some food from their culture or adding a new holiday in your year.

Make it personal

I love the idea of making a memory book of a child’s adoption story. Every story should be talked about and celebrated. Adoption is one unique way a child becomes a part of your family. The holiday season is a good time to go through their memory book and open the discussion for questions they may have. If your adopted child is young they may not have questions yet. As the years fly by, going through their memory book may lead to the hard questions being asked but that need answers for that child.

Lastly, make sure that your own expectations are realistic. Whether you have had the child for years or it will be your child’s first holiday with you, it is important to make sure that you do not set the bar too high. It could leave you feeling upset or hopeless. Holidays can be enriching bonding experiences for you and your child. Make sure they are remembered in a positive light.

Alysa Cherubini-Sutinen is a post-adoption specialist at U.P. KIDS.

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