Holidays and the Adopted Child

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When we think of the holiday season, most of us think of family around the table for Thanksgiving or around the tree at Christmas.  Memories of years past flood our minds and hearts with the feeling of love for those that are present and those that are no longer with us.  It is a special time of reflection and thanksgiving and to carry on traditions that instill the generations to come.

For an adopted child, the holidays might not hold the same value.  We cannot assume that bringing in a child to a new family and culture will translate into them having these joyous memories from here on out. It is extremely important to recognize that there may be some hurdles that need to be conquered before the special days arrive.

Some countries celebrate holidays that are unique to their respective country.  For example, Thanksgiving for the USA may not be celebrated in a different country and if it is, it will definitely be on a different day and honored in a unique way.  It is important for you to do your homework.  This involves teaching your child(ren) why our holiday is important and what to expect in the celebration.  It will not only minimize some of the anxiety that may come along with an unexpected party, but it will help them understand the purpose for it.  Conversely, it is important for the new family to also learn, recognize and celebrate the holidays of the adopted child(ren).  Knowing and celebrating their traditions will help them keep and embrace their existing culture while taking pride in sharing that with their new family.  Holiday celebrations can be a vessel to bridging the gaps between cultures and bringing families together.

The above paragraph is applicable to those that do not have trauma relating to holidays.  As new adoptive families, it is imperative that there is a conversation with your child(ren) about how holidays were previously celebrated in their lives.  If these days that we deem special were sources of trauma for the adopted child, we need to adjust and create a safe space for the child(ren) in which the trauma is not revisited and triggered.  This may mean having smaller celebrations for the first couple of years or not celebrating them at all.  Each child is different and if abuse, whether physical or emotional has occurred in the past was evident- counseling is important and necessary.  Triggers not only cause the moment to be chaos and heartbreaking, but it also will set the child back in progress that may have already been made.  Recognizing your child’s needs ahead of time will help reduce this stress and create a healthy environment for them.  We cannot encourage counseling enough to help set up a plan for the holiday season.

Lastly, it is a good idea to prepare your guests. Make sure that they are aware of giving the child(ren) the space that they will need.  Be conscious of the surrounding environment and be tuned in to your child’s expressions and mood.  Always be ready to be their advocate and get them out of uncomfortable situations if need be. Sometimes words that are spoken from people outside of the adoption community may be harmful even though that was not the intention.  Education ahead of time may reduce these situations.

143 Million Reasons wishes you and your family an amazing Thanksgiving this Thursday, however that may look!

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