Holiday Tips for New Adoptive Families

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!

We hope this finds you with a cup of hot chocolate in hand sitting by the fire with all your loved ones sitting peacefully around you (we can always dream right?!).  We wanted to send you some encouragement and some practical tips that might help in the transition of having a new child home, especially around the holidays.

Feel free to share this with family and friends to help them understand how to best support you and your child in this season.

Imagine this: Your biological 3 year old daughter, whom you had to surrender, was taken by a couple to a different country. It’s a very sweet, loving family, just like you, but in this new country, there are new smells, new things to see, new faces, a new language, new sounds, and new customs.  Many people your child does not know and has never seen before are kissing her and wanting to hold her.  They are giving her things that she has never seen before and wanting her to eat foods that she has never had.  She is surrounded by people and places and things that are new to her and she is missing YOU and all that she has known before (even if life with you was not perfect, it was familiar). How would she feel?

This scenario does not speak to every child’s situation the same because children react differently based on their age and what life experiences they have had, but it does help us remember to see things through your child’s eyes.  Do not assume your child understands the excitement of the season. Sometimes adopted children can become very overwhelmed with the holidays especially with travelling, meeting new people, and even just the busyness of the season.  Consider the holiday traditions that we see as normal that will be over stimulating to your child:  a tree in the house with bright, flashing, multi-colored lights, festive decorations, bells ringing everywhere, multiple new environments and experiences, and interactions with many people.  Whether your child has been home a few days, a few weeks or a few months, please do not assume that you can “do Christmas” like you always have in the past.  This year might need to be a little different.

There are many things that you can do to help your child not only adjust well, but to show the love of the Lord to your child.

Prepare your child constantly for what is going to happen, even when you think you are over-communicating.

Remind them about who all they are going to see and meet.  If family or friends are coming to your home, explain who they are, why they are coming and how long they will stay.  If you are taking them somewhere, tell them when and where they are going, how long they will be there, why they are going and who all will be there.  Give your child plenty of warning before transitions, even the small ones. Never assume that they know or understand what is going to happen or why.  Even just this little step can really help prevent potential breakdowns.

Limit activities as much as possible if your child has recently come home.

Our tendency as adoptive families is to introduce them to everyone we care about and let everyone hug and kiss them.  That is a normal reaction, especially if you had a great community praying and supporting you through the process, but this can confuse the child and might lead to regression with attachment to mom and dad.   Do not let everyone hold/ kiss/ touch a newly adopted child.  Remember we’re focusing on teaching the child who mom and dad are! You as the parents should be the ones that continue to provide all the basic care, like changing diapers or helping with other toileting needs, feeding, and putting to bed.

Remember to limit the number of  “things.”

Too many toys or other gifts may be very stimulating and cause sensory overload.  Your child shouldn’t feel loved simply by the things that you or others can give him/her! This is a great opportunity to help them really understand the true meaning of Christmas, Jesus! “Today your Savior was born in the town of David.  He is Christ, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Please remind family and friends that your family will reach a “new normal” in time..

..and that eventually they will be able to love on your child like they want to.  Encourage them to see things through your child’s eyes and be sensitive to his/her needs.

Be prepared for some setbacks even if you try hard to be sensitive to your child’s needs.

You might need to revisit initial bonding and attachment education and be prepared to re-emphasize certain areas as needed.  This is likely with too many transitions too quickly.  Setbacks are a natural result when a child’s routine is broken.

Please call us if we can help in any way, and know we appreciate you and your family very much! We praise God with you for the blessings of children and wish each of you a wonderful time this holiday season and that you each have a wonderful time being Thankful this weekend and have a very Merry first Christmas with your “new”child!

Your Lifeline Post Adoption Team