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Happiest Time of the Year?

Many people think of the holidays fondly, and associate them with positive family times and fun traditions. Children who have experienced trauma often have a very different experience of the holiday season.  Holidays can often trigger difficult memories and emotions, and serve as a reminder that they are not able to be with their biological families. Adoptive parents often have to be proactive about helping to support their children during these difficult times.  See below for some tips on how to make it through this often challenging time of year:

Create all-inclusive celebrations that acknowledge the situation - Simply talking to your child about how he or she has celebrated the holidays in the past can allow you to graft old traditions onto new. If your adoption is open, the biological family may actually play a role in the end-of-the-year celebrations. More layers of family means more relationships to navigate.

Accept the grieving process - Holidays can spur a feeling of loss for children who have had to say goodbye to their biological families, no matter how imperfect those families may have been.  A suggestion is to encourage sharing of holiday memories, make a “holiday” page in their life book, or buy a special ornament or decoration that represents your child’s birth family.

Acknowledge your child's feelings - Don't expect Christmas, Hanukkah, or welcoming the New Year to automatically stir up warm, happy memories. It may be second nature to deny that your child is sad - " But Christmas is a happy time! " - but try to be open to your child's feelings. Withdrawal, sadness, and acting out are all potential responses to the  holidays.

Be aware of your child's state of mind - It's easy for children, especially those who have difficulty dealing with change, to be overstimulated. Try to keep gatherings as low-key as possible, and maintain eating and sleeping schedules as much as you can. Perhaps it would be possible to have a small family gathering, as opposed to a huge dinner with far-flung aunts and uncles, this year.

Respect ethnic and cultural differences - If your child is of a different ethnicity or race than the rest of his adoptive family,  try to educate relatives before they meet your child so that potentially hurtful interactions can be kept to a minimum.

Deal with Extended Family - If your holiday gathering will be a big one, prepare your child for the bustle and try to keep routines as normal as possible. Relatives need preparing, too, so that they can appropriately interact with your child and with you as parents. 

To read the article in it’s entirety, visit: http://www.afamilyforeverychild.org/Announce/2014Holidays.php

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