For most children, the Christmas holidays are an exciting
time. Those of you who are veteran adoptive or foster parents know this may not be true for all adopted or foster children. Readers, please understand, I’m not trying to be a “downer” here. But it is important to understand that for these children, the holidays may bring about many ambivalent, mixed feelings for them. Christmas can be a really difficult, emotional time for the foster or adopted child whose greatest Christmas wish is to be home with her birth family. She may even have feelings of guilt for feeling sad during a time when “everyone is supposed to be happy.”
For the foster or adopted child, I have a saying that the holidays may be “the best of times and the worst of times”—there are gifts under the tree, a lot of laughter, good food and festivities, but deep inside—especially for the older child—there may well be a gnawing grief about what is missing. My daughter brought this to light a few years ago when she told my wife and I that both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were very difficult for her. Although my wife and I did not avoid celebrating these holidays, we did intentionally downplay them somewhat to help our daughter to get through them until it became easier for her as she got older.
Christmas is not as easy to “downplay” for an adopted or foster child who really struggles during this time, especially if you have other children in the home. There are some things you can do to help her. Most importantly, when you notice that she is having a hard time, find some one-on-one quiet time amidst all the hoopla to help her put words to what she is feeling. Boys are typically more prone to act out verbally or physically when dealing with grief. For instance, you may notice your adopted or foster son uncharacteristically acting out and rebelling more as the holidays approach. Again, take some one-on-one time to address this with him, and gently talk about what is really behind his acting out, again, putting words to his feelings.
More to come on this topic in my next blog . . .
Photography by Jonathan Borba