A Guest Blog by Kristen Seguin
In typical families the holidays can be both fun and challenging. The excitement of all the things that are part of Christmas – Santa Claus, baking cookies, visiting far away relatives, religious festivities – brings happiness and stress in the best of situations. A typical family will have generations of family memories to build upon. The children have grown into these traditions and expect the experiences and it is easier to create and experience all the wonderful aspects of the Holiday season.
It can be very different for foster and adoptive families. Our children have histories that may have been very challenging for them. The Holidays can be especially difficult for these kids and typical Holiday traditions may be too hard for them and not work for our situations. Especially with older child adoption our kids may find the whole Holiday season to be painful. Baking cookies and hanging stockings, visiting Santa at the mall, midnight church services can all bring pain and hurt to our kids. Sometimes creative thinking and planning is necessary to bring our kids the happiness of the season.
“Sometimes creative thinking and planning is necessary to bring our kids the happiness of the season.”
What if you have a child who has seen the impact of alcohol or drug abuse play out every holiday? What if you have a child who finds being around new people to be frightening? What if you have a child who needs a rigid schedule in order to maintain their calm and you have a variety of new events planned? And one thing is for certain, we do have children who miss their biological families fiercely. How do you help them enjoy all the things that the Holiday Season brings when they are longing for what has been taken from them?
The Answer is Flexibility
The answer is flexibility. I have eaten Thanksgiving dinner in my van with a 3 yr old who could not process the new experiences. You may find yourself baking the cookies alone because the kids have left the room. Whatever the experience you are trying to create for your child it is important to understand that if they cannot manage the situation that it is not a reflection of their feelings towards you. It isn’t personal, it’s their own pain and trauma that they are struggling to process.
“I have eaten Thanksgiving dinner in my van with a 3 yr old who could not process the new experiences.”
Especially with new foster placements or in homes with newly adopted children, parents can feel a lot of stress to build the perfect Pinterest Christmas. To make the perfect crafts, make the most perfect cookies, have a mantle filled with carefully hung stockings and a beautiful Christmas tree. Part of this expectation might involve a perfectly dressed family arriving for church 10 minutes before service, with enough time to mingle and show off the beautiful dresses and suits we have picked out for our children. The reality might be different. We might have the child who refuses to wear the dress because it brings back too many painful memories and so they arrive in jeans and snow boots. Or maybe when we’re baking cookies our child becomes so overwhelmed with sadness missing their mom and nothing can console them.
“Our role as foster and adoptive parents is to keep trying. To keep loving them, to keep holding them tight through all the hard days.”
These are the realities that foster and adoptive parents face. It doesn’t mean that Holiday Traditions can’t be built. And it certainly doesn’t mean we don’t keep trying. There will be times when things don’t happen the way we plan. There will be times when things work out better than planned. Our role as foster and adoptive parents is to keep trying. To keep loving them, to keep holding them tight through all the hard days.
When all is said and done, whether we have the perfect Pinterest Christmas or if we collapse onto our beds at 12:01 after a News Years party and wonder how we survived, the important thing is that we were there for our children. That we were present for them. That we made sure they knew we loved them and that we do our very best to help them be able to enjoy the holidays and no matter what happened to them in the past, that they get to experience the holidays just be kids.
Kristen Seguin | firstname.lastname@example.org | Facebook | Twitter Kristen is a foster/adoptive mom with her husband Nick. Kristen is also the co-creator of fostergarden.com, which is an interactive, web-based application designed for foster parents to help them keep records organized, remain compliant with documentation and licensing requirements, and to more easily communicate the needs of foster children with social workers and the court system.