For an adopted child, Christmas, like so many other celebrations days (birthdays, mothers’ day) can be a challenge. The language of Christmas is so loaded. Have you been naughty or nice this year? It’s only nice children that get what they want for Christmas. Christmas can be a time when we have lots of visitors, our routine changes and we have to eat food we haven’t eaten for a whole year! Yup Christmas can be tough for adopted children.
We are now entering our fifth Christmas, our second in Paris. I’m not saying ours is perfect, but we have managed to develop some coping strategies to help our adopted children cope with Christmas.
Helping our adopted children cope with Christmas
1. We stay close to home
Actually, we don’t budge.
Christmas Day is spent in our house, if you want to see us well you’d better pay us a visit. We’ve been very firm about this. Our children don’t react well to moving around, holidays are tough, so I am not going to complicate matters by moving about (well apart from our move to Paris).
Paris is now our home, and this is where you are going to find us this Christmas. Joyeaux Noel!
2. Keep calm, be predictable
All kids get excited by Christmas, and my two get a little over excited. It’s a good excitement, but still, they find it hard to control their emotions, they find it hard to self-regulate.
We try and keep life as routine as possible, keep the Christmas excitement levels to a minimum. OK, yes we are a bit boring!
3. Creating new Christmas rituals
A new family, new traditions.
Before having children, Christmas was great, but I wasn’t big on it. But now, with children, Christmas means so much more, and we have created our own rituals with our children.
Like many other families, we bake Christmas cookies for Santa, leave carrots out for Rudolph, and we always, always, read the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve.
One of our favourite traditions to do is to choose the family Christmas tree, this has become a big tradition in our house.
On Christmas day, the children get to choose one present to open before lunch, then the remaining presents are opened after lunch.
We need to spread that excitement/anxiety level out! And this way the children don’t get bored of their presents before the day is out.
4.The language of Christmas is so important
The language of Christmas is potent.
Have children been good or bad? Are you on Santa’s good list? Will you be getting all your presents this year? Children are judged by this mythical man in a red suit. Talk about pressure to try and be good!
The lead up to Christmas can feel like living in a pressure cooker. And yes, there is the odd explosion, two or three (and right on cue ours have already started!)
We just take it one day at a time, attempting to keep life on an even keel, keeping calm and being predictable.
And lot’s and lots of reassurance, our kids are good, and yes, Santa will be stopping by where ever we are living.
5. Sensory overload
From the lack of routine during the holidays, holiday visitors, new or unusual food, crackers, decorations, the surprise of presents, there can be any number of triggers that can cause an adopted child to dysregulate.
Our strategy is to set out our boundaries, limiting the number of activities during the day, have plenty of down time, making sure our kids know what’s happening each day, keeping food familiar and making sure meal-times and bed-time stay the same.
And then we broke our rules
It was just too tempting.
King of the Mountains had a conference in Brussels. And we could hop on a train from Paris (just an hour and twenty minutes) and join him for the weekend to eat waffles, drink hot chocolate, explore the city and visit the Christmas market.
It was a great weekend. But it was sensory overload: too much fun, too much excitement, too many new things to contend with and we were way off routine.
We had squabbles, we had grumbles, we had non-stop fidgetting, we had I’m not eating that – it’s disgusting, it’s yuk, we had refusing to eat anything but Pizza, we had dysregulation, we had tantrums, culminating in an almighty comedown at the end of our trip.
Even after five years, yup, Christmas is still tough.
If you have adopted children and trying to cope with Christmas – I’m with you!
Picture credit: Kevin Dooley courtesy of Flickr