Thanksgiving is quickly approaching. Who's ready for some turkey and football?! Then right after Thanksgiving, Christmas creeps up like a thief in the night. Holidays can be a stressful time for parents, especially parents of children who have been through foster care and adoption.
If this is your first holiday season with your child(ren), you may be a bit fearful of the days to come. Why? Because you do not know what to expect. Could something trigger your child into a certain behavior? Could the inconsistency of the holidays open the door for acting out? Quick story...
My wife and I brought our now adopted baby girl home from the hospital on December 17. Four days later we received a call about our now adopted twin three-year old boys needing to be picked up from DSS due to a surprise visit they had earlier in the day. Needless to say, we had no idea what to expect, what to get them, and what was about to ensue after going from being a family of two to five in four days. Whew!
If I'm honest, Christmas was a bit of a nightmare. We hadn't had time to place structure in the lives of our new, adorable kids. The boys essentially wanted to rip open everyone's gifts. They could not sit still in their chairs for dinner. Let's just say it was a tough Christmas, but a memorable one nonetheless.
So what do you do to not only survive the holidays, but thrive during the holidays? I realize that these suggestions are not a cure-all for every family, but maybe just one could help.
1. If You're Traveling, Educate Your Family. Unless your family is well-adverse in the foster care and adoption world, they may not understand what is about to happen. If you don't see family often, your kids may be impulsive upon arrival, extra excited due to the festivities, or just extra happy to see family they haven't seen in a while. If you have younger kids, tell your family to put away the treasured family heirlooms for fear they might break them. For older kids, holidays could be hard on them, so they may be distant. Let your family know what to expect so that expectations aren't seen as "unmet" during the holidays.
2. Consistency is Key. For most kids, especially those who are younger, consistency is key. While this goes a bit hand-in-hand with educating your family, try and keep your schedule as close as you can. You may have family traditions that you do, but if you normally put your kids to bed at 7:30 p.m., keep that plan. If you typically have a quiet time for your young ones, keep the quiet time. If you have certain rules to abide by at home, share them with your family in advance. That's not to say you can't throw in something new here or there, but the closer you keep consistency in your child's life, the better.
3. It's OK To Say "No". For some, the holidays are full of hustle and bustle. We have to go to Mom and Dad's, then we have to go visit Grandma and Grandpa. Oh, and we can't forget about Aunt Sally! You see what I mean? This will set your kids off like crazy. Heck, I wasn't adopted and that was my childhood...I hated it and probably acted out (I'd have to ask my parents). All that being said, it's OK to say "no". If Aunt Sally really wants to see your kids, have her come to you. If your family wants to go to a holiday concert at 8:00 p.m. because it's family tradition, it's OK to say "no" since it's past your kids bedtime. Catch my drift?
4. Have Fun. While the goal is to keep your kids regulated and calm, the fact is these times only come once a year. You certainly don't want to be a drill sergeant during the holidays, but you also want to do what's best for your kids. Start new traditions, take lots of photos, eat lots of food, and let the tryptophan do its magic to your kids! Cherish the memories and have fun with it all!
From F/A Brotherhood, have a Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas!