From Cynthia’s Couch: The Holiday Trap
A blog from Post Adoption and Post Permanency Supervisor, Cynthia Couch, LCSW
As we approach the holiday season we all find ourselves with particular memories that we cherish, feel neutral about, or are very disheartening. How many times have you wondered how your mom made that perfect gravy at Thanksgiving or remember how your dad sat in front of the T.V. with his favorite game on and you better not disturb him!
During this lively and busy time of year there are children who suffer from the trappings of their past as they approach the holiday season.
These special needs children are in adopted or foster homes. Often families with adopted or foster children do a certain dance around the holidays so that their family can survive the potential turmoil. Children with backgrounds of abuse and neglect often approach the holidays with a mixture of negative memories and a sense of loss. If we consider that these children have lost everything familiar to them including birth parents, homes, family traditions, and special smells or foods it is understandable that the “special” times at Thanksgiving and Christmas could heighten their losses. It is particularly difficult when adoptive children are not able to articulate their pain and parents are scurrying around trying to make the holidays a joyful and fun time only to have their child appear sad or act out inappropriately.
Avoiding The Holiday Trap
Parents of special needs foster and adopted children will generally assist their children with the holidays if they will listen to the child’s memories of past holidays and acknowledge the change that has taken place in their lives.
Give Plenty Notice
Giving children plenty of notice of upcoming family gatherings and not overwhelming them with too many gifts can also helpful.
Two or three gifts that are well thought out and celebrations that are low key can allow time for the child to adapt to current family traditions and may prevent acting out behaviors.
Hugs Go A Long Way
Many special needs children do not feel like they deserve the attention given at holiday time and may even push parents away. A hug and a statement that you care for them no matter what can go a long way.
Moving Forward and Showing Respect
Most importantly, parents need to understand that they are not responsible for the ghosts of their child’s past. There is no “making up” for what your child may have lost, however, moving forward with your child and showing respect for what they have been through in the past is of the utmost importance.
About The Author
As the Post Adoption and Post Permanency Supervisor, Cynthia Couch, LCSW, leads the department in guiding families to resources and support services to help them thrive. After earning her BS in Psychology at Abilene Christian University, her Master’s in Social Work at Simmons College and spending 15 years as mental health practitioner, she discovered her love for working with adoptive families and found her career at Arms Wide.