Thursday, December 11, 2014
Hard Time With The Holidays
Most of us tend to think of the holidays in terms of joy and cheer, family and friends, and celebration. But for many adopted children, any holiday is a time of great stress and anxiety. I know I have witnessed this first hand with Cava. There is so much stimulation around holidays, Christmas in particular, that he is in sensory overload. For him, like many adopted kids, there is also the struggle to deal with their past. Christmas, like their birthdays, were just another day that went by without fanfare.
This year we had Cava do a Shoe-box for Operation Christmas Child. We explained to him why we were doing this and how it would go to a child his own age, possibly to one in Ukraine. His response floored me, "How come I never got one?" How do I answer that? All I could say was, "I don't know, buddy, but you're not in that situation now and there are millions of other kids who still are." It wasn't just about not getting the shoe-box, it was the internal question of, "Why wasn't I worth giving one to?" His reaction stems from a poor self image of not feeling deserving of getting a gift.
For him, as much as he now loves Christmas and getting presents, he still deals with all of the years where he received nothing. He has no memories of his mother, but for many adopted kids, they do remember their parents. For them, Christmas may be a time of guilt, anxiety, sadness, anger, and loss. They may feel betrayed by their parents abandoning them. They may have happy or sad memories about Christmases past. They may feel a loss of traditions they once had.
Adopted kids feel abandoned and often wonder if it was their fault. What did they do wrong? They may not think themselves worthy of enjoying all that the season offers: from the festivities to the gifts.
Christmas may cause them to relive painful memories. A certain smell or sound may trigger something deep within them that causes them to act out.
Children who've grown up in orphanages have experienced great loss. They have been rejected by their birth families. It may be important to sit down and let the child express their painful emotions during what we see as a "joyful" season.
Some parents may try to make up for all that the child did not have only to find the child ungrateful or by showing difficult behavior. It's key for us, as their parents, to try and understand the motivation behind the behavior. Maybe all the busyness of the holidays are too overwhelming for the child. The excitement may be too much.
There are complex feelings going on in these children, much of which they may not be able to understand and express themselves. But as their parents, we need to be their to love them, offer them support and reassurance. The best gift we can give them is a sense of security and peace.
Here are two great links that deal with the subject matter: