As a bit of background, I specialize in working with adoptees and adoptive parents. I am an adoption counselor in Orange County, CA. So, I couldn’t be more thrilled that this subject is getting the recognition it deserves! Social media received a flood of adoption advocates from all corners of the adoption triad. They have all come to share their powerful stories with the world.
While being National Adoption Month, the holidays are also approaching fast. This can be a challenging time of year for all members of the triad. Especially younger adoptees who struggle to voice their pain to those they love.
So, today I will take a moment to share how you can support your child as they navigate the holiday season as an adoptee.
The holidays are tough for adopted kids.
Your adopted child may not remember their birth parents or their adoption. Even if you’re the only parent they’ve ever known, they still experienced trauma. Often, they act out this trauma through their behaviors. The holidays are the “most wonderful time of the year” for countless families. But, this may not be the reality for many adoptees and adoptive parents. You may have tried to give them an amazing holiday experience to take their mind off their pain. But, this puts a profound amount of pressure on you and in the end, it doesn’t often work. Your child still struggles.
The pressure to make the holidays picture perfect is often ingrained in us from an early age.
We’re inundated with Norman Rockwell paintings. We hear joyous holiday songs. We watch sappy holiday movies. And, we see ads featuring picture-perfect happy families. But, this is not your reality. Your kid is acting out. You feel frustrated, helpless, and guilty. You want to make their pain disappear and support them, but it’s not that easy. Their hurt is often directed at you and that hurts.
Furthermore, the holidays bring the family to town. They notice your child’s behavior, but they don’t understand it. They may know your child was adopted, and know some of the details. But, they can’t fully understand the implications of the trauma they experienced. They may say things like “they’re so lucky to have you” or some version of that. Although you know they mean well, it still hurts and often dismisses your family’s experience. It makes it seem like your child should be grateful they got adopted.
After several weeks of this behavior, you’re exhausted. You need support and guidance as you’re navigating the challenges occurring in your home. I want to help by providing some tips to help your family during the holiday season.
Remind Yourself that the Holidays are Hard On Your Adopted Kid Too
You’re in the thick of the holidays and trying to deal with your child’s behaviors. As a result, you are likely very stressed and emotional. You may struggle to realize that what your child is going through is a very normal response to adoption trauma. So, allow them some grace as they work through their feelings. Let them know that you are here for them, they are safe, and you love them no matter what.
Talk to Your Child About Their Adoption in an Age-Appropriate Way
I know it can be tempting to avoid tough conversations especially when things are going well. But, this is when you actually need to have them. It’s important that you normalize what your child is going through and how they’re feeling. Many adoptees grow up not knowing or having relationships with other adopted kids. As a result, they may not know that how they’re feeling is actually very normal and instead feel all alone. This makes everything worse and contributes to their behaviors.
So, avoid leaving them to feel this way and avoid hard conversations. Let your child know that they can talk to you about anything. Make sure they feel able to talk to you, even if it feels hard. Oftentimes, they worry about hurting your feelings by talking about their family of origin. But, they need the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings about their adoption. This also allows them to and ask those tough questions that are on their mind.
Also, expose them to other adoptees. In an ideal situation, this would be other children in your area. But, that can be easier said than done. You may not have other adoptees to introduce your child to. If so, consider buying books that talk about adoption.
Here are some adoption books that I recommend.
- Yes, I’m adopted by Sharlie Zinniger
- I’ve Loved You Since Forever by Hoda Kotb
- We Belong Together: A Book About Adoption and Families by Todd Parr
- All About Adoption: How Families are Made and How Kids Feel About it by Dr. Marc A Nemiroff PH.D. and Jane Annunziata Psy.D.
- Adoption is a Lifelong Journey by Kelly DiBenedetto, Katie Gorczyca, and Jennifer Eckert
- Morris and the Bundle of Worries by Jill Seeney
- Elfa and the Box of Memories by Michelle Bell
- Nutmeg Gets Adopted by Judith Foxon
- The Most Precious Present in the World by Becky Edwards
Or consider writing your own adoption story. You can use pictures to illustrate if you have them, or you can draw them yourself. Allow your child to help create this and use it as a bonding experience for your whole family.
Try The 5-Minute Miracle
What is the 5-minute miracle you ask? Good question. The 5-minute miracle is an opportunity to bond with your child. This is something you do every day. During this time, you give your child your undivided attention. Let them pick an activity to do with you that they enjoy. This may include reading a book or coloring a picture. Or, it could involve working on a lego project or playing catch in the yard. Do what works for you and your child. But, the most important part is putting your child first and ignoring distractions. Silence your phone, turn off the television, and focus on your kiddo. You’ll be amazed at how this ritual of connection lays the foundation for improved behavior and a deeper relationship between you two.
Talk to Your Family and Other Adults in Your Child’s Life
If your child is struggling, you have a lot on your plate already. You do not need the added stress of having to explain your child’s outbursts to others. So preempt it. Talk to the adults in your child’s life about why the holidays are hard on adoptees. Then, share with them some ways they can support your child and you during the holiday season. Or, help them to alter their expectations for your child to accommodate their needs.
Model and Teach Your Child About Self-Care
Talking about and practicing self-care with your child is a powerful behavior management technique you can use when they escalate. Work with them to practice mindfulness and guided breathing techniques. Help them channel their inner strength to overcome the dysregulation they feel inside. Then, show them how self-care can help. I often recommend getting some exercise and getting that endorphin rush. Take a walk, bounce on a trampoline, throw a ball around, whatever makes you and your kiddo happy. Bonus, all these things can occur as your 5-minute miracle activity.
Find a Good Adoption Counselor in Orange County, CA for Yourself and Your Child
You may not have found an adoption counselor for yourself and your child with who you enjoy working. If so, I encourage you to find one such counselor. Even adoptees who don’t have behavioral challenges from past trauma are likely dealing with thoughts emotions that should be addressed by a professional therapist. Better yet, they should see an adoption competent therapist who specializes in adoption and adoption trauma. An adoption counselor can support your child and your family. Together, you can navigate the challenges that come from coping with trauma at a young age. Plus, they know what to look for and what to ask. They can help your child unpack thoughts and feelings they may not be conscious of yet.
Work with an Adoption Therapist in Orange County, CA
As a licensed therapist, I specialize in working with adoptees and their families. I work with clients of all ages to help them through the challenges as part of their adoptive identity. If you’re interested in beginning counseling in Orange County, follow these steps:
- Schedule a free consultation
- Meet with a caring therapist
- Start receiving the support you and your child deserve!
Other Services Offered at Moxie Family Therapy
Adoption therapy isn’t the only service we provide at our Orange County, CA-based practice. We offer counseling for young adults, teens, children, women, and couples. We also offer therapy for therapists, clinical supervision, art therapy, and play therapy. Our team is also happy to offer support to the LGBTQ+ community. Contact us today and learn how we can help you reclaim your moxie