If you celebrate Christmas, it can be a magical time of year. I love the build up, picking gifts and soaking up the atmosphere. It’s a time to celebrate with family and friends.
I imagined our first Christmas as parents five years ago would have an extra layer of magic. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my very high expectations. My mum had a mini stroke the week leading up to Christmas. And then, even more inconsiderately, my husband got pneumonia on Boxing Day. That led to a hospital stay and an extremely stressful few days. Not the Christmas I’d planned.
It can be very easy to get swept up in the “perfect” Christmas image we see on TV and social media. Perfect decorations and gifts enjoyed by the whole family. Kids that never spill food down their perfect clothes. And who behave impeccably.
TV and social media land isn’t real life. Kids wouldn’t be kids if they didn’t spill things. Or draw on things. Or fight, scream and shout. But having perfect images of what it should be like can make us feel like we’ve failed if our Christmas isn’t like that.
For a lot of adopted children, Christmas can be a challenging time. Changes in routine, memories and triggers of unhappy experiences from their past can cause challenging behaviour. This leads to stress for everyone leaving us wondering whether it’s worth all the effort.
So, what can you do to make Christmas a time everyone can enjoy? Here’s some ideas that may help:
- Lower your expectations. Too many events, trips, parties or whatever are likely to cause overload and stress. Keep it simple and build things up. Take pleasure in small things.
- Keep to routines for things like bed time and getting up as much as possible. Stick to familiar food and mealtimes as often as you can.
- Involve your children with planning. Ask what they’d like to do to make them feel comfortable and relaxed.
- Be flexible and prepared to change things if it’s clear something isn’t working. A lot of children are frightened by Father Christmas. Let them be as close or distant as they feel comfortable doing. Or don’t visit him at all if it causes them too much stress.
- Build in quiet time doing what they need to do to relax. If being outdoors calms them down, get out as much as you can. Make sure you’ve got clothing for all eventualities so you’re all warm whatever the weather.
- Let them open presents when they want. Some children feel overwhelmed by a large number of parcels. If they just want to open a couple and the rest later, let them.
- Start new traditions that are child led.
- Keep a record of what works and what doesn’t. Build on what works the following year.
Keeping things simple and familiar can lead to some magical memories being made. This will be our sixth Christmas with our eldest. Some of my best memories are of simple things like going to the park on Boxing Day, or watching a movie together snuggled on the sofa (for about 10 minutes!).
Everyone has a different version of perfect. Yours will be different from mine and that’s absolutely fine. Try not to get swept up with what everyone else is doing. Do what’s best for you and your family.
This article is the last one for 2019. Thank you to everyone who’s contributed and supported the magazine over the last two months since launch. I’m looking forward to sharing more stories, experiences and advice on everything to do with adoption in 2020.
Merry Christmas and wishing you all a peaceful, happy and healthy 2020.