10 Tricks to Benefit from the Holidays with Children Who Have Skilled Trauma
The holidays are meant to be a time of joy, family get-togethers, and celebration. For those raising children who have experienced trauma or loss, we know that navigating this season can also be very stressful. What are the practical things you can do to help your family enjoy the vacation season with children who have experienced trauma?
Why is your child fighting on vacation?
Many factors contribute to the stress and anxiety our adoptive and foster children may experience at this time of year. In addition to the typical anticipation and hyped atmosphere our children experience in school and in the community, there are also significant changes in the regular routines, expectations, input or stimulation levels, and diet that take place at home.
Changes in routine can trigger your child
All of these changes can spark memories of what they lost, especially if they came to us with experiences in their families of origin that they can consciously remember. Even if your child doesn’t remember much about their life before joining your family, the irregularities during the holiday season can heighten their fear of their place in life or in your home.
During a regular week, your child relies on a predictable routine. While the holiday season activities are meant to be fun, it’s noteworthy that these changes will hurt your child’s consistency as well.
Changes also increase sensory overload
Add in the vacation music that is everywhere. And TV specials, which are fun and a cherished tradition for many, change bedtime for many nights. Presents are spied on in their hiding places. And the food and sugar overload is an understatement, isn’t it?
Everywhere your child looks there are seasonal decorations, new colors and lots of lights. If your child has sensory processing issues for the rest of the year, the holidays can be almost unbearable for their brain and body. This overload leads to challenging behavior in many children.
We need to find ways to build and enjoy cherished traditions with our adoptive and foster children. Traditions help our children feel anchored in our larger family history and enable us to instill the values that are important to us. We have some ideas on how you can enjoy the season with your whole family, even if the holidays are stressful and triggering for your foster or adopted child.
10 tips to enjoy the vacation with children who have experienced trauma
- Reach out to your child to learn about their traditions, cultural experiences, and memories that matter to them. Plan how he can help you incorporate these things into your whole family’s vacation experience.
- Think about your child’s changing perspective on vacation and their feelings about their losses or their history. It might not be a deliberate “sabotage” of the family experience – it might be a new or different level of processing his understanding of his story.
- Don’t take your child’s fights or behaviors personally. Change your mindset and don’t assume malicious intent. For example, “My child is fighting” as opposed to “My child is so selfish and is ruining our vacation dinner.”
- Go to the child to understand how he is feeling. Build trust in them, but also set healthy boundaries and realistic expectations of their behavior. You can say, “I’m sorry you have problems. This behavior is not safe. Can we take a walk together to process your feelings more confidently? “
- Maintain as many basic routines as possible during the vacation. Of course, there will be some valuable exceptions to the usual schedule. Schedule these events, but keep your daily routine as consistent as possible. If it has to change, let your child know in good time. When he’s old enough, talk about how you can work through these changes together.
- The tension or anticipation of the holidays can be triggering for a child who has experienced trauma. Relieve his anxiety by talking about the emotions that can surprise you. If you sense that he has unrealistic expectations, help him identify them. Then work together to plan for a better balance between healthy and mismatched expectations.
- Reduce the number of gifts your child receives. Too many things can be overwhelming and overwhelming. Be creative with the types of gifts you give. Remember that making connections together can be more purposeful than many other things.
- Teach your child the value of giving to others. Again, be creative and teach your child to express caring to others. Time spent with a loved one teaches the value of presence. Volunteering in your community teaches your principles of generosity and connection to something greater than yourself.
- It’s okay to put boundaries and boundaries on your vacation experiences. Extended family or case managers may not understand this at first, but you are the doorman of your home. You need to be committed to what works for your family this year. This applies to gifts, activities, food or treats as well as to visitors.
- Take care of yourself during the holiday season. Managing your child’s routines, traditions, and experiences is hard work. We can help our children regulate so much more effectively when we are rested and self-regulated.
examThe article was originally published by Creating a Family on December 2nd, 2020. You can find the original article here.