Dealing With Emotions Surrounding Adoption Around The Holidays

The holidays can be a stressful time for individuals and families.

Jennifer Mellon December 13, 2016
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The holidays can be a stressful time for individuals and families. The holiday season brings about stress with hectic schedules, parties, shopping, financial burdens, cleaning, cooking, welcome guests and planning it all within the span of a few weeks. It is well documents that this time of year can bring about other unwelcome guests, including depression.

The holidays can also bring about emotions unique to those individuals and families who have been touched by adoption or foster care.

Accept Feelings of Loss

Many families built through adoption have been touched by infertility, miscarriage, or infant loss. The holidays can amplify the grief individuals and couples have felt through these losses. Giving yourself space to grieve is important. Feelings of guilt can arise when parents do not give themselves permission to grieve the loss of a biological child or ability to birth children because they have a beautiful family built through adoption. Adoption is not a substitute for a biological child and certainly does not replace a child that has passed away. It is one of the many beautiful ways to build a family. Your emotions are normal and you are not alone.

Acknowledge You or Your Children’s Feelings

If you are the parent or family member of an adopted person, you may notice the holidays are an emotional or confusing time for them. Depending on the child’s age, you may notice them asking more questions about their birth family, they may withdraw from activities, act out or become extra emotional. These are all normal feelings for them to experience. We often feel that the holidays are the “most wonderful time of the year,” as the song goes. For those who have been adopted it may be just the opposite as they experience issues with their own identity, loss of their biological parents, or wonder as to what their birth family is doing. Acknowledge and inquire about their feelings and emotions, no matter what their age. Knowing it is safe to talk to you about what they are experiencing will be healing and helpful.

Include Birth Family Members in Your Families’ Traditions

If you are a parent of an adopted child or you were adopted, maybe consider including members of the birth family in your family’s traditions. Open adoption expands the family and creates a beautiful paradigm for everyone involved to be together sharing in the holidays, when possible. If the adoption was closed, or the birth family is no longer alive, consider incorporating their presence with an ornament on the Christmas tree, a candle during your celebrations or a toast to them at dinner. Acknowledging their importance and role in you or your adopted child’s life can be powerful.

There is No Such Thing as Perfection!

Oftentimes we start the holiday season with so many beautiful plans, idealistic ideas of how each party, tradition, or memory is created, and it falls short of our expectations. That is okay! The holidays are made up of human beings who are not going to be perfect and who will feel a spectrum of feelings whether they were adopted or not. Be kind to yourself, your family and others. That is the best way to handle any stresses or emotions that arise this holiday season.

 I do wish you and your family the most beautiful holiday season and a wonderful 2017!

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Jennifer Mellon

Jennifer Mellon has worked in the child welfare field for more than a decade, serving in varying capacities as the Executive Director and Chief Development Officer of Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS) and the Corporate Communications Program Manager for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI). Jennifer has served on the Board of the Campagna Center, which provides critical educational services to children and families in the DC Metro Area and on the Development Committee for the National Council for Adoption. She is the mom of three children and resides in Alexandria, Virginia.


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