When Older Children Are Placed for Adoption at Holiday Time

When Older Children Are Placed For Adoption at Holiday Time
Carol Edelstein
AdoptionWorks Program Director

It is not unusual for older children to be placed for adoption during the school break between just before Christmas and just after New Years.  The argument for placing children at this time is to allow them to spend a little bit of time settling in to their new adoptive home and family without the pressure of immediately starting a new school.  This also allows the child to begin their new school at a time when all of their new classmates are returning after a long break.  While those are valid reasons for placing children over the holidays, there also can be difficult issues that arise for children coming from foster care, or from an overseas orphanage, at this time of the year.  It is important for adoptive parent(s) to be sensitive to their new child during this time of transition and change, recognizing that the holidays may be difficult for older adopted children. 

Some of the potential holiday related triggers for children can be:

·        Sometimes children have very unpleasant memories of the holidays from their experience in their birth family home and/or in the foster homes they have lived in, so that for them, there may be a lot of stress and trauma associated with the holidays.

·        The holidays may be a painful reminder of all that the child has lost or missed.      

·        There seems to be extra pressure and stress in general for many people over the holidays, and this stress in the family can be a real trigger for a newly placed child.

·        Large family gatherings at holiday time can be very overwhelming to a new child, who may just be meeting some of the relatives and friends for the first time.

·        All of the gift giving can also overwhelm the child, as they are likely not used to receiving a lot of presents. 

It is very important to remember that each family has their own culture and holiday traditions, and while the way that your family celebrates the holidays is very “normal” and usual for you, it may be completely foreign to your child.  It is often best to make your child’s first holiday season in your home as “low key” as possible, avoiding celebrations with large groups of people and keeping in mind that giving your child large amounts of gifts or very extravagant gifts might end up being more of a trigger than a joy.  With a little bit of patience, planning, and understanding, you can help make the holidays more manageable and joyful for your newly adopted child. 


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