The holiday’s can create incredible stress on any family, and especially on adopted children. How holidays affect adopted children depends on a number of variables; the stability of the adoptive family, how a child was adopted and at what age, and the adoptive child’s heritage, will all play a role in how they react to the holiday seasons.
The Adoptive Family
Any parent who has adopted either a newborn or an older child will tell you how difficult the process was. Adoptive parents have had to submit to criminal registry and child abuse checks, along with lengthy checks on their emotional and financial stability, and spiritual values. Given all this checking, and the safeguards put in place by Government regulatory agencies anyone would think that most adopted children go to the best homes possible.
Most adopted children are pampered and cared for during birthdays, Christmas and Easter and other holiday gatherings. Sadly, some adopted children are not treated as well by existing natural children, the adoptive parents and extended family members. If abuse or neglect does occur, it is typically by other family members who have not been quick to embrace the non-blood member of the family. This can have a devastating effect on adoptive children they grow up with holiday anxiety and a fear of the holiday season itself. In many cases this fear continues into adult hood, leading to greater emotional problems, such as a hatred of the holidays, or an indifference to them, even when they have children themselves.
How a child was adopted
Children adopted as newborns or infants are far easier to assimilate into a couple’s life. Holiday’s for them are what they should be for all children; a type of merriment, enjoyment and gifts. When small children are adopted into existing families, the adoptive parents must take care to make sure that all children are treated the same, so neither the adoptive or natural children grow up feeling resentful that one was treated better than another.
Of all adoptive children, it is those who were adopted at an older age under difficult circumstances who stand to experience the most holiday stress. If a child is adopted after the age of seven due to neglect, or death of natural parents, the holiday season can simply be a reminder of their old life and old traditions. Children at this age have formed strong memories, either good or bad of previous holidays, and adoptive families must take great care to make sure future celebrations are to be savoured not feared. Incorporating a holiday activity that the adopted child participated in before they were adopted and that they enjoyed can be especially beneficial, along with creating new ones with their new family.
The adoptive child’s heritage
For mixed race families the holidays can have a mixed affect on adopted children. If adopted as a baby, these issues typically won’t arise for many years; but for children who were adopted later in life, being of a different race from their adopted parents can bring up issues in the areas of different beliefs and traditions during holiday seasons.
When adoptive parents embrace an adopted child’s heritage, and seek to incorporate some of their heritage into celebrations, the effects can be amazing. I know a lady who with her husband adopted a three year old little girl from China. Instead of ignoring her heritage, this couple incorporate some Chinese holidays into their Canadian ones, along with making sure their daughter grows up bilingual in both English and Chinese, so that no heritage is lost.
Parenting is never easy, and parenting during the holiday season can be stressful for all parents and children. Adopted children come with their own unique stresses which become more prevalent at holidays. With some careful foresight and planning these special families can make any and every holiday special by paying attention to both their’s and their adopted children’s needs.