The gift of less during the holidays is trending. Minimalism has garnered popularity, and shifted focus from possessions to experiences. And while it may, indeed, be less stuff – it is simply shifting the focus to more of something else.
For children who are in the foster care system, or who have been adopted (children from hard places), this concept of less being more is critical. The overwhelm of emotions that comes from the constant bombardment of holiday cheer can cause anything but joy.
Tree trimming, carol singing, decking the halls. Baking cookies, decorating gingerbread houses, snowball fights. Sparkling snow, twinkling lights, jingling bells.
They're the hallmarks of this holiday season. And while most of us agree they are welcomed family traditions, ushering in the most wonderful time of the year - they can all be a bit much for children from hard places.
During Christmas, many of us decorate our homes. Sometimes we rearrange furniture to make room for a tree. Garland graces mantles and banisters, lights glimmer along gutters, and stockings are hung with care! It's a beautiful sight! Except when it fills a child with fright.
The sights of Christmas can be overwhelming in and of themselves, but when you add to it the change of a child's safe place - home - it increases the internal stress a child experiences.
Everywhere you go, Christmas music is blaring. I love some good Christmas tunes, don't get me wrong! But I think this time of year, the music gets cranked up a few notches to mirror the excitement and anticipation!
For kids from hard places, this raised volume, and the additional noises of jingling bells, rustling paper, and raised voices can be frustrating. The continual jolly can become simply noise, interfering with their ability to pay attention to what's going on around them. It can be frightening if the child has auditory sensitivity. And it can be disorienting for a child with auditory processing delays.
Smell is the strongest sense tied to memory. Getting a whiff of the perfume of your dear grandmother causes nostalgia. For kids from hard places, the onslaught of candles, cookies, potpourri, and pine can trigger memories - both conscious and repressed.
Memories from the past, both positive and negative, are often tied to the loss a child has experienced. A scented candle could send a little one into a meltdown, because they're subconsciously experiencing the heart-wrenching trauma of losing their birth family as their sense of smell brings up a preverbal memory.
Oh the spirit of Christmas! Celebrating the birth of our Savior. Celebrating joy and beauty. Celebrating and embracing and engaging. It comes right on the heels of Thanksgiving, where we focus on gratitude and family. It's the most wonderful time of the year!
Except when it isn't. For kids from hard places, the expectations to celebrate can be crippling. Just like adults who are grieving the loss of a loved one during the holidays, these joyous celebrations can trigger the deepest aches in a child's heart. Our hope is that they experience joy, but we must be prepared to face grief with them, too.
I want to start this section by saying, my heart is so heavily convicted, even as I write. As the mom of six precious kids, two of whom came to our family through adoption from foster care, the things I'm writing about are things I'm learning. They're things we're living. And more often than not, I'm learning through mistakes. And while there can be the very real fear that our mistakes will further hurt our children, we have to know and believe that modeling for them how to admit to, and apologize for a mistake is actually more healing than pretending they never happen.
As humans, we all innately have a selfish nature. One that wonders how much will be required of us before it's 'enough.' And I know for some, the suggestions I'm about to make could stir that familiar feeling. But, out of love, may I please gently remind you that we do what's best for our children because we love them. Because they are blessings, and we have the God-given responsibility, honor, and privilege to meet their needs.
Children from hard places have to experience safety before they can experience joy. This isn't the time for our children to learn social behavior or overcome fears, it's the time for them to experience the feeling of safety so that their Christmas can be merry and bright!
10 ways to bring back the merry and bright.
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How do you help your child feel safety during the Christmas season? Does your child love or loathe the holidays? Do you know a family this could encourage? I would love to hear from you in the comments!
Here you will find the musings of a homeschooling, work from home, adoptive Momma of 6! Adventures in faith, family, adoption, and training up a tribe of little people to follow hard after Jesus are spilled into these posts --- most often written with a cup of coffee in hand. I hope you'll stick around a while and find something - more likely SOMEONE! - that brings you hope!
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