Seasonal Success for the Adoptive Family

The holidays, complete with dark December nights illuminated by twinkling lights and festive decor, have arrived.  This is the time of year when the days are at their shortest and light eludes the winter wanderer.   We climb in from the cold seeking comfort and connection.  For many among us, the holidays are a time of gathering with friends and family to share warmth, stories, food, and company.  However, in the family touched by adoption, the holiday season is riddled with unique caveats which can make this time of year uniquely challenging, yet ripe with opportunities to build connection, foster communication, and gain a deeper understanding of the family unit.

For the adoptee, be they child, adolescent or adult, the December holiday season can stir a myriad of complex emotions.   Questions about an individual’s family of origin may arise.  The adoptee’s connection to the traditions of their family of adoption may be examined under a new lens.  Feelings that have lain dormant, just below the surface of consciousness, may come to the forefront of the mind throughout the duration of the season.  Preparing for these nuances will help adoptees and their families harness the holidays and use them as a period of strengthening family ties and understanding.

Gifts for the Adoptee

The tradition of gifting has always come with the age-old adage, “The best gifts are often unseen.”  This proves especially true for the adoptee.  Sometimes, the most heartfelt present is the one that does not fit in a box.

  • Acknowledgement of feelings is a powerful gift to give your adopted child or relative.  While it may be intimidating to see your adopted relative fall into silent pondering when everyone  around them is engaged in revelry, know that your acknowledgment of their reflections is appreciated.  Bravely, yet gently, ask the adoptee, “Are you thinking about your birth family right now?”  You may be met with a vivid answer.  You may be met with silence.  The gift of your acknowledgement and invitation to talk has been given and while the adoptee may not feel ready to answer or explore such a question, the grace of feeling seen and the desire to be heard are absolutely cherished internally.
  • Incorporating traditions of  the adoptee can be a powerful gesture.  Perhaps the adoptee was born into a different spiritual practice or comes from a part of the world where this time of year brings unique foods, music, or festivities.  Learn about the adoptee’s roots and incorporate them into your family’s holiday practice.  This consideration is a powerful way to show the adoptee that even though there are parts of themselves which come from another place, it is these parts that brighten the fabric of the family and weave it into the beautiful and eclectic tapestry that it is.  Inclusion of the adoptee’s cultural, social, and spiritual roots demonstrates to them that their unique story adds dynamic beauty and true uniqueness to the family as a whole.
  • Create new traditions with the adoptee.  Including the adopted relative in the family’s longstanding practices and incorporating elements of their root story into that practice are indeed powerful gestures of connection.  It is important, however, to create unique traditions with your adopted relative.  These traditions are new for everyone and create the opportunity to share a novel experience which can be consistently practiced over the years.  

Gifts for the Adoptive Family

Throughout December, when the “To Do” lists reach black-hole levels of infinite depth, it can be difficult to remember the importance of self care and how this affects family nourishment.  The family of adoption will experience a rich holiday season when all members of the family unit are considered, cared for, and prepared.

  • Maintain routines for yourself, the adoptee, and the family as a whole.  Consistency and knowing what to expect out of this bustling season will bring peace of mind to you and to your adoptive family member.  Often, adoptees respond positively to prior knowledge of changes in routine and appreciate advance notice of events which diverge from the norm.  Maintaining your own routine and routines of the adoptee, and preparing the family for changes in their day-to-day life will set all up for ease and peace of mind.
  • Prepare extended family for the questions and conversations that may arise from your adopted relative.  Indeed, luck favors the prepared and briefing family members for conversations which, without prior notice, may stimulate discomfort, will be key to their confidence in addressing adoption related issues.  This will allow extended family to gain comfort and confidence when discussing adoption with the adoptee and will foster a deeper understanding of the adopted relative throughout the entire family unit.
  • Give the gift of self-care.  This cannot be emphasized enough.  No matter the cultural milieu, it is all too easy to become preoccupied with what to give to others.  Remember to take time to give yourself the gift of quiet moments, a warm cup of tea, a few chapters of a book for leisure or a quiet meditative reflection on gratitude.  Caring for yourself models the importance of primary mental, physical and spiritual health and it provides you with the stamina necessary to create a successful season for the adoptee and your entire family.

About Caitlin Woodstock

Caitlin Woodstock was a clinical intern at Boston Post Adoption Resources.