It took years to go through the adoption process, but last February, your family added a six-year-old daughter. Getting to know each other has been enjoyable, and from the day you brought her home, you dreamed about how magical the first holiday season together would be for all of you.
But instead of being joyful, she’s been glum. Instead of happily joining you and your other children in each of your family’s traditions, she has pulled away and will sit in her room for hours. You’re frustrated and heartbroken, and you’re wondering what you did wrong or what you’re not doing. Doesn’t she appreciate her new life and the sacrifices you’ve made?
The holidays are a wonderful time of the year, but they come packaged with a lot of stress. Just think about the stress you’re feeling that’s a normal part of the season … cleaning the house and preparing for the grandparents’ arrival, trying to get your shopping done in between Christmas concerts at school and end-of-semester homework, decorating and events … while it’s all enjoyable, it does take a toll on you.
Now think of how that stress feels to your adopted child. While she’s living in a loving family, she’s probably experiencing something new — quite possibly something she never experienced before. In addition to soaking it all in, there’s so much to learn, with all these traditions, stories, and songs everyone else knows so well. The rest of you are behaving differently, too, and she’s attuned to the stress levels and the occasional outbursts of frustration and anger. If she came to you from another place and culture, those feelings may be magnified.
And while she’s surrounded by an atmosphere of abundance, it’s also a reminder of what she left behind and what she lacked before she entered your lives. As those memories appear, she may become sad or angry. She’s probably wondering about her birth parents. She may even feel guilt for other children she knew who haven’t found new families.
The holidays are a piping hot stew of emotions, and your adopted child is probably feeling more of them than you are, so it’s no wonder she may be less than joyful. You can help her by giving her both space and support. Pressuring her to participate or expressing frustration that she isn’t having fun is only going to make things worse. Overreacting when she misbehaves or does something to regress will only push her away.
Instead, try to engage your adopted child in conversations. You can look at her and say, “It seems like you’ve been sad lately. Is there anything you’d like to talk about?” Another way to help is to involve her in creating new family traditions. Watch how your parents and other relatives treat her, too, because others may unknowingly say or do things that are hurtful. You may need to intervene in ways you haven’t had to with your other children.
If you’re at your wits’ end or if the situation has become so challenging that you worry about her behavior and the long-term impacts, you may want to set a time to meet with one of our professional counselors. We can help your child with the feelings she is experiencing, and we can help you become an even more effective adoptive parent. Why not call us today?