Navigating the Holidays
Waiting is hard, and the holidays can be especially difficult while you’re waiting for your child to come home.
In this post, WACAP families, parents and staff share their advice on how to manage the wait during the holidays.
We truly understand why the holidays can be a difficult time, and why a season that should be a joyful one, can sometimes feel full of despair, sadness, and frustration. In the midst of all the holiday activities, celebrating with family and friends, decorations and social gatherings … you’re quietly longing for your child to be home.
We hope these suggestions provide some comfort while you’re waiting.
1. Read, read, read.
Prepare by reading books (or taking webinars) on parenting and adoption.
List of Staff-Suggested Books:
- “Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew” by Sherrie Eldridge
- “The Connected Child” by Karyn Purvis
- “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
- “Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control” by Heather Forbes and Bryan Post
- “The Whole-Brain Child” by Daniel J. Siegel
- “Attaching in Adoption” by Deborah D. Gray
Please explore these authors’ other books, as well.
2. Invest in your personal support network.
Spend time with your friends, your extended family, your significant other, etc. Invest in your friendships, especially since it will be harder to find that time once your child comes home. You’ll need strong friendships to get through the challenges.
If you are adopting with a spouse or partner, you’ll need a strong connection with each other as well, so the time you spend together, plus the foundations of friendships and community you build while you wait, will certainly help.
3. Watch movies about adoption, ask questions, and discuss.
Watch adoption and foster care related movies while you’re waiting. These movies can bring important questions to the surface, and help you start discussions with others in your family, your circle of friends, or with your case manager/social worker.
Consider having friends or family over to watch and talk about a movie together, and see below for some movies about adoption and foster care that WACAP staff recommend for watching and discussion:
Recommended Adoption and Foster Care Related Movies: To Watch and Discuss
- Antwone Fisher
- White Oleander
- Martian Child
- Good Will Hunting
- I am Sam
- Short Term 12
- Mother and Child
- The Blind Side
- Then She Found Me
- December Boys Rails & Ties
- Secrets & Lies
- The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete
- Age 1.5
4. Learn about your child’s background.
Learn about your child’s birth country/place of birth, the area’s history, cultural information, traditions important to your child, important events, etc.
If you’re adopting internationally, start researching the country’s customs and holidays during your wait and plan how to incorporate some of them into your family’s traditions and activities; this a great way to become more familiar with, and to honor your child’s culture.
One of our staff members recently adopted from India. During her wait, she and her husband practiced Indian cooking, went to Diwali celebrations, read about India’s history and watched Indian movies. They enjoyed having friends over for Bollywood nights, where they’d watch a movie and serve snacks from a local Indian bakery or grocery.
5. Build a lifebook. Start a scrapbook.
Lifebooks help bridge a child’s past, present and future. They give you a way to document, share, and celebrate your child’s history and story with your child. They include, important events in your child’s life, cultural information, accomplishments, memories, records, feelings, and much more.
If you’re adopting internationally, start gathering information about your child’s birth country – even before you travel! This can include general country information, a map, interesting facts, etc. You can start a journal that includes your feelings as you wait.
As you work on your child’s lifebook, prepare your pages with placeholders for pictures and other items that can be added later. Once your child has joined your family, you can continue to work on the book’s pages with your child, including the time leading up your adoption and before, traveling, your child’s thoughts, milestones, memories, and more. This book will be a treasure to your child!
- Lifebook Samples and Resources – Childwelfare.gov
- 70+ Sample Lifebook Pages for Foster and Adoptive Families – IFAPA
6. Plan a get-away, a “night out,” a family adventure.
While you’re waiting, make sure to plan activities and time away. Take a mini-vacation, connect socially with others, go on outings with friends, or a date with your partner. Remember, you’ll have fewer occasions for these types of fun things for some time after your child comes home.
Make special plans with your family, considering that things won’t quite be the same again after the addition of a new family member. You’ll have limited opportunity to give your family the same, dedicated attention once your family grows, making your time together before the dynamic changes very precious.
7. Plan for language barriers and how to navigate them.
If you and your child speak different languages, learn simple words and phrases in the language your child speaks or understands, to help you both communicate and help your child feel comforted.
Create communication cards to help your child convey how they are feeling or what they need. Communication cards usually have a picture illustrating a feeling, and these various cards can help support communication between you and your child. For example, a card might help a child convey, “I’m hungry” or “I’m tired,” and help you know how to help your child, and ultimately help with the transition.
8. Get connected.
Attend a local support group of adoptive parents while you wait. Support groups provide a good opportunity to connect with local adoptive families and learn about their experience, as well as to develop a larger support network.
- WACAP Support Groups (In-Person Group, Facebook Group)
- Support Group Look-Up by State or Keyword (NACAC)
Follow adoption-related blogs for new perspectives and inspiration. Here are two!
- WACAP Family-Recommended: Healthline.com’s List of Best Adoption Blogs
- WACAP Now Blog: Stories, Resources, Adoption Updates, and More
We hope these suggestions will help navigate the holidays while you wait for news about your adoption and anticipate the child you’ll be welcoming into your family.
Wishing you the very best this holiday season, and in the new year ahead.
About Debbie: Debbie joined WACAP in September 2015 as our adoption information specialist, and she continues to build strong relationships with families every day. She’s committed to helping families understand and navigate their choices as they consider adoption, and is passionate about building community partnerships to support families and connect them with the resources they need.