By Keeley Craw, Play Therapist.
There’s nothing like Christmas time to bring up a whole gamut of emotions from joy to despair, togetherness to conflict. For a child who has experienced a whole range of losses the amplified focus of the importance of family at Christmas time can make it one of the most difficult times of the year.
These top tips are here to help you and your child to navigate the festive season.
KEEP IT SIMPLE. There are so many activities at this time at year from nursery or school Christmas activities, to family fun activities, to visiting friends and family. For an adopted child this can be overwhelming and overstimulating. Try to keep activities to a minimum and allow time in the day for your child to have space to relax after a stimulating activity. Keeping as close as you can to daily routine can also provide some stability; though the odd late night or extra treat can slip through the net!
FATHER CHRISTMAS IS NOT A PARENT. For 11 months of the year we rely on our own parenting skills to guide and teach our children, but come December many parents often hand over the baton to a man and team of elves that their children have never met. This man will be watching and deciding if a child will be lavished with gifts. For a child who has experienced abuse and/or neglect what is the message that is given in between the lines? They are being watched by strangers? The number of gifts they receive is dependant on their behaviour? Trust the good parenting skills you use every day to support your children all year round.
MAKE A SPACE Christmas is a time when we focus on the importance of family, a time to be cheerful regardless, but for children who have experienced multiple and significant losses they need a place that acknowledges their grief and sadness at this time. It might be as simple as hanging a bauble on the Christmas tree or lighting a candle for someone they miss.
GIVE MEMORIES Never is the toy catalogue thumbed more than at this time of year, with every other toy being added to the Christmas list. We all have memories of stand out gifts that we received as children but what we always remember most is the memories of the big day, who we shared the day with, the funny things that happened. So be selective with the number of gifts and focus on memory making.
MAKE FAMILY TRADITIONS Leading on from the last point what often helps to make memories that endure is the traditions we keep around Christmas time. It might be always going to the cinema to watch a Christmas film, a special playlist for when you put up the Christmas tree, or having a special box of chocolate biscuits to eat as you open your presents.
Keeping Christmas simple, safe and memorable can help the build up to Christmas and the day its self go smoothly, and these tips can also be used for other significant celebrations too.