Trauma and the Holidays: Have No Expectations

October 3, 2018 adoption realities, Attachment, first year home, holidays, Newly Home, October 2018 Feature - Trauma and the Holidays, Realities, trauma 3 Comments

The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, right? But with a child who has experienced trauma, the holidays can be everything except wonderful.

This month we are focusing on the impact of trauma and how it can be exacerbated by the chaos and busyness of the holiday season. It is our hope that, through this series, you’ll be better prepared to help your child face the holidays this year and, in turn, this season will be a bit more wonderful for everyone.


On July 16, 2018 we anxiously waited by the door of the Henan Adoption Office in China for our little girl to waddle into our lives forever. That day will replay in my memory like a movie for as long as I walk this earth. I’ll never forget the look on her face when I crouched down in front of her and showed her some snacks and presents I brought for her.

Her large brown eyes were curious and searching for something familiar. But nothing was.

I was a stranger.
This adoption office was a strange place.
Nothing was the same.

Since our family day, I have been taking her transformation into our family one day at a time. Some days, it is a minute at a time. Some mornings she wakes up as a newborn baby, needing to be held, suck her thumb, she moans from stress and she taps the corner of her eye with her thumb to try to regulate herself.

Other days she wakes up as an independent woman who could give Beyoncé a run for her money. As she evolves and changes, we as her parents also need to evolve and change. We owe this to her.

The holiday season is a stressful time. Adding a new family dynamic into the mix will make it even more stressful. Many people may have expectations on how they envision their holidays to be, who will be there, the menu, the gifts, the traditions and culture being honored.

I want to tell you all this: I have no expectations. I have no set schedule. I have not made promises to our extended family on how we will be celebrating this year. This holiday season is all about our daughter and her comfort level.

The outside world will continually tell you what to do, how to raise your child, the schedule your child should have, how often they deserve to see your child. Do not listen to them. Drown it out and let it be background noise.

You know your child and what their needs are. Listen, observe, and honor their unspoken and spoken requests.

Thankfully, our family has been respectful of our decisions even if they disagree. That is life. People will disagree and will get hurt. However, she is our child and as her parents we know her and her needs best.

This holiday season is about your child and their needs being met. Reach out to other adoptive families, ask questions, form lasting relationships, read books and read them again. This is a never-ending cycle of discovering who your child is and who they were meant to be, and their parents/guardians help them develop into that person.

I highly recommend The Connected Child by David Cross and Karyn Purvis for parents and guardians to read, then re-read, and always have on your nightstand. Finding other adoptive parents on Facebook has been an incredible resource as they have been there and done that.

We are in China adoption groups and in the group Parenting With Connection. The documentary Stuck is eye opening and will help your village comprehend the complexity of adoption.

Always research, learn something new every day, trust medical professionals such as Adoption Specialists. Your team, your village, will help you navigate the hard times.

– guest post by Amanda

3 responses to “Trauma and the Holidays: Have No Expectations”

  1. Christine says:

    I applaud you for knowing what’s best for your child and doing it even when others (even family members!) disagree. You are most definitely doing the right thing! Thank you for this reminder. 🙂

  2. MarybEllen says:

    Thank you Amanda for this enlightening information! Adelaide comes first and foremost. There are so many more holiday seasons to come and this year needs to focus on whateve is her safety net. Hugs.

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