The Holidays & Adoptive Families: 5 Tips for Maintaining Your Sanity in December

Its the most magical time of the year! I don’t know about you, but I am being bombar- … er, I mean, … REMINDed of that fact 24-7 right now.


But is it really, for parents of kids from hard places?



There are foster parents I know who are anticipating their placement of seven months to reunify with family on January 3rd. And I know of another set of foster parents who were slated to finalize an adoption of their foster love two days ago … until being broadsided in the last week (this even after signing adoption papers). For that family, life is now completely up in the air as they wait to see how the future unfolds.


And then there’s us! So, the good thing is, we don’t have anything quite that dramatic to report this year. But we do have:

  • a lot of therapy appointments in December,
  • kids who badly need their sleep, and are out of whack for days if we fudge a little for a celebration (making evening holiday activities a challenge, and nearly turning us into hermits), and
  • one kid in particular who just, … for whatever reason … does not want their picture taken. Adamantly so. (Asking a mama to avoid taking pictures of her baby bears during December is a little like asking fish to walk.)


A few months back, shortly after Little Bean‘s fourth birthday, I wrote about how we have intentionally scaled back our celebrating, in an effort to help him (and US!) enjoy our special moments without becoming overwhelmed or burned out. And while all of that is still true, “The Holidays” warrant a bit more care, attention and encouragement because we have not one day, but nearly six weeks of “special days.”


Social Media in December, or, how COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY


Folks, its a jungle out there.


For many foster and adoptive families, this issue can be downright painful. Because from all appearances, everyone else has it all together. (They even have the matching Christmas clothes to prove it.) And so, scrolling through your feed day after day to look at those carefully curated pictures of Perfect Families can be enough to make you want to flush your phone down the toilet …

… if you let it.


Holiday decorations in the background serve as backdrop for this Theodore Roosevelt quote about comparison.


So, in an effort to encourage you (and save your smartphone from certain demise), today I am offering a few tips to help you keep a balanced perspective, … and your sanity in December.


Keeping the Joy in Your Holiday Season


  1. Choose wisely. Our first couple of Christmases, we were so excited to be parents that we tried to do everything! All the parties, all the activities … all Santa, all the time. And by the end of the month, Mr. Bean and I were so stressed out because our kid was dysregulated from it all! No more. Now we do a few things, and enjoy them to the fullest! 
  2. Mind the timing. This is a big deal for us. As I alluded to above, sleep is a huge deal in our family. Even one “late night” (and by late night, I mean like 8 or 9 PM) can throw us off. If we have several in a row, or even in a week, we start having sick kiddos, eczema flare-ups, and lots of tantrums. I’ve found that by making small adjustments to the timing, we can minimize the impact of that.
  3. Know the triggers. Got a sensory kid? Maybe an event with lots of people won’t work. Will it be loud? Can you take protective headphones (affiliate link) to help mitigate the noise level that could push a kid to sensory meltdown? Are certain foods, or things in the foods problematic? Could you fill your kid up on nourishing foods before leaving home so they won’t be as tempted to reach for other stuff later? (Here are some of my thoughts on nutrition for kids from hard places.)
  4. Get comfy saying no. I’m saying this to you as a fellow traveler … my “no” muscle has gotten stronger over the past few years, with exercise, but its still not easy. But remember that for every “no” you give to things that don’t work for your kids, you are actually saying “YES” to your family.
  5. Find some time for self care. And it doesn’t have to be a spa day or weekend on the coast to count as self care! Maybe you make sure you get your workout in, even if it means the kids are in gym daycare for an hour. Or put them to bed early so you can have a glass of wine while you wrap presents. Perhaps you get a sitter so you can have coffee with a girlfriend. DO it. You will get recharged, so that in turn, you will be more present with your kids.


And remember … January is right around the corner. Routines will be re-established soon. There is light at the end of this celebratory tunnel. But for now, do what you can to make it manageable so that you can enjoy the holiday season.


What things do you do to help your kids (and yourself) during the holidays? Please chime in! I love hearing from you!

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