Christmas as an adoptive mum

Christmas with adopted children – is it any different?

Christmas is literally just around the corner. The countdown nearly over. Advent calendar doors nearly all opened. It really is the most wonderful time of the year. Truly magical. But is it any different for adoptive families? Surely, it’s the same. Christmas is all about the children – right? Regardless of how you became a family. Or is it?

The truth is that as adoptive parents we may have some extra considerations. Firstly, and possibly just a personal view, I grapple with the same thing every year – striving for total Christmas perfection. Applying huge amounts of pressure to myself. From the activities and adventures we plan, to the endless buying of present after present, after present. I finally have the children I always wanted. That I thought I’d never have, and so it must be perfect in every way.

I must reiterate that these are my own feelings. A personal perspective. Other adoptive mums may not feel the same. I wish I didn’t feel this way, so I really hope they don’t follow suit. Adding this extra pressure to themselves in the way I do. You see, as someone unable to have birth children. That endured years and years of trying. Had numerous IVF cycles and heart-breaking losses. Having children and seeing their Christmas joy is all I ever wanted. All I dreamed of. And now I’m a mum. An adoptive mum, and I need Christmas to be absolutely perfect. It has to be after everything we went through. We now have our happily ever after and I want to make it as special as I possibly can. Whatever it takes.

Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not saying that people who have birth children don’t do all they can to make Christmas special – of course they do!  I guess I’m just questioning the reasons behind my own actions. My feelings. Trying to fathom why I put myself under such festive pressure. Almost trying to justify it. To myself more than others.

I used to hate Christmas. Absolutely dread it. I found it unbearable – a stark reminder that another year was drawing to a close. Another childless year. I didn’t want to go out. Couldn’t face anyone. So, I guess I feel like I have 10 years of making up to do. I want to give them everything. Want to make the most of every second. But it does come at a cost. Not just monetary. I’m feeling the pressure more than ever this year. Finding it quite overwhelming to be honest. Trying to make it more than it needs to be. I know it’s not necessary. Of course, I know deep down, it will be totally perfect without any of these things – the extra stocking fillers or decorations. Such materialistic things. I get cross at myself for the trap I’ve set. And a am very conscious that I don’t want them to be “spoilt” with endless gifts. We are together. We are a family. A forever family of four. We came together through the wonder of adoption and we are going to make the best memories that will last a lifetime. It will be awesome…and without all the extra “bells and whistles”!

There are however some other potential considerations that some adoptive parents may need to make. Things that might make adopted children a little unsettled at Christmas. Potentially, more than any other time of the year, they may wonder what birth parents and siblings, other birth family members, are doing. Question why they are not together or in each other’s lives. Letter box contact could well trigger this. It is rare for direct (face to face) contact to take place, but letters and written updates can happen at different times of the year. Christmas cards may be written and received if this has been pre-arranged in contact agreements. It is such an important part of an adopted child’s identity and can be a very positive experience. But it can also lead to uncertainties and extra questions. Curiosities. As adoptive parents, we may find ourselves searching for answers we often just don’t have.

Another thing to mention is that adoptive parents may need to be mindful that Christmas could be a negative trigger for their little ones. Generally, it depends on the age they were when they were placed and their life story – the reasons why they entered the care system. Already bad experiences can be exacerbated at this time of year and vulnerable birth families may have found things even harder to cope with at Christmas. This could lead to enhanced unsafe and unstable situations for children. We cannot ignore the fact that three quarters of adopted children will have come from these circumstances.

So, for some adopted children, Christmas could hold a memory of trauma that can never be forgotten. This is such an awful thought. As new adoptive parents, the instinct could be to overcompensate. Go all out. This is not necessarily the best route and could lead to more confusion and uncertainty. Being overwhelmed as they try to process how different this time of year used to be for them. Remembering only the bad bits as their primary memories. Difficult behaviours could be displayed as their defence mechanisms kick in. This is a difficult situation and needs to be thought through. Working with the child and their capacity to accept change, together.

I must stress that not all adopted children will experience these negative things. We count ourselves very lucky that our children didn’t. Most will be excited in exactly the same way as every other child. Jumping and dancing around the Christmas tree. Asking every 5 minutes when Santa is coming. Mesmerised by Christmas lights. Eating copious amounts of chocolate (usually before breakfast). The truly wonderful things that make this time of year so magical. All the things I dreamt of for so long – they all came true. Thanks to adoption, we most certainly have joy by the bucket full. Endless Christmas sparkle. I really couldn’t ask for more than to hear the screams of “he’s been” at 5am on Christmas Day…I genuinely cannot wait!

So, I started off by asking the question – is Christmas with adopted children any different? I guess it’s down to the individual circumstance of how and why the family was formed. For me, without question, children make Christmas. My children. They have turned my dark days in to light. I am forever grateful that I can now celebrate the very best time of the year in the very best kind of way.