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Holiday Memories: Other Families, Other Celebrations; No Family, No Celebrations

Wow!  this is one of those times when I have an idea that I want to share with families that have been created through fostering, kinship care, adoption and yes, even step families…and I realize what an emotionally laden  topic this is.  The holiday season is filled with anticipation, there are ads all over the television, the stores are crammed with yuletide cheer, there are school events that are filled with concerts, and class celebrations.  Art classes are priming for pictures and hand made creations for holiday celebrations to decorate the classrooms, take home to the family,,,just plain share in celeration.  However, HOWEVER, what if your child’s memories are of another time, another house, another town, another family or even no family.  It brings new meaning to holiday stress.  The stress is more than just getting everything done, getting the kids corralled.  Your kids are under stress; they are flooded with memories, some good and some bad, some horrible.  Bryan Post talks about the 4 Point Plan that features the Stress Model which states that “All behavior arises from a state of stress”.  The basic tenet of the Stress Model is that between stress and behavior there are two primary emotions and those emotions are love and fear.  Stress is a given in life and the reaction/behavior is driven by either love or fear.  So what is the plan of how to deal with holiday stress:  1.  Window of tolerance: know that everyone has a level of tolerance regarding stress.  Your child has a window of tolerance before they start to become unbent.  Also, you have your own window of tolerance.  When you child has hit their window of tolerance, they need you to be there to help them reopen the window before it slams shut.  And no, it is not a time to impose a negative consequence it is a time for #2 of the 4 Point Plan:  Time-In.  Your child needs you to to give them the attention they need.  They need you to help them calm; they need your attention #3 Be Proactive:  you now know your child’s window of tolerance (and I might add, your own), by being proactive you can limit the amount of stress your child is exposed to by limiting the number of errands you run with your child in tow, even limiting the amount of time you spend at holiday parties, not even going if there will be more people there than your child can tolerate.  #4 You Can’t Always Be There:  what does that mean?  It means that your child may be having umpteen experiences at school that are reflections of the holiday season and that hit them in the face perhaps from the time they enter schol in the morning.  Let your child’s teacher know that the holidays are a difficult time for them.  Let a teacher know that this is the first Christmas holiday that your child has not been with their birth family, or this is the first time they have celebrated Christmas, because their birth family is Jewish, or this is the first Christmas since Mom and Dad have lived in different places.  Don’t be blindsided by what can very easily become a holiday nightmare…be prepared!

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