Adoptive parent Charlotte says last Christmas Day was probably their family’s best after her youngest son ate his lunch with everyone for the first time in eight years.
Charlotte said: “In previous years he’s hidden under his bed and then eaten lunch on his own when everyone else has finished.”
Charlotte concedes that Christmas is “always tricky” for her two sons, aged 14 and 11. But after taking advice from members of Adoption UK’s online community she’s found that staying at home is the key to a stress-free Christmas Day.
“Children who feel bad about themselves struggle with the message that Santa only visits ‘good’ children,” she said. “You only have to go into shops, cafes, restaurants to hear this being said. How upsetting for children to hear this constantly in the build-up to Christmas when they feel so bad about themselves.
“It can also be scary for traumatised children to think about a stranger coming into their house. Understanding and accommodating this fear has reduced some of the stresses in our house.”
Charlotte says her children also struggle with the changes to the school timetable in the run up to Christmas and the effect of bright lights and music on their sensory system.
“We use all sorts of things to try to help our children regulate when they're starting to feel overwhelmed,” she explained. “Both boys follow a sensory diet which is really effective. Chewing, sucking, bouncing and deep pressure massages are all effective tools. Drumming also works really well!”
Charlotte’s advice to other adopters is to not feel pressure from family to visit everyone over the Christmas period.
“We've dug our heels in and always had Christmas at home. It's important for the boys to feel safe and being at home helps them to feel safe. Plus, if they’re not coping, then they’re somewhere familiar,” she said.
“Being at home has enabled our children to dip in and out of the day as they want.”
Charlotte said that being a member of Adoption UK has helped her to connect with other adoptive parents who understand how hard Christmas is for her children.
“This is so helpful, Charlotte said. “There are such high expectations that Christmas will be this magical, perfect time so it’s great to connect with people who understand what the experience can be like for adoptive families.”