The holidays are a time for celebration, spending time with loved ones, and making happy memories. But waiting adoptive parents might have a different experience. They may feel like they are missing something during the holidays, and it can be hard to explain to others exactly what it is.
No matter when you are waiting to adopt a child, you can face ups and downs, but the holidays can make waiting feel even more difficult. I’d like to share 7 practical tips to help you deal with the stress of your adoption wait during the holidays!
1. Avoid Triggers
Christmas is a holiday primarily focused on children. Many holiday events are catered to youngsters, which could lead you to feel sad or stressed out during celebrations. It’s okay to feel this way, and you should not feel guilty that these factors trigger some pain.
Many waiting adoptive couples feel negative emotions arise when they spend time around pregnant women or families with small children. If you feel sad or angry when you are around families during the holidays, it is okay to limit that time. You should not feel obligated to attend every social event you are invited to. Attend the events that give you peace.
2. Prepare for Uncomfortable Conversations
At holiday parties, you are likely to run into people you don’t speak to often. They might ask questions like, “Are you planning to have children?” or “When are you going to have kids of your own?” They may ask you why it is taking so long to have children or provide suggestions they think will help you.
People are generally well-meaning, even if you feel caught off guard by these questions. If you have responses prepared ahead of time, you may feel more comfortable entering these conversations. My grandfather would always ask why we didn’t have children already – often with many people around at times like the holidays. You are more likely to feel safe when you already know what you will say when these questions arise.
You might even use this time to tell friends and family members that you are in the process of adopting. They are more likely to be sensitive to your feelings if you do.
Additionally, people who know about your adoption journey may ask you about it. Some people feel reluctant to discuss their feelings and adoption stress during the holiday season, but talking about your struggle may actually relieve some of the stress you are holding onto. Of course, you should not feel forced to share if you are not comfortable.
If you are worried that the conversation will get to you, it helps to have a code word you can use with your spouse. Use this code word to indicate that you want to make up an excuse to leave the discussion. You can use the code word and then politely excuse yourselves from the discussion for at least a few minutes. We did this, and it worked well many times.
3. Connect With a Community of Hopeful Parents
If you’re struggling this season, surround yourself with a supportive and encouraging community. You may feel alone when it seems like so many other people in your life have children, but reaching out to others who are in a similar situation will help you see that you are not alone at all. In fact, many other people are also waiting to adopt right now. A support group for waiting parents may be available through your adoption agency or online.
4. Reward Yourself for Your Strength
You’ve been strong during your wait, and have done all you can to help birth moms learn more about you. Channeling your energy into something you enjoy is a great way to alleviate your adoption stress during the holidays. You might buy a gift you can enjoy with your spouse or have an at-home spa day for yourself. Treat yourself one day this season without feelings of guilt or overindulgence.
5. Stay Busy—But Not Overwhelmed
Many people in the adoption wait prefer to stay busy during the holidays. The season is a great one for giving back to the community, so consider taking on a volunteer role during these months. An animal shelter, homeless shelter, or thrift store may be able to use your help. Studies have shown that giving back has many positive benefits for the giver, whether it’s through serving meals at a homeless shelter, buying a gift for a toy drive, or baking cookies for your local fire department. Giving makes us feel more connected, happier, and grateful.
If you already volunteer, try adding some new activities and hobbies to break up your routine. Start getting outside if the weather permits, soaking up some Vitamin D and getting some fresh air with some music. Hike, walk, or bike around the neighborhood or explore a new destination.
6. Reach Out to a Therapist
If you sense that what you’re experiencing is more than just the holiday blues, don’t be afraid to reach out and seek professional help. A qualified therapist or counselor can help you manage these feelings before they become more debilitating. They may also be able to provide some coping strategies that are personalized for your circumstances.
Remember that the holidays do not last forever, and they will be over soon. In the meantime, a professional can help you strategize breathing techniques, grounding exercises, and some mindset changes. Try to keep a positive mindset.
7. Take a Break and Trust the Process
My final tip for you is to take a break. Step back and allow the process to happen. Relax and allow yourself to recharge between holiday events. You have been working hard. You’ve gone through a home study, been interviewed, and written a profile. You’ve come a long way, and you deserve the opportunity to take some time off.
Part of trusting the process may include expressing gratitude for the things you have already. Count your blessings, taking into account everything you have been given. While these things may be no consolation during this challenging process, expressing gratitude can help you keep your state of mind more positive.
Adoption Stress During the Holidays Is Normal
The holidays are a fantastic time for reflection and emotion, regardless of how you celebrate. Simply remember that you will get through the holidays. If it seems like you’re given more than you can handle, just move through the adoption process one step at a time.
Whatever you do, don’t think you have to put your adoption journey on hold during the holidays. If things begin to feel unmanageable, consult your adoption professional to ensure that you are doing everything you can for your adoption. In the meantime, it is perfectly fine to feel your feelings.
Blessings to you,
Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on December 19, 2019, and has since been updated.
Founder of Lifetime Adoption, adoptive mom, adoption expert, and Certified Open Adoption Practitioner (C.O.A.P).
Since 1986, adoption expert Mardie Caldwell has been dedicated to bringing couples and birth parents together in order to fulfill their dreams.
“Many years ago, I was also searching for a child to adopt. We didn’t know where or how to get started. Through research, determination, and a prayer, our dream of a family became reality. I started with a plan, a notebook, assistance from a caring adoption consultant and a lot of hard work; this was my family I was building. We had a few heartaches along the way, but the pain of not having children was worse!
Within weeks we had three different birth mothers choose us. We were overwhelmed and delighted. Many unsettling events would take place before our adoption would be finalized, many months later. Little did I know that God was training and aligning me for the adoption work I now do today. It is my goal to share with our families the methods and plans which succeed and do not succeed. I believe adoption should be affordable and can be a wonderful “pregnancy” for the adoptive couple.
I have also been on both sides of infertility with the loss of seven pregnancies and then conceiving by new technology, giving birth to a healthy daughter. I have experienced first-hand the emotional pain of infertility and believe my experience allows me to serve your needs better.
It is my hope that for you, the prospective parents, your desire for a child will be fulfilled soon.”