It’s that time of year. “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” Or is it? If you are a parent of a child from hard places, you might notice that this is a time of increased stress and increasing behaviors for your child. If this is your first holiday with the child, this might surprise you. If this is a repeated holiday for you with your child, it might be just another hard season. In either case, it might be helpful to recall why holidays can be hard for kids that have experienced trauma:
The holidays carry with them implicit memories.
The body remembers even if the brain cannot articulate. Certain sights, sounds, and celebrations remind kids of time in their family of origin. Whether those memories are good or bad, they bring up feelings, feelings with which kids often don’t know how to cope.
The holidays can remind kids (and adults!) of their family of origin.
Humans are designed for connection, and the holidays are times when connections are emphasized. Christmas carols, radio and TV ads, stories, they all point to relationships and “the reason for the season.” Kids from hard places may miss family members they are no longer allowed to see. Kids from hard places may wonder where their biological family members are, or why those family members have not contacted them. This season may remind kids that they have no knowledge of their family of origin. When kids have feelings and do not know how to cope, they can act out.
Holidays are full of sensory stimuli.
Kids from hard places, particularly those with post-traumatic stress disorder, have brains pruned to be higher sensitive. The overload of lights, sounds, colors, and noise can overwhelm these children, resulting in decreased tolerance and increased irritability, which in turn can lead to an uptick in behaviors.
Each child is unique, so there are probably many more reasons for holidays struggles than these listed. If you feel you could use some extra support this holiday season, please reach out to a behavioral health professional or call for a consultation for services with a Christian Family Care staff member.