Funny, it’s the first day of the year, the day we jump into that list resolutions we wrote the night before. Exercise. Stop eating sugar. Walk in love. Appreciate family more. Blah, blah, blah, cause we are too exhausted to seeing the old year off to do anything. So on the first day of the new year, we sleep in, crave more sugar, snap at each other while taking down Christmas decorations and vow to start on those resolutions tomorrow. Oh wait, tomorrow is back to work, school, normal.
Holidays can be taxing for the normal person, if such a being exists, but can set a hurt child with attachment issues into hyper-drive emotionally, physically and mentally. Things seem to spin out of control for him. While everyone else is enjoying down time, he is going down a dark tunnel with no schedule or predictability to light the way. It’s a common assumption that after an adopted or foster child has been with a family with a year or two, he is securely attached. When a period of regression hits three, five or ten years later, parents are astounded. They may question their parenting ability or doubt their ability to parent THIS child. Attachment is a difficult thing to understand. Children and parents attach to different degrees. A child who creates the impression of secure attachment may regress in times of great stress. The holidays are times of great stress.
A hurt child may destroy Christmas toys, shoot air soft guns toward the new dry wall or take a knife to his bed and stab the wall or his sister’s Christmas present. All the joy of Christmas morning is overwhelming, over stimulating, and just too much for his hypersensitive body to handle. He may melt down about things parents thought he overcame years ago- putting on a winter coat, wearing socks, brushing his teeth, sleeping, _____________(fill in the blank).
When normal life starts again, he may have just adjusted to the game-playing, movies watching, irregular eating (meaning more sweets than any human needs) and may regress in deeper more recessed areas of the mind. Suddenly, a child who conquered fractions before the school break forgets what a seven looks like, cannot sit still for a fifteen minute math review or needs to go back to the beginning of the spelling book. He may react by fleeing the environment that is causing his mental pain. Children with FAS and attachment issues will have a hangover-like reaction after sugary-sweet-stay-up-late holidays manifesting itself in dark circles under the eyes, intense anger and sugar cravings.
Note: I am not an expert. All of the above info I have learned through experience. I could plot a repeating graph, the peaks being regression and chart them ahead of time- holidays, trips, vacations, day trips, days off- these are triggers. Certain smells, surroundings, foods, etc,,, can assault the senses sending a hurt child to another time and place. New things plus new ways of doing things equals regression.
What’s a parent to do? Mentally prepare yourself. Self speak. If your child regresses, remember it’s not a lack of good parenting. Examine the stimuli. Can you eliminate some of it? Reduce some of the stress? Watch the sweets. Keep your child by your side as much as possible. It’s tempting to let older children stay at home and not participate in outings because they don’t want to go. I have allowed young teens to stay at home and it ALWAYS backfires on me. I come home and find something or someone broken, damaged or stolen.Keep a schedule if possible. Write or draw one if needed. Talk your child through the day each morning. Don’t ignore any of his questions about the upcoming events such as, “is Aunt Anne going to be there?” it helps some children to paint a picture in their minds. If at all possible, don’t spend the Christmas holiday, don’t run from one event to the next. Stay at home as much as possible. Eat hearty, healthy meals together.
If you don’t have a child with attachment issues or FAS (or any of the capital letter syndromes) this probably sounds overwhelming. It is, so if you know a foster Mom or adoptive Mom who is raising children with these sorts of struggles, support her, don’t judge.
A good example of a hurt child is here
My New Year’s resolution is not to get back to normal, but to stay fixed in the midst of the lack of normalcy.