Three Tips for Thriving Through This Christmas Season

December is here. 

We’re gearing up for the Christmas season.

Are you worn out already?

Are your kids in meltdown mode?

Are your triggers and your kids triggers causing chaos in your home?

I hear you. I know. It’s hard. Everyone else seems to be having the Pinterest perfect Christmas season. The tree is decorated, cookies made, lights hung outside, and you are just trying to get your child to regulate. I’ve lived there.

When we first brought our four home through adoption, they had never experienced an American Christmas while their new siblings had. Twenty-five days of building up to something was too much stress on their little bodies. Too many new people. Too many new traditions. 

Some Practical Suggestions

Simplify but don’t give up on your traditions.

It’s tempting to give up on traditions because your kiddos are overwhelmed by them. Instead of giving them up, simplify. It’s okay to pare back. Not go to every party. Not go caroling because your kids don’t know what a carol is. Just don’t give up on them altogether. To help my kiddos learn some carols, I bought a book and we sang a Christmas carol every night after our advent reading. Many times the kids were silent or sang “blah blah blah” sorts of sounds to the rhythm. It was okay. They learned carols. They know carols today. The biggest mistake parents tend to make is to give up and give in when kids “Don’t want to” which is code for “I don’t know how to do that” or “I’m scared out of my wits.” 

Involve your kids in the practice of celebrating Christmas.

If you are like I used to be, you want to do everything yourself because it is easier. You decorate the tree. Make the cookies, shoo the kids out of the kitchen because it’s less messy. Don’t. If you want kids to practice the habit of celebration, let them help. Let me rephrase that. Require them to be present and help in some way, even if the kiddos say, “That’s stupid!” One of the issues humans struggle with is doing something they are not competent in. It’s universal. I remember when my kids didn’t know how to hook the bulb and hang it on the tree. Heck, I remember when I didn’t know how. Be patient. These are moments of connection. It’s tempting to say, “You’re doing that all wrong!” or “Just let me do that!” Resist the temptation. Show the kids how to do it. Expect some things to be broken. Expect there to be icing and sprinkles on the floor. It’s okay. It will clean up, sweep up, but broken spirits take longer to heal. 

Don’t expect your kids to understand the real meaning of Christmas. 

Daughter Ania and I hopped into the car after an evening of Christmas shopping at Ikea. Siri decided to send us in circles before putting on the interstate and gave us a three hour drive time for our ninety minute trip. Was that her idea of a joke? Half an hour down the road we hit snow and bumper to bumper traffic. Huge rigs pulled on the side of the road to avoid the slip and slide routine going on with cars. We snailed our way along singing Christmas songs with Pentatonix (we do the sound effects in the background perfectly) and laughing until tears streamed down our cheeks. Oh… Christmas, we love you. We arrived home safe and sound two and a half hours later, tired, and happy. How did you know Siri?


Or better yet, did Mary know? (Mom joke). Really, what does this have to do with kids knowing the meaning of Christmas? Lots.

You see, we sometimes over-spiritualize Christmas. Do you hear me serious sister?  As Moms, we are constantly reminding ourselves of the true meaning of Christmas and in a parallel universe, checking off a to do list like a maniac:

  • 
WRAP PRESENTS ☑

  • ORDER LAST MINUTE FROM AMAZON ☑
  • 
MAKE PIE ☑

  • RUN OUT FOR STOCKING STUFFERS ☑

  • CLEAN☑


And when our children ask for time, tire from activities, walk around in sugar comas and meltdown, we Moms despair of our kids ever understanding the true meaning of Christmas.  When the kids play with the plastic nativity scene and have Mary duke it out with Joseph, and the wisemen, we may wonder if they will ever “get it.”

Do we get Christmas?


BUT- AND THIS IS A BIG BUT…..
Do we get it?


If we do and we live consistently, acting on that belief, then they WILL get it. It won’t be a shopping trip to IKEA and driving home in snow. It will be Christmas.

How many of us don’t really meditate on the real meaning of Christmas every moment of the Advent season? How often do we get sidetracked into buying the perfect gift, keeping up with the neighbors and their extravagant Christmas decorations. We run out and buy more. Scour Pinterest and Instagram for the perfect table setting (guilty and fun!) It’s okay. We’re human. As long as we don’t overspend or make those things idols. The point is, all of our practices are confusing to kiddos, especially ones who have never celebrated Christmas the way we have. We each have Christmas ideals. We want kids to be thankful that Jesus left his place in heaven to born a baby. What does that mean to them and how often do we emulate our inner ideal? 

This is not a guilt or condemnation fest. It’s just a reminder that even if we know the true meaning of Christmas, we don’t always show it in outward ways. We practice traditions, ceremonies, and read Advent readings that have a deep meaning for us. Our kiddos don’t have the same deep meaning for things yet. It’s okay. Don’t stress over it. 

Christmas isn’t a day, well…..it is, a day we Christians picked to celebrate the birth of our Savior. I won’t get into all the theology. Christmas is a belief that God came to earth as a human babe. He left his throne and God-form to set up His kingdom on earth, not for a day- but for eternity.

When we live in accordance with that kingdom-

But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.

-Matthew 6:33

When we live with this in mind and action, knowing He works out everything in agreement with the counsel and design of His [own] will.

God sent His son to checkmate satan, to turn the tide in the game, to take us from the course and fashion of this world, take control back from the prince of the power of the air and establish His kingdom in our hearts and on the earth.

Kids aren’t going to respect Christmas because we put up a tree or purchased the perfect presents.

They aren’t going to act like angelic beings because we celebrate some man made traditions. However, they are going to watch us. If our actions are consistent with our beliefs, they will get it.

Just don’t expect them to float around singing the Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus unless you are!

Your children will get it, if you live it. It is a process. It takes time. You weren’t born with wisdom and understanding. Neither are they. We understand in part. They understand in bits. Wait for it.

I hope these tips help you thrive this Christmas season. How would you like a tip for each day of the Advent season? Grab a copy of:


Available at:

Alibris
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books-A-Million

25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas: An Advent Devotional for Adoptive and Foster Families, provides an insightful, practical and encouraging resource for parents navigating the advent season. The book fills a void for adoptive and foster families as to ideas and guidance of not just surviving the Christmas season with children who have come from different backgrounds/experiences but to “thriving” during the season. With applicable daily Scripture readings to practical suggestions, this tool for helping families will become an annual tradition!

After you grab your copy, make sure to sign up for the free e-course to accompany the book! Click on the photo to see the course and watch the video explaining the course.


When You Want to Skip Christmas!

 Is your schedule out of whack this holiday season?

Are you experiencing some winter or holiday blues?

Is your adopted/foster/special needs kid melting down every time you turn around?

Do you just want to pack up the decorations and skip Christmas altogether?

Then this is for you friend.

The Whole House team had a conversation the other day (on our pm) about kids being dysregulated over the holidays. It’s hard. Constant meltdowns make us want to just skip the whole season.

Here’s a couple of things to remember if you want to skip Christmas:

Expect Meltdowns.

Different things are triggers for different people. I get weepy around Christmas. I hear an Amy Grant song. I put up the Christmas tree. I hear a church bell and I think of my mother. Midnight mass in the choir loft. Pumpkin pie in the oven or cooling on the gas range. Christmas dinners with tables end to end all the way across the length of the living room. Great memories. Mom left this earth almost twenty years ago and yet , a smell, a sound, can make it feel as if it were yesterday. That’s the way with triggers, they transport us to another time, another place and more importantly, another feeling- whatever that was.

* * *

We adoptive parents must remember that our children have a past. Some of it is fresh in their memory. Some of it is buried so deep, they cannot tell the story.

* * *

But, let them smell something in the air, hear a sound, or taste something and they are transported to another time and place. They may not know why or where. They may not be able to vocalize it. Instead, they will act it out. They will meltdown. Be prepared. Be patient. Be prayerful. Be proactive if you have any information that will help you avert those triggers! – 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas

When you want to skip Christmas.png

This also applies to kids with Capital Letter syndromes. We’re playing Christmas music and decorating the tree and the kid is punching a hole in the wall. We are left scratching our heads and throwing our hands up and saying, “Forget it!”

Lack of schedule, change of routine and the anticipation of the upcoming event(s) create a tornado of emotions. Some of us just want to skip Christmas altogether! These items I just listed make it hard for a neurotypical child to regulate. Just imagine how much more stress is added for a child with a Capital Letter syndrome or a child from hard places.

Your teen may turn into a giant toddler. His eyes may stay dilated, indicating stress. His body may be rigid, shoulders tense, hypervigilant, looking this way and that for danger, supposed or real. It’s common for your kiddos to balk at doing every day tasks during the Christmas season, even if they normally enjoy them. Their bodies are too overwhelmed to enjoy things.

When we adults react with our own triggers and meltdown ourselves, there will be chaos. We need to provide felt-safety for our kiddos. If that means skipping the Christmas party, ordering online instead of going to a crowded mall or not visiting Santa. Skipping anything that stresses your child to the point of meltdown is worth it to enjoy your holiday. Guess what – you are in charge of your Christmas schedule. You don’t have to do something just because Aunt Edna said so. You don’t have to put up a tree if it stresses you or your child.

Think of it this way, Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. How do you prefer celebrating a birthday? What about your child? If you prefer a quiet birthday dinner at home and not tons of people because it stresses you and your child – do that. Do whatever fits your family style. Make the season what you need to make it as peaceful as possible. If you need to participate in events, as much as possible, let your kids know what is happening next. Make sure you rest in between events. Give your child voice. If they can verbalize that opening presents in front of everyone is too much, don’t make them. If people get offended because you are parenting your child, that’s really on their plate. Not yours.

“Remember at the end of the day, you are the parent.  You have the right to say no to some parties, to say no to the extra sugar, to say no to extra church events that bring in loads of people.  And give yourself permission to not feel guilty because it’s your family and your child and your sanity.  And remember that as hard and stressful it is for you, it’s probably 10x more so for that special needs kid.  Grace upon grace upon grace for this Christmas season.”- Lori Shaffer

Watch for Episode 51 of The Whole House Podcast on Monday, December 17th – “Kids from Hard Places and the Holiday Schedule” recorded by Kathleen and Lori. (PS- I think we recorded this to encourage ourselves. Hope it encourages you as well).

Three Tips for Thriving Through the Holidays

Every year the calendar flips to December and we Moms hit the ground with skis on and head down the slope to things to do and places to be before that magic goal day on the calendar, December 25th. We don’t want to just survive the holidays, we want to thrive!

1. Rest

This doesn’t mean do nothing at all. Rest can and should be planned.

Rest often means a different kind of work than you usually do.

Rest doesn’t necessarily mean vegging or bingeing on Netflix (it can be, but not always). This rest means doing something that pour back into you and your family. This is the kind of rest that you plan and always remember. It’s another group of coins in your memory bank.

  • In order for your kiddos to watch a Christmas movie, you make the popcorn and the hot chocolate. You snuggle on on the couch with your kiddos. Take the time to listen to their commentary and questions during the movie.
  • Visiting a tree farm and chopping down a live tree.
  • Decorating a tree.
  • Reading Christmas books aloud.
  • Singing Christmas carols.
  • Having a coffee date with a friend who is a kindred spirit.
  • Go to a Christmas market and look at the lights.
  • Listen to an audio book while you clean, bake or sit by the fire (Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one I listen to every year.)

2. Go Deeper in your understanding of Christmas. Get an Advent Devotional for yourself as well as your children.

I’m never going to get to the place on this earth where I have arrived spiritually. I’m always learning. Going deeper. Having new revelations. Our children learn by repetition, layer by layer we add truths from the scripture as we read through the Advent Devotional. It’s the same for us adults. We need to add layer by layer of Christmas truth to our understanding. Each year we pray that God gives us a new “book of revelations”. God can’t do that if we aren’t willing to take the time to read and study. There are plenty of Advent Devotionals out there. Find one that fits your life for now. If you have small children, try one that you can read in the few minutes you have after everyone is asleep. If you have more time because you have teens or are an empty nester, find a longer version to invest in!

I’m trying Jennifer Hand’s book:

I haven’t read it yet, but I’m super excited about it. Yes, I wrote an Advent book as well. You can find it here.

3. Pray Through.

Mark Batterson speaks of this in his book Circle Maker – here’s my paraphrase:

We don’t usually remember the days we did nothing, but we remember the days we had everything to do and God pulled us through.

If your plate is full this season and it’s all good things that you committed to, then pray through. If you’re tired and don’t think you can do it all, Jesus is all. He gives strength to the weary. When you wait upon Him, He will lift you up on wings as eagles.
Don’t do what I sometimes do – pray and then hang on by my fingernails hoping God will pull through. Thank Him in advance what what He is going to do. Enjoy the the “through” instead of waiting until you get to the other side.
I’ll leave you with this set of verses from Matthew 11.  Note that Jesus says His yoke is light. A yoke implies work. So, whatever work you must do this season, He can make it light. He can refresh your soul.

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [a]ease and relieve and [b]refresh [c]your souls.]

29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ([d]relief and ease and refreshment and [e]recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.

30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, [f]good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.

The Day After Christmas

Every year is a fresh blank slate to fill with Christmas memories. This year was one of those. You may not feel like it right now, your house may be a mess. Christmas has worn you out. Right now, take a moment and breathe deeply. Ponder the season. Look back through the tips and count up how many you used. Guess what, even if you only did ten or five, you did more than you would have done if you hadn’t read this Advent Devotional. Go YOU!

* * *

I hope the chapters each week deepened your faith and expanded your understanding of adoption. Not only are you chosen and loved, but so are your children, regardless of their past. Adoption makes kings out of carpenters. Adoptions transcends all bloodlines. Just as Joseph is really the father of Jesus, you are the parent of your adopted children. Adoption is for those children  who need a home to flourish in so that they may fulfill their destiny. It’s a father like Joseph that children need. A man who follows the call and doesn’t look back.

merry christmas.png

We adoptive parents, when entrenched in the day to day with our child’s behaviors, survival mode ruling, we may wonder if your children’s births were prophesied, if they were planned for, if all the past shame neglect and abuse can bring forth a new shoot, new life from the stump of pain and decay.

* * *

In the midst of the mess, the strewn wrapping paper, the piles of presents, take some time to prophesy for the coming year. Find a quiet place and for a few moments, look ahead to the present of the new year. Write down some prayers for your children based on the word. Remember, God can do over and above and beyond all we can ask hope or think, according to the power that works within us, the same power that rose Christ Jesus from dead.

* * *

We adoptive parents may go through a Job syndrome of our own. Horrific things happen in the wake of our calling. Maybe you feel like the holidays are a Job syndrome. Too many meltdowns. Too much sugar. Too little schedule and your family has been thrown for a loop. I get it. I’ve been there. It’s hard to celebrate when you feel as if you are just surviving.

* * *

Funny thing about surviving, it means you made it. You crossed an invisible finish line. Christmas is behind you and the calendar is speeding to a new year.

* * *

Another interesting phenomenon, your children will remember the celebration, the layers of tradition, the happy times more than you will remember the exhaustion of this moment. When my children talk about our leanest years, they don’t remember lack, they remember celebration and joy. When I remember the meltdown on a Christmas shopping day, that particular child, all grown up, remembers it as a great day. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. The post Christmas exhaustion you feel is not a measure of the holiday or the memories you made.

* * *

Let me leave you with a final word of encouragement. Parents, you are anointed and qualified to preach the Gospel of good tidings to your children.

* * *

With the help of the Lord, under your prayer covering and guidance, your children can be set free from the mindset of neglect and lack. If you adopted a child from birth, he can feel chosen, not abandoned. If your teen struggles with his identity, you can proclaim liberty and continue to point to his worth. Formed in his mother’s birth womb, he was chosen and set apart.

* * *

Start the new year with this in mind, you are equipped, you are chosen, you are qualified. You are the parent that your children need. It wasn’t some mix up in the universe. So, today, put on your shoes of peace, along with the full armor of God and fight the good fight of faith. You are more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus. Thank you for being who you are and doing what you are doing.

Father of orphans,

champion of widows,

is God in his holy house.

God makes homes for the homeless,

leads prisoners to freedom,

but leaves rebels to rot in hell.

-Psalm 68: 4,5

*Excerpt from 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas An Advent Devotional for Adoptive And Foster Parents

You are anointed and qualified to raise your adopted/foster child.

Jesus

“For unto us a child is born and unto us, a son is given and the government shall be upon His shoulder and His name shall be called Emmanuel.”

-Isaiah 9:6

My first born came out wet, red faced, pointy headed and squalling. I was in the birthing room at Mon General, the first to use this new(0ld) concept-to give birth in a room and stay there for the duration. It was state of the art.  Comfortable and top of the line everything. On the tour, hubby asked what the small square pieces of equipment was on the hinged arm hanging over the bed.

“That would be a tv,”the nurse said with a chuckle. All the couples from our birthing laughed heartily and the tension and fear of that moment was broken.

* * *

We all know the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, at least the general story. In fact some of us have rehearsed it so many times, we could repeat the verse that houses the history, verbatim. It’s like memorizing a poem, but do we really think about the meaning?

* * *

Feel the trek to Bethlehem riding on a donkey?

Labor overtaking you and having no place to go.

Lying him in a manger?

Shepherds coming to worship Him.

No midwife or doctor.

* * *

Jesus wasn’t born in the traditional way or in a comfortable environment. There were no gadgets or TVs to help Mary along or make her feel comfortable. Joseph had to lead the way and fend for his new family. He had to trust the dreams and the word spoken by an angel. Mary had to do the same. Mary and Joseph carried more than the angel visits and dreams in their hearts. They had the prophecies of the coming Messiah.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Listen carefully, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will call his name Immanuel (God with us).

-Is. 7:14 (Matt 1:23)

We adoptive parents prophecy the intention of building our family through adoption. Over months or years, we inform extended family and friends.

* * *

We are pregnant with the seed of adoption.

* * *

Most of us don’t have angelic visitations, some of us have dreams to confirm or enlarge our hearts. Yet, none of us have exactly the same journey and none of us have an easy one. There may be travel to a foreign country, eating foods that are not common to us, jumping through political hoops of policy. We stand in embassies waiting for rubber stamps to hit paper. We sit in doctor’s offices with panicked, crying children, fulfilling the necessary vaccine quota, all at once. We may spend hours in the air, comforting fevered, frightened children who have never traveled outside of a 15km radius of where they were born. Some of these have only lived within the four walls of a hospital and orphanage for their short life span. Outside terrifies them.

* * *

We listen to the naysayers, the people close to us who tell us we’re crazy. Or worse, those family members who try to convince us through scripture that adoption is not biblical (FALSE) and that having children ‘naturally’ is God’s will no matter how many barren years you have suffered or miscarriages you are still grieving.

What we must hang onto, what we must rehearse is the word given to us. What we parents must recall is the holiness, the sacredness of this messy journey. Nothing worth doing is easy.

Every worthy endeavor has obstacles

Every worthy endeavor has obstacles.

* * *

Joseph and Mary had many, yet knowing the importance of their calling, they persevered.

None of us are raising/adopting God. Thanks be to God, that is finished. That fact does not diminish the importance of our adoption journey. Adopting is following in our heavenly Father’s footsteps. When reading the summation of what Jesus came to earth for, insert your name.

The Spirit of the Lord upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor and the afflicted. He has sent me to bind up and heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the physical and spiritual captives and the opening of prison and of the eyes to those who are bound.

-Isaiah 61:1

When my newbies first came home, I read this chapter obsessively. It’s worth taking the time to read today. The two words I focused on in those early days (and even now)-anointed, qualified.

* * *

Parents, you are anointed and qualified to preach the Gospel of good tidings to your children.

* * *

With the help of the Lord, under your prayer covering and guidance, your children can be set free from the mindset of neglect and lack. If you adopted a child from birth, he can feel chosen, not abandoned. If your teen struggles with his identity, you can proclaim liberty and continue to point to his worth. Formed in his mother’s birth womb, he was chosen and set apart.

Adoption builds families the God-purposed way. Adoption is greater than or precedes the universe. Before Jesus, the Word made flesh, spoke the world into being, God chose us, planned for us to be adopted as His own, because it was His kind intent. (Ephesians 1)

1. Adoption, like the birth of Jesus is hard and messy.

2. Not everyone will understand your calling, but you must hold to your confession of faith.

3. You are anointed and qualified to raise your adopted/foster child.

“This is how adoption works-like a sacrament, that visible sign of inner grace. It’s a thin place where we see that we are different and yet not entirely foreign to one another. We are relatives not by blood, but by mystery.”- Kelley Nikondeha