Before You React, Remember Their Loss

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The Holiday season can bring up a lot of mixed emotions with our children. Often, it's easy to mistake their extreme behaviors for just "bad behavior." But there's so much more happening. And simply remembering a few truths about this time of year and your children can make all the difference.

This mom was frustrated. Frustrated with a Capital F! She stood in front of me at our resource table, after a full day of training, and poured her heart out. “She just wants to make everything about her!” she lamented about her daughter. “And now, it’s the Holidays and she’s going to do her same old controlling and manipulative behavior the she always does. I can’t handle it!”

I listened, I nodded gently, and then I said, as I packed up our books and freebies, “Makes sense. She’s dealing with a lot of loss, and this time of year probably makes that even greater.” With that she took a step back. “Tell me more about that,” she questioned. I went on to explain that the loss of her daughter’s first family (to name one loss in particular), can bring up a lot of emotions in her year round, but especially around the Holidays (which we were in at the time this conversation took place).

She had never thought about it this way. To her, this little girl’s behaviors were just a means to control and manipulate. She had concluded that all her daughter wanted, every single day, was to make everyone’s life miserable, and Thanksgiving and Christmas were no exception.

I went on to explain…

“Behaviors with children who have a trauma history should never be taken at face-value. There’s way more going on than the behavior alone presents. Our children have experienced a lot of loss in their young lives. Maybe more than we will ever know or understand. Loss perpetuates behaviors. In fact, behavior is the way your daughter articulates the loss that lives in her and the loss she feels. The Holiday season just magnifies this.”

Simply explaining this reality to her lifted a weight off of her shoulder.

“I never thought of it this way before. Thank you!” she replied.

Maybe you identify with that mother. Maybe you’ve been dealing with a lot of extreme behaviors with your child since Halloween ended (it’s normally the months between Halloween and New Year’s Day that extreme behaviors are at their highest).

As parents it’s easy, out of frustration, or exhaustion, to react, or over-react, before remembering what is actually going on with your child.

It’s not just bad behavior. It’s loss. A LOT of it, in fact. It’s loss that you and I may never have experienced personally, or ever understand. Take a step back for a moment and tally up some of the losses your children have gone through…

The loss of first family.

The loss of identity.

The loss of security.

The loss of normal.

The loss of their first home.

The loss of their belongings. 

The loss of friendships they may have made. 

The list goes on and on.

This cocktail of emotions, and memories, swims in our children all year long, but can spill out during the Holidays. Because normal during this season is family. Normal is together. The whole season centers around family. But when that’s a deep loss for our children, triggers go off, very easily, in fact. Sights, sounds, smells, movies, certain foods, locations, songs…they all can be triggers. It’s easy to miss and sometimes the behavior seems to come out of left field.

When I really center my mind on this reality, my heart breaks. My body fills with compassion.

Yours just may do the same if you spend some time considering what your children have actually gone through before coming into your home.

I know it’s difficult right now. I know you may be at your wit’s end. I know you’re exhausted. But listen to me…this is not about a parenting overhaul. It’s about a simple shift in your mindset.

Before you react to your child’s behavior, remember that their loss may be fueling what you’re seeing with them. He or she may still display those extreme behaviors that are hard to handle. Reminding yourself of the origin of behavior does not negate the behavior. But it puts you into a healthier mindset to respond. And, remember that behavior is the primary way your child has learned to meet their needs. That’s hard to undo. It takes time. But you are taking the first, and most critical, steps to building trust and a deeper connection with them.

In time, that will bring healing.

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.