How To Help Your Child Process Disappointment During Christmas

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
"One of the reasons Christmas is hard is because of our own personal grief and loss issues." Coupled with the losses and grief our children may be experiencing, foster and adoptive families can quickly find themselves wondering just how they will survive this season between Halloween and New Year's Day!

Today we will be kicking off our new podcast series: Holiday Survival Tips and Tricks!  We will spend the next four weeks interviewing amazing therapists about how we can navigate the big emotions and hard moments, with our kids, that tend to rise up during the holiday season. Mike and Kristin are excited to kick off this series with therapist and adoptive dad, Lynn Owens, as they discuss how we can help our children process disappointment and loss.

Listen Now:

Notes and Quotes:

What are we really talking about here?

We are mostly talking about the feelings of loss or sadness due to the “primal wound” and loss or grief that can come from unmet expectations.

Best advice for surviving the holiday season?

Let go of all of your expectations as a parent.


Don’t expect your children to be grateful.

Some kids are verbal about their grief, but some are not.  What do you do when a child pretends everything is OK?
  • Be patient with them
  • Empathy is the most important thing
  • Use little “hit and runs:”  (“seems like you’re feeling ___” and let it just sit there)
  • Find little moments to cuddle up or catch up
How do we navigate relationships with birth family that a child may have contact with?
  • Avoid disappointments when possible: Don’t tell about a planned visit until you actually see the parent in the parking lot.
  • When there are disappointments, let them grieve.
  • Use empathy.
  • Don’t pretend that it isn’t hard; don’t try to cover up or get over grief.
What can we do about the big blow-ups or melt-downs during the holiday season?
  • Assume big blow-ups around the holiday season are grief related.
  • Validate and Empathize
    • “This is sad and I can’t stop it.  It is OK for you to grieve, but it isn’t OK to do it alone.”
    • “Of course you’re struggling with that.  I can’t make it better, but I can be here with you.”
  • Remember, this isn’t a bad kid behaving badly, this is a traumatized kid reacting from trauma
    • “Grieving is hard work and it is physically demanding.”
    • Telling kids to just “stop” or “go to their room” until they can stop the outburst or perform better won’t help them develop self-regulation or connection.
    • Use “How can I help you?” instead of “What’s wrong with you?”

“These kids want to make us the enemy.  If we can side step that, and become their biggest advocate, we will be much farther along in the process.” – Lynn Owens

What do you do with disregulation after visits with birth families?
  • Verbal engagement in the moment usually isn’t helpful
  • Give them a way to get out the cortisol and other stress hormones with physical activity (trampoline park, playground).
  • Use a regulating activity with bilateral stimulation (extra long car ride).
  • Be present with them.  Empathize.  Kids can’t regulate on their own.
  • Maintain control of your own emotions as a parent. Remain calm, remain firm.
  • Let go of your expectations and don’t take it personally.

What if it was my job not to ‘fix’ my kid but to support my kid through this?

What would you say to a parent who really feels sad during this time?
  • Talk about it with someone.
  • Take care of yourself (eating well and exercise).
  • Don’t hide it; use the sadness to connect and empathize.
  • Let all of your expectations go.
  • Give kids the gift of yourself; be present with them.

Resources and Links:

Lynn Owens, CHMS, NCC, specializes in helping children recover from abuse, neglect and other forms of trauma. Although Lynn treats children, youth and adults with many mental health, trauma and relational issues, the main focus of his practice is working with families who adopt children from difficult places. Learn more about Lynn and his family at Canyon Lakes Family Counseling Center.

Pick up a copy of Dr. Dan Seigel’s book, “Parenting from the Inside Out.” (You can also visit our podcast website here to order a copy today!)

Find out more about Dr. Bruce Perry and Dr. Ira Chassnoff.

Are you an adoptive or foster dad who’s tired of trying to “fix” your child, tired of asking “why?” or maybe just wondering if there’s anyone else out there who gets it?  Consider attending Road Trip next October. This would make a great Christmas gift for those adoptive and foster dads you may know!

Are holidays hard around your house? Leave a comment and let us know what questions you have about how to navigate through this season.

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
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.