How To Survive This Holiday Season

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

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I want to get one thing straight to begin. This is not a post JUST for parents or caregivers. This is also for our children. When it comes to surviving this high emotion-season, our children need help surviving it. It can be all-crushing to their emotional well-being.

This is for former or current foster youth struggling to make sense of the loss of what was. This is for adult adoptees, who may love their adoptive parents, but carry a void around with them, or a never-ending search for identity. This is for bio parents who either made the difficult choice to place their children for adoption, had their children removed never to return, or were the victim of an unethical adoption that unjustly took their children from them. We all need help surviving this difficult season of the journey.

We all need direction.

We all need help coping.

We all need steps to help us navigate the deep cavern of emotions…grief….and loss that comes with this particular season.

This is messy, no doubt. While most of the world looks forward to the Christmas and New Year season (maybe a bit on pause right now due to COVID), those involved in the foster care and adoption triad face dread, and heartbreak.

The question is, how do we make it through the next few weeks, or months? How can parents prepare their spirit in order to maximize the help they can give to their children, as those feelings of loss and grief are sure to spill out in some fashion? How do former foster youth, adult adoptees, the primary human beings, this journey impacts, reconcile the pain they’ve gone through?

Here are some insights to help all of us survive what is, and what could be, a very difficult season…

  1. Anticipate and prepare. Our post-adoption counselor gave us this gem recently, and we immediately incorporated it into our parent coaching curriculum as well as our online trainings. The idea here is that we anticipate that [behavior, reaction, attitude, feeling, etc] is going to happen, and thus, we prepare ourselves adequately to [respond, react, de-escalate, etc.]. In the case of the holiday season, we must anticipate that this is going to be hard for our children, and for us. We must gear our emotions, reactions, and attitude toward the reality that the hard stuff is on the way. From that anticipation we must prepare ourselves to respond in healthy ways. We must coach ourselves with the reminder, “This is going to be hard.”
  2. Hold space for grief. Grief is the means by which heartbreak and pain transform into healing. We must not fear it, or try to stop it, especially if we are the caregiver standing by while our child deals with deep loss. It’s crucial that we hold space, and guard that space, in order for grief to run its course. Keep in mind that even though your child has been in your care for years, and you think they should be past this, he or she is not. Grief can take years, even a lifetime, and that’s okay.
  3. Plan. Knowing that this season can be hard, it’s up to us, caregivers, to plan. Our children can’t do this, nor should they be expected to. At least not yet. When they move into adulthood, or even the teen years, and learn to self-regulate, and cope, planning enters into the picture (for the most part), but for us as parents, here, now, in this season, we need to plan our holiday season in a way that promotes compassion and understanding. Obviously with COVID, most big holiday gatherings, or family get-togethers, which could cause lots of triggers, are at a minimum. But the likelihood that disappointment and anxiety will make an appearance is high. Plan accordingly. Have a plan for how you will respond. Create an exit strategy if things become too overwhelming. Be willing to change things up if Christmas morning, or Christmas Eve are turning into dysregulation.
  4. Be okay with feelings of loss. It’s important to note that even though those holiday parties, and family get-togethers may not happen, and COVID has overshadowed much of this season, our children may still not understand or be able to cope with the reality of not seeing their bio family, or experiencing what they considered “normal holidays.” Be prepared for the feelings of loss to pour out throughout this season. And the fact that COVID has disrupted a lot of traditions, this reality becomes exponentially greater.
  5. Redirect and manage. Remember, extreme behaviors are not the product of a “bad child, behaving badly.” Nope. In this season you can be certain they are the direct result of trauma, particularly the added trauma of this season. As part of your planning, have a plan for redirection. If the drive-thru holiday display is too much, bail on it, and swing through McDonald’s for ice cream or fries. Remember that your primary goal when your child is triggered, or melting down, is NOT discipline, or correction (at least not yet). Your primary goal is re-regulation. You need to help your child move from their reptilian brain back to their pre-frontal cortex where logic and reasoning exist.

To borrow a phrase we have seen and heard throughout the past 8 months, “We’re in this together.” This is a hard season, but we can get through this. Most importantly, we can help our children survive this difficult season. We can bring understanding and compassion front and center for the adoptees living in our home, or those we know and love who are now adults living through this uncertain time.

We are cheering for you!

We just released a FREE Holiday Survival Guide featuring 4 of the best trauma-trained therapists in the world. Click Here to get access!

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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.