Preparing your family for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family and friends, enjoy delicious food, and also celebrate everything that we are thankful for. If this will be your first Thanksgiving with your adopted child, it is important to not only prepare the child for the big meal and gathering, but to also prepare family members and friends that will be in attendance to your Thanksgiving celebrations.

Large groups of family members and friends: It is likely that you will be in a home with extended family members such as aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, it is important to prepare them ahead of time about this being your adopted child’s first Thanksgiving. Slowly introducing the child to family members is something to keep in mind. Try to arrive earlier so that other people are entering the home when you and your child are already settled in, instead of you and your child entering the house that is already crowded. This will be less overwhelming for the child. Find a couch or chair that you and your child can sit in while family members, friends, or attendees arrive. Have something that will occupy the child during this time so that he/she will not become overstimulated. Family members should be aware to exercise sensitivity when interacting with your child. For some families, this may be the first time for them to meet your new addition to your family. Your family will be welcoming, but it is important to let them know if your child does not like different forms of physical touch, depending on their history with trauma and abuse. Hugs can seem friendly and harmless but for a child who has a history or abuse or trauma, hugs may seem threatening. Children should not feel obligated to display close contact or physical contact. High-fives, waves, or handshakes, are great alternatives for greetings with family members and friends. Discuss with your child about his/her level of comfort with various forms of greetings or physical contact. If the child is becoming overstimulated, identifying a space in the house that is a quiet isolated room where you can spend 1 on 1 time with the child to read a book, do a puzzle, or play a game until the child is comfortable with going back into the group setting.

Food: In regards to food and your Thanksgiving gathering, please remember that your child most likely has not eaten a lot of these of foods before. Help your child by demonstrating the size of your plate (depending on the age of the child) so they do not feel as if they have to pile on food after food while going through the food line. Portion control is important during the Thanksgiving holiday. You may want to think about bringing the child’s favorite food or a familiar snack so that they do have something to eat that they enjoy. A child should not be forced to eat foods that they do not like. Many children that grow up in institutions are on schedules for feeding/eating times. Upon arriving home, it is hard for children to know and understand when to stop eating because they are full. It is very common for children to keep eating and eating because of the innate fear that the food is going to be taken away, or the unknown of when they will eat again.

Travel: As Thanksgiving is one of the major holidays where people are traveling from all over to be together, you and your child may have a longer car, train, or airplane ride required to attend the Thanksgiving gathering. Prepare your child for the type of transportation that you will be utilizing. If this will be your child’s first time on a train or airplane, demonstrate what the child will experience by using toy trains/airplanes to model. With international adoptees, all of the children have been on an airplane prior to this date, but they may or may not remember that plane ride depending on their age and how long it has been since then.

We wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday as we have so much to be thankful for!