Holidays hold the promise of warm, happy times with family and friends. But they also bring stressful moments, overpacked schedules, short tempers, and old family disagreements. Likewise, a new infant in the family brings much joy, but also new roles and responsibilities, and, usually, way too little sleep. And when a new baby’s arrival coincides with the holidays, how is a new family to survive?
Your first priorities are to meet your baby’s physical and emotional needs, to spend time together developing strong attachments, and to get enough sleep to keep everybody going.
The winter holidays usher in flu season. Frequent hand-washing is the best line of defense, and people with respiratory symptoms and fever should stay home. Very young infants are especially vulnerable, and should not be passed around through crowds of adults eager to hold them. Children six months or older should get the regular flu vaccine, as well as a “swine flu” vaccine, if it is available.
If you are, or your child is, feeling too sleep-deprived or overwhelmed to participate in an event, or if the thought of going somewhere brings more stress than excitement, don’t hesitate to opt out this year. Even if your child is not a newborn, she still needs nesting time with you. Traditions that are truly important will survive your absence for one year, and you and your child will enjoy them more next year, as your child grows into your circle of loving family and friends.
While it is wonderful for a newly adopted child to be welcomed into an extended family and included in family traditions, it is also important to monitor a child’s comfort level, and be able to retreat if she shows signs of being overwhelmed. Some children will misbehave when overwhelmed, or become very clingy. Others hide, or return to self-soothing behaviors. Plan to attend busy gatherings for short times, and be ready to leave early if your new child shows signs of being overloaded.
Children who have never known “special” caregivers may seek attention and love from any willing adult, and may want to be the life of the party. While there’s no need to sequester such a child, parents should remember that the primary goal for now is to learn that, in a family, there are “special” adults and “others.” Parents should be the ones to provide food and nurturing. Once she understands that her parents are the best source of safety, nourishment, and fun (developmental psychologists refer to this as granting them the status of “secure base”), she can expand that world to include other family and friends.
Eager relatives may want to shower your child with gifts. This can be overwhelming for a child entering a new world. Instead, ask relatives and friends to give the gift of time—when they fill your refrigerator with casseroles, do some laundry, grocery shopping, or cleaning, they allow you to spend more time with the best gift of all, your new child.