Help your adopted child enjoy a summer holiday: 10 things to do right now

Are you considering your first summer holiday away with your adopted child? I remember when that was me. It was so incredibly exciting!

I couldn’t wait to create an incredibly fun experience for my son to remember and treasure. I had dreamt for years of family holidays and it was finally happening.

However, my child hadn’t been away on a summer holiday before, so it was all going to be new to him.

I had to reign in my excitement, which was so hard, and really consider how I could make this the best possible experience for him. That meant some more preparation beforehand and keeping things a little more low key.

We had an amazing time keeping things simple and family orientated. As the years pass, we have been able to add more excitement and variety to our holidays, but we still follow the tips below to help our little ones (we now have two!) with their anxiety.

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Why can holidays be difficult for adopted children?

Everyone is different, but many adopted children do struggle with the holidays for a number of reasons. To give a very basic overview I have listed some reasons below.

  1. Lack of routine and structure
  2. Unfamiliarity
  3. Uncertainty
  4. Triggers Memories (concious or subconcious)
  5. Reminds of past moves (especially if they have moved foster homes a lot)
  6. Over-stimulation (and new sensory experiences)
  7. They pick up on our stress

Should I take my adopted child on holiday in the first year?

This completely depends on your unique situation, child and family.

Personally, I took my kids away on a family summer holiday less than a year after we adopted them. My son had been home with us 9 months when we took him. Then 2 and a half years later, we took them both on a summer holiday when my daughter had been home 4 months.

However, both times we planned very carefully. We followed the tips I will share with you below, and it went well for our kids and our family.

That being said, I have heard stories where it has not gone well for families taking their children away within a year of their adoption. It very much depends on the child, their age, background and needs. It depends on your needs as a family too.

You know your child best, so you are the best person to make this decision. If you do think it will work for your child and family, then check out these tips to make your family summer holiday calm and fun for your adopted child.

Can I take my adopted child abroad?

Yes, as once adopted they are your child, so you can choose where to holiday, just as you would with a biological child.

However, being abroad does add a few extra elements to consider. Depending on where you are going you will want to consider the climate, if its vastly different and the culture as well.

Familiarity is often important to adopted children, so consider things like food, drink and sleeping arrangements to try to make these as familiar as possible. Perhaps take along some familiar snacks to help.

A long journey can be trying for any child, so consider how your child might handle the travel and if your child was adopted from abroad, consider whether this travel could trigger memories and trauma.

Remember that if the adoption is not yet complete, then you need the relevant permissions from your social worker. You will also want to consider passports, if they are newly adopted, and make sure you get this done in plenty of time.

If you are planning to take your kids on a holiday abroad, then check out Home for Good’s article, 7 Tips for Taking Fostered or Adopted Children on an Overseas Holiday.

Tips for taking your Adopted Child on a Summer Trip or Summer Holiday

10 Tips to Create a Fun Summer Holiday for Your Adopted Child

1. Compassion and Understanding

Managing your own expectations is crucial. Understanding that this holiday, that you are so excited about, will most likely be difficult for your child, at least to some extent, is important.

Don’t take it personally if they struggle.

Expect some more dysregulated behaviours and meltdowns (if they don’t happen then its a bonus!) They aren’t being ungrateful or spoilt. A holiday is just a pretty big deal, and as I mentioned above, there are multiple reasons why this could be tricky for them.

2. Timing

The timing of your summer holiday will impact the success of it.

It can help to ask yourself a few questions. How long have they been with you? Would it be best to go away near the beginning of the school holidays when they have just finished school, or would it be best at the end of the holidays before they go back? Perhaps the middle would work best for them?

Try to avoid it being around other important dates, like the time they moved to you, when they went into care, or birthdays. It is common for children to subconsciously struggle around these important dates each year.

3. Location

Familiarity helps.

We went to the same place for our summer holidays for the first few years after our kids came home. It was nice to have that familiarity for them the second and third year.

Staying in one location on your holiday, like a holiday home, caravan, or hotel room that is your base can help as opposed to travelling around and staying at different places.

Close to home is handy in-case they really struggle and you need to cut the holiday short. It also means less time travelling as that can be tricky too, especially when they are little.

4. Sensory Stimulation

Consider heat, noise, smells, unfamiliar foods, and crowded busy places where they might get bumped or jostled.

You know your child best and how easily they get over-whelmed, over-stimulated, or dysregulated. Planning ahead to avoid any known triggers or things that upset them is kind and makes the holiday better for everyone.

You can help by packing familiar snacks, drinks and water bottles. It’s also worth being aware of temperature changes they might struggle with, avoiding busy crowded places if that could be tricky, giving them more time and not rushing them.

Providing space and having calming-down activities to hand in-case they are needed. (Even just a pot of bubbles, or crunchy snack in your handbag can be super helpful!)

5. Visual Charts

These can be so helpful for adopted kids in many situations.

A visual chart can help your child know when the holiday is happening, how long it will last, and when you will all come back home. You can also plot on the chart what you’re doing each day of the holidays.

6. Plan well ahead

Planning ahead and trying to anticipate any potential challenges before they happen is very helpful.

It also helps to manage your own expectations at the same time.

The more you plan everything in advance, the less stressed you will be in the immediate lead up to the holiday and during the holiday. Our kids pick up on our stress so the more relaxed you are the easier it is for them.

If your kids are anything like mine, they will probably inundate you with questions about the holiday and all the details, from the second you tell them you plan to go. The better prepared you are and the more organised you are, the easier it will be to answer all their questions and this will reassure them.

7. Read Books about Summer Holidays and Trips

Reading age-appropriate stories about going on holiday can really help your little one, espeically if they have never been on holiday before.

It’s a great opportunity to explore their expectations of what a holiday is, and to discuss possible fears and anxieties. There is also the opportunity to ask for their suggestions for holiday activities.

I discovered that one of my son’s biggest expectations for his holiday was to get an ice lolly or ice-cream every day!

8. Plan calm down activities that you can take

Think about the kind of activities your child does, or you help them do, when they feel dysregulated and need help to calm down.

This could be daily routines that help maintain a sense of calm. For our kids, they feel calmer maintaining their daily TV session before dinner. It really helps them decompress after a busy day. We make sure to incorporate this into our holiday plans.

It’s also important to have calming down activities ready, in-case they do become dysregulated. This could be bubbles to blow, a smoothie to drink through a straw, or a stress ball to squeeze. Try to stick to similar activities that you use at home, if you can, as this will help.

Check out, Calm Down Activities for your Adopted Child (that you can try right now), for more ideas.

9. Comfort Items

Make sure you plan to pack the all important comfort items that your child values.

This could be a toy, blanket, book, or tablet. This can really help them when they need that extra security.

10. Reinforcements that you are ALL coming back home

Especially if your adopted child has had several moves before, you want to reinforce that you are ALL coming back home again at the end of the summer holiday.

Think creatively on this one as there are multiple things that you can do to help.

We made a holiday countdown chart for our kids, including all the days in the school holidays. They could countdown to our holiday away but also see what we had planned for when we all came home again.

When we were away on holiday we sent postcards home to family to tell them what we were up to and that we were looking forward to seeing them when we came home. We also helped the kids choose little holiday gifts for their grandparents that they could give them when they got home from holiday.

When we took photos of us on our holidays we talked about how we would make them up into a lovely family holiday book when we got back home. Now we get out our photo albums from the last holiday and chat about it before we go on holiday, to remind the kids of what to expect.

Help Your Adopted Child Enjoy the Summer Holidays

I hope these tips have given you lots of ideas for how you can help make your summer holiday the best possible experience for your adopted child. That first summer holiday that you share together as a family is so special. I hope that it is filled with treasured memories, even if there are some challenges to overcome along the way.

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