How to handle Thanksgiving, Christmas and other celebrations as a foster parent.
Holidays can be difficult for children in foster care. If a child has never experienced the holidays nor the traditions that come along with them, they may feel out of place or uncomfortable. It might also trigger the children to think back to their own family — what they never had or what they’ve lost. However, the holiday season could be a time for foster children to really connect and bond with their foster family. Learning about new cultures and traditions doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. And at Necco we believe that goes for our parents and our foster children both.
Oftentimes your traditions won’t match up, and sometimes they will be in direct opposition. This is okay, just proceed with patience.
Children have a right to practice their own religion or spirituality. We suggest you introduce holidays and traditions without any pressure on them. Ideally, family and child can meet in the middle and be willing to learn about one another’s culture.
Being off schedule can lead to behavioral issues.
In the chaotic world of a foster child, the holidays are even more chaotic. They are out of their school routine, attending different events and parties and are probably upping the sugar intake at an alarming rate. When you think about it, it’s no wonder we all go a little crazy in December! Having patience with your foster child and keeping things as normal as possible can help ward off the feelings of anxiety that may be causing some behavioral issues.
When you do go to parties, make sure you party-prep.
Preparation is important — and the sooner the better. Give your foster child an overview before the excitement of the holiday season begins. Talk about what it will look like in your house. Explain which family members and friends they may meet, and talk through your family traditions. Showing them pictures from years past will help give them context.
Christmas gifts. What to buy, how much to buy?
Some offices will create Christmas wish lists and ask community members and partners to sponsor a foster child’s Christmas. This helps takes the pressure off of foster parents. They can get through the holidays with the comfort of knowing that the children in their home will receive a gift or two from their wish list!
What to do when they start missing their family.
Your foster child is likely concerned or worried about members of their own family most days. But, this feeling might be heightened during the holidays. Similarly, you should treat them with the extra love and understanding they need during the holiday season. You may consider helping them write letters or make small gifts for friends or relatives. It’s a thoughtful connection, but the therapeutic benefits are many! Helping them put their feelings on paper gives them the opportunity to express emotions they may not know how to otherwise.
Just do what’s best for your specific situation.
You know your child best. How you decide to tackle the holiday havoc depends largely on your child and his/her needs. Reassuring your child that he/she is loved, worthwhile, and validated throughout the holidays is a sure plan for foster child success. That, and watching their sugar intake.