For many people, Christmas is a fun and joyous time, full of eager anticipation for the presents under the tree and the traditions we are so used to. For children in foster care, however, this time of year can be anxiety-inducing, full of negative memories, and a time of change as you move between homes. As foster parents, you have the opportunity to change how a child feels around the holidays, and positively impact their perception of the days we all hold dear. This doesn’t come easily, and it will require you to hold your traditions and expectations with an open hand as they may look different. This is a great opportunity to ask the children in your home what their traditions may be and see if it is possible to incorporate those into your home.
In order to help ease children into the holidays here are some ideas to consider:
- If the anticipation of unknown gifts is too hard for your child to comprehend let them in on the secrets! Maybe opening a gift a day in advent style fashion would make it less overwhelming, or letting the child know of some of the specific gifts that they will receive so that they don’t have to worry about what it may be.
- Help the child buy gifts for their family of origin. Part of their concern may be that their parents, siblings, or family members will not receive gifts as they do. Help ease this concern by allowing them to purchase or create gifts to give to their loved ones.
- Do not pressure them into participating in group activities. If being around large groups is too overwhelming, let them stay at a distance or let them take frequent breaks.
- If you have a relationship with the biological family, ask them what some of their traditions are. Maybe this year you have a specific breakfast on Christmas morning that they are use to having around the holidays.
- If the children in your home celebrate a different holiday, take the time to research and learn about how to celebrate them. Do not be afraid to ask for help and find unique ways to incorporate new things into your home.
The holidays will look different as new children enter your home, and while it can add additional stress and excitement it can also be full of memories and hope. Watch for signs that they are struggling and do not be afraid to talk to them about these worries. At the end of the day the goal is to support them and help them feel safe and secure, and that may mean making small sacrifices and adjusting the way you do things this time of year. You may get one holiday with a foster child, or it may be the first of many, so work with them to make it a time to celebrate and enjoy together.
By: Morgan Pauley