The holidays are just around the corner. Like most foster parents, you’re probably eager to share your holiday traditions with your foster child. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Remember that the holidays stir up a lot of emotion for almost everyone. Your foster child may struggle with feelings of guilt and sadness. They may worry about their siblings and what kind of holidays they are having. They may feel guilty about enjoying themselves and feel sad about not being with their birth families. Wondering aloud if they are thinking of their family members opens the door to conversations about their feelings. This gives them permission to have fun and to miss people they care about. Doing this can make it easier for them to enjoy holidays with your family.
Find out what their holiday experiences have been: Try not to make assumptions about what their “normal” has been. Give them a chance to tell you how they have celebrated in the past and what their holiday memories are. Your questions will give them a chance to share their history with you. Some of it may be painful to hear but your interest in their story shows that you care about their life before they lived with you. And, it gives you a way to identify traditions which are important to them which you can include in your celebrations.
Let them know what will be happening: Make sure to give your foster child an idea of what a holiday at your home will look like. Having this information can help them feel like less of an outsider. It can also help you identify situations which might be difficult for them. For example, they might be nervous about meeting new people. Discussing what to call members of your extended family might make the process easier. Get their ideas of what will make them more comfortable.
Include them in preparations: Taking part in preparations is a great way to integrate your foster child into your family’s holiday activities. Ask them to help decorate or select music to be played. Try to incorporate some of their traditions into your celebration. If there is a special food that has always been part of their Thanksgiving dinner make sure to include it in yours. And, let them help you prepare it.
Keep your expectations realistic: No matter how hard we try, holidays can never be perfect….ever. How simplistic this is and how hard it is to remember. You can’t make the holidays perfect for your foster child. But you can make them safe and memorable. You can’t make up for their disappointments in the past. But you can help them share some good times with you and your family. And, that’s enough.