As spring approaches, thoughts naturally turn to the summer and to the plans you’ll make for a family vacation. If you’re new to foster parenting, you may wonder about how vacationing with a foster child will work.
Taking your foster child on vacation is one more step that you can take to give him a chance to experience what it’s like to be a kid in a stable and safe family. But it may also be a very new experience, and as such, can present challenges. Whether you’ll be camping for the weekend, visiting relatives or staying in a hotel, here are a few ways to help ensure your vacation is fun for everyone.
- Include your foster child in the planning. Part of the fun of a vacation is deciding what you’ll be doing. If your foster child has a role in planning the vacation, he’ll be more likely to be willing to be a part of the activities. It will also will help your foster child feel more a part of your family.
- Let her know what to expect. Your foster child has gone into many new situations under hard circumstances. Anything new, even a “good” thing like a vacation, may stir up some anxiety. And some acting out. Fill her in on your travel plans. If you’ll be visiting family, show her pictures of who’ll she’ll be meeting. Having information before the trip will make her less anxious about it.
- Expect mixed feelings. Going on a vacation may stir up thoughts about your foster child’s brothers and sisters and how they won’t get to go on the vacation too. Try to validate those feelings. This may be a good time to say something like, “I wonder if it’s ever hard for you to get to do something that your sister Lizzie doesn’t?”
- Be clear about what the rules will be on vacation. It helps to know in advance what will be expected of them. Does everyone help clean up on a camping trip? Do bedtimes change? Can I get souvenirs?
- Set aside some “chill” time. Being on vacation can be overwhelming for anyone. For a foster child prone to meltdowns, making sure to build in some quiet time and one-on-one time with a grown-up can help them avoid becoming too stressed-out.
- Remember that this is one of the things you do that lets your foster child “just be a kid.” It’s something they’ll always remember. Even the tough parts when the tent collapsed, or someone got sick after riding on that roller coaster. In time, those events will become part of their special history with your family.