We’ve been through this before. We know that the holidays can be tough for kids in foster care and for people like us (foster parents). So, as “the season” approaches, let’s try to keep a few things in mind:
- No matter what you do, the holidays may be a time of mixed emotions for your foster child. All of the “happy family, home for the holidays” messages on tv and in social media remind them of the family left behind when they entered foster care. So try to remember to ask about the other families in their life.
- Go ahead and wonder out loud if they are thinking about earlier holidays and the family they were with then. Do whatever you can to support contact with birth parents, siblings and extended family members during the holidays.
- The holidays can be emotionally and mentally exhausting for your foster child, too. Remember that even as you feel taxed by the pace of life at the holidays, your foster child may be even more stressed by all that is going on. People get worn out even by the “fun” stuff like parties. Plan down time for your family.
- Try to make sure there’s some unscheduled time to just hang out each day. Keeping some routines in place will counter some of the craziness of the holidays.
- Even getting gifts can be complicated for a foster child. Their pure joy at getting something they have desperately wanted may be accompanied by feelings of guilt for enjoying something their parents have not given them. Or anger at their parents for not having been able to provide such a gift in the past. Loyalty conflicts don’t always take a break at the holidays. They may worry about what kind of Christmas their siblings are having.
- Try to remember that you can’t protect your foster child from these feelings. But you can be aware that they may be experiencing them. This will help you better understand behavior that seems inconsistent with a seemingly happy occasion.
- Even though there may be some rocky times, the holidays can also bring joy and comfort to your foster child. They can feel part of your family and safe in your care. They can share in rituals that they’ll remember and repeat in the future. And, they can make happy memories that they’ll have forever.
- Take lots of pictures and videos so your foster child can take their memories with them when they leave your home. Of course, you’ll want copies too so that someday you can look back and remember your special time with this special person.
by Diane Kindler