Ben and I have been doing foster care for just over 6 years now. We love being able to help children who are in need. The holidays can be a very stressful time when you are dealing with foster children. Some foster children have big triggers that come up during the holidays, and some foster children, aren’t used to the way that you and your family celebrate the holidays. These are just a few ways that you can help make the holiday season more enjoyable for you and your foster children.
Taking time to understand how they celebrate – Help them know how you celebrate – Merge the two.
When you put yourself in the place of any of these amazing children during the holidays, it’s very understandable that many of them have meltdowns during this holiday time. One of the things that we love to do before all of the holiday celebrating begins, is to have a family meeting and talk about our traditions, and let them talk about theirs, or things that they love to do (maybe they didn’t have very many traditions in their family). If you are willing to give them a voice, this will help them have a sense of control, and it also lets them be involved in helping make some of the decisions of how they get to celebrate during the holiday. Maybe your foster youth doesn’t even celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, or any of the holidays during this time of year, that’s okay too. Just give some reasonable expectations of how they are expected to behave when others are celebrating and be very understanding of how they are feeling. Also, they can still have a say in some things that they would like to do for fun during the holiday break, even if it doesn’t have to do with celebrating the actual holiday. This is a great time to build rapport and relationships with foster children who are new in your home, and show them that you really care about them, their feelings, and their ideas.
One thing that we have mentioned in the past that can be very beneficial during this time of Craziness, is doing Role Plays. If you haven’t had a chance to read our post on doing role plays, you can check that out HERE!
When you know that you will be going to a party, getting together with a bunch of family, or hosting a party of your own, it is very beneficial to role play the situations that could happen. Talk to your foster child and let them know if the place you are going is going to be extra noisy, or if they are expected to be quiet (talk about and practice what that looks like). You could also role play and discuss how your family does certain things. If you want your foster children to do something specific on Christmas morning, they will not be able to read your mind, you will need to let them know ahead of time and practice what it could look like. If you are willing to practice situations, especially ones that you know might trigger a reaction from your foster youth, prior to them happening, it is much more likely that the outcome will be one that you want and they will feel more comfortable and relaxed during this otherwise crazy time.
My husband loves to put up his Christmas village every year as soon as I let him (he would do it right after Halloween if he could). When he invites our foster children to participate in this tradition, they feel special and are usually super excited about it. We also have a little lamb that we let someone each day take a turn and hide in the village so that everyone can search for it, which is really fun for the kids to see who can hide it the best (it does have to be visible without moving any of the stuff on the table).
How to Handle Gifts-
Some foster families, especially if you have never been in this situation before, don’t know exactly how to handle this time of year with the gift giving and festivities. Some of the things that you choose to do will be a personal preference, but there are a number of things that you SHOULD DO NO MATTER WHAT!
- Treat these foster children in your home as any child in your home. Treat them like they are part of the family – Because They ARE! Pay attention to the things that they take interest in, just like you would your own kids, and get them gifts that reflect those interest. We are lucky to be part of an awesome organization – Utah Youth Village – that also does some great fundraising and advertising to get donations to help with a Sub-For-Santa program every year. This is great for the kids to know that someone they don’t even know is willing to get them gifts.
- Remember that you are GIVING them gifts. These are not just toys, games, or other fun things that you are stocking up on for other kids that may come through your home. When these foster children leave your care, these things are THEIRS. Nothing is worse for a child than to get a gift and not be able to have ownership of it. A lot of times these gifts that they are receiving are some of the only things they own. Let them have them.
- Santa – Whether or not you celebrate Santa, some of things kids, may be very worried about if Santa is going to be able to find them now that they aren’t in the same place. And some of these children in foster care haven’t even had Santa ever come. To help them with this worry you could suggest they write Santa a letter to let him know where they are so that he won’t forget them.
Please share in the comments with us your holiday traditions or things that you do to help your foster children feel like part of the family at such a hard time of the year for most of them. We’d love to hear how you do it.
-The Kids Who Need The Most Love Will Ask For It In The Most Unloving of Ways – unknown
Stay tuned for the next post on Surviving and Enjoying the Holidays with your Foster Children Part 2…. Until Next Time!