While the holidays are meant to be filled with cheer, they can also be an incredibly difficult time for all involved in foster care. Foster parents may have trouble connecting with their foster children, biological parents may not have their children for the holidays, and foster children may struggle in a variety of ways based on situational factors. It is important as a foster parent to be sensitive to your child’s wants and needs during the holidays, and to be prepared for what the holidays may bring.
Here are a few ways to prepare for the holidays with a foster child:
Be informed: Find out what the holiday circumstances will be and prepare your foster child early on for what they can expect. Scheduling can be tough during the holidays, so set aside time in advance for the child to make visits or phone calls with biological family or old friends as allowed by the agency.
Explain: Let the child know early on what your own family’s customs and traditions are to avoid any confusion or stress about uncertainties they may have. Explain to friends and family what to expect if you are hosting holiday gatherings at your home or planning visits, so that your foster child always feels welcome and like they have a place in the family. If possible, introduce the child to family before holiday events to help them feel more comfortable.
Ask questions: Be sure to ask about the child’s own holiday customs, traditions and expectations, and find a way to incorporate these into your own holiday activities to help your child feel at home and reiterate his or her importance. Ask them about their own concerns or expectations about the holidays, and check in on how they are feeling throughout November and December.
If you aren’t a foster parent but are still looking for ways to help foster children during the holidays, be sure to check out our 2017 Holiday Project to help bring cheer to kids who need it!