While the holidays are typically thought of as a warm and bright time of the year, especially for children, there are some cases where this is a more difficult period for foster children. As a foster parent, however, there are several approaches you can take to make this a fun, inviting season rather than something that brings up bad thoughts or memories.
At Bloom Our Youth, we’re proud to offer numerous forms of support for foster parents, from programs to help get new foster parents started to volunteer services, donation centers and much more. Why do some foster children struggle around the holidays, and what are some simple ways foster parents can serve as caring, helpful resources for their foster kids? Let’s dive in.
Why Some Foster Children Struggle Around the Holidays
There are a few reasons why foster children may view the holidays differently than other kids, and may struggle in some form. These include:
- Missing their home: While many foster children come from traumatic homes and environments, that doesn’t mean they don’t feel a sense of loss during the holidays. Missing their former home and family can be very difficult for foster children, making it more challenging to enjoy the cheer of the season.
- Feeling like an outsider: Foster kids may also struggle to feel included in holiday activities, gatherings or overall celebration. It’s important to make them feel like a part of the family and ensure they are included in all activities.
- Reliving past traumas: Because the holidays often bring up memories, foster children who have had difficult experiences in their lives may be reminded of those events during this season. It’s important to be aware of any triggers that could cause them distress or pain, and try to provide resources and assistance where needed.
It’s vital for foster parents to remember that each child is unique and different – while these broad categories we just went over describe some of the experiences foster children may have, they don’t necessarily apply to everyone. Therefore, it’s important to be sensitive and understanding during the holidays and remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Some children, for instance, will not struggle at all during this period.
With that said, there are a number of general tactics that tend to be helpful to foster parents if their foster child is experiencing any kind of trouble during the holiday season. Our next several sections will go over these.
Speak to Your Caseworker in Advance
Especially if your foster child has only recently been placed in your care, and you’re still learning about their history, it’s important to speak to your caseworker in advance of the holidays. Your caseworker can help you get a better understanding of their circumstances, any triggers or experiences they may have had in the past, and how best to approach the holiday season for that particular child.
In addition, there are numerous other ways caseworkers can be helpful. They can provide resources to help your foster child, provide support and advice if you’re feeling perplexed as to how to proceed, or simply offer extra assistance in any way they can.
Continue Your Child’s Known Traditions – If The Child Desires Them
It’s very important for foster parents not to make any assumptions about a child’s past traditions or home when approaching the holidays. Simply assuming that your child will not want to continue with the traditions they had in their previous homes could be hurtful and damaging.
Instead, speak to them about the holiday season and what kind of traditions (if any) they’d like to start or continue. Some children will still want to do the things they did before, while others may not – be sure to give your foster child ample space and respect their wishes.
Attempt to Create New Holiday Traditions
Sometimes, old traditions may trigger unpleasant memories for a foster child. If this is the case, it’s important to be mindful of that and try to create new holiday traditions that are unique to your family. This can help them feel more included, accepted and comfortable during the holidays.
While doing this, be sure to involve your foster child specifically in the decision-making process. Ask them what types of activities they’d like to do, if there are any traditions that aren’t triggering for them, or how you can make the holiday season better for them – their input is invaluable and should be taken into consideration in all cases.
Prepare Them for Any New Elements
In many situations, foster children will have experienced the holidays in very different ways before entering your home. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of these differences and make sure that you’re preparing them for any new elements they may not have encountered before.
For example, if you celebrate the holiday season differently than their previous family did, explain those differences to them and allow them to ask questions. This is especially true if there are any religious or cultural elements that may be unfamiliar to them.
Finally, make sure to continuously check with your foster child throughout the holiday season in order to gauge how they’re doing. If they need extra help, support or just someone to talk to – be there for them and provide that. The holiday “season” in this country lasts more than a month, so it’s important to remain mindful of how your foster child is feeling throughout the entire period.
The holidays can be a difficult time for many, especially those in the foster care system – but with proper preparation and consideration, it can also be a profoundly positive and memorable experience. As long as you take the necessary steps to ensure that your foster child feels safe, secure and loved during the holiday season, you can make this time of year truly special for them.
For more here, or to learn about any of our foster care services for parents and children alike, speak to our caring team at Bloom Our Youth today.