The holiday season is a special time for families to come together, celebrate traditions, and create lasting memories. Navigating the holidays as a foster family can be a challenging time. While it’s meant to be a joyful time of year, it can also bring up complex emotions for children in care and logistical challenges. Continue reading for tips and ideas to help foster families thoughtfully enjoy the season.
- Involve Everyone in the Planning
Involving all family members in holiday planning is essential, including children in care. In addition to helping them feel included, it also allows them to understand their feelings, preferences, and potential triggers.
- Discuss Traditions
Every family has traditions, and children in care may come with cherished holiday memories and traditions from their biological families or previous placements. Discuss their memories and consider incorporating some of their traditions into your holiday celebrations.
In addition, consider establishing new traditions to help children in care feel more integrated into their new family. It could be as simple as making ornaments, baking a unique treat, or even watching a specific holiday movie together.
- Be Sensitive to Emotions
The holidays can stir multiple emotions for children in care. They might feel sadness, loss, or even anger. Recognize these feelings, provide a listening ear, and offer support as needed. Respect children’s unique grieving process around the holidays. Get professional help if needed.
- Establish Clear Expectations
Setting clear expectations about gift-giving, family visits, and holiday activities is helpful. Having clarity can reduce potential stress or disappointment for children in care. Help children understand that traditions may look different this year. Communicate changes ahead of time.
- Offer Support and Stability
The holidays can be overwhelming. Prioritize creating a stable environment. For example, try to stick to a routine, provide quiet time, and ensure that talking with someone is always possible.
- Educate Extended Family and Friends
It’s vital to communicate with extended family and friends who may be joining you to celebrate the holidays so they can make children in care feel welcome and accepted.
- Capture Memories
Document the holidays with photographs, journals, or videos to preserve memories and help children in care feel like an integral part of the family’s history.
- Focus on Connection
Quality time together matters more than elaborate traditions or gifts. Simple, focused activities build family bonds.
Whenever possible and appropriate, facilitate communication between children in care and their biological family during the holidays. Connecting with their biological family can be critical for a child’s identity and self-esteem.
- Plan Logistically
Confirm holiday visitation plans with biological family, social workers, and courts well in advance. In addition, arrange respite care if you need breaks. The holidays can be emotionally and physically draining, so consider the comfort and emotional state of the child in care when planning activities. Avoid over-scheduling and allow downtime for relaxation and reflection.
- Prioritize Self-Care
Prioritize your own mental health and well-being. The holidays are not about being perfect. It’s important to schedule breaks from caregiving and allow time for your holiday traditions and self-care. Also, say no when needed. Don’t take on more than you can handle comfortably.
- Connect with Your Support System
Lean on fellow foster parents, social workers, therapists, friends, and family for support, and ask for help when needed. The holidays magnify emotions — having your team is essential. Consider attending holiday events specifically for foster families when available in your community. Connecting with others who understand your unique role can be comforting.
Navigating the holidays as a foster family is about balancing joy and sensitivity, tradition, and inclusion. Considering the emotions, creating inclusive traditions, communicating effectively, and seeking support when needed can make the holiday season a time of healing, connection, and joy for everyone.
The SOS Children’s Villages Illinois Advantage
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