As we gear up to celebrate the much awaited holiday season, we must consider the pressures this season holds. Though holidays are meant to be enjoyed, they can be a stressful time as families get ready for gift-giving, hosting company, and preparing large meals.
For children in foster care, holidays can prove to be especially difficult as these children spend this treasured time with a new family that they may not have fully acclimated to yet. The societal traditions of the season can be a painful reminder that they are away from their home and biological family. Often times, children in care experience some what some may call the “Holiday Blues,” resulting in grief, sadness, and/or anxiety.
It is important to be prepared to best support your foster child during this time.
Here are some tips on how you can help the child in your care better cope with being away from their family during the holidays, and potentially prevent the Blues:
Talk with the child in foster care about how your family celebrates the holidays so they know what to expect.
Ask the child in foster care in your home how they typically celebrate the holidays. Are there special traditions they would like to share with you?
Prepare the foster child for what to expect; are your events loud and silly or are they subdued and traditional? Describe the place they will be hosted at, and how they usually go.
Let them know who will be joining you for the holiday events, and introduce them through pictures so they will be prepared to meet new strangers. Be sure to mention other children that will be there.
Even with your best efforts, the Holiday Blues can still arise. Here are the signs to look for:
Reverting back to old or younger behaviors
Here is how you can help children in foster care if they are showing signs of the Holiday Blues:
Give the child space to process their grief
Talk with the child about their feelings, and validate them
Incorporate their traditions
Allow the child to make cards or small gifts for their biological family
Let them know their happiness and safety is a priority, and dissuade any guilt
While the holidays can be challenging for foster families and children in foster care, with the proper support it can also be be a bonding experience that may bring you closer to the child in your care. Children in foster care want to be included in the foster family traditions but do not want to lose traditions that are important to them.
Giving them special attention and respecting their desires can make this a fulfilling and joyous holiday season for everyone in your household.