Navigating the Holidays as a Foster Parent
Holidays can be an exciting time to celebrate and spend time with family, but for foster children, the holidays may look different and it’s important that foster families consider the varied experiences of the children in their care.
Family-centric holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas can be hard for some foster children. Their families of origin may not celebrate traditions, or recognize these specific holidays, so they may feel uncomfortable when being introduced to the traditions of their foster families. Sometimes their new home routines can already be overwhelming, so adding more new things like holiday activities can lead to increased emotions. Some children, however, jump at the chance to be included and embrace the newness. Integrating a foster child into your family around the holidays may require some additional planning and thought to ensure their comfort.
Although some foster families and their foster child may differ in their religious or spiritual beliefs, Roddy Fernandez, Program Manager at Centerstone, notes that there is an overarching philosophy in foster care to treat every kid as your own. Some children may not have specific religious or spiritual beliefs. “If the foster family does have specific beliefs of traditions, it’s important to introduce the child to those as it relates to the holiday, while being mindful of their comfort level,” Fernandez adds. If the child does have a specific tradition or belief, it’s best for foster families to respect that, and try to learn more in an effort to help make the child feel included.
For some families, the holidays may include celebration with extended family or friends, which may be overwhelming for the foster child. The best thing to do in this case is to talk to them about it first and make sure they have a safe space to go during the celebration if they are feeling uncomfortable or overwhelmed. However, some foster kids may feel some excitement at the thought of being surrounded by more people. “Kids tend to love the extra attention because they have a need for belonging and inclusion,” Fernandez adds.
If your family celebrates a holiday where gifts are exchanged, it’s important to be mindful and attentive of the foster child. If you have other children and they are receiving gifts from different family members, the foster child should as well. This will help prevent feelings of exclusion or “othering.”
Consideration for family of origin:
In some cases, a foster child’s biological parents may still be present in their life, and may feel left out, or experience feelings of guilt for not being able to provide for their child. In these situations, foster parents are encouraged to include biological parents in parts of their holiday celebrations in a controlled, safe environment. If the biological parents are not present in the child’s life, foster parents are encouraged to be cautious about the tone and language they use to talk about the family of origin. Demonstrating a healthy relationship and respect between both sets of parents is crucial for the well-being of the child and can be helpful in ensuring that they do not experience any feelings of resentment toward their family of origin.
Kids want nothing more than to feel love, safety, and belonging. Centerstone works with foster families and children to facilitate the best possible outcomes for all involved. To learn more about Centerstone’s Foster Care program, visit our website.