The holiday season can be an eagerly anticipated time of year, but for children in foster care, it can also be a difficult and emotional time. This may be their first holiday separated from biological family, and there may be triggers of sights, smells, sounds, and traditions that cause them to miss home. This may result in challenging behavior as a child attempts to process intense emotions such as sadness, homesickness, confusion or anger. Keep in mind the following trauma-informed tips to help your foster family enjoy the season. The holidays can bring opportunities to create special memories and experiences with foster children and enhance the bonds they have with foster family and community.
Incorporate existing traditions: What are the special ways the foster child celebrated the holidays before entering placement that could be replicated? The child may have a favorite movie, a specific holiday event in the community or Christmas Eve tradition. Inquire about some traditions they might like to participate in and organize a way to make them happen.
Gift an ornament: Choose an ornament you feel represents the interests or personality of the foster child to put on the Christmas tree. This can include the child in foster family traditions, while also providing them with memorabilia that can be enjoyed for many years to come.
Help the foster child celebrate with biological parents: If the foster child has regular contact with a biological parent, help the child include parents in celebrating the season. Consider crafting a Christmas card with a special note from the child, make cookies, or send a picture of the child enjoying a favorite holiday activity. Nurturing this connection can help a child and both families enjoy the season.
Provide a break: The September newsletter discussed creating a quiet space for foster children to retreat to when feeling overwhelmed. Now is the perfect time to revisit that content and ensure that you have a safe place in your home for children to visit when things get chaotic. Holiday parties, the hustle and bustle, and the triggers the season brings can be chaotic and overwhelming. Give a child the gift of a safe place to be alone.
Pray: No matter the age of the child, there is a biological parent somewhere spending this time of year without her child. Pray over the enormity of the grief in that circumstance and all the emotions it entails for everyone involved. While you work to help a foster child navigate through and enjoy the season, pray that biological parent(s) would be able to make it through as well. Despite the history that led a family to experience the child welfare system, parents love and miss children deeply. Go to the Lord on behalf of the foster child and his family to pray for comfort and peace.