Thursday, December 9, 2010

Celebrating Holidays with Children in Foster Care

This article was in our recent "foster roster", it's our foster care news letter. I just wanted to share it...

How can my family make it easier for the children in foster care while they are in my home?

  • Talk about the season ahead of time. Talk about how your family celebrates the holidays.
  • Tell Children which of the traditional holidays your house recognizes. It it Thanksgiving? St. Nick's Day? Kwanzaa? Hanukah? Christmas? New Years? Or all of the above? Talking about the holidays gives children time to anticipate the upcoming activities and ask questions.
  • Help children in foster care imagine what to expect in your home. Much of what we assume to be commonplace can be new to the children you foster.
  • Share the religious meanings the holidays may have for your family. Talk about your family's specific customs and activities.
  • Use this time of sharing to learn especially about the religious beliefs, customs, and activities of the children you foster.
  • Try to incorporate at least some of their traditions into your traditions.
  • Some parents try to keep the holidays low key in order to help minimize some of the stress.

    How can we work with birth families during the holidays?
  • again, ask children about their experiences and try to incorporate some of their traditions. The children placed in your home may miss some activities that they experienced with their family or in a us placement.
  • If possible, ask you child's family members about their holiday traditions and customs. Although you may feel stretched at the holidays, try to coordinate schedules with the birth families. This gives the children a chance to share what is familiar while experiencing new traditions.
  • This is a good time for the youth in your home to make small gifts and send cards to their birth families or old neighbors and friends.
  • This is a time when many children feel conflicted feelings about their birth families and worry about them. It is a good time to let the young person know that it is okay for them to be safe and cared for even if their family struggles. Reassure them if you can, about safety and care of their birth family.

    What are some of the ways I can help the children who I foster get through the holidays? What are some signs of grief or sadness that I can look for?
  • Be prepared for the sadness and grief. Talk about your child's feelings throughout the season.
  • Give your children time and space to grieve. Grief takes many forms and may be exhibited in lots of ways, including:
    Reverting back to younger behaviors developmentally
    Soiling themselves or bed wetting
    Becoming withdrawn or isolated
    Having temper tantrums
    Being rebellious
    Complaining more then usual
  • Try to remember the developmental age of the children you foster. It will also help you stay patient if you keep in mind the challenges of the season for your child before you react.

    What are some things we can do to make family get-together's easier?
  • Talk about upcoming events and the people who will be there. If you cannot get together before the big event, introduce your children to family and friends who will be at the celebration by going through pictures.
  • Prepare them for the "characters" in your family and also tell them about other children who might be there.
  • Tell them if your celebrations are quiet or loud, sacred or silly, big or small.
  • Describe the home or place where the event will be held, or tell how it usually proceeds.
  • Be realistic about it- do not make your celebrations seem perfect, but do not stress the challenges that are part of all family events.
  • Give your children a camera so that they can record the celebration, and also give them one for holiday visits with their birth families.

    What can I do to help my children learn what is expected of them at family celebrations?
  • This is an opportunity to teach the behaviors and manners that you would like the youth you foster to learn. Go over basic manners, such as "please" and "thank you"
  • Explain the expectations of children prior to family get-together's, and practice those behaviors ahead of time.
  • Use role playing at home so that they can practice.
  • Make sure you and your family/ friends are on the same page regarding gifts from and to your children. Perhaps try to have your child bring a small hostess gift tot he get together: baked goods, nuts, candles, ornaments, etc.
  • Tell family and friends about your children, and try to introduce them before the holidays. It's a good time to remind others about the confidentiality you honor concerning the children you foster, and it might be a good time to practice some polite but firm answers to some questions.
  • Remember especially to ask your children what they would like to have shared about themselves.

    (The Foster Care and Adoption Resource Center is a project of: Adoption Resources of Wisconsin, Inc, PATH- Wisconsin, Inc., and St. Aemilian-Lakeside, Inc, in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services.

    -Some of my thoughts: Just from what I've learned from Emma's birth mom, feeling connected is key. Now, I've never had a foster child during the holidays, but I do have a few ideas. I made theses "matching" ornaments for Emma and her birth mom. How about having the children in foster care make or paint 2 matching ornaments, one to give to their parents and one for your tree. (They have wooden or ceramic paint able ornaments for .50 to $1 each at Joann's, Michael's and Robert's and I'm sure other craft stores)
    Learn as much as you can about how their families celebrate Christmas. I know some parents wrap gifts from Santa and other's don't. How horrible would that be to add to their trauma by them finding out that Santa isn't real because your family doesn't wrap Santa's presents?
    Make the holidays fun: drive around and look at Christmas lights, make cookies and such.

Other sites:
Expect Weird Responses from Foster Kids toward the Holidays

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