The holidays are a joyous time for most of us, but can also be a time of great stress and anxiety, especially for foster children. They may be missing their biological families, and the time off from school can throw off their routine. That’s why it’s so important to be sensitive to their feelings during Christmas time.
Andrea Requenes, Spring Program Director, gave us some tips for making the Christmas season go as smoothly as possible for foster kids.
For kids who are missing their biological families during Christmas, Andrea says one way to give them a sense of home is to incorporate one of their family traditions into the celebration. One of our families has successfully done this in their foster home for years.
“One kid might say, ‘Well it’s my family’s tradition to drink hot chocolate on Christmas Eve, and another might say ‘I really liked when we would all get to pick an ornament for the tree.’” Andrea said. Then the foster family has this big holiday party with all the different traditions. I always thought that was a good way to handle that.”
When it comes time to open presents, or have a big Christmas meal, foster kids may worry their bio parents are not faring as well. They may wonder if their bio parents are safe, or have enough to eat. They may become moody or sad, so be sensitive to their situation.
Meeting extended family can also create anxiety among foster kids during the holidays. Andrea suggests including foster children in family events, but not pushing them to share their story if they don’t want to.
“We don’t want the child to feel left out, but we certainly don’t want to put the child on display, or make them feel they have to explain their story to all these strangers,” Andrea said. “It’s great to include them, but be sensitive to how you introduce the children.”
Finally, Andrea says to manage expectations during the holidays. Temper tantrums may be more frequent with all the excitement and stimuli.
“I’m a grown woman, and even I sometimes want to throw a temper tantrum when I go Christmas shopping,” she said. “Be mindful of the fact that they’re off schedule, they’re off from school and they’re probably eating more sugar with all the Christmas sweets around. It’s just like with your bio kids, except these kids have traumatic backgrounds to deal with on top of all of that, so if you’re taking them to a lot of events and parties, have patience.”