Veteran foster mom gives tips for the holidays

December 3, 2015

Sulfridge visitJennie Sulfridge knows how difficult the holiday season can be for foster parents and their children.

Christmas parties, traveling to see relatives, shopping outings to crowded stores and more add up to one long, stressful month. As a veteran foster parent with four adoptive daughters of her own, Jennie wanted to give advice to foster parents struggling through the holidays, and reassure them that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

She recently orchestrated a foster parent lunch at the Arrow Headquarters in Spring. Jennie not only offered her time, but she and her daughters also provided appetizers and desserts, and even made decorations and centerpieces for the occasion. Jennie and her oldest daughter, Hannah, gave advice and answered questions for a room of about 50 foster parents.

One key piece of advice was for parents to make time for their children during the holiday season. Hannah called time the greatest gift a foster parent can give to their child, and Jennie agreed.

“Their lives haven’t ever been put first,” Jennie said. “Your time is your most valuable resource for them, so even when you don’t feel like it, it’s important to invest time in your kids.”

To make sure they made time for each other during the busy holiday season, Jennie made a special Advent calendar for herself and the girls. The calendar specified a new family activity to do together for each day leading up to Christmas, such as going ice skating, or looking at Christmas lights.

Jennie also urged parents to schedule time for peace and quiet during the holidays, and suggested letting foster children know ahead of time about holiday parties and family gatherings so they feel prepared.

But perhaps the most important piece of advice Jennie gave was to be flexible.

She gave the example of one Easter where her girls were having tantrums and breakdowns, so they didn’t end up celebrating the holiday until the Tuesday afterward.

Hannah urged patience for days when foster children continually misbehave. She said she tested Jennie’s boundaries shortly after she was placed in the home, and Jennie’s patience with her eventually lead to a breakthrough.

“I had a lot of doubts about if I’d actually stay,” she said. “But I remember one week, I was bad seven days in a row, and by day eight mom hadn’t given up on me. I was reassured that I wasn’t going anywhere.”

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