We asked some KidsPeace foster parents how they make the holiday season special for kids in their care….
Bryan and Mary: We suggest keeping things simple so they don’t get overstimulated, especially if the child is special-needs. Try having them make cards or a homemade gift for their bio family so that they feel connected with them even if they’re not with the family for the holiday itself.
Heather and Brian: Make sure you ask your foster child if they have any traditions that are important or special. Also ask for menu suggestions. Tell them your family’s traditions but don’t assume they understand what you are doing. Don’t ask them if they want to join in; they are likely to say “no” to strange new things, but if you include them from the start they will be more likely to engage.
Laura: I have my foster son bake a spice cake by himself (with guidance as needed) to take and share with family during the holidays. I also have him help me in decorating cookies. And I have him personally pick out gifts to purchase for family members, so he can directly experience the joy that giving to others brings.
Brad and Sue: We have our older children make a special ornament for their foster brother to put on the tree, so that he feels like a special part of our family and is included in the family holiday traditions. We also make special personalized stockings for each of our foster children that get hung on the mantle with all of the others.
Cathy: Because I have had kids that tend to get anxious around people or groups of people, I try to keep things simple at my house. I invite family and people I trust to understand that sometimes behaviors crop up. I don’t overdo because I don’t always know what holidays were like for them. I really try to get my foster kids to understand it’s a day of being grateful for what we do have. As I can’t always have the family I want for turkey dinner I let them know that sometimes due to circumstances out of our control, we don’t all get to be with the people we would like to be with; it’s a way of them seeing how to work through this. I do special activities after the holiday, once we can relax and have fun.
Tammy and Steve: We have them help decorate the house, and we all go as a family to cut down our Christmas tree. We go to a town event each year where the children go shopping for each member of the family (foster and birth); it’s all wrapped and they put it under the tree when we get home. As a family we decorate gingerbread houses and bake to eat and share as gifts. We celebrate with extended family, and share a meal.
Lynda and Dean: We buy each child a special Christmas ornament to put on the tree to make the tree theirs. And once we had adopted “J,” we bought a “first Christmas ornament” representing our first complete family Christmas.
Thanks to all the families who shared their ideas, and Happy Holidays to all our foster families!