As we approach the winter Holiday season, it is important to remember that our kiddos in foster care are likely going through a difficult time. We may be used to our own holiday traditions and routines, but for children in a new home they have no idea what our normal is. As a foster family, you are accustomed to the fact that Uncle Tim snores loudly after eating the meal and Cousin Alicia talks very loudly. The children placed into your home are experiencing these things for the first time. Here are some suggestions for a “first Thanksgiving.”
1. Start preparing the children now. Talk to them about who will be present, what you typically do, and what foods will be prepared. Please be hyper aware that many children have lots of issues around food. It’s not a bad idea to let your little one carry around a cereal bar or other treat, just in case the turkey takes longer then expected or the meal is delayed. Children with food issues need to feel secure that they will always have food available. Sometimes just having their own secret stash “just in case” is enough.
2. Ask your foster kiddos if there are any special foods they have for Thanksgiving. Then go the extra mile and make it for or with them so they feel a part of your family.
3. Let the child know it is okay if they are sad on a day that everyone else is celebrating. They will be missing their own family. Regardless of the circumstances for which they came into your care, they will always have a connection to their biological family. If the children typically have phone contact with their parents, make sure that the child gets an opportunity to speak with their loved ones. If your child is separated from siblings: please make every effort for the siblings to connect as well. Just because a child does not mention their sibling, does not mean they have forgotten that sibling.
4. Sadness. If the child needs some alone time, respect their privacy. They may be overwhelmed by all the emotions that family gatherings or holidays bring up. Children may feel like they are betraying their biological family if they are enjoying a holiday gathering with you. If the child opens up to you about missing their family, they are trusting you, be sensitive to this and take the time to privately discuss their feelings away from others.
5. Prepare your guests. Remind any guests that your family embraces your foster children no different then biological children. Set the expectation that they will all be treated as a part of the family. Stick up for your foster kiddos if you have guests who are not respectful of this expectation. Not all of our family members understand foster parenting and they may have their own opinions that impact how they will treat your foster babies.
6. Be Thankful! Take the opportunity to share what you are thankful for at your meal time. Be sure you let your foster children know that you are thankful for them! Say positive things about them. Envelop them into your family and be grateful for the opportunity to invest into their lives. It is heartbreaking to hear foster alumni report being treated drastically different then the biological children in a foster home. Don’t be that family!
7. Self care. Let’s be honest here, if you are not taking care of yourself, then you are not going to be fully present to care for the needs of your family. Self care may be as simple as spending a few minutes after bedtime falling asleep to a good book.
Do your best to help create positive memories with your foster children around each holiday. Understand that the Holidays tend to bring out difficult behaviors. Make sure you slow down in the hustle and bustle to spend some one on one time with your foster kiddos. You may be creating the special memories they hold onto well into adulthood.
The 90/Ten Project will be releasing our first book, “This is Mine: My Story, My Life” sharing the life stories of those who have life experience in foster care. You can pre-order a copy of our ebook here. The 90/Ten Project is partnering with organizations that currently serve foster children, donating 90% of the proceeds from the book to provide funds that will be utilized for children in care (ie: gifts for the Winter Holidays, Birthdays, special activity fees, etc).
You can pre-order your copy of the book here.
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