Every Child
12/1/15 at 04:09 PM 0 Comments

10 Ways To Simplify Your Foster Family Christmas

text size A A A

The following originally appeared in Lifelines, Bethany Christian Services' quarterly magazine.

Parenting foster children through the holidays may bring additional challenges for your family. For example, the structure the children need and thrive in, is not as consistent this time of year. Interrupted routines and overfull schedules affect parents, too. Extra family visits, the school break, and additional expenses are only some of the additional strains of the holiday season.

And like Brian, many foster children feel conflicted during the holidays. Keep in mind, the holidays can be difficult and stressful for children in foster care—some have been in a different home every Christmas, many are emotionally broken, and most are going to miss their birthfamilies. Some may be able to express their feelings; many will not.

How can foster parents plan ahead to make the holiday season go more smoothly?

Take care of yourself

More than any other time of the year, self-care is imperative to making it through the holiday season. Grab a spontaneous lunch with friends, go to the spa, or have someone watch your children so you can go Christmas shopping alone. Also make an effort to get a good night’s sleep. Keep a notebook by your bed to help you get your growing “to-do” list out of your head.

Communicate with your children

Give them the opportunity to ask questions and share their feelings about your holiday traditions and
plans. For older children, try leaving a small pad of sticky notes and a pen on their dresser so they can write down their thoughts and questions. Also try incorporating a tradition of theirs into your holiday activities.

Display a holiday calendar that shows all of your family’s commitments (concerts, parties, and special events). Make sure to schedule “downtime” as well. If appropriate, make sure birthfamily visits are on this calendar and easy for the children to see.

If possible, call the youth that you formerly had in your home and wish them a Merry Christmas. For older youth who have fewer connections to family, it’s especially nice to know others still remember and care.

Involve the birthfamily as much as possible (if appropriate and approved by the agency)

Offer to arrange a special dinner with your foster child’s siblings, separate from your other holiday festivities.

Make sure to have a special, extra holiday visit with their birthparent(s). For children who have limited or no contact, have them pick out or make a holiday card or small gift for their birthparent(s).

Watch for holiday sadness

Most children have had good times with their families and have good memories regardless of their past circumstances. Invite the children to share their favorite memories with you.

Watch for signs of isolation. Give the children time and space, but make sure they know you are aware that they may be feeling sad.

Give children opportunities to share their feelings

Help them identify their feelings.Parents could say, “You’ve been really quiet lately, and you don’t seem like yourself. Do you want to talk about it?”

Help them share their feelings. Many families have a feeling chart that they use with their foster children. Feeling charts have faces that display an emotion and are very helpful to foster families and youth in identifying some of their “big feelings.” If possible, have your foster child mimic feeling faces. Take photos of each face and attach them to a string. They can hang it on the fridge or on their bedroom door to help them learn how to identify what they’re feeling.

Get pre-approval for travel

If you are traveling out of state, your child’s social worker, birthparents, or judge may have to approve the trip.

Maintain confidentiality

Extended family members may have a lot of questions about your foster child. Make sure to maintain confidentiality. Help your foster child create a few standard responses to others’ questions, as you may not always be there to assist.

Explain the biblical meaning of Christmas to children

Christmas is a great opportunity to share with them about our Savior’s birth. They may not know the true reason for the season.

Start or continue a family tradition of watching a Christian movie about the story of Christmas.

Think about extended family prior to the holidays

Holiday events are stressful for foster children. If possible, lessening the number of “strangers”—even family—can help alleviate some of their stress.

If possible, help your foster children meet extended family before holiday gatherings. If family is coming to you from out of town, show the children pictures and/or use a video message tool so the children are able to meet them prior to their arrival.

Prepare Extended Family

Your extended family may not realize you have foster children in your home. Or they may realize you have foster children but not be sure they should bring them a gift. Have some extra gifts on hand so your foster children are not left out during gift exchanges.

Before visiting in the homes of family members, ask to have a couple of the foster child’s favorite foods, games, or movies on hand so that the child has something familiar to them as they are experiencing new people, food, places, and things that may become overwhelming for them.

Prepare your foster children for the holiday season, but prepare yourself as well to show extra grace and compassion for them during this challenging time.

For more information on how you can become an adoptive or foster family, visit www.bethany.org.

CP Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).