Foster Fridays: Holidays
For many of us, the holiday season is an exciting time that triggers fond memories. Before we even received our first placement, my husband and I talked about how much we’d like to spoil a child if one came to us in time for Christmas. But this season can be difficult for children who’ve been removed from their homes, despite fun plans and gifts. Our kids will experience emotions that will be hard for them to explain, causing anger and sadness. Some possible examples:
*They will probably miss their family at this time, regardless of how the relationships were. They may worry about them, especially any siblings they are separated from. It may be hard for them to enjoy a special meal or gift, wondering if their sibling is being provided for in the same way.
*Perhaps they had a happy holiday tradition in the past that they are missing. This can be heartbreaking. If you have contact with bio parents, or if the child will discuss it, see if there’s something that could make the celebration more meaningful to them.
*They may have been taught that “bad” children don’t receive gifts, and thus have developed a poor view of themselves during past holidays if they’ve ever gone without presents.
Another reason the Holidays can be hard for our kiddos is sensory overload. Children who’ve been affected by trauma often have sensory processing difficulties. The sudden arrival in their home of new lights and smells can be very overwhelming. Consider toning it down in this area if you notice changes in behavior, such as sudden aggression.
The amount of socialization that usually comes along with the festivities may be more than some kids can deal with. Suddenly having a living room full of strangers can make a child who’s been abused feel very unsafe. Make sure you have realistic expectations for how much they can handle. Also, based on what you know about the child’s triggers and your family’s tendencies, set boundaries. My husband and I had to have conversations with well-meaning relatives about not picking up our little guy. As rough as this time can potentially be for children in the foster care system, the season also brings opportunities to bond with them. Go into this season prepared to help them work through their emotions, and you’ll provide them with the kinds of memories everyone should have about the holidays- memories where they feel safe and loved.