Asked & Answered: Navigating the Holidays

All responses taken from our Facebook groups: Foster Parenting Toolbox and Kinship Parenting Group.

The holiday season can be tough for children in foster care. They may spend the holidays separated from family, without their usual traditions. Or they may have negative feelings about the holiday season due to past experiences. We asked current foster, adoptive and kinship parents how they make the holidays easier for children struggling during this time of year. Here’s what they told us:

“Ask them what traditions they had (if any) with their families. Even if it’s not some conventional, holiday thing, try to partake in it. Examples: a certain movie they watch every year, a certain food they ate on Christmas Eve, etc. Let them make cards for family members. Also remember that sometimes it’s okay to let them feel sad, it’s a normal emotion. But you can help them process as to why so everyone has an understanding and they can process. A different take on things: some kids aren’t used to celebrating holidays and genuinely don’t know that families really do the things they’ve seen in movies or on TV. Holidays may be overwhelming! Some examples I can think of are when my grandmother did foster care for 18 years. She had some siblings come into the home who didn’t realize people actually make cut-out Christmas cookies and decorate them. Another kiddo didn’t realize families actually gather and open gifts, have a meal together, etc. because their family never had. Always good to be mindful and ask questions to see what a kid is familiar/unfamiliar with!”

“Let them talk or draw about it. Relate to their sadness. Validate their feelings.”

“Give them permission to feel sad sometimes but also give them permission to feel the joy of the season. Some kids feel like it betrays their birth family or history if they feel the joy. Also if they have traditions they are missing, maybe you can incorporate some of that into your traditions or maybe start some traditions with them. Maybe make ornaments or cookies. Or get matching stockings or pajamas. Can be anything big or small. Let them help think up some traditions they might like to start. Make some suggestions and ask the child to come up with ideas too.”

“Validate their feelings. It’s okay to feel however you feel. Talk. Talk. Talk. Keep the floor open for them at all times for them to release emotions and feelings.”

“Consider asking what some of their traditions were. Ask if they want to continue them. If so, do that. And start making traditions of your own that they can look forward to.”

“We try to focus on all the things to be thankful. As she has gotten older, we find ways to help others. She becomes less sad seeing her actions put smiles on others’ faces.”

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