By Kresta Stone
The holiday season is upon us! It is a time for you and your family to enjoy time together, make special memories and celebrate. But what happens if your children celebrate one holiday and you celebrate another? Don’t panic! There are many steps you can take to make your holiday celebrations inclusive and enjoyable experiences for all your loved ones.
Foster families often include family members of different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds. During the holiday season, it is important to consider the various beliefs and traditions that exist within your family when planning activities, celebrations and gatherings. Keep in mind that each family’s composition is unique, and diversity within a family is something to be celebrated!
With a little planning and preparation, you can successfully incorporate different beliefs and traditions into your holiday activities. By embracing your differences, you can cultivate an environment of love and acceptance and strengthen your relationships with the children in your care. Below are some tips and suggestions for making the holidays enjoyable and memorable for you and your family.
Learn about your children’s heritage and holiday traditions. If you are aware of your children’s ethnic, cultural and religious heritage, you may already have some ideas about how to incorporate their traditions into your holiday celebrations. If you do not know much about their background, beliefs and holiday traditions, you can explore these topics with them through casual conversation. Remember to approach any dialogue with an open mind, showing your support and genuine interest in their heritage.
The information they provide will help you develop plans for inclusive and diverse holiday activities. Additionally, taking interest in their differing traditions and beliefs in a non-judgmental way will show them that you care and want to learn more about them. As a result, your children will be more likely to develop feelings of acceptance, which could help develop or strengthen your emotional connection with them. If they observe that you are engaged and feel that they are in an emotionally safe space, they may be more willing to communicate openly.
Suggestion: In an unbiased and gentle way, try asking the children in your care what they enjoy about the holidays or what holidays they like to celebrate. Project warmth and compassion as you discuss their beliefs and traditions. Explore any topics of interest or importance, from traditional holiday cuisine to religious celebrations. Share your holiday traditions and preferences with them as well, so they can learn more about your background.
Keep in mind that children in foster care often enter a family unit or living situation with past experiences that involve the holidays and family gatherings. The holiday season may evoke feelings of happiness and fond memories, or it may conjure up negative emotions and unpleasant images. Children who experienced traumatic events may not want to discuss the past in great detail. If this is the case, be patient and proceed cautiously with an open mind and heart. Let the children in your care know that you are there for them. It is important for them to understand that they can share information with you without judgment.
Seek out additional information about your children’s holiday traditions. After you learn more about your children’s background and heritage, you can conduct research about any traditions, holidays or celebrations that are unfamiliar to you. For example, maybe the children in your care celebrate Kwanzaa, and you know nothing about this pan-African cultural holiday. This is a good time to research and learn about its history, principles and activities.
Researching different holiday traditions can even be a family activity if the children in your care show an interest. It can further the dialogue between you, and you can demonstrate your continued desire to include them and their heritage in your holiday plans. It can be a bonding experience as well.
Suggestion: Do online research to obtain additional information about the holidays of interest to your family. A quick online search will reveal a variety of upcoming events and activities scheduled in celebration of different holidays. You will also find recipes, games and traditional holiday activities practiced by those from a particular culture or religion. Around the winter holiday months, many public libraries are also great resources as they often highlight several different holidays. They may display books and resources, host celebrations or offer programs and activities in celebration of multiple holidays.
Share more about your holiday traditions. If you haven’t done so already, discuss some of your own traditions with the children in your care. Reflect upon heartfelt memories, show them photos or home videos, or tell them the things that you enjoy the most about the holidays. If you celebrate a holiday about which they know very little, teach them about its history and traditions. Sharing more information about yourself can help you bond with the children in your care. You also become more relatable when you reveal details about your background and past experiences.
Suggestion: Ask the children in your care if they want to look at an old photo album from the holidays or learn more about a holiday that is important to you. Be attentive and find out the things about the holidays that interest them. You may find that you share a common interest in certain areas, such as baking traditional foods or watching holiday movies. You can incorporate those shared interests into your holiday celebrations this year.
Plan your holiday celebrations and activities. Once you’ve learned about your children’s holiday traditions and preferences, you can start to plan your holiday celebrations and activities. If the children in your care typically celebrate one holiday and you celebrate another, why not celebrate both? You can incorporate your family’s favorite elements of the two into your holiday plans.
Perhaps your children celebrate the same holiday as you do, but they are from another country that celebrates in a different way or has a different type of traditional holiday cuisine. You can incorporate some of that country’s traditions and cook foods that are familiar and comforting to your children. Include them in planning different holiday activities and events. Give them the opportunity to choose different activities. This can help them feel accepted and more engaged in the holiday celebrations.
Suggestion: Have fun coming up with special holiday activities. If you decide to celebrate two holidays from different cultural backgrounds, you could cook traditional dishes from each culture together. You might decide to decorate your living space together with different cultural themes. Or you might choose to attend a variety of holiday celebrations in your local area. The options are endless!
By utilizing these tips and suggestions, you can effectively incorporate various ethnic, cultural and religious traditions into your holiday celebrations this year. Embracing the diversity within your family during the holiday season can help strengthen your connections with your children and make it a magical time that they will remember fondly. •
Kresta Stone is a researcher and writer based in Florida. She is a devoted mother and wife. Stone and her husband adopted their son from Colombia. Stone earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pennsylvania State University.