Having a new foster child at Christmas time can be challenging for them and for you. How will your family adjust? What can you do to help them feel a part of your family? Some of our staff share from their first-hand experiences.
Our Therapist, Rachel Howell, is a former Home Parent, an adoptive parent and a current foster parent. She states, “Cluing them in to your plans and schedules is really helpful. Every family’s traditions are different, right down to little details such as when you open gifts. There is so much variation across families and homes regarding how the holidays are celebrated.
“Understanding their expectations, and even incorporating some of those expectations into the way you’re celebrating this year can help them feel like they have a voice and it matters. Our foster son still believes in Santa Claus, so this year we will be putting out cookies and milk (hopefully Santa likes Oreos) because that’s important to him, even though it isn’t a tradition we’ve celebrated in our family.
“Giving them some ownership and responsibility over holiday specific things helps them feel a sense of belonging. Maybe it’s helping put lights on the house, or preparing the meal, or decorating the tree. Whatever the task, this communicates to them that it couldn’t get done without their help and thus, they are not only wanted, but needed.”
Amanda Cox, Home Parent Mom in the Zimmer Home shares, “At Thanksgiving time we asked each of our kids what one thing they really wanted to have at dinner and then we made it. We plan to do this again for Christmas. The kids have been asking and we have been talking a lot about what Christmas day will look like. I think that helps them envision it before it happens, so they can be prepared. We try to take into consideration the things that they desire and how they want things to go, while blending in the traditions we like to do as a family.”
Home Parent Mom in the Atherton Home, Mandy Wallace, adds, “During Christmas we focus on traditions and doing them all together as a family. For example, I took my older girls Black Friday shopping. We all worked together to decorate the tree and put on ornaments the kids have made. We bake Jesus’ birthday cake all together. We also have a tradition of watching one Christmas movie each night. On Christmas Eve, we read the story of Christ’s birth and let every child open their stockings.”
Helping a new foster child feel at home and a part of the family is tricky all year round, not just at Christmas time. Mandy’s husband, Brian, concludes, “I remind each of them individually that Mandy and I don’t replace their dad or mom, but while they are in our home, we will treat them like they are our own children. Being new is hard, but with the right atmosphere, we feel each child can feel at ease and a part of our family.”