Kids in care might need help navigating the holidays

December 2022 · Forward in Hope

The holidays can be a rough time for children in foster care. Heck, they can be tough for those of us who don’t deal with half the things kids in care navigate, not to mention birth and foster families.

This is ironic considering that Christmas and the holiday season place such emphasis on time spent together as a family. We’re inundated with commercials featuring smiling, happy families gathered around a tree or a table. That’s a lot of pressure to put on someone, especially if you’re a child living with a foster family in unfamiliar surroundings and separated from your birth parents and siblings.

If you’re a foster, kinship, or new adoptive parent, here are some ideas to help the children in your home get through the holidays:

  1. Sit down with the children you foster and explain your family’s traditions and customs, so they know what to expect. Include them in those traditions to the extent they feel comfortable. And if they don’t share your religious beliefs, show respect for theirs.
  2. Give them space to talk about their own family’s traditions and memories. If possible, incorporate some of their own customs into your own.
  3. Tell them about family members and friends who might be visiting the home. Also, prepare family members in advance, so they already know the names, ages, etc., of the children who will be present. Make sure to introduce them to each other to avoid awkward questions later. The same applies if you’re visiting another home with children in your care.
  4. Respect confidentiality. No one needs to know the full story of a child who might be in foster care.
  5. If appropriate and approved by your caseworkers, enable them to visit or call their birth parents and siblings. Help them buy gifts for their family and friends. You might even invite them to join you for a holiday gathering … again if there’s agency approval. And, of course, if the child has no interest in doing any of this, don’t force the issue. Youth in foster care often have complicated feelings about their birth parents.
  6. Have extra presents available to balance out any discrepancy in gifts that your birth children and relatives might receive. Ask them beforehand what they might like for Christmas and provide gifts that they both need and want.
  7. Finally, simply make sure any child in your home feels both welcome and wanted. Involve them as much as they feel comfortable, but also understand if they feel a bit withdrawn. No doubt, they’re dealing with lots of emotions right now.

Thanks to all foster, kinship, and adoptive families who work so hard to ensure that the children and youth in their care are kept safe, healthy, and loved. Your big hearts epitomizes the spirit of Christmas.

Happy Holidays from Saint Francis Ministries. Whatever your family’s composition and size, we wish you a heartfelt Christmas of peace, joy, and abundance.

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