Children in foster care often have different holiday experiences than their peers as they are away from their homes, families and people they love. It can be hard for them to find meaning and joy during the holidays. As a foster parent, you might notice your foster child experiencing more challenges during this time of year. One way to make the holidays more memorable for foster youth is to start new holiday traditions with them. Traditions can create memories that last long after the holidays are over.
A foster child who is new to your home this holiday season may feel as if they are an outsider observing your family’s traditions. Some foster children may already have holiday traditions they look forward to this time of year, which can also become a new tradition for your family. Other children may find this time of year more painful or sad, especially if their biological family struggled or experienced stress during the holiday season. Ask the child in your care if there are any holiday traditions special to them, and if they’d be open to creating some new memories this year. Below are a few ideas to get you started!
There are few things in the world that can bring people together like food. The holidays are the perfect time to share a meal or bake a sweet treat. One way to involve your foster youth in the holiday festivities this year is to let them choose a new recipe for your main holiday celebration, one that your family hasn’t tried before. They can even help you to make it! Some other food-filled traditions can include creating or decorating a gingerbread house, delivering baked goods to family, friends and neighbors and making hot cocoa from scratch.
One of the best parts about the holiday season is the anticipation that leads up to the day (or days) you celebrate. Help your foster child get into the holiday spirit with a new family tradition before the main event. Think outside the house for this one with ideas like sledding, ice skating or building a snowman (complete with a carrot nose). If you prefer to bring the festivities indoors, you can do something as simple as gathering around the fireplace with a good book. Simple pleasures and sharing time together can go a long way to help a foster child feel cared for and at peace.
Getting in the holiday spirit can help the foster child to shift their focus away the challenges going on in their life. You can have a snowball fight, create homemade gifts together, drive around and look at the beautiful light displays or play holiday music and dance around the house. You might even want to consider photographing these events and creating a holiday scrapbook for your family and foster child. Whatever you choose to do, remember to have patience, understanding and empathy for those in your care. Remind them that a new year is coming and with it, countless opportunities.
Start a New Tradition – Become a Foster Parent!
Perhaps the greatest tradition you can start this holiday season is to become a foster parent to a child in need. There are over 400,000 children in foster care who deserve a loving family and a happy holiday season. Learn more about how to become a foster parent or make a donation to SAFY this season.