There’s nothing like experiencing the magic of the holiday season through the eyes of a child, but imagine being a child and spending the holidays with unfamiliar faces instead of your relatives. This holiday season, over 400,000 children in the United States will be away from family as they spend the holidays in foster care.
It’s a traumatizing experience to be taken away from all that is familiar. The holidays can be an especially difficult time for foster youth. They may be missing family traditions and gatherings or they may have sad memories tied to this time of year. Foster parents require a certain level of patience, understanding and empathy. Here are several steps you can take to make the holidays merrier for foster children this season.
The holidays can bring anxiety to foster youth who may be meeting many new people at holiday festivities. Making preparations can help to ease these worries. Share the names and stories of anyone they may be meeting for the first time. If possible, arrange to meet everyone before the holidays arrive so that there are fewer new faces during holiday gatherings.
Make Their Needs a Priority
It can be easy to get swept up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, but make a big effort to put the needs of the children in your care this season first. Make time to ask questions, listen and just spend time together. Get to know them better and help them to feel cared for and loved.
Make a List (and Check It Twice!)
When possible, help your foster youth get in contact with their loved ones during the holiday season. Have them make a list of everyone they’d like to connect with. If they can’t see them in person, they can make a phone call or send a handmade holiday card. This can help foster children feel more connected to family and friends they can’t be with this season.
Asking the child in your care what activities are special to them this time of year, or what new traditions they’d like to start, can bring more meaning and fun to the season. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Create a holiday craft together and display it proudly in your home
- Bake and decorate holiday cookies
- Watch a new holiday movie or introduce them to a classic
- Read a holiday story together (or have them write one!)
- Bundle up and go sledding or ice skating
- Make a hot chocolate bar with different flavors and toppings, and invite friends and neighbors over to join the fun
- Take your family caroling around the neighborhood
- Attend a holiday concert and let the music lift your spirits
Give the Gift of Becoming a Foster Parent
A forever family is the gift every child deserves. If you long to be the Agent of Hope who secures a child’s future, consider becoming a foster parent for a child in need. Learn more about how to become a foster parent or make a donation to SAFY this season.