As one who has fostered many children, myself, during the holiday time, I have found that it is important to address these issues beforehand. To begin with, foster parents can best help their foster child by spending some time and talking about the holiday. Let the foster child know how your family celebrates the holiday, what traditions your family celebrate, and include the child in it. Ask your foster child about some of the traditions that his family had, and try to include some of them into your own home during the holiday.
It is important to keep in mind that many foster children may come from a home where they did not celebrate a particular season, nor have any traditions in their own home. What might be common in your own home may be completely new and even strange to your foster child. This often includes religious meanings for the holiday you celebrate. Again, take time to discuss the meaning about your beliefs to your foster child beforehand.
More than likely, your foster child will have feelings of sadness and grief, as he is separated from his own family during this time of family celebration. You can help him by allowing him to talk about his feelings during the holidays. Ask him how he is doing, and recognize that he may not be happy, nor enjoy this special time. Allow him space to privately grieve, if he needs to, and be prepared if he reverts back to some behavior difficulties he had when he first arrived into your home. You may find that he becomes upset, rebellious, or complains a lot. Along with this, he may simply act younger than he is during this time. After all, he is trying to cope with not being with his own family during this time when families get together. You can also help your foster child by sending some cards and/or small gifts and presents to their own parents and birth family members.
If you have family members visit your home, prepare your foster child for this beforehand. Let him know that the normal routine in your home may become a little “crazy” during this time, that it may become loud, and describe some of the “characters” from your own family that may be coming over to visit. Remind him of the importance of using good behavior and manners throughout this period. Along with this, remind your own family members that your foster child is a member of your family, and should be treated as such. This includes gift giving. If your own children should be receiving gifts from some of your family members, your foster child should, as well. Otherwise, your foster child is going to feel left out, and his sadness and grief will only increase.
With a little preparation beforehand from you, this season of joy can be a wonderful time for your foster child, one that may last in his memory for a life time.
-Dr. John DeGarmo