Foster Care During the Holidays

By Julia Diamond
December 21, 2020

The Holiday Season is officially here! We’re all in that same state of frenzy and joy, as we wrap up our gifts and our work, and look forward to several days spent with family and friends (either in-person or virtually). While the holidays are something that most of us look forward to, it’s important to remember that they’re always easy for everyone, especially children in foster care.

Put yourself in the shoes of a child living with a foster family. They may wake up on Christmas morning and find themselves surrounded by people who might still feel like strangers to them. They may hear everyone talking about how joyful it is to spend time with family during the holidays, only to realize that they won’t be spending it with their family.

Maybe the child feels rather comfortable with their foster family. That’s great. But they may also be feeling some guilt around this time of year. It’s not uncommon for children who are thriving in their foster situation to struggle with balancing their loyalty to their birth family and the joy they’re experiencing with their foster family. This struggle may cause the child to experience both grief and anxiety, and to feel like they are betraying their birth parents or another member of their biological family.

As Florida adoption and foster care professionals, we always recommend that if you have a foster child in your home it would be best to confront these issues as soon as possible. You’ll want to sit down and talk with the child about what they’re experiencing and what the holidays will look like in your home, just so there are no surprises.

Tips for Talking With Your Foster Child About The Holidays:

  • Explain how you celebrate the holidays. It may be vastly different than what they’ve experienced in the past.
  • Ask your foster child about their past experiences with the holiday and try to include some of their family traditions in your celebration.
  • Remember, it is possible that your foster child has never fully celebrated this holiday before. Take some time to explain what’s going on and how they can be a part of the celebration.
  • Make sure you talk with your foster child about who is visiting for the holidays and prepare them as much as possible. It’s intimidating enough being in a foster home, imagine how strange it is to meet dozens of strangers all at once.
  • If your foster child is showing signs of anxiety, guilt, or depression; just try to connect with them and talk. Recognize the situation that they’re in, listen to them as best you can, and give them the space they need, when they need it.

So, as you prepare for the holidays, talk with your foster child about what they’re feeling and experiencing during this time of the year. Also, talk with your friends and family and remind them that you have a foster child in the house. It might cause them to bring that extra present or to jot down the child’s name. Little things like that will help your foster child feel completely included in your holiday celebrations.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can help your foster child during the holidays, check out this great resource from The Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition. And if you don’t have a foster child in your home, but are looking for ways to give back, revisit our blog post, “Ways You Can Support Children in Foster Care,” for some ideas.