The holidays can be complicated for families in general. This can be compounded when there are foster and newly adopted children. How do we help our new family members celebrate? How do we welcome them in without making things too difficult? How do we help them without overwhelming them?
Here are 10 tips to help in celebrating the holidays with foster and newly adopted children in the house.
- If you don’t already have a safe space, build a safe space. Have a place in the house where the child can go and chill out. Make it super comfortable with all the things that help your foster child relax and feel safe. Keep that place special and reserved just for them and anyone they would want to welcome in.
- Let them know that any and all emotions are welcome. Let the child feel whatever they feel. They could have all sorts of strong and confusing emotions this time of year and they need to know that all of those feelings are valid.
- Be patient with yourself and your foster/adopted child. Don’t take the child’s emotions personally. Don’t judge them or yourself too harshly.
- If possible, and if wanted, get their family of origin involved. Make time for extra visits or to do special things together. Ask them if they want to get a present for people in their family.
- Ask them about family traditions they want to do. Is there anything they did with their family that they want to do now in your house? Try to incorporate those traditions as best as you can. If they are of a different faith tradition, consider taking them to their house of worship.
- Invite them into your family traditions. Don’t force your family traditions on them. They might not feel comfortable with it. If it is really triggering, consider taking a year off.
- Ask them if there is anything new they’d like to try. Sometimes the best way to get through a tough holiday season is to try something new. Maybe they’d be interested in going somewhere or trying a new tradition. Think outside the box.
- When making plans with others, keep your child’s comfort in mind. For example, if you usually go to a party, maybe it would be best to host it at your home so that the child feels more comfortable. Maybe plan the party for earlier in the day so that the child can keep to their routine.
- Ask ahead about presents for the child. If one of your children is in a program where they will receive a present, clarify if the program will be giving something to the other children, too. If a family member usually gets gifts for your kids, ask them to keep your foster children in mind as well.
- Keep your expectations in check. Everything might not go smoothly. There may need to be changes and you may need to pivot. You may be dealing with big emotions. Just go with the flow and go for what works for your family.
It is a gift to have your first holiday season with your foster or newly adoptive child. This gift can sometimes be hard and the heightened pressure of the season can make the holidays difficult for everyone. With patience, love, flexibility, and good communication, you can make it through the season and help it to be a joy for your family.
Here are a some videos we found of experienced foster parents sharing some of their best advice:
By Bethanie Ryan