I think for most, Thanksgiving and the beginning of the holiday season is a time to spend with family. I know, that’s not always a reason to celebrate. (tongue in cheek) But for many, it’s a reminder that you really don’t have a family.
Here are a few quotes from children in foster care about the holidays:
Holidays to this day is very hard! I will sit back and remember they way it used to be when the whole family was together, and I would shed a tear. I have my own family traditions now and I love it, but it’s still hard to remember the way it was. It makes me miss my brothers, sisters, and my other family members (miss them more than anything).
–Age 21, from Florida, in foster care more than 3 years
I have never had a real family to spend the holidays with ever since I went into foster care. I have been in a different home every Christmas. This one fact ruins Christmas for me every year.
–Age 17, from Washington, in foster care 16 years
It’s hard on me because my siblings are adopted out and I float around every year to different people’s homes. Yet, I still feel like an outsider. I don’t get gifts and only give to people I know or have become acquainted with since I moved here 1 1/2 yrs ago. It’s hard on me. I miss my father who raised me and gave us everything we wanted for Christmas when he was alive. I know how it is around the holidays when everyone else is happy yet I am remembering old times and I’m not making any good new ones because I don’t know how by myself yet.
–Age 20, from Georgia, in foster care more than 3 years
The holidays for me are very sad. I miss my family, My mom, and my three sisters. My father? I could care less what happens to him. I haven’t seen my mom and my sisters for about 6 yrs. now. and I had to tolerate my father for about 4 years. I take 2 years out because he was never around. I smile a lot even when I’m not happy and on the holidays.
–Age 15, from Tennessee, in foster care less than 6 months
12 ideas for supportive adults to help their young person through the holidays
1. Prepare the foster youth what the holidays are like in your home.
Knowing what to expect will help to decrease anxiety around the holidays. Avoid surprises and you will decrease seasonal tensions.
2. Prepare friends and family before you visit.
Let people know in advance about new family members in your home. Surprising a host or hostess at the door with a “new” foster youth may set up an awkward situation—such as a scramble to set an extra place at the table—making the young person feel like an imposition right from the start of the visit.
3. Remember confidentiality.
You may receive well intended but prying questions from those you visit with over the holidays. Think in advance about how to answer these questions while maintaining your youth’s confidentiality.
4. Arrange meeting your family in advance, if possible.
5. Have extra presents ready.
6. Facilitate visits with loved ones.
It is especially important during this time of year to help your young person arrange for visits with loved ones.
7. Help them make sure that their loved ones are ok.
8. Extend an invitation.
If it is safe and allowed by your foster care agency, consider extending an invitation to siblings or bio-parents through the holidays.
9. Understand and encourage your youth’s own traditions and beliefs.
10. Assist in acquiring gifts and sending cards to their family and friends.
11. Understand if they pull away.
Despite your best efforts, a young person may simply withdraw during the holidays. Understand that this detachment most likely is not intended to be an insult or a reflection of how they feel about you, but rather is their own coping mechanism. Allow for “downtime” during the holidays that will allow the youth some time to themselves if they need it.
12. Call youth who formerly lived with you.
The holidays can be a particularly tough time for youth who have recently aged out of foster care. They may not have people to visit or a place to go for the holidays. In addition, young people commonly struggle financially when they first leave foster care. A single phone call may lift their spirits and signal that you continue to care for them and treasure their friendship.
– quotes and list adapted from www.fosterclub.com
We know that holidays are hard for children separated from their family. I hope this information will help you help any foster child in your life this season.
Kenneth A. Camp
I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family. Read more from Kenneth at KennethACamp.com.