Take a moment to think back to a favorite holiday memory.
What were you doing? Who was there? What made that moment so special?
Cherished memories can help us remember what it was like to be a child around the holidays. They can help us remember the magic and what makes this time of year special.
As the caregiver of four young humans, I know what it feels like to get caught up in the other aspects of the holidays. There is a lot to do this time of year in addition to the typical busyness of life. Being there for my children and bonus children is not an item I can add to a check-list.
In the recent Supporting Children Through the Holidays panel, I was struck by the feedback of alumni of foster care and what they really want around the holidays. All the things foster parents do around the holidays are nice, but what matters most is how youth feel.
Here is what I learned:
1. The most important thing to youth is not being alone.
Everyone deserves to have someone by their side. It was important to some youth to see their parents or siblings. If you have case manager approval, maybe you could arrange for a video call on the holiday. Other youth mentioned it was important to be included in the traditions of their foster family. Something as simple as being included in a group photo can help a youth feel not quite as alone.
2. Make them feel special.
No one wants to receive four sets of lotion for Christmas. Is there a way you help the child in your home feel special? Maybe you can make a favorite dish together that is just for them. Maybe you can find that particular item on their wish list. Think about the ways you can honor that specific child and help them feel special.
3. Make room for sadness.
Spending the holidays away from parents, siblings, and friends can be difficult. Is there a way for you to be with the child in your care in their sadness? Do they need a few moments away from the large holiday meal? Do they need space to talk about who and what they are missing? Make room for sadness in addition to joy this season.
. . . .
Being there for children and youth experiencing foster care during the holidays requires thought and care. It is not about all of the things foster parents do, but it is about how the children feel. Don’t we all want to be seen, known, and loved? That desire is not all that different around the holidays. The things you do can help a child feel important and special. Maybe you can be a part of magical moments for a child this holiday season even if they are experiencing foster care.