The Holiday season is approaching – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years. These times can be especially challenging for children and teens with hard histories. Join us today as Staci shares 3 tips to help us navigate the holidays.
Getting Ready for the Holidays
It’s getting to be the most wonderful time of the year – holiday season! Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, and New Years are coming up quickly and there’s not a lot we can to do stop it. Maybe you are the type of person who already put up Christmas decorations, or maybe you are dreading the busyness all of the festivities. Perhaps you have fond memories of your family gathering for around the Thanksgiving table. Or, maybe that fourth Thursday in November was always so painful that you don’t even utter that holiday’s name. The way we approach the holidays is very much rooted in our experience when we ourselves were children.
In the same way, the children and teens who have recently entered our homes through the child welfare system are also approaching the holiday season through their own experiences. And guess what? That means it is likely quite different from how you are approaching these significant days in your home. If we aren’t careful to bridge the divide between differences in holiday approaches, we can be setting new foster children or newly adopted children up for big feelings and hard behaviors during this season. I want to give you three tips to help you prepare.
First, be sure to gain an understanding of what memories your children have around the holiday season. Were they removed from their parents in November or December? Did something significant occur around Christmas time? Being aware of history can help us know when a challenging behavior is coming from a memory that is hard to handle. Understanding history can come from asking case managers, reviewing paperwork that you have received, and simply asking the child about his or her holiday memories.
Second, in our well-meaning attempt to host picture-perfect holidays, we can easily forget to ask children who have recently entered our homes what they like about the season. Do they have traditions from their first homes that you could incorporate into your holiday celebrations? Can you make them a part of your planning so that they give their input? Would you ask them their favorite parts of the holidays? These questions will bridge that gap that exists when two different family cultures come together.
Third – and most importantly – do whatever you can to approach these children with incredible amounts of compassion. This is an extraordinarily difficult season for children who have been removed from their first families, especially with the challenges that 2020 has brought. Keeping that at the forefront of your mind will help you approach planning, preparation and the actual celebration days through the lens of what your children have experienced. Doing so will help you maintain that connection that is such a key to helping hurting children heal.