Julie White

As many of us are aware, the holiday season can be a particularly difficult time for children in foster care. Something to remember this time of year is that kids in foster care are often dealing with trauma, and they are reminded of loss, traditions, family, friends and pets they are away from. While you’re trying to spread holiday cheer, children in your care may be less than receptive. Please remember to not take their attitudes or hurt personally. I know this is easier said than done, but trust me, they do not know how to express their feelings other ways. I’ve found there are some simple things you can do to help children cope with their feelings and enjoy this festive time of year.

If you notice children in your home are struggling, you can start by talking to them or asking them how they are coping with being away from their friends and family. Lending a listening ear and providing emotional support can help children cope with their feelings. In addition, give them something to look forward to, like making their birth family Christmas cards, or giving pictures from the kids—even to grandparents. Just remember their pain is sometimes seen as an outward hurt towards you, but that is truly not the case. They are hurting and do not know how to express it. Anything you can do to help their transition time can help them enjoy the holiday season.

You can always see if there is a tradition they like or even start new ones. I love taking my kids out to look at Christmas lights. We started already! We will go a few times a week, even just for 30 minutes to an hour. I also am that mom who has my kids get out and take pictures with the fun lights! Sometimes we even stop for hot chocolate. Simple activities like this can take children’s minds off some of difficult things going on, even just for a while, and help them make connections with those around them.

When it comes to older teens, the holidays can be especially hard for them, and they may even be able to express to you some of the hurt they are feeling. It is ok to talk with them about what they’re going through. They may appreciate it more than you know. If you get them to open up to you, even just a few sentences, they will express what is going on, and even how you can help. I try to remember not to say, “I understand what you are going through,” because I do not. I can sympathize of course, but my response is usually, “I am sorry you are going through that. How can I help?” Teens seem to appreciate just having someone listen to them and engage with them. So, ask them how you can help or what can you do to help make it better. Sometimes their ideas are the best! Also, you can offer some suggestions, but do not worry if they say no at first. They may surprise you and come around.

The more you can incorporate the kids in your care into your holiday traditions, or start new ones just for them, the more you can attach and connect with them and enjoy the holidays a little bit more!

The views of our bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views of the Kansas Department for Children and Families or Foster Kansas Kids.