I think for most kiddos, the holidays are this wonderful time of year filled with family, presents, and special meals and events. Foster kids aren’t most kids, though. Some may have trauma tied to a specific holiday, others struggle with the idea that it is another holiday that they aren’t with their biological family, and for others the chaos and intensity of the holidays may just be utterly overwhelming. Whatever the specific case may be, I have learned a few things that have been helpful for my kids as we navigate the holiday season together.
1. Prep them ahead of time. I think this is true if it is going to be your first holiday with your foster child or if they have been with you for more than a year. My boys need to know what to expect and they will ask a million questions ahead of time in order to squelch just a tad bit of their anxiety. If you are going to an event, who is going to be there? What type of food will be available? What will people be doing? What may seem common to you may be weird and unusual for your child.
2. Have an exit plan. We rarely ride with other people to events for this very reason. If your foster kiddo gets too overwhelmed at the Christmas Eve family dinner and needs to leave how will you get home? It’s easiest to have your own quick way out. Based upon your child’s level of communication you may have a special word or hand signal if they are needing you for a breather. Our ultimate goal is to help our kids before they have reached a level 10 on the meltdown thermometer. So, how can you prepare and help your child before that point? I carry a little makeup bag with things like silly putty, stickers, and suckers so if we are out and need to take a few minutes to ‘calm our bodies’ then we have some handy tools to help.
3. Keep things simple. If you were used to going to numerous holiday events with family and friends prior to having foster children, it may be time to re-think your plans. That doesn’t mean to toss them all to the side, but perhaps prioritize what is most important to you and your family. My boys can usually handle one social gathering over a weekend, but much more than that and it turns miserable for everyone real fast. Not only do I keep things simple for the boys, but it’s also essential for me.
What helps you and your family navigate through the craziness of the holidays?