The holiday season is a time of joy, warmth, and family bonding. However, for foster and adoptive families, ensuring that every child feels included and cherished can require extra thought and care. Here are five ways to ensure every child in your foster or adoptive family experiences the season's true spirit.
Embrace Inclusive Traditions
Each child in your family may come from a unique cultural or religious background. Embracing and celebrating these differences enriches the holiday experience for everyone. Here are some ways I have done this in my family:
- Introducing Multicultural Celebrations: Research and incorporate different holiday traditions worldwide.
One year, my daughter became very close with a Jewish friend, and she came home and informed me that we needed to celebrate Hannukah. I said, “ok!” We got a Menorah and candles and lit them daily, then continued with traditional Christmas. Learning about each day was fun, and she bonded with a friend.
- Personalized Decorations: Encourage each child to create decorations that reflect their heritage.
One year, my kids made Nativity scenes on a wood piece from mini terracotta pots, fabric, and wooden buttons. All the buttons were shades of tan and brown that represented the heads of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. It was easy and simple for them to create a scene representing our family dynamic. I got little shelves from Dollar Tree; their scenes sit on each shelf yearly.
- Diverse Holiday Meals: Include dishes from various cultures in your holiday feasts.
We do a potluck each year with friends and family, and they each bring an item that represents their family heritage.
Creating an environment that respects and honors diversity will help every child feel valued and connected.
Create New Family Rituals
Bonding Through Shared Activities
New family rituals can forge strong bonds and create lasting memories. Consider:
- Family Baking Day: Organize a day where the family bakes and decorates cookies together.
Baking is one of my favorite activities! I don't bake from scratch anymore, but I will get several packages of the premade sugar cookie dough and let the kids use cookie cutters to bake the cookies. Then, they decorate the cookies with frosting and various sprinkles and candies. It's fun and messy, but it's such a great bonding time.
- Holiday Craft Time: Set aside time for making holiday crafts, which can double as gifts.
- Evening Storytime: Read holiday stories that reflect various cultures and experiences.
We read a holiday book and watched a movie in December on Friday and Sunday. We grab blankets, hot chocolate, and a snack.
These activities bring fun and reinforce the sense of family unity.
Foster Open Communication
Encouraging Expression and Understanding
Open communication is key to understanding each child's feelings about the holidays. This can be achieved by:
- Regular Check-ins: Have one-on-one conversations to understand their feelings and expectations.
- Group Discussions: Foster a safe space where children can express their holiday wishes and concerns.
- Be an Active Listener: Show empathy and understanding to their feelings and stories.
Communication is really important! One year, one of my daughters decided to act out ridiculously! Holidays can bring on trauma and PTSD, and we don't always know what triggers it. Christmas had typically not been an issue for this daughter, so I was caught off guard. The behavior was over the top and seemed intentional. We sat and talked because I needed to know her thoughts and feelings. I was shocked. She had devised a plan in her mind that to get what she wanted for Christmas, she needed to get Santa's attention. She felt the easiest way to do this was to get on the top of the Naughty list and then have him watch her being good to get on the Nice list. I will say it took all of my trauma-informed training, therapeutic parenting training, and willpower to handle this appropriately because she had truly sealed her position at the top of the Naughty list!
Understanding each child's perspective helps in making them feel heard and respected. I created a Self Love Activity book to encourage kids to understand their feelings.
Recognizing Each Child's Unique Needs
Every child is unique, and recognizing this can make them feel special. This might include:
- Personalized Gifts: Tailor gifts to reflect each child's interests and personality.
- Special Outings: Plan individual outings based on each child's interests.
- Private Time: Spend quality time individually with each child to make them feel important.
The holiday season is so packed with activities and gatherings, but such individualized attention can make a significant difference in a child's experience of the holiday season. I have five kids, and I try really hard to pick one thing about them to make them feel special and unique.
Connecting with the Larger Community
Involvement in community activities can provide a sense of belonging. This can be done through:
- Volunteering Together: Engage in community service or charity events as a family.
- Attending Community Events: Participate in local holiday parades, festivals, or concerts.
Fortunately, We have locally sponsored organizations through our agency or community partners that host annual events for foster and adoptive families. Check in with your agency to see what events are planned in your area. These events can be meaningful in so many ways! I have made some great friends in the foster and adoptive community by attending.
- Hosting a Gathering: Invite friends, neighbors, and extended family to celebrate with your family.
These activities help children feel a part of a larger community, fostering a sense of inclusion and joy.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How can I ensure every child feels included during the holidays?
Encourage open communication, recognize each child's unique background, and create inclusive traditions celebrating diversity.
What are some activities to bring a foster or adoptive family closer during the holidays?
Baking, crafting, storytime, and volunteering are great ways to bond and create lasting memories.
How can I respect the different cultural backgrounds of each child in our family?
Learn about and incorporate elements of each child's cultural or religious heritage into your holiday celebrations.
To help you make the most of the holiday season, here are some resources:
- Multicultural Holiday Books: Expand your library with books that celebrate diverse holidays.
- Crafting Supplies: High-quality crafting materials for your family's holiday projects.
- Personalized Gifts: Websites offering personalized gift options to suit every child's interests.
Remember, the essence of the holiday season is about creating an atmosphere of love, warmth, and inclusivity. By following these tips, you can ensure that every child in your foster or adoptive family feels the joy and magic of the season.