Celebrating Families and Traditions During the Holiday Season
By Monica Baudendistel
Wow! The holidays are here! Along with the holidays come anxiety and stress for “normal” families with 2.5 kids at home. As foster parents, there are usually more than the 2.5 average. I know that in my house, as an example, I can have as many as seven children - my three kids and four children in foster care. This can cause confusion about how to celebrate the holidays. No two families celebrate in the same way and it’s important to be flexible and understanding. The children in our care differ in ethnicity, culturally, and lastly, many differ in religious upbringing. It’s easy to follow your family’s traditions like hanging stockings, decorating inside and outside of the house, and decorating a tree. We need to focus on the children and what they were raised to believe or do during this time of year. You and your family can add to your traditions and beliefs and learn and grow.
Thanksgiving is celebrated at school still and there are many opportunities to create lasting memories without offending the families of the children in your care. If at all possible during the Thanksgiving lunch at school, it’s nice to include the families and invite them to eat the school’s version of Thanksgiving with their child. If the child (or children) still have supervised visits, it’s still a possibility because you can join them. It only takes 20 minutes, but it is a bonding experience without sacrifice on your behalf. We do this each year with our three children and with the children in care.
On Thanksgiving, most of the children will not have visits, so it’s imperative that each child is allowed to call their family and talk to them on the phone so they feel that they have not missed out. We usually eat dinner early, then have each child take turns calling their loved ones. Then the next day, we head to Estes and visit Mr. and Mrs. Claus for pictures and enjoy hot chocolate and watch the parade of lights.
Christmas can be touchy. Midnight service, candlelit service, decorations and other traditions. Some families don’t believe in Christmas, some have differing customs and their own traditions and ours may seem “odd” to them. Every child deserves the right to decide how they want to celebrate this holiday. One of our sons is Native American and we like to take him to watch a Pow Wow in the month of December.
Pictures are really important to the children’s loved ones. We take a lot and send them regularly, not just during the holidays. You, Santa Claus and caseworkers can all ensure that kids in foster care receive Christmas presents. Your caseworker can sign each child up for presents. There are programs that have bicycles, helmets, and a large stuffed animal for each child and these make wonderful “Santa” presents. If a child differs in religious upbringing, it’s very important that you respect the family and the child. Celebrating Hanukkah, for example, is a way for a Christian family to learn and grow. Yes, it’s extra work to celebrate both, but there are so many benefits. Your caseworker can help you if you have questions and the Internet is a great source to change things up a bit.
The holidays don’t have to be stressful or cost you a fortune. The holidays can be a lot of fun with lots of pictures, places and a true learning experience. The families will be grateful and the child will feel included and important. Just stay flexible, use the resources that are available, use the Internet to plan trips and welcome the holidays as the happy time that they are meant to be.
Monica is a foster parent certified by Larimer County.