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It’s the Holiday Season and our DCS foster parents are put in a tough position during the holidays. They have taken a child into their home, and provided them with a safe home during this season. They do their best and sometimes they don’t understand the feelings their foster youth go through because they have never been in a similar situation themselves. Below are a few tips to share with our foster parents.
1. Prepare the foster youth in your care for the holidays in your home.
Have a discussion with the young person about your family’s holiday customs. Do you celebrate over multiple days, or is there one “main” celebration? Are there religious customs? Will gifts be exchanged? What should they wear? Who will they meet? What preparations need to be done in advance? Will there be visitors to the home? Will they be taken on visits to the homes of other family or friends? And in all of these events, will your youth be expected to participate? Knowing what to expect will help to decrease anxiety around the holidays. Avoid surprises and you will decrease seasonal tensions.
2. Prepare friends and family before you visit.
Let people know in advance about new family members in your home. Surprising a host or hostess at the door with a new child may set up an awkward situation — such as a scramble to set an extra place at the table — making the young person feel like an imposition right from the start of the visit. Your preparation of friends should help cut down on awkward, but reasonable questions such as “who are you?” or “where did you come from?”
3. Remember confidentiality
You may receive well intended, but prying questions from those you visit with over the holidays. If your young person is new to your home, it is natural that family members ask questions about your youth’s background. Understand that questions are generally not meant to be insensitive or rude, but simply come from a place of not knowing much about foster care. Think in advance about how to answer these questions while maintaining the youth’s confidentiality. Use the opportunity to educate interested family and friends. Discuss with the young person, how they would like to be introduced and what is appropriate to share about their history with your family and friends. (Remember, they have no obligation to reveal their past.)