Kris’ Corner – Blending Family Traditions

by Andra Martinez

I know some of you might be getting tired of me discussing holidays and birthdays and how they affect foster kids and the foster family…so I assure you that this is (probably) the last blog on this topic, at least for a while.

Focusing on holiday and birthday traditions familiar to only your family does not provide a foster child grounding or stability. In fact, it may even be a trigger.  The unknown traditions may make the foster child feel like an outsider and remind him that he hasn’t been part of this family…and possibly won’t always be part of it.

So, simply finding a way to incorporate the child’s traditions into the foster family’s traditions can be healing and soothing during a time that is most definitely difficult for the child.

This does not mean you have to bend over backwards and try to make things exactly as they would be with the biological family. Oftentimes an acknowledgement or an attempt at familiarity is what is healing to the child.

This might be as simple as opening one gift on Christmas Eve, or always having a certain thing like pancakes or cinnamon rolls for breakfast on a birthday. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just intentional.

So to do this, a foster family would possibly need to outright ask an older child what they typically do. Or what they would like to do; it is possible there is a tradition the child wants to have but has never been given the opportunity. And then as the foster family, include some of those traditions and family celebrations…if for no other reason to give that child a sense of familiarity and comfort in a time that can be very dysregulating.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “Sure, that’s great for older children…but what about the little ones?” So clearly this would be more difficult with a younger child. But, this is where a relationship, whatever that looks like, with the biological family helps. If you are able, ask the biological parents (or ask DCS to ask them on your behalf) if they have traditions for birthdays or holidays. Show an interest and a desire to keep them connected in this way. I’m certain it would mean a lot to the child and the biological parents.

So that’s just my little bit of advice when celebrating…simply incorporating the foster child’s traditions, to the best of your ability, no matter what they are…because even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal, it will be to the child.

Sincerely,

Kris