What every normal family has been looking forward to for the whole year as a time filled with fond memories of love, laughter, joy, special family bonding time, and unique shared experiences; might just hold the complete opposite memories for your foster child/ren! For abused and neglected children across the word, this time of year holds terrible memories of pending trauma and unspeakable abuse!
Just imagine what the promise of this holiday season, or seasons past hold/held for them! Daycare facilities and schools are closed … parents are on holiday … family members and ‘friends’ are visiting … alcohol and drugs are been abused daily … children are often left to fend for themselves (seen not heard) … long days and even longer nights …!!!
Even after these children have been removed and placed into a safe and caring foster care environment, these past reminders can trigger fresh trauma responses — without them even knowing it.
Tips for Helping Them Cope:
- Recognize that what the child is feeling is perfectly normal given the situation. Let him/her know that you understand and that it is alright to feel the way he/she does.
- Allow the child to talk about it on his/her terms – resist the temptation to push him/ her into talking about their feelings or the past, but do not try to avoid it either. If the child has been seeing a counselor, ask for specific advice on how to help him/her work through his/her emotions, and use this time to aid healing.
- Start filling them up with loads of good, positive and exciting ‘festive’ season memories! Over time this will aid healing, to the extend of outweighing most of the negative bad memories. (However, if you sense any resistance to your attempts, please do not pressure them … just try another approach to spark some excitement).
- Keep them active but do keep things balanced (Avoid TO MUCH busyness).
- Use this time of year to dose them with positive thoughts (‘You are so special in God’s eyes that Jesus came to this earth to save you!’).
- Avoid emotionally charged or strained situations, such as visiting orphanages etc.
- Create your own ‘new foster family’ festive season memories, that they have a part in (such as each family member making their own Christmas tree ornament and re-using it every year, etc).
As a foster parent you can use these tips to reach out to him/her and make the holiday a little brighter and emotionally lighter. You can make a difference, one positive memory at a time!