When you think of the holiday season, what memories and feelings rise up in you? Maybe you’re reminded of snuggling on the couch to watch the parade, feasting with family after a long day of cooking, baking homemade cookies with your favorite aunt, or watching with joy as your loved ones open gifts. This time of year, television and social media are flooded with images and commercials portraying happy families spending time together enjoying the season. For those lucky enough to experience such loving, fun and happy experiences, the holiday season can be the best time of the year.
Unfortunately, for the children and families connected to foster care, the holiday season can be difficult. It can be filled with the heavy emotions that result from being separated from their families, and it’s important we recognize their feelings of loss that may come up. As a foster parent, there are some ways you can encourage and provide opportunities for a healthy relationship between the child in your home and their biological family members. While it can sometimes be complicated, maintaining biological family relationships can help provide a sense of normalcy and promote healing for our kiddos.
Here are just a few ideas for connecting with biological family during the holidays:
Ask biological family members about any traditions they have with their children.
Incorporating some of their family traditions into your holiday plans can bring familiarity and comfort to the kids in your care, and it shows biological family members we value the connection with them and their family traditions.
Write a card or send a gift to let them know you are thinking about them.
You may be the only positive relationship for the biological parent of the children in your home. Sending them a card or gift may be the only encouragement they receive during the holidays, and it communicates we see their value and worth. This also provides something tangible they can read again and again when they need encouragement. Consider sending a gift with the child’s picture, such as a framed portrait or Christmas photo ornament.
Send holiday artwork from the children.
Often schools and daycares send home holiday-themed crafts and artwork during the months of October, November, and December. Many times, these crafts include a tiny footprint or handprint of the child, and this can bring so much joy to a biological parent who receives it. You can send them to visitation throughout the holidays as you receive them.
Schedule a phone or video call on or around the holiday.
This will require prior permission from DFPS if the kiddos are still in care, but a video or phone visit can be a great way to provide connection on an important day!
While the holidays can at times be difficult to navigate as foster parents, we have the opportunity to facilitate positive relational connections and memories for our kiddos. Maintaining a connection with biological family members, when safe and appropriate, can also lead to a deeper level of trust between you and the child in your care. If you’re navigating relationships with the biological family members of the children in your care, we’d love to come alongside you.
Our Partner Parent Group is a monthly space for foster parents to process boundaries, connection, and best practices for these sometimes tricky relationships.
And if you’re on the road to a healthy partnership with your kiddos’ biological family, our Partners in Permanency program could be for you.