I will never forget when we got the call. I was laying in bed with a crippling migraine. My husband and I were just 3 months removed from our last foster placement. Up until that point we were unsure we would ever foster again. Our souls were still in recovery mode. However, the day before this phone call during my prayer time, the Lord laid fostering on my heart again. He was encouraging me that not only could I "survive" hard things but thrive in the middle of doing them if I would trust Him and fight for actual rhythms of rest.
Answering the phone, it was from someone who knew we were DHS approved and asked us if we could take two kids. It was 20 days before Christmas- between the words God had spoken to me in my journal the day before and the prayers my husband and I prayed, we knew our home was reopening again.
This is where Christmas and fostering comes in. We have fostered during 3 Christmas seasons. Two of our placements occurred in early December, this is very common for children to enter care at this time of year.
If you are fostering, or are a friend of someone who is, here is what I have learned in the practical for fostering at Christmas time.
Don't overbuy presents: Gifts are my love language: the more thoughtful the better. I have actually cried over oversized jumbo straws before. Cost isn't what speaks to me, being known is. That said, it was easy to think others would feel this way too. However, when you overbuy it can present difficult situations for the children you have in your care.
Overbuying can cause overstimulation- depending on their upbringing gifts may not be a part of their tradition. Children may shut down or not know what to do if they have several packages to open especially if all eyes are on them when they do.
2. Consider the Birth Families Traditions and Preferences: Do not be mistaken- if families don't purchase gifts in their traditions, it doesn't mean these children have been unloved or mistreated in this regard. Some families celebrate simply by enjoying being together and not by spending money on gifts. Completely disregarding their traditions can cause the birth family to feel judged or shamed. If they are unable to afford multiple gifts, this may set a precedence for the children that is unable to be met in the future. This can be counter-productive to promoting a good relationship with the birth family. Consider what kind of precedence is being set for the children by your actions. I have made this mistake of over purchasing and disregarding a families preference for minimalism before and regret it deeply. I want the children we care for to feel celebrated- always- but I don't ever want to dishonor the birth families in the process. This is something I have changed my mind through eating the fruits of those actions.
Now we use the "Something you want, Something you need, Something to read, Something to eat" method for gifts from now on.
3. Get to know the kids: What to buy? Consider having a "favorites" list in your phone to fill out as you learn about the child. They may not know what they "like" yet depending on what options they had before coming to you. I try to do this causally in conversation as we get to know one another. Phrases like " I noticed you draw a lot at school. Are sketch books something you would enjoy having?" Rather than drilling them one question after the other which could be stressful.
4. Set the stage of what the kids can expect: Talk expectations with the kids. Depending on the age group of your children will depend on what is needed. Before parties or holiday events, share with your child where you are going ahead of time, who will be there and let them know that you consider these people safe. Coming up with a code word for your child to express if they don't feel safe at an event can be really helpful. One of our children has told me that she really appreciates it if I talk through the "rules" or social norms of where we're going beforehand so she knew what was ok. Can she watch tv? Do we need to just stay in the living room? Are there toys? Will there be kids, and if so how old? Is the food a free for all or do we need to ask first? Those sorts of things.
5. Consider what's important to them. Ask your foster child if there is anything important to them that they are hoping either does OR does not happen during this season. This is a great conversation to have at the start of any month with your foster children - as different families celebrate different things and its good to be aware. You never know what may have happened during a holiday for a child. Make a calendar they can see so they know what to expect that month and when it will happen. Make time so they can ask you questions leading up to events.
If you're interested in becoming a foster parent, click here. It is such a beautiful journey!