Holidays or big family gatherings are a tough situation for introducing your foster children to your extended family. Your extended family may feel uneasy about your choice to be a foster parent in the first place. Meeting the foster child/ren may help this situation or confirm their fears. Here are some things to consider when preparing your foster child and extended family for a gathering.
Try to introduce your new foster children before the main holiday or family event. If this is not an option due to travel or time, try showing pictures of your extended family to your foster child and go through their names prior to the party.
Make sure to give the extended family time to be just with you and your child/ren. Consider busying the foster children with a game or movie to give your children time to visit with a visiting Aunt, for example. Some foster children are very attention seeking and may unknowingly "hog the show". This may cause hard feelings within your family.
Remember confidentiality. Most people care about the plight of children. Some may ask what seems to be harmless questions about why your foster children are in care, but to answer these questions would mean breaking the confidentiality of your foster child and his/her birth family. Politely tell your family that you appreciate their concern. Then explain how you know that they'll understand that keeping the children's past confidential provides them more security and respect.
Have gifts ready for the foster children at family holiday gift exchanges. Offer this to your extended family so that they don't feel obligated to add to their already long buying lists. If they are able and willing to buy for the children be sure to tell them a bit about the kids and their interests.Here are a few easy to give gift ideas:
- Cap, mittens, scarves
- Holiday ornament to commemorate the year or something that the child enjoys.
- Earrings, necklace, bracelets
- Basic toys - dolls, Barbies, color books & crayons, action figures, trucks
- Fun socks
- Personal CD players and CDs. A good CD is NOW which has a variety of current hits. There is also one available with the top country hits. These are very well edited.
- Consider giving foster children gifts that will give them something to do at holiday get-togethers, like board games. This is especially needed if there are no kids their age at the parties. The kids may become bored.
Go over basic manners and rules prior to the get-together. Go over 'Thank You', 'Please', and 'Excuse me' and the situations in which to use these words. Remind the children to say 'Thank You' even if they don't like a gift. Go over other basics like no running in the house, table manners such as how food is passed, and chewing with their mouths closed. Consider practicing at home if time allows. Role plays can be fun.
Pre-teach about the party situation. Go over the number of people that will probably attend. How loud will it be? We had a foster child who became frightened when she interpreted a loud game of cards as a fight. Will there be a toy room at the party? How about a room that kids are not allowed? Are there family rules that are well known that you need to inform the children about? For example an Aunt that doesn't allow visitors to wear shoes in the house.
Pre-teach about the season. Do the children have a general knowledge about the holiday? Ask about their past holiday celebrations at home. Are they used to having a tree? Visiting Santa? Having a stocking? Do they understand the Easter season? Will seeing a Easter Pageant be scary for them? Some Easter Pageants can be quite graphic. They may be over whelmed if not scared by some traditional holiday events.
With a little bit of preparation family gatherings can be a joy for all involved.