Planning for the holidays: Tips for foster parents

Last updated: October 24, 2023, at 10:26 a.m. PT

Originally published: October 24, 2023, at 10:14 a.m. PT

male adult talking to a teen while looking at Christmas trees

As we approach the holiday season, it's essential for foster parents to be mindful of how this time of year can impact youth in care. For many children, November and December can be particularly challenging months. This article provides guidance and tips on supporting youth during the holidays, to ensure they feel cared for, valued, and included. By preparing for visits, making thoughtful plans within the home, and embracing the holiday traditions of the youth in your care, you can help create a meaningful and positive experience for everyone. 

Supporting Youth during the Holidays 

The holiday season can bring mixed emotions for youth in care. It's crucial to provide support and stability during this time. Be attuned to their needs and emotions, and actively listen if they express concerns or anxieties about the upcoming holidays. Offering a safe space for open communication can help them more easily navigate this potentially challenging period. 

Minimizing Stress during the Holidays  

Creating a plan for the holidays can help decrease stress and uncertainty. Work with the youth and their case manager to establish visitation schedules and coordinate plans with their biological family, if appropriate. However, it's also important to have a backup plan if a visit falls through. By having an alternative activity or celebration prepared, you can ensure the youth still has something to look forward to. 

Visiting with Family Members

Visitations with the biological family can be a central part of the holiday season for youth in care. As a foster parent, you can play a vital role in facilitating and supporting these visits. Offer to help the youth buy gifts for their biological family, showing your understanding of the importance of maintaining those connections. Additionally, consider extending support to the biological family by helping with the purchase of a gift for the youth in your home. This gesture can help the youth feel cared for by the people who mean the most to them. 

Planning Within the Home 

Involve the youth in decorating and let them contribute their ideas and preferences to create a warm and festive atmosphere within your home during the holidays. Take the time to understand and honor their holiday traditions and customs. If they come from a cultural background other than your own, research and respect their traditions, and consider incorporating them into your celebrations. This inclusion helps the youth feel a sense of belonging and validation. 

Acknowledging the Gift-Giving Season 

Youth in care often receive numerous gifts and donations during the holiday season. Take the opportunity to talk with the youth about their holiday traditions and desires. Discuss how they want to be involved and celebrate the season. Encourage them to participate in selecting gifts for their biological family's next visit, empowering them to express their love and care. This act not only strengthens their connection to their family but also fosters a sense of generosity and compassion. 

*Offer to help youth choose gifts for their family of origin. The Y receives a lot of donations around the holidays and loves to help youth in our programs gift these items to their siblings. Unfortunately, sometimes youth in care are separated from their siblings due to many different circumstances. 

The holiday season can be a challenging time for youth in care, but with the support and guidance of foster parents, it can also be a time of joy, connection, and growth. By planning visits, embracing the youth's traditions, involving them in gift-giving, and offering support to their biological family, you will create a nurturing environment that promotes a positive holiday experience. Remember, the key is to be present, attentive, and responsive to the unique needs and emotions of each youth in your care. Together, we can make the holidays a time of love, warmth, and lasting memories for all.