By Jeremiah Boone . Social Services Agency


Finding Meaning Amid Grief During the Holidays


For many families, the holidays represent a joyous time of year with nostalgic food, decorations, lights and time spent with one another. Parents hope to create those lasting memories filled with warm connections, a sense of self and hope for the future.


For many children in out-of-home care, holiday memories may give rise to feelings of isolation, grief and sadness, which linger for years to come. How do we heal the hurts of the past while creating meaningful memories they can carry into the future for children in out-of-home care and biological children? By being patient, understanding and flexible. The holidays present an amazing opportunity to nurture love, connection and lasting attachments. Here are a few tried and true ways to connect with your children this holiday season.


Let the Kids Lead


Sit down with the children in an intentional way to discuss how they would like to celebrate the holidays and build a game plan together. Communicate expectations, what each event would look like and determine the details. Anticipate difficult transitions and be open to new traditions.


Christmas Movie Marathon

Plan to watch some Christmas favorites. Make it cozy with fuzzy socks and hot chocolate or make a pillow fort on the floor for the adventurous. Classics like “The Polar Express”, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, “Elf” and “Home Alone” are a great place to start.


Bake and Decorate Cookies

Working together to make a yummy treat is a great way to build trust, build a sense of direction, mastery and creativity. Discover if there is a special holiday recipe to echo fond memories. It creates a less intimidating and competitive environment for conversation and storytelling.


Cruise Christmas Light Displays

Drive around your neighborhood, looking at the beautiful displays. Not only is this a low budget option, but it also provides a safe and less intimidating space. You can add your favorite holiday tunes, take along snack bags and even wear holiday pajamas.


Celebrate the Gift of Giving

Foster giving rather than receiving. Many books help with understanding this concept including, “The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving: The True Meaning of Christmas”. Guide your children toward helping in the community with generous acts of service. Provide an opportunity for children as active participants in the joy of giving through a small budget to pick out gifts for siblings, parents or grandparents. Consider artistic options like crafts or cards with purposeful words.


Build Anticipation with an Advent Calendar

These fun count-down calendars usually provide a trinket or candy and offer an exciting way for children to anticipate Christmas day.


Come Alongside a Foster Family

Take part in ensuring children in foster care have a sense of security and belonging. If you are good friends with a foster family, offer the parents a few hours out for a date night and/or a little holiday shopping. During that time, share a few of your traditions with the children in care, and maybe even help them make a special card or gift for their foster parents.


Read the following articles for more ideas on how to support children in out-of-home care during the holiday season.


“Foster Care & the Holidays”

Dr. John DeGarmo, Ed.D.

Foster Focus Magazine


“4 Ways to Make the Holidays Better for a Foster Child”

Alex Howard


(Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth)