by John and Diane.
|Do your foster kids get a little TOO excited by holiday get togethers?|
The holidays can be stressful on foster families for numerous reasons, and joyful as well, and with everything to do with your little holiday elves, planning and preparation make all the difference in getting through holiday events with a smile on your face. Holiday get togethers with family and friends are no different.
Foster kids that have been in your care for a while may be all excited to see their cousins and aunts and uncles and may forget the rules while an influx of new children might be entering your lives and looking for calm in a time of happy chaos.
Although you may ask Santa for your eggnog and fuzzy slippers, your work is never done, but make the next month easy on yourself and Analyze, Prepare and Partake.
Analyze a Newcomer
As sometimes happens, you may have just met your foster child right before the holiday season, and behavioral issues may be masked or undiagnosed. Spend some time and figure out what kind of issues you may be dealing with before you jump right into holiday parties and trips. Ask yourself these questions:
1. Are they hyperactive because of ADD or ADHD or is it just because everything is new to them? Do they become so excited that they make themselves sick?
2. Are they afraid of new people and new places? Do they exhibit increases in anxiety in new situations?
3. Are they able to control themselves in the car? Can they settle down and control their hands and feet for a short road trip?
Get a handle on your new foster child’s issues and although you may be in the honeymoon period over the holidays, be sure to monitor him or her with other children and in other people’s home until you know the child’s history, mental and emotional background.
Preparation for your Average Foster Child:
For Foster kids who show the normal range of anxiety about new circumstances it is important to simply give them some guidance and forewarning about events and what is expected of them. Boundaries and expectations, as always, help kids with or without ADD or impulse issues and provide a clear idea for kids as to what will happen. The clearer a situation is the lower the anxiety will be.
1. One week before a trip or party tell the children where they are going, and who will be riding in the car with them. Tell them how long it will take to get there, and any other details about the trip. Trust me it’s better to do this before you’re driving down the road and have to answer this question while you’re driving.
2. If you don’t already have Car Rules now is the time to do this and go through them with the kids. Start to use them before the big trip any time you get in a car so they know how you want them to act when the car is moving. I can cover the rules for car/vans later in another blog post.
3. Discuss what other children will be at the party and cover any “friendship” rules while you are in the car. If your foster children need monitoring be sure to tell the kids that the rules are not changing and that Mom and Dad will be watching or that the kids must sit next to Mom and Dad at all times if necessary.
4. Have a game plan for discipline. Talk to your host about a place for time-outs and let the kids know, again, that if they misbehave or break the house rules you have at home, or rules for behavior, you will still discipline them. Be prepared to have one parent leave with a child who is breaking the rules. Only one parent should leave if possible so that the child can’t win by stopping the whole family from having fun. The parent that leaves must let the child know what he or she is missing and how that makes them feel.
5. Know your foster children so you can keep them safe. This may mean if you have a child with sexual problems you may not want him or her playing with young children or even some time older children unsupervised. They may get themselves hurt or act out and get a child from some other family in trouble because they were pulled into something and did not know what to do. So “keep you child safe” means keeping them from being hurt or hurting other children one way or another.
6. Role-play and go through how the other children will act to help them get over the nervousness of meeting new people. Give them ideas on how they can handle situations that are unfamiliar to them. Tell them basic things like, “just stand by Mom and Dad until we introduce you to the other kids ”or “bring a game you can play until you feel like joining in.”
By talking through unfamiliar scenarios you can squash a lot of the nervousness and fears and make foster kids feel more comfortable with holiday get togethers.
The High Anxiety Kids
Now, there are some kids who cannot handle the excitement of holiday get together and parties. The mere thought of festivities and whether they are happy-excited or anxious about it, talking the situation over in advance is not the right approach.
Now I know about kids like this first hand. I had a child who would work herself up into such a state of anxiety and excitement that once she knew we were going to a holiday get together; she would end up making herself sick. By the time everyone was ready to go, she’d be throwing up and then we would have to cancel our plans.
Now for the little girl, we could not tell her anything. Even as we left home, we made up a story saying we are headed to the store or to Grandmother’s home, as long as it was in the same direction as where we were really going. We would then keep her distracted with games to make the ride fun until we got to the real destination. Once there, she had no trouble fitting in and enjoying herself. Eventually the trips were easier for her and she got over her anxiety problems.
Partake… and have fun….
Overall, getting through holiday parties with your foster kids means letting your kids know that no matter how long they have been part of your family, they ARE part of something good, something bigger then themselves, and that being part of a family means respecting others as much as it means having fun. Try to keep your sense of humor and take time for those deep breaths always reminding yourself the real reason for the season…