It is sometimes hard to imagine after all you have put into the holidays to make it special for EVERYONE that some might be feeling a bit sad or even angry. We have heard throughout the years that children in foster care will often have unresolved conflict with holiday celebrations. Here are some that come to mind and a couple with helpful hints.
1. We know you want us to feel at home with you and your family. We do try, but some of us in our hearts feel sadness that our own families are not embracing us as much as you do.
2. I still love my Dad, but I can't be with him at the holidays or other special times. I love that my foster mom took me out to shop for a gift for him and help me mail it to him.
3. My foster family can't replace my birth family...I miss grandma and grandpa and my cousins. I know that I can't go back home, because it isn't safe, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to be there. I did have SOME good memories. So, forgive me if I get a little sad watching you and your children give big bear hugs. You can't replace my family, but I know you want to share your love and home with me. I appreciate all you do, but I still miss certain things. It feels a little like my family is gone, but I still have hopes they will come through that door.
4. I sometimes wonder if any of my family is missing me at Christmas.
5. Our immediate foster family has included us in everything...but, when the rest of the relatives come to visit we feel a bit out of place. Families have sort of secret codes that if you haven't been a part of the family since birth and we may not know that code...sort of like going to a new school. A little letter from my foster family before the Christmas festivities began let me in on the little secrets that I wouldn't know...like Grandma always says the blessing, grandpa makes the best stuffing on the planet, last year Uncle Eric deep fried the turkey and burnt it up, we all hang one special ornament on the tree...stuff like that (oh, and I got a special ornament to hang on the tree with that letter). Sort of made me feel more a part of what was happening. I think they must have given the other members of the family clues about me, because Grandma asked me to sing "O Holy Night", because she had not gotten to the Church Pagent where I had a solo.
If any of this rings true for you this holiday season, remember it is not about you. Take time for yourself to grieve that the children may not be as happy as you had hoped or may not express the appreciation as you certainly DO deserve. Find a quiet space for the children and you to work through things after all the festivities. Curl up with a good book together or a favorite family movie. Remember they do KNOW in their hearts what you have done for them and you are laying the groundwork for a healthy, happy life.