It’s Easter Sunday.
Women and girls wear their new spring dresses. Many go to church to celebrate a risen King. Some stay home with family, cooking up Easter staples like Ham, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato casserole, deviled eggs and other treats traditional to each family. Children wake up Easter morning to dash into the den in order to find what the magical bunny left them. They often find straw baskets filled with colorful plastic grass, pushed down by the weight of chocolate, candies and small toys. Greedily, they stuff a bite of chocolate into their mouth before their mother can warn them to hold off until after lunch.
And lunch, quite often, becomes a reunion of sorts with a blend of nuclear and extended family. After consuming the bountiful feast, those who are not napping in the Barker lounge take the children outside to hunt previously hidden eggs!
We take it all for granted.
Foster children view the holiday quite differently.
Depending on their current length of stay in care, the family with whom they now live may be their third, fourth, fifth or even higher placement. The lucky ones who have a stable long term relationship have an easier time with family holidays. Yet, they still wonder why they cannot be with their own family.
Children who have had moves and instability can be really unnerved by the very traditions that delight other children. Extended family can be threatening as more strangers fill the house, laughing at old family stories they had no part in. Resentment is misplaced towards the foster parents because it feels disloyal to blame their parents.
It is not uncommon to see some trauma behavior surface: tantrums, cursing, fighting, meltdowns. If not prepared, trauma expressions could ruin your holiday plans.
Talk to your foster parents about how to make the holiday less stressful for all of you.
Talk to the child with the foster parents. Engage him/her around the plans for the day and what concerns him about each event. When he expresses a feeling, no matter how it seems to you, validate it and see what can be done to minimize the trigger.
It’s ok to allow him to sit out of an event. Have an alternative for him. For example if the child feels pressured during the egg hunt, let him help you hide them instead of hunt them.
As foster children begin to feel safe and stable, the trauma triggers eventually will lessen. But preparation, understanding and compassion can help you and your foster child experience a rich family holiday.