Creating Normalcy and Joy for Children during the Holiday Season

Dec 19 2017

Child Holding Candy Canes

by Ashika Sethi

It’s that time of year: the tree is trimmed and the gingerbread houses have been constructed. The holiday season is officially upon us, and with the mid-60 degree temperatures (thanks, central Texas!) come a wave traditions and memories.

However merry and bright the shopping malls and Christmas movies may make the season seem, the season of cheer may not elicit that much happiness for some. For children in the foster care system, the holidays can evoke emotions and memories that aren’t all merry and bright.

A child who is involved in the foster care system may not be with their biological family during the holidays, and these children may have memories of being uprooted from their home during a past holiday season.

These children can associate feelings of intense loneliness and despair during this time of year. There is a certain lack of normalcy and feeling of otherness when a child doesn’t have a fond memory to share, or holiday plans to discuss with their peers at school. Past trauma associated with the holiday season can elicit different behaviors, and some children may act out as a coping mechanism.

However warm and welcoming a child’s foster family may be, a child may experience a sense of abandonment or betrayal because they aren’t celebrating with their biological family this year.

When working with children in the foster care system, it’s important to be mindful about their own associations with the holiday season. It’s important to ask them about their own happy memories, and the memories they may have about less happy times. It’s important to acknowledge traditions they had and try to recreate some of those experiences to bring a sense of familiarity and comfort.

During the holiday season, our CASA volunteers put in the extra effort to make our community’s children feel a sense of normalcy and joy.

This Thanksgiving, one of our children asked to travel out of state to visit a family member for the weekend. Their volunteer spent countless hours talking to multiple out of state family members and CPS offices in other states, requesting family pictures for the child to display in her foster home, and traveling to see the child regularly. Thanks to our volunteer’s persistence and dedication, this child was able to travel and visit her family member over Thanksgiving break!

Thanks to our volunteers, a number of children were able to attend a special night of holiday cheer at Austin’s annual Trail of Lights festival.

Thanks to one CASA volunteer, a child was able to privately celebrate her family’s Christmas traditions at a foster home that held differing religious beliefs. Our volunteer arranged for a meeting to let the foster parents know how important this holiday was for the child, and they agreed to turn the child’s room at the home into a winter wonderland, complete with a decorated tree, tinsel and presents!  

And for every child we serve, their CASA volunteer will be giving them the special gift or gift card they asked for. These gifts bring a sense of normalcy and the knowledge that these children have an adult they can trust to know them well and be a regular, positive presence in their lives.  

It’s moments like these that make the holiday season special for children in foster care - moments when someone makes a consistent effort to make sure that these children feel understood, happy and cared for.

We'd like to thank our Toy Drive donors for making this holiday season extra special for the kids we serve!