Children in Care and the Holidays

The end-of-year holiday season is typically associated with joy and family; however this year may seem a bit more stressful due to restrictions arising from the ongoing pandemic. The impact on children may be more than we realize because they might not understand why things are different this year. For children in foster care, the pandemic may be compounding their uneasy feelings and emotions if they are unable to be with their biological family during the holidays. Many children in care have experienced positive holidays with their family and being in a new environment, possibly not engaging in family traditions or cultural activities they are accustomed to can be very difficult, maybe even stressful.

Child welfare professionals and caregivers can help children who are away from their biological families this holiday season by:

  • Talking to them about the holidays. Ask whether they celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or anything else. Caregivers may consider adding in some of the child’s traditions to make them feel a little more at home, even if it is something they are not used to doing.
  • Helping children stay in touch with biological family members whenever possible. If a child is spending the holidays away from siblings, it can make their experience much worse. Make a plan for children to stay in touch with parents, relatives and friends whether it is by setting up a phone or video call or even sending a card in the mail.
  • Understanding it is normal for children to feel sad or depressed because they are not with their biological family. They may even act out or regress to old or negative behaviors. It might be their way of coping with a stressful situation.

    Credit: USF Center for Child Welfare