Fostering joy in the most challenging time of the year

December can be a particularly grim month for a child to spend in foster care.

The holiday season magnifies every painful aspect of their situation. 

They wonder about the holidays they’re used to celebrating and what they’ll look like this year. Will St. Nick come to a house that hangs stockings rather than shoes in anticipation of his arrival?

Does Santa know where they are this year?

Will the parent who isn’t with them be okay?

The burden of their adult worries can squelch the merry right out of Christmas and affect behavior in ways the child doesn’t understand.

Sure, they can help decorate a Christmas tree, but they’re hanging ornaments that tell other people’s stories. They’re watching Christmas specials and reading Christmas stories filled with families that don’t look like theirs.

Even as their community rallies around them with events and gift exchanges meant to make them smile, these bruised little souls often question whether they deserve such generosity. 

So, sometimes, they behave in inappropriate ways. They refuse, because they have their own reasons, to participate in activities everyone else views as easy and fun. They don’t say thank you when they receive a gift because they might be confused about why the person is giving it to them, or feeling shy or overwhelmed.

They run around the room like Sonic the Hedgehog because it releases tension in their bodies they don’t even recognize.

While they love to open gifts as much as any other child, what these little people really need for Christmas is a big batch of compassion wrapped up with some nice, holiday slack.

Contingency plans become especially important for people who can get overstimulated so easily, genuine grace instead of judgment.

If a child has to leave a party, it doesn’t mean he or she didn’t appreciate the invitation or all the work that went into putting that party together. It doesn’t even mean they didn’t have a good time. It just means, in that particular moment on that particular day, they needed to catch their breath away from the hullabaloo.

I hope every child gets to experience a magical holiday season, filled with peace, joy and love. I hope every adult can too.

But, buckle up, man. The road through all that holiday fun can get bumpy.

I saw this picture on a royalty free site and it seemed just about right for this piece. What does Christmas look like to little people who are looking for it through unfamiliar windows?

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