From Our Clinical Director – Karen Cowan
It is time we start preparing ourselves for the Holidays which are approaching quickly. The holidays for us are full of joy, cheer, parties, and family gatherings; however, it is not that way for our children. Start preparing yourself by pampering yourself a little, make sure you have some you time and for married couples make sure that you have a date night. This will prepare you to be more grounded and prepared for the behaviors that our children can display over the holiday season.
The biggest thing that we see is depression. Depression is deceptive and when you hear the term you think of someone who is sad, withdrawn and sleeping a great deal. That most certainly fits the profile for depression, but our children sometimes become defiant, angry and argumentative; they have been making progress and now you see they are regressing, that can also be depression.
We all know that family is so important and that there is a natural bond between a child and their family and it is perfectly natural for them to desire to be with their own family. I remember an experience one time when I took my foster daughter to my family reunion. My family was very warm and welcoming to her. She went outside and got in the car. It was July in South Carolina, 100 degrees outside and probably double that temperature in the car, but that is where she went. I was very frustrated and did not understand. Later and when I say later, it was months later, when she told me it was too much for her. She said it made her really sad that her family never treated her that way and she wished she had been able to go to a family reunion where she was with her aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Your best effort to include your child could be the thing that is stressing them out. Also, remember they are the foster child at the gathering and they know that everyone knows that.
One of the techniques we teach the foster children to use is deep breathing. It is really helpful when you feel frustrated. Breathing helps oxygen to circulate which helps you de-stress and calm down. It is also not giving up your “authority” to take a time out. If you feel yourself getting angry or frustrated, take time to yourself and then process later. Remember how difficult the holiday season can be for a number of people. Think about how you feel when you go see your mom if she lives far away or you go see your favorite aunt and the joy of being in their presence. Most of our kids have never had those kinds of experiences or they have family things they did but will not be a part this year.
Ask the children if there is anything they would like to do. Go out of your way to include them in the preparation of the holiday. Let them pick out some ornaments that will go on the Christmas tree. Let them talk about things they did in the past. Help them feel valued and their families feel valued.
When all else fails remember to breathe.