Building New Traditions in a Foster Home

Photo by Bent Arvesen

Photo by Bent Arvesen

There are a few vital things that you must remember when it comes to Christmas or any holiday. First of all, celebrate them and play an active role in the school celebrations as well (bake cookies, bring cards or party favors, et cetera). The second thing that you must remember is to create your own family traditions.

As a family sit down and talk about the fact that you are all a “new family,” and you want to create your own family traditions. Then, ask the kids for their ideas. They can be as simple as watching a particular Christmas movie during the holidays, or maybe you all go to the movies after lunch on Christmas Day. Do you open the presents the night before or the day of Christmas? Let both the foster and the biological kids decide these things and think of creative ideas. Even go so far as to let them plan the menu for Christmas dinner or lunch. Who says that you have to have turkey and dressing or ham each year? Even if your family has done the same exact thing for the last 20 years, you can create new traditions. Begin as many new traditions as possible and perhaps even take out some of the older ones. You must lighten up and realize that the holidays are not made of the traditions but of the memories made. It doesn’t really matter when you open presents, what you eat, or what you do on Christmas afternoon. Sometimes there is pain for foster children in a very traditional Christmas celebration, and other times there is a great longing for a traditional celebration. Find out what your children want to do by simply having a fun family meeting where all the kids (biological and foster) plan the festivities. This is true for every holiday. After all, kids love holidays. Just make them fun and realize it is not about everything going perfectly (or the same way it’s been in the past); it is about bonding and growing as a family. When you expect children to come in and take on all of your previous traditions, they feel more like a spectator or a guest than a family member. You must help each child to see that he or she is a vital part of your family with an important voice.

That said, it is extremely important that you not have a family meeting and announce, “Well, now that Johnny is here we have to do things differently,” as you play witness to the chorus of groans. When you have the meeting, say something to this effect: “I have something fun for all of us to do. This year the kids are going to decide how we celebrate Christmas (or whatever holiday). I want everyone to think of at least one thing that would be fun for us to do as a family to celebrate Christmas and we will do our best to use everyone’s ideas.” Then talk about the food, presents and time frame of all of the events together. Let the kids share what they think would be fun. If two kids disagree on something that should be done, you find a compromise between the ideas or propose a new idea. Remember the point is to have fun and to insure that all the children feel that they are welcome, loved and extremely important in the family. Do not choose one child’s idea over another, because even if you do not mean for it to be so, that may be viewed by the child as favoritism — which defeats what you are trying to accomplish.

There is a particular entity called Heritage Builders that I have found to be extremely helpful. They have a website online at as well as books that you can order. One book is called Family Traditions by J. Otis Ledbetter and Tim Smith. I found it to have many great, practical ideas to celebrate any holiday. I listed other resources and holiday traditions that you might use in the appendices at the back of this book. The most important thing to remember is to make it fun and not get caught up in the details. This is such a great opportunity to bond as a family and share wonderful memories; don’t miss out.

Posted on August 18, 2014 .