So much food! A house full of family and friends! So much laughter and all those hugs! There’s just so much to be thankful for!
“But this is not my family. These are not my friends. They are all strangers. The food looks yucky. These people are all so noisy. And, they all look so happy. I miss my mom and dad so much. I miss my sisters. I just want to be in my own bedroom. In my own house.”
If there’s a foster child sitting at your Thanksgiving table for the first time, this may be their experience. As a foster parent, you have generously opened your home to a child. You want to share your traditions with her and welcome her into your family. But instead of a happy child, you see a sad child.
Consider this. It may be her very first Thanksgiving dinner. Ever. Instead of being thankful, she may feel that she has nothing to be thankful for. She’s never seen so much food at one time. Her family never had this much food all at once. Many days, they couldn’t even feed themselves. She feels guilty that there is so much food in front of her and she knows that her family has none. In fact, she never celebrated Thanksgiving with her biological family. Ever. Beyond making hand-print turkeys and talking about the Pilgrims at school, she never really understood what Thanksgiving, or family traditions, meant.
All of a sudden, this little girl is thrown into a celebration that she doesn’t understand, with people that she barely knows, without her family. And none of it is familiar.
If there’s a foster child joining your family this year, please take the extra time and care to make them feel welcome and a part of your family’s Thanksgiving tradition.
1. Before the big day, tell her what your family does for Thanksgiving and what it means to you.
2. Let the child know how many guests will be coming and that it may be noisy.
3. Give her an exit plan if she finds herself overwhelmed and needs to take a break.
4. Take the time to tell each of your guests a little something about your foster child so they can engage her in conversation. That way she’ll be able to make new friends and feel a part of your family.
5. Ask her what some of her favorite foods are and how her family prepared them – and make sure that food makes it onto your table.
6. And most important of all, let her participate. Let her mix, chop and help set the table. Because even though you may not be her biological family, being a part of a family celebration, and the traditions that go along with it, is something that everyone can be thankful for.
CASA’s wishes all families a happy and joyful Thanksgiving!