Foster Families and Holidays
Foster carers need holidays, children and young people need holidays, fostered children need holidays. The issue may be, does everyone go on holiday together or separately? It really depends on the situation, as all fostering situations are different, as are the families , relationships and the characters involved. The benefits of a holiday, include a more relaxed routine, the promise of sunshine or an opportunity to experience a different culture and lifestyle. For many foster families, taking a holiday can be even more stressful tan being at home. Some children can find the loss of a predictable structure or routine with an unfamiliar environment can send them into ‘meltdown’. For other fostered children the core their core belief of ‘I am bad’ is so strong that they believe they don’t deserve the good things in life, so they escalate their behaviour to ensure that they and often everyone else involved, have anything but a good time.
Planning a holiday
Consider the timing of the holiday. If the foster child is unsettled by contact with their biological family, see if it can be arranged to take place after the holiday, so you are not overloading them with stressful situations. Acknowledge that holidays can be stressful for them and continue to check out their emotional state throughout the break. Try and involve the child in the planning process as much as possible, as feeling in some control helps create a sense of stability. Try and involve the young person when researching destinations, looking on the web or in books, so the child knows what to expect of the place or country.
When going on holiday foster carers need to be clear from the start of what the ‘ground rules’ are, so the child does not build up unrealistic expectations. Holidays are a time to tighten up the rules for fostered children and not to relax them. a child who is already unsettled benefits from the tight structure, which may be similar to that at home. try to maintain the same routine as at home, including bedtimes and meal times.
If its the the child’s first holiday abroad, take a day trip to the airport so you can watch the planes and discuss the processes involved when flying, as this can really help with anxiousness. Bu a special holiday bag or suitcase, so there are no connections between their luggage and previous moves in care. Make a holiday diary and draft a rough timetable for each day, the fear of the unknown increases anxiety.
If the young person has requested something special to do on the holiday, let them do this at the start of the holiday. They may have experienced continuous broken promises and their anxiety about whether or not the activity will actually happen can overshadow everything else.
Not all foster families need to go on holiday with their fostered children. Some do need a break from the challenges and difficulties experienced. Many children and young people do go into ‘respite care’, but what could also be a good option for fostered children could be an activity holiday. PGL holidays provide excellent holidays for children and young people, which have been a success with a number of Looked After Children.