Ungrateful May Not Be What It Seems
Updated: Dec 15, 2020
If you are a foster parent, you have likely received training regarding how holidays for kids in care can be overwhelming, cause anxiety, result in an increase in behaviors, be uncomfortable when they are taken to our large family gatherings, and how this can trigger major feelings of grief and loss for children. Some of this is due to being away from their loved ones, being removed from all things familiar and not knowing what to expect, and changes in holiday traditions.
Prior to my sister and I coming into care, we had a family tradition of opening one Christmas gift every Christmas Eve, but this suddenly changed when we came into care. Even the simple act of putting up a Christmas Tree can be triggering. Every year at home, our mom would put our treasured ornaments on the tree, which included photo ornaments we made in school every year. We looked forward to seeing these on the tree, as we loved seeing what we looked like when we were younger. Not only that, it was one small way our mom showed she loved us in that she had treasured and preserved them.
Beyond these triggers for grief and loss most foster parents have come to recognize and watch for, there is also something else I feel we need to consider. This is behavior that may appear as a child being ungrateful when we do something for them or give them a gift. While it is sadly true that we seem to live in a world where so many seem to have a sense of entitlement, it is also very possible, with regard to foster children, that what appears as "ungrateful" may be something entirely different.
Prior to my sister and I coming into care, we had a very unstable home life where we moved very frequently. With each move, toys and other items were often left behind or sold to help pay for our move. Our parents would try to get us nice gifts for Christmas, but, due to the poverty we experienced, these gifts sometimes had to be returned to the store to put food on the table and gas in the car. Then, when we came into care, everything we knew and loved, including our clothes, was left behind.
When children in foster care have experienced such loss and instability, it is likely difficult to become excited about new toys and adventures when they know there is a real possibility these can be taken away from them. Why become attached to something or get excited about something just to lose it? They may also feel like they are a burden to their foster parents, and experience guilt about anything spent on buying them gifts when they feel their birth parents should be the ones doing this. In addition, when a child's whole world, as they know it, has just fallen apart, how can they can get excited about gifts and other fun experiences when their mind is weighed down by everything they have been through and experienced.
So, for this holiday season, my wish for everyone is patience, understanding, and compassion. If a child appears ungrateful about gifts you have lovingly and personally picked out for them, please don't it personally and understand that there may be much more behind this than what it seems.
Merry Christmas Everyone!