This is our third Christmas as foster parents, though our first year Pterodactyl moved right before Christmas. I've been thinking about the complex issue of gifts and foster children.
We were asked back in September what the foster kids would like for Christmas. An organization works with our agency to donate gifts for foster children to make sure they have a very special Christmas because they are going through so much. It is a good idea, but it does have some unintended consequences at times.
To begin with, we feel the need to fight the way Christmas gifts seem to spiral out of control. A grandparent was only going to get one thing, but then they saw something else, and then they wanted this for stocking gifts. So, we simplify with only giving three gifts to our children, biological and foster. But then that clearly is going to be off-balance when the foster child is receiving gifts from the donations, and possibly gifts from his or her biological family. I don't really want to buy more just to balance the number. Last year we opened them separately so the "balance" wasn't really noticed, but I'm wary of doing that as one biological child is having a very hard time understanding the giving is better than receiving concept. Yes, he needs to learn, but he's young, and he is going through a lot as a foster sibling. So, I think this year I'll pack up the donated gifts in one box and I think it might go under the radar.
Then there is planning for shared gifts. If we buy this for all the kids, but it's for the foster child to open, will it go with the foster child? The answer is yes, and that is completely how it should be, but it just adds a layer to planning things out.
Then there is the gift opening and how it can be overwhelming. With Cricket, she shut down around too many people, too many presents. She was awesome at telling me this and we got through it fine. Crocodile is not as communicative about his feelings, but just tends to rev up the energy to be wilder and wilder. I'm hoping for a mild Christmas so we can run outside.
But there are nice parts to opening gifts. We get gifts for a foster child's biological siblings, and the foster child and our biological children pick out small gifts for each other (notebooks, toothbrushes, etc.) Sometimes it's nice to have the excuse to buy a high-quality toy you know your foster child will love. I'm not much of a shopper throughout the year, so we have some stipend money to spend on Christmas beyond our little $25 Christmas gift allowance.
How has fostering affected your gift giving around the holidays?