In this article, we look at what you should consider when approaching Mother's Day with the child or teenager in your care.
First and foremost, it's important to remember that no matter the reason for a child living away from home – whether it’s because of abuse, neglect, or something else - they will likely still love and miss their parents, and you’ll need to make sure your young person can talk openly about them.
Mother’s Day is very difficult to avoid – supermarkets are stacked high with cards, chocolates and flowers, while school activities and classroom chat will often revolve around the occasion. For children and young people in care, this can evoke lots of different emotions and they may need a lot of extra support to help process these difficult feelings.
1. Understand what Mother's Day means to the child in your care
While you will know the history of the child in your care and their relationship with their mother, you won't necessarily know how they are going to feel about Mother’s Day until it comes around.
Every young person will react differently to the occasion. Many will feel a great sense of loss or like they’re missing out, even if they never celebrated with their birth mother. Others feel guilty because they don’t think they should be happy.
For children who still have contact with their birth mothers, they may feel like something is expected of them but be unsure what to do or maybe desperately keen to do something for their birth mother. Other children may want to honour both their birth mum and foster ‘mum’ or do the same as other children in the household.
It can be a challenging topic to speak about and can be upsetting for the child in your care, but it’s an important conversation to have. This way, you can find out how they’re feeling about Mother’s Day and what they’d like to do to mark the occasion. Asking questions about whether they celebrated it in the past and what their memories of it are like can be a good way to gauge this.
2. Consider ways they can celebrate their birth mother if they want to
As a foster parent, it’s an important part of your role to encourage positive relationships with the birth family wherever possible, including their birth mum.
If the child in your care wants to do something to celebrate their birth mother, then talk about different ways they could do this. It could be something like making a card for her or lighting a candle if she has passed away, or a gift or visit if she is still in the child's life. For children who have been through a bereavement, doing something symbolic can really help them on special dates like this.
3. Talk to teachers and other people supervising the child in your care about their situation
It is normal that in a lot of schools and clubs, activities related to Mother's Day such as making Mother's Day cards or writing about their mums will be planned. Naturally, with so many different types of families out there, schools and other adults who take care of kids will understand that there are some children who won't relate to these activities in the same way as those who have birth mothers they live with, but you may need to talk to them and make them aware that Mother's Day may be a difficult subject for your child.
You could perhaps suggest an alternative for them, such as celebrating families in general, learning about mother animals, or celebrating their favourite mothers from stories, rather than focusing on the personal side of it.
4. Consider if they'll want to join in with your birth children in Mother's Day planning
If you’re a female foster parent who also has birth children in your household, then you’ll need to consider how anything your birth children are planning to do for you might affect the child in your care.
While your birth children may want to keep what they’re planning a secret, it's worth talking to them about how they can be sensitive to their foster sibling. As a family, you can talk about your plans and see if the child in your care wants to take part too. They may want to join in with things like buying you a gift or making a card, or, if they are overwhelmed by Mother's Day, it may be more sensitive of your birth children to keep things low key.
If you have a partner then it may be good for them to manage this, but it is certainly good to discuss how the day might make the child in your care feel with your birth children.
5. Remind them there is no right or wrong
When discussing Mother's Day with the child in your care, make sure they know that they won't be judged, however they feel about it. Let them know that if they feel upset or emotional, they will be supported, and if they feel indifferent, nobody will put any pressure on them to do anything. There is no right or wrong way for them to feel or for them to celebrate, and the most important thing is their wellbeing.
Mother's Day, and equally Father's Day, can be a happy and fun time in a family, but can also be a time of difficult emotions and memories for some people. Remind the child in your care that this is normal, even for grown-ups, and that whatever they want to do will be respected.
By talking to the young person in your care, and to those around you, you should be able to find a way to navigate Mother's Day as a household in a way that is as comfortable and positive as possible.
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