Ways to help foster children cope on Mother’s Day

Mother's Day Coping for Foster Kids

Mother’s Day can be a tricky time for many children in foster care. This is because it’s common for them to have experienced some sense of loss during their lives. In some cases, their mother or parents may have died, or have serious illnesses so they cannot take care of the child anymore. In other cases, the mother or parents may have unresolved trauma and/or Mental Health Challenges, leaving them unable to take care of their children safely.   

Whatever the reason, it’s safe to assume that Mother’s Day is hard for kids in care and hard for the moms unable to care for them. It’s important to be mindful of big feelings that may surface and to honour the relationship a child has with their biological mother, even if they are not living together.  

It’s likely the foster child will be suffering from the loss of their mother in their life on Mother’s Day – as this day will serve as a reminder, which can make them feel sad, or even dread the day approaching. That’s why we’ve put together this informative guide highlighting the ways to help foster children cope on Mother’s Day. 

Try to learn about how the day may impact the children in your care:   

As each foster child is different, based on their different experiences growing up. Some children in care may be indifferent towards Mother’s Day, while others may see it as a painful reminder that they are not with their mother. Have a conversation with the child about their thoughts regarding the day. You could ask them what they have done in the past to celebrate the occasion, and how they are feeling about the upcoming day. You can then use this information to plan how to manage the day to be as painless as possible for them. 

Acknowledge the child’s grief: 

If the child responds to the above with a clear sense of loss and pain, it’s important to acknowledge it. Encouraging the child to be open about their feelings, will allow them to feel safe that they can display this emotion on the day – and reassure them that it’s a completely normal and natural reaction to think of their mother on this day. 

If their mother is no longer with them, whether that means she has died or is unable to look after her child, you can ask them if they’d like to honour their birthmother on this day by lighting a candle or saying a prayer. 

Adjust expectations:  

Anticipate a change in behaviours days and/or weeks before and/or during the special occasion. Children express emotions in all different ways and big feelings can come out through dysregulation. Choose co-regulation before discipline and demonstrate your understanding that they are experiencing big feelings. On days where big feelings are in play, “teaching lessons” about behaviour is not productive. What they need is your presence, patience, and reassurance.  

Communicate with teachers and other adults in your child’s life:

During this time, it is not uncommon for children in care to experience heightened emotions, which could lead to them being distracted, or potentially angry and irritable.  It’s important that the adult role models in their life – such as teachers, coaches, your extended family, etc. understand how the upcoming day may affect the children in your care. For teachers specifically, this will allow them to modify the work set (for example, creating Mother’s Day cards) to also account for children who are no longer with their biological mothers.  

Make a plan with our biological children: 

It’s important to consider how involved a child in care, may want to be in the celebrations. If you have biological children already, they’ll likely be teaming up to help organize something special for Mother’s Day. As a foster parent, it’s important to communicate to your biological children to involve your foster child. This is an important part of inclusion and feeling accepted into the family, and ensuring that they are treated in the same way the biological children are. On the flip side, however, it is possible that a child in the care my not want to join in. Maybe it’s too painful, or they have guilt and conflicting loyalties. Whatever the reason, you mustn’t force them to join in if they would rather not. 

Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to celebrate:

Perhaps most importantly, remember that however you and the child(ren) in your care decide to celebrate Mother’s Day, there’s no right or wrong way. It’s likely to be led by the child’s feelings and emotions towards the day, so keep lines of communication open and ensure your child is feeling safe and secure enough to express their emotions during the day.