–10 Things EVERY family should consider doing this Holiday season —

10 Things EVERY family should consider doing this Holiday season


” First and foremost let me begin by saying, the following letter sparked an idea that I believe leads into something bigger — and more importantly —  tradition exploration, discovery, and building.”

 Dear: Parenting 911

My husband and I have been married for 5 years. We were both products of the states we were born in, Until my husband  Julian and I met. He came  from a Rhode Island home — to the foster home in which I lived near Boston, MA. We were both heading to college and were only resident’s at this home for a brief period together. As the oldest children in the home of 6 kids and one foster-mother, we grew close fast.  Being older also made the closeness very different from “foster-brother / sister” relationship — that would usually develop in these situations. Instead we found ourselves falling in love with  each other a bit more every day.

We had many mixed emotions — from both incredibly excited to deeply saddened — once we headed of to college. Unlike most of our previous foster parents, this home, this family was good. In the short time spent there we learned pretty much all we know to this day — about what family, and a family unit is. We learned a little about the holiday spirit — and a lot more about “what it TRULY means to give.” Our foster-mother was a sweet soul, kind-hearted, and loving.

Now that we have finished school, are married, and established in life — my husband and I decided to give back in the way that felt the most fitting to us. We had decided to become foster parents ourselves. However the one major thing missing from our childhoods is something very important to us, to instill in the lives of our “Foster Kids” — however long we may have them.

Tradition and holiday spirit, love and respect for a “real” family unit is a huge deal. Now we find ourselves at an impasse — since neither of us really know much about any of that besides the LOVE. We have created mini couple traditions, but these are not something we can do with our current — and first time foster’s. Nadia and Eli are full blood brother and sister.They have lived with us for 6 months.

Summer was easy and Halloween too, elementary basics — for entertaining kids. And now as the Thanksgiving and Christmas season roll around — we are realizing more and more that we just may be out of our league here. Nadia is 12 and Eli is 6 — we have no idea how to give them what we missed out on. BUT WE REALLY WANT TO DO THIS RIGHT….. Any advice on creating tradition, while on a learning curve ourselves?

Sincerely: Eggnog as a night-cap

Dear: Eggnog

Not only is “Your story” one with the potential for a Chicken Soup for The Soul book — but also truly touches, no matter if you’ve had experiences similar to yours — or an average, normal or even great upbringing. We thank you for sharing, and also for seeking out the advice of Parenting 911.

I would also like to commend the mother at your last foster home — as I’m sure she may have been unable to provide you with ALL she may have wanted — however, she at the very least planted the seed of tradition, which your husband and yourself carry with you to this day. She is an outstanding woman whom I would like to recognize publicly for her dedication to being what seems nowadays –“The exception to the rule” of fostering………

Hats off to you Ma’am, and wherever you may be, THANK YOU!!!!!

This is as easy as it is tough to advise upon these days. It seems that just about EVERYTHING we see regarding the HOLIDAY SEASON — has become more and more commercialized. Still, there’s no debating that all who carry the Holiday Spirit in their hearts and souls — can attest the true meaning of the season. The root of all things holiday, and holiday inspired is — you guessed it — GIVING…..

Whether THANKSGIVING  or CHRISTMAS, HANUKKAH, etc. the root of the season and all things is giving. Thus the terms — “The season for giving” — ” Giving the gift that gives back.” and many, many others.

According to Dictionary.com the definition of

TRADITION: <—-Click here for the Dictionary definition.

It’s a vague and generalized definition of course but a starting point. I also believe your cumulative childhood experiences make another great reference point. Thinking back on all the things “each of you ” felt were missing from your experiences during the holidays, aren’t they more of a tool than a disadvantage ? Use those memories and or emotions to draw from — set goals — and aspire to achieve the desired result. I know the “Foster care” system is hard — chaotic most times — never knowing what’s next, what to expect, or where you’ll end up. With that in mind I will begin my advice with an assumption — if inaccurate, I recommend putting this into practice as soon as possible. All that being said HERE WE GO!!!!!!!


The chaos and unknowing side of foster care, and all in other forms of being “in the system” — are inherently hard to break away from, especially when it is all you’ve known. I assume your husband and yourself — through growing up, attending college, and beginning careers — have taught you the un-comparable benefits of discipline, routine,  and motivation. It’s not so presumptuous to say that — I believe you have everything you NEED, already ingrained in yourselves — to carry out these tasks without our help. However I do also believe in the” when in doubt ask” strategy — you have selected. I hope to help you accomplish the holiday season you both seek!!!!!


Though you and your foster’s may share the same title as “foster children” — your experiences in all probability, have been substantially different.

Ask them about their experiences, good and bad — the things and info you may not have been made privy to upon taking them in. If they choose not to talk about it ? More than okay too. As you are well aware, it takes time to trust, believe in, and open up to ANYONE. Although I still believe this  step great and well worth trying. It offers you and your husband a launching point to their mental and emotional well-being — allowing you to cater to what they NEED — and not necessarily what you “think” they need. This conversation would front upon assessing how much they know about tradition and what their experiences have been thus far.


First I will give you 5 Thanksgiving and then 5 Christmas PERSONALIZED TRADITION ideas —  that I believe you and your family can build upon, add to, or even use just use as-is. I will combine Thanksgiving and Christmas here, since they are both tradition-oriented. CHEERS TO TRADITION!!!


                                                                                              The Bucket List

  1. A Thanksgiving “BUCKET LIST” is an amazing idea and very meaningful in so many ways. 

Thankful bucket list

There are a few ways to use this idea — any of which serve the purpose. The first one I find to be really cool and probably the easiest to pull off, without overwhelming the kids.


  1. For each bucket EVERY member of the family must write something or someone they are thankful for — coinciding with the letter on the front. One a day for the remaining days until Thanksgiving.
  2. Each member can also write things they are thankful for at random times — with no alphabetical or other kind of rule — and drop them in at any time they feel they want to.
  3. The day of or night before Thanksgiving , divide the buckets between the family members — and read aloud the contents — or if the children are still to shy, you may all swap buckets and read them to yourselves.


  1. Take the same steps as number 1 & 2.
  2. Read before the meal is served instead of the usual go around the table expressing what you are each thankful for — which is also an option and great idea

The Tree of Thanks

This idea came from a blog I happened upon. I thought it was a really fun way of expressing thankfulness and creating grateful hearts. You can find more on this (besides my version) at http://momstown-artsandcrafts.momstown.ca/node/684. The basic idea : create a tree big or small, family, or — in my opinion, a nice version of this idea involves individual trees. Trace the hands of both parents and the kids too — then cut out as many as you like. Make a basic brown leafless tree for the bedroom door of each family member. On the days leading up to Thanksgiving — write the things you are thankful for and something special about each family member on separate cut-outs. weather as a family or when they feel comfortable attach the “leaf / hand print”, to the corresponding door. Obviously it is easier to lead by example — so I would advise — that you show them by, perhaps, saying something that makes them special etc. AND DON’T FORGET TO PHOTOGRAPH EACH TREE — as it will come in handy on another project.


I’m assuming that since your husband and yourself were both foster children, you probably don’t have much if any family of your own to speak of — please forgive me if I am wrong. Based upon that assumption, I believe it not so far-fetched to feel a sense of kindred spirits — also with those who are without family. So, reaching out to your local VA, nursing homes, shelters, local churches etc –in search of a “Family member to Foster” — even if only for the holiday, may help the kids to realize the importance of giving — while the whole family gains the insight and a sense of self by helping another. The stories of the elderly and the thankfulness on the faces of anyone you help, just may help the kids as well as yourselves. If that’s not an option,perhaps a soup kitchen, or food pantry may be an alternative worth looking into.

adopt a family

5 Kernels of Corn Story

I happened upon this story in virtually the same way I do most things, and found it  a great story — also an awesome way of creating a simple tradition — that can easily be remembered and passed down. You’ll find it here – 5 Kernels of Corn Story. Most families agree that reading it before their Thanksgiving meal every year, as something the whole family looks forward to.

5 kernels of corn

Family Photo — Positive Reinforcement

Having a family photo taken or more probably — camera set to auto timer, take a family photo. Have the kids and yourselves fill out a small sign that says something like “This Thanksgiving I learned that I am ______” Again this WILL come in later.

There are also things such as trying new recipe’s and hay-rides, right down to silly things like dressing like pilgrims, Indians or both. It is YOUR FAMILY, make these tradition suggestions your own.

indians and pilgrims


There are so many many possibilities here, but since you did mention in your letter that you celebrate Christmas in a more traditional sense — I will cater to that knowledge.

I first advise this :  if the kids do not have a phone or camera, invest in some throw away’s.  Second, I suggest you invest in three scrapbooks and some materials to use with them. One mini scrapbook per child and one “Family Scrapbook”. The Family one will or can be used for all that you do together and is not limited to the current members of the family. If children are added, or however you may or may not have planned your foster parenting future to go — this book may serve as a precious reminder, and definitely will become a family heirloom to you and your husband. The individual scrapbooks are travel size, and whatever happens those memories were made and have been put away — almost time capsuled for them. Memories are one of the most precious gifts we can give as Parents, Teachers, and Role-models.


Again, you might seek out community help or just flip through a phone book — each member can select as many people as they like. Be it a store-bought box of cards or hand-made — write an uplifting message wishing the a “Merry Christmas” or Happy Holiday Season”, even a wish for “Good will, and Many Blessing’s”. You never know what kind of ripple effect just that tiny gesture may generate. Or how it may impact the recipient. Slap a stamp on them and send them on their way.

christmas card


My family has a tradition that I have passed on — it’s one of my favorite things about Christmas Eve. That’s right I said Christmas Eve….. Every year my mother would buy and wrap both new Christmas Pajama’s and an ornament that she selected — that reminded her of me — and she would do the same for my sister. She would wrap them and give them to us after we finished up our Christmas cartoons, after we had heard the infamous “You’ll shoot your eye out” — for the last time before Christmas morning. To this day we still get P.J.’s and an ornament dated in shiny silver or gold sharpie — with the year on the back. All the years of this tradition made it so that come when we moved out on our own — our first Christmas trees did NOT resemble Charlie Brown’s…. And it is a great way to remember what you were like that year…(One year I received a little mouse ornament holding a phone “I’m guessing it was to imply that I was always on it” — though not much has changed phone use wise, I now know the exact year it became attached.)


Many neighborhoods, churches, parks and even specific places go ALL OUT with lighting take a family trip, AND lots of pictures!!


Much like the normal secret Santa, everyone draws a name from something — hat, jar, cereal box — it doesn’t matter. The goal being to accord that person something that reminds the “Secret Santa” of the person picked. The present should include a reason they are thankful for the other person, and a quality they have that the “Santa” admires or loves about them. Swap them whenever you feel is the right time.


There are so many ways to give back; Google them if you are truly at a loss. I suggest bringing the kids to a toy store — and your husband and yourself, visit the men’s woman, and self-care products. Have each child choose a few presents perhaps one for a girl one for a boy etc. Visit your nearest children’s hospital — ask the nurses desk who could really use some cheering up that day? Pay them a visit. A gravely ill child is so grateful to have other kids visit and PRESENTS!!!! Well that’s just icing on the cake. The Parent/’s of an ill child are grateful for a clean shirt, toothbrush, deodorant, and other toiletries — all things we tend to take for granted. Be a blessing, the kids will gladly follow suit…

drawing family holdinghands

The holidays are all about giving as I stated above. Weather you are giving your time, love, experience, an actual item, knowledge, the gift of hope or in my case advice — I wish you and your family — as well as all the families in NEED, that you receive more from what you give than anything you “could” receive. Tradition is started by simply repeating a memorable thing, or action over and over.

— Heather Cornell (c)November 7, 2013

Sincerely: Parenting 911


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