Written by Kristy Graves, a member of our Young Person’s Advisory Council and former young person in care.
Contrary to popular belief, the holiday season is not about presents, food, and Instagramming your blessings (I’m guilty of this too!). The holidays, whatever religious flavour they may be, are largely about spending time with family, giving thanks, and yes, maybe enjoying a meal.
For those of us that do not have families, or are unable to live with them, this means the holidays can be hard and painful. They can be scary and a huge reminder of how different we are and the things we don’t have.
Picture waking-up on Christmas morning in Canada and knowing that you have nowhere to go. That in the houses and apartments all around you, people are getting ready for a day spent with family and you are spending the day alone.
Imagine being a university student whose residence closes down over the holiday season, leaving you with nowhere to live. Do you go to a youth shelter for the holidays? Do you go back to your potentially toxic biological family? Or, are you lucky enough to have a great friend whose family will let you sleep on their couch? Either way, you’re left scared and wondering where you will be sleeping for the next two+ weeks.
“This is the reality that foster kids experience around the country everyday, but it all somehow seems more real and cumulative as you sit in an empty apartment, eating Kraft Dinner on Christmas day.”
Think about waking-up the day after Christmas, or your holiday celebration, and seeing social media flooded with images of how thankful people are for their gifts, their family, their house. Your only thought is: I don’t need presents or fancy food, I just need someone to love and want me.
These harsh realities don’t paint a picture of the quintessential “happy holidays” because they are real, and messy, and the furthest thing from happy. The loneliness and isolation are real, there is healing that still needs to take place, and no matter your age you crave a family. It is basic human nature to desire love and acceptance. This is the reality that foster kids experience around the country everyday, but it all somehow seems more real and cumulative as you sit in an empty apartment, eating Kraft Dinner on Christmas day.
Sorry to be a scrooge, but awareness is key. If the holiday season is truly about giving, then GIVE. Give your time through volunteer positions, give your abundant finances to organizations that help foster kids, and most of all give LOVE. If you know a youth currently or formerly from care, give them a little extra love this holiday season. A smile, a hug, an invite to dinner, a stocking filled with toiletry essentials. It will cost you a little piece of your time, but will remain eternally in their memory.