Greetings and welcome to the second ASK blog about all things CASA for new and veteran CASA Advocates. I really enjoyed launching the initial blog to introduce you to this space where we can chat about what’s on your mind and what’s important to you. This is your space, so keep those comments and questions coming!
The focus of this blog is holiday practices and traditions, and how to work virtually with your CASA child. My guess is that the Halloween candy is gone (or at least the good stuff), and we’re finding ourselves feeling a little anxious about the coming holidays in terms of how and where to safely gather to celebrate, what to serve, and who’s bringing what. Perhaps we’re a little stressed about gift lists or money to buy gifts. Maybe we’re weighing the option of decorating or not if no one is coming to visit. Yes, we decorate to create festive environments, but who doesn’t love it when someone heaps compliments on our design theme or newest ‘new thing’ that adds just the right touch to the holiday table or front door or tree!
How have you been thinking about how COVID-19 will impact traditions and celebrations – that this year will certainly look and feel different? How will Thanksgiving and deer hunting, Hanukkah or Christmas, and Kwanzaa be for you when extended family cannot visit? Why set a beautiful table or decorate all the rooms in the house right down to holiday sheets, soaps, and towels if the only people attending are the same ones you’ve had breakfast, lunch, and dinner with since March?
Our CASA children may also feel anxious or stressed about the coming holidays. Imagine being in a new environment because of being removed. Imagine if your placement has changed and you’re in a new home and you don’t know the house rules? In addition to feeling anxious and stressed, I know I would feel lonely and confused. Who could I talk to? I would be so happy to hear from my CASA!
Our CASA children may not know when or if they’ll see their siblings or family during the holidays. I’m sure they’re frightened, a little confused and wondering how the traditions of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas, and Kwanzaa will play out for them in their new ‘home’.
So, what to do about all this anxiety, stress, and fear? Let’s start with two positive thoughts: By helping others, we are blessed, and Sharing kindness and compassion requires that we are happy and healthy. Be sure take care of YOU mentally, physically, spiritually so that you can take care of your CASA child. Begin now to research ways to better understand your CASA child’s holiday practices and traditions. Later in the blog, you’ll find ideas for celebrating together virtually.
While it’s natural for advocates to want to please and fix these precious lives, especially at holiday time, keep in mind that your role is to listen, learn, and be the voice of your child in the courts through your monthly reports. Ask your child what s/he wants the judge to know, then put that in your report. Follow up on their needs and wants.
In finding out what your CASA child’s holiday practices are, set aside your own practices and beliefs and actively listen to your child. Say things like, ”Tell me more.” Or ask, “How did that make you feel?” Listen and affirm. Ask, “How can we (you/me) work to make that tradition or memory happen?” Or, “What if this year the holidays are something new and different that you create?” Empower them by saying, “You’re in charge! What do you think about that? I’m ready to hear your ideas.”
So, for example, if your CASA child remembers making decorations or cookies with extended family, how can you recreate that? Here are some initial thoughts. First, check with your supervisor about the feasibility of sending a decoration kit to your child. Your local CASA office may have holiday resources for you to use. Next, plan a virtual visit where you and your CASA child make decorations together. Then, perhaps personalize the decoration you made and send it to your child. If cookie baking is a strong tradition, use a virtual visit to find out what kind of cookies, and then make a plan to mix and bake together – virtually. Remember to keep your CASA supervisor in the information loop, too! During the virtual baking visit, let your child lead you through the mixing/baking process. Empower them to ‘direct’ you around your own kitchen. Laugh and have fun – you are creating positive, new memories! Consider working with your supervisor to deliver the cookies to your CASA child and watch their eyes light up! Try sharing a holiday book virtually, too. You read a page. Your CASA child reads a page. Talk about the story. With a little creativity, the possibilities are endless. Your life will be blessed.
Here is a list of popular November and December holidays with 2020 dates:
Thanksgiving – November 26th
An autumn harvest feast celebrated with family and friends.
Observed in the US and Canada.
Hanukkah – 8 days beginning December 10th
Festival of Lights – a happy and joyous festival celebrating the
Jewish victory from Greek religious persecution. Small gifts
are given to family and friends each of the eight days.
Christmas – December 25th
Annual Christian festival celebrating the birth of Christ. Gifts
are exchanged among families, relatives, and friends.
Kwanzaa – 7 days beginning December 26th
African-American holiday celebrating history, culture, family,
and community. Kwanzaa encourages people to learn more about
their roots and to focus on values.
If you and your CASA child decide to create something completely new and different this year, let your imaginations run wild! Did you know that there are over 80 daily holidays and special days in November and over 60 in December? Here are a few clever and rather unique special days for this time of year: Deviled Egg Day, Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day, Clean Your Refrigerator Day, All Our Uncles Are Monkeys Day, Mitten Tree Day, and Make a Cut Out Snowflake Day. As you can see, anything is possible and here is how to do it!
How to create a Special Day:
- Give your special day a special name – Deanna Drawing Day
- Describe what the day is all about – Deanna Drawing Day is a celebration of Deanna’s talent to draw caricatures of her friends.
- Assign the date for the special day – Deanna Drawing Day is observed on December 17th (happens to be Deanna’s birthday!)
- Identify the creators of the special day and the date it was created – Deanna Drawing Day was created by Deanna and Miss Deb on November 23rd
- Use e-mail, texts, and social media to share the special day you created. Celebrate it every year!
The idea is to have fun with your CASA child during the holidays to recreate
and/or invent new ways of celebrating family traditions.
Thank you, again, for inviting me into your CASA life so that we can share our experiences by addressing your questions and listening to your comments and suggestions. I enjoyed writing this blog about holiday practices and traditions, and how to work virtually with your CASA child. May your celebrations be joyous!
Looking forward to hearing from you to discuss all things CASA!
Until then, just ASK CASA – Ask. Seek. Know.