Tough Road Ahead

Today is October 31st, Halloween; it is the beginning of what is usually the toughest time of the year for residential childcare workers. At least it is for me. In my experience the period from October 31st through January 1st is the toughest two months of the year for being a houseparent.

We currently work at a long term residential facility so Halloween is not so much a factor, but when we worked in a community group home in Wyoming you could always count on at least one new placement on Halloween, additionally you could count on a few of our residents getting dropped a level or two if they were allowed to be off facility on Halloween. After the first couple of years, it became home policy that youth were not allowed to be off grounds at all on Halloween and we usually planned activities that would take us out of town that evening. I know many say that Halloween has become a harmless fun holiday for the kids, but my experience since I started working in residential childcare says otherwise. It seems that many at-risk youth figure that they can just take advantage of the darkness of the holiday.

The day after Halloween has also become the beginning of the Christmas Holiday Season. I’m not going to site any specific studies, but it is accepted fact that during the holidays depression and suicides increase. Why would it be any different for the troubled children that we work with. The children that we have cared for act out more during the holiday season, than at any other time of the year. They always seem to be more moody, emotional and generally more difficult to live with. For many at risk youth the Holidays are not the greatest time of the year, but that is a whole different article.

Additionally, job listings on my website always seem to increase after Halloween so I believe staff turnover becomes higher during this time of the year from the stress.

What can be done to help get you through?

  • Recognize that it’s going to be a stressful couple of months
  • Make time for yourself to relax and do something you enjoy
  • Pick your battles. If there are battles you don’t have to fight, don’t.
  • Be committed, this too shall pass and the youth should have a greater trust in you at the end of the season.
  • If none of these suggestions work; eat lots and lots of turkey and sleep the Holiday season away. Just kidding, I’m trying to keep a sense of humor.

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