Christmas for many is an exciting time of year. For some children, in particular those who may have experienced a trauma or difficult upbringing, Christmas with their foster family can be challenging. Often seasonal holidays means children and young people reflect on memories or past experiences and that can bring about mixed feelings.
While all our foster parents want the children they care for to have the best and most fantastic day, the reality can sometimes be quite different. Being sensitive to children’s needs/ feelings and embracing the joy of the season is a tricky balancing act.
- Changes in behaviour can come from reflecting on happy memories with their birth family and how they are unable to currently see them.
- That sense of loss and other mixed feelings can be expressed through acts of aggression, anger or a reluctance to participate.
- These changes are not uncommon, and many foster parents talk about these difficulties at Christmas.
- If children are new to the foster family and haven’t been there long it can be even more difficult for foster parents to know what can be done to help the young person.
Wherever possible talk through with your social worker how you can start preparing for the festive period in advance. This could be learning about little traditions they did with their birth family.
Routine at Christmas
Routine tends to go a bit out the window at Christmas time. Parents and carers take Christmas leave, school timetables change and lots of friends and family visit.
Routine and structure can be familiar and comforting to children and young people of all ages. There is safety felt in knowing what is coming next and what happens on each day. Inevitable routine change can cause a young person to feel overwhelmed, stressed and even anxious about what is to come.
Wherever possible minimise changes to routine. Is this big shop done on a Saturday? Do the Christmas food shop on that day too. These little changes can really help how children are feeling. We understand that at this time of the year it is hard to maintain a strict routine but talking to children in advance of any change or event planned can really help minimise externalised behaviours.
Different Faiths at Christmas
One of the common issues foster parents speak to us about is how they can celebrate Christmas if the child they are looking after might not celebrate that holiday. It can be really difficult to navigate and there is no one-size-fits all solution.
Our advice is to make sure you discuss this in advance with your social worker, they are key to helping you reach a compromise that would suit your fostering household. It can be a really great bonding experience to ask young people to share their customs and celebrations. Whatever the plans and celebrations it is key that children and young people are felt included whilst remaining sensitive to their feelings.
- Check how the children you care for think and feel about Santa. Whether they believe in him or have other traditions about how presents are left.
- Don’t force Christmas on children and young people. It’s really important they feel included on the day but recognise they might not feel like celebrating or show little enthusiasm and that’s ok.
- Talk with your extended family before the beforehand about how Christmas might be a bit different in your house this year. Preparing family members in good time about any changes or compromises you’ve made to make your young person feel safe and included can help those family visits go a bit smoother.
If you have questions or concerns about how to best support children in your care over Christmas then our team on our hand to talk to you. Looking to start your fostering journey in the New Year? We’d love to hear from you,…