How to Make Your Foster Child’s Christmas a Family Time to Remember
It’s supposedly ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, but for foster children, the Christmas period can sometimes feel like the exact opposite. Rather than happiness and warmth, Christmastime can make foster children feel confusion, loneliness, anger and even guilt - all of which can manifest in unfavourable behaviours, especially when the child cannot fully articulate their emotions.
These negative feelings can come from an infinite number of sources. Your social worker should have made you aware of any particular reasons why your foster child may dislike Christmas, but just the thought of being away from their biological family at a very family-oriented time of year can be enough to cast a dark cloud over the festivities. To make Christmas as enjoyable as can be for your foster child, keep these steps in mind as you navigate the tricky festive season.
Take time to listen and understand their worries
If you notice your foster child becoming upset, the first thing you should do – as at any time of year – is encourage them to tell you why. This will take time, but once you reassure them that nothing bad will happen as a result of them speaking honestly, their thoughts should start to trickle out.
You may discover that there is something about Christmas that they find particularly ‘triggering’, which you can address or remove. They might be wondering what is happening to their family while they are having a nice time. It may be that they simply aren’t used to having a Christmas at all, and they are feeling completely overwhelmed. Be patient, let them speak, and you’re taking a big step closer to a happy Christmas with your foster child.
Arrange suitable contact with their family, if appropriate
Depending on your foster child’s individual situation it may be possible to arrange special contact with their family members around Christmas.
This could be anything from a pre-arranged Skype call on Christmas Day, a ‘Christmas party’ at a face-to-face contact session, or even an invitation to the child’s school nativity performance; the contact will all depend on what is appropriate for the child, but the opportunity to share the celebrations will be beneficial for both the child and their family.
Make sure they’re a part of the preparations
Your Christmas celebrations and traditions may be very different to those that your foster child has experienced before. Before Christmas gets into full swing, take time to explain to them how you typically celebrate so they know exactly what to expect, and give them plenty of opportunities to be involved.
From choosing which snacks you eat on Christmas Day to decorating the tree, picking out presents or even writing on gift tags, there are countless ways that foster children can feel part of your family’s Christmas. This will not only make them feel welcome, but also give them a sense of purpose and control that they may not have experienced before.
Reassure your foster child that Santa can still find them
A very real fear for young foster children is that Santa Claus will not be able to find them in their current home. If your foster child still believes in Santa, take the opportunity to reassure them that he always knows where they are – and he will absolutely be paying them a visit on Christmas morning.
To help them believe this, you could write a letter to Santa with them, take them to your local shopping centre to visit him in his Grotto, or even look online at a ‘Santa Tracker’ that shows where he is in the world.
Give all of your children an equal amount of gifts
Naturally, a foster child may expect that their Christmas gifts won’t match up to those of their foster brothers or sisters. Buy all of the children in your household gifts of equal value and quantity to prevent anyone from feeling ‘left out’ or less important.
In addition to this, make it clear to your foster child that their gifts are theirs to keep, and they will be able to take them to their next home. If you’re wondering what to buy for your foster child this Christmas, their social worker should be able to give you some tips.
If you think you could make a difference to the life of a foster child this Christmas and beyond, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us on 0845 200 4040 to find out how you can help.