But if you have foster children, it’s worth remembering that special celebrations can generate very mixed feelings for them, so you might need to adjust your expectations and give careful consideration to how you manage the event. Empathy, patience and understanding will all help to minimise difficult situations.
Here are 8 ways that foster carers can support young people in their care in the run up to special celebrations and on the day itself.
Depending on the age of the foster child and the celebration you are planning, make sure you explain what is going to happen and why in a way that they will understand. Involving them in planning and discussing the event will help the child to feel included and allow them to ask questions and familiarise themselves with the plans.
A foster child may or may not open up to you about how they are feeling, but it’s worth bearing in mind that they may be experiencing difficult feelings. Special celebrations can provoke painful memories or act as a reminder that they are not with their birth families. Certain associations – such as seeing adults drinking alcohol – may make children fearful. Be mindful of the child’s feelings and if they are uncomfortable around alcohol, consider limiting your drinking to the time after the child has gone to bed.
If they want to talk to you, make a space for them to do that but don’t insist on it. Explain to other children in the household that foster children may not see the celebration in the same way that they do. During such times, foster children may need a quiet place to retreat to more than at any other.
Some foster children may have their own family traditions associated with certain celebrations. It can be helpful to ask if there are particular things they like to do and if they would like to incorporate these into your own family traditions.
Special celebrations are often a delicate balancing act. It’s important to involve foster children in the preparations and celebrations but not to overwhelm them. Remember, it can be stressful for them to meet new people and encounter unfamiliar situations, particularly if they are already tense or anxious.
If you have family or friends visiting you, make sure they know in advance that you have a foster child staying in your home. It can be helpful to let visitors know what sort of thing the child is interested in and also, let them know what topics to avoid, such as the child came into care. If in doubt, talk to your Supervising Social Worker for advice.
Foster children can find changes to their schedules and big social events unnerving. Coupled with the difficult feelings they may be experiencing, this can lead to some challenging behaviours. Alongside all of the fun activities, remember to allow for plenty of downtimes. Praise the child for managing even small things and offer encouragement to help them navigate these stressful times.
As excited as you may be to involve foster children in the celebrations, take things slowly and do not try to force things. By allowing them to adjust to things at their own pace, you can minimise stress levels and enable them to participate in the things that they want to participate in, while having the freedom to sit things out if they choose.
Read our Becoming a Foster Carer page to see how you can start your fostering adventure and make a difference today!