How to help foster children cope at Christmas and New Year parties

Thursday 24 March 2016

As fairy lights and decorations go up, and the festive season approaches, what is traditionally a time for family celebrations can be a difficult time for some foster children. The Christmas and New Year period can stir a complicated mix of feelings in looked-after children, so to help you handle some of the trickier situations that might arise over the holidays, today we’re talking Christmas and New Year parties. Here are some points to consider before the social gatherings of Yuletide:

 Prepare foster children for Christmas in your home

If Christmas or New Year parties or visits by relatives to your home are part of your usual Christmas celebrations, be sure to prepare your foster children for the social occasions ahead. Letting them know your plans and discussing who will visit when will help reduce any fears they may have. If you are holding a gathering at your home, involve children in the preparations – whether it be the grocery shop or planning the menu.

They may want to include one of their own family traditions in the proceedings. Some foster children may be nervous of adults drinking alcohol, so consider whether it may be appropriate to keep alcohol consumption to a minimum around them or for when they have gone to bed.

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Share but don’t overwhelm

If you’re holding celebrations or invited to them, by all means invite your foster child along too. However, it’s important to recognise such gatherings have the potential to overwhelm. It can be stressful to meet new people, so talk to children in advance about who is likely to be there and their connection to you.

Don’t let your foster child be a surprise to guests or hosts – let people know in advance you have a child staying with you and prepare them for socialising with the child. Talk to your foster child about how they would like to be introduced to new people. It’s important they don’t feel pressured to try and explain how they came to stay with you or to answer difficult questions. They shouldn’t feel as if they are on ‘display’.

Changes to children’s schedules and big social events can be unnerving and coupled with potential feelings such as missing their biological family, guilt and stress, kids of all ages may be more likely to have tantrums, misbehave or display disruptive behaviour, so be extra patient. It’s great to have fun planned together but don’t forget to schedule downtime – both for your foster child on their own if they need it and for you to spend time together alone. It’s important to retain that one-to-one time so that they can discuss any difficulties they might be having – remember, holiday parties could bring back difficult memories for them, both happy and sad.

If you have any questions about how to prepare for the holiday period with your foster child or how to tackle a tricky situation, remember we’re here to help!