Advice for the festive season
The festive season is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year; however, it can be a challenging time for foster families. Some foster parents need to balance spreading the joy of the season but also whilst being sensitive to their child’s feelings.
Children within a foster home may reflect on memories and experiences from the past, or experience mixed feelings.
Expect this time of year to be really emotional
Consider this time of year to be emotional for the children and young people you support especially for some children who may not be able to see their family or may be worried for the welfare of parents or siblings. The emphasis on Christmas might make some children feel like outsiders in their foster home. It’s a delicate situation and a real effort should be made to ensure that the child feels treated on a par with the other children in the household.
Encourage a child to feel part of the family celebrations
Small things such as having their names on their own Christmas stockings and making it clear that these are their stockings to keep for next Christmas increases the message that they are a part of the festivities. It helps to make a point of doing something special with each child in the house. Each child can have a special Christmas related duty. This gives you some one-on-one with each child and allows them to feel involved and somewhat special.
Faith and the celebration of the festive season
Faith can be a common issue relating to the festive season. The fact that you or a child in your care might not celebrate the Christian holiday. This can be a complicated issue for foster families who take care of children who follow different religions, and one that never has a one-size-fits-all solution. A close relationship with your child’s social worker is key, as they’ll be able to offer advice and input on how to approach Christmas, no matter what your personal beliefs.
Naturally, as a foster carer, it will fall to you to make compromises if a child in your care follows a religion that doesn’t recognise Christmas, you should try to be respectful and sensitive to this issue. If it’s the other way around and your child is from a Christian background, some Christmas celebrations should be enjoyed, but you can introduce elements of your own faith as a way to promote multiculturalism in your household.
Other things to consider
In a foster care environment, there are things you need to consider in the run-up to Christmas that you might not have previously thought about – especially if you have children of your own. Here are some practical tips to make Christmas an inclusive, comfortable, and happy time for every member of the family:
- Tread carefully around Father Christmas traditions – If you’re looking after young children, talk to their social worker about how they normally celebrate Christmas, and whether or not they believe in Santa. Some children may have traditions which they like to stick to, so try to accommodate these so their routine can carry on as normal as possible.
- Be inclusive about gift-giving – It goes without saying that you need to be fair and inclusive about the gifts you give to your birth and foster children. Christmas is a time to make your child feel like part of the family, so buy them gifts that show that you and your family care.
- Don’t force Christmas on your foster child – As we touched on earlier, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your child’s wishes at Christmas time. It may be that they have little interest or enthusiasm for getting involved in the festivities, so don’t try to force or overload them if they don’t seem up to it.
- Don’t overindulge – For many, Christmas is a chance to let your hair down and indulge in a little more alcohol than normal but remember that your child may have been exposed to alcohol and drug abuse in the past.
- Consider how your extended family could impact on your child’s Christmas – Christmas is a time to share with family, and often extended relatives that we don’t see for much of the year. Introducing lots of new people to your foster child in a small space of time could be somewhat overwhelming, so make sure you plan your Christmas carefully and alert all your family of any boundaries or requirements that are in place for your child’s welfare over the holiday period
As a Haringey foster carer, you will have access to round-the-clock help and support. Whatever challenges you face, you know help is always at hand:
020 8489 3754
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