Christmas is a special time of year when families come together to celebrate the holiday season. However, for some children in care, this can be a difficult time and a time when they might feel most alone. As Christmas is very much promoted as a vision of the perfect family enjoying the festivities, it can emphasise for some children, the absence of their birth family.
Therefore it is important for foster carers to understand how the children in their care may be feeling and to ensure they feel a sense of belonging in the household and within their family. For many children in foster care, the Christmas period may bring back painful memories and experiences of their parents being too intoxicated or under the influence of drugs to create a magical Christmas within the home. Children may recall Christmas day ending in violence or the absence of family members. Therefore, the conventional Christmas day which they envision of being surrounded by family members, unwrapping gifts may be far from their reality.
Whatever their Christmas experience may be, the child may feel a sense of guilt, loss, fear or sadness over the festive period. This may result in the child deliberately disrupting Christmas and isolating themselves as a way of dealing with their feelings and expecting disappointment. Therefore, it is key for the foster carers to support the child and manage their behaviour appropriately with patience and empathy.
As the concept of family may be distressing for a child over Christmas, it is important for the child to feel welcome within the family and to help reduce their fears and anxiety. Take the time to talk to the child about Christmas and your own family traditions so they can have more of an idea of what to expect. Ensure the child feels welcome by giving them their own stocking by the fireplace or helping prepare Christmas lunch. Talk to the child about who may be visiting over the Christmas period so they child is aware of who they would be meeting and why. It is important to make the child feel comfortable and reduce all fears they may have throughout the day.
Give the child new exciting memories about Christmas and what a child should really expect and enjoy over the magical festive period.