Things to consider when fostering for the first time this Christmas
Here are some key points to consider when fostering at Christmas
Nothing says family like Christmas. It’s an important time of year for many families. Meeting up with loved ones and spending precious time together is often what many of think about at this time of year.
For many new foster parents, this will be your first Christmas with your foster child. It’s an exciting time for you and your foster child but there can be things to watch out for too.
As we consider family at Christmas, it’s the same for foster children too, being apart from their family at this time of year can be a cause of sadness or anger for a foster child. For some children, Christmas can be overwhelming, especially if large family gathering are the norm for you, but not your foster child.
But with a little planning before Christmas you can help to elevate some of the issues that can arise.
Here are some key points to consider when fostering this Christmas:
#1 Talk to your foster child about their Christmas’s before coming to live with you. This could have been with their families or previous foster parents. But find out gently if they have any particular traditions that they enjoyed and try to incorporate them into your Christmas this year. This will help children to feel an important member of your own family this Christmas and more comfortable with all the differences there are likely to be.
#2 Prepare for Christmas together. By involving your foster child, preparing for Christmas can help them to feel part of it from the get go, not to mention helping to further develop the bond between you both. From fun activities like decorating the tree, doing fun craft activities to help decorate the home, planning a Christmas menu, putting together a Christmas playlist, to helping with the shopping. It all depends on the child’s age as to what role they can and want to play in the preparations.
#3 If inviting friends and family over at Christmas, consider your foster child. It can be very daunting have a house full of strangers, or even more intimidating a house full of people they don’t know in a home they have not been to before. Try and introduce your child to other important people in your life before Christmas, an informal coffee or even a FaceTime call before the festivies begin can help to ensure your foster child feels more comfortable. If need be, based on what you know about your foster child, cut the guest list down – supportive friends and family will understand.
#4 Allow your foster child to have space if they need it. The idea of a family all being together all day long at Christmas may well be the norm for you, but for a foster child their Christmas’s could have been very different. It can all be a bit much, and your foster child may want to retreat for a while. This is okay, give them the space they need, welcome them back when they are ready to re-join the family, but don’t make a big deal of it.
#5 Some children can become over stimulated by the day. Gifts, food, the coming and goings and the games could result in a meltdown no matter how much a child is enjoying it at the time. Incorporate a little quiet time into your Christmas even if that’s just a little walk and some fresh air.
#6 Many of us like to have a drink at Christmas, but this can be a trigger for some children. Many foster children have experienced abuse or witnessed domestic violence due to alcohol, and although it’s important for children and young people to understand a more positive association, Christmas might not be the best time to see you have a drink if they have not witnessed this before, due to all the other emotional triggers of the season. Also keep in mind that one appropriate adult needs to be able to drive if there is an emergency.
#7 Above all don’t worry if doesn’t go according to plan. You may have ideas of how great it’ll be fostering for the first time at Christmas. But for many foster children, Christmas’s of the past may have been unhappy times, and no matter what effort you go to, that cloud could hang over your foster child, all day. Don’t take it personally, or feel you did anything wrong. By enabling your foster child to be a part of your Christmas will have been a positive experience for them, but this won’t show overnight.