The time is upon us, Christmas adverts are on the television, advent calendars are in the shops, and children are being encouraged to write their Christmas lists. It holds the promise of a happy time, if the adverts are to be believed, bringing together families around turkey laden tables to celebrate time together.
The problem is, is that for some children and families Christmas is far from being a special or exciting time. There are many reasons why this could be the case. Whether there is a fear of being at home because of a risk of abuse, or parents neglect to celebrate, for some young people in our care, Christmas is not a time for happy memories. For others, the festive period could have been a time of happiness and memories of family times. Every young person and their experiences are different.
For foster carers, it’s important to remember that the young people who are sharing your home may not have a positive view of the festive period and may not share your enthusiasm about Christmas. It’s also worth remembering that they may have had their own traditions, places where they put their Christmas stocking, particular times when they opened their presents, and certain foods that were a mainstay of their Christmas dinner.
Every experience of the festive period is different. It’s important to try to ensure that everyone in your home enjoys the holidays as much as possible. Sitting down with the young people in your care and having a chat about Christmas and festivities, can be a good starting point to help them thoroughly enjoy their December and feel less isolated and homesick. Additionally, if you have other children living in your home, have a conversation about how they will feel having another young person celebrating with them. It may be a good idea to create a festive timeline, just so no one in the family has any unexpected surprises.
It’s also vital to remember that any young people in your care are a part of your family unit, so you should try to ensure that they are treated/gifted in the same way as other young people in the family. Given that sometimes foster placements are fleeting, it may be an idea to change your gifting traditions to incorporate an experience instead of a large gift. Bringing your family together for a day out is far more memorable than the latest computer game or fashion item. Yes, that does sound like a suggestion to change your own festive traditions, but in a climate of cutting back on disposable items, maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.
It may also be worth letting friends and family members know your plans, just to make sure that there are no sudden gift surprises hoisted on to your new family. The last thing you want is to carefully plan a celebration where everyone feels included, only to have a family member arrive with extravagant gifts that don’t fully reflect the newest family member in your care.
The most important thing to remember is that everyone has fun and has the opportunity to create special memories. Making room at the inn isn’t difficult if you’re open to listen.