Making Christmas special for children and young people in your care

Published 11 Dec 2022

The ways that we celebrate Christmas are very personal, and often linked to how we celebrated when we were children. Many of us embrace the lights and the decorations, and many of us enjoy spending quality time with those that we love.

For children and young people who are living with their foster families at Christmas, it can sometimes be a tricky period for them. Their foster home may have different traditions than those they are used to, or they may never have had a joyful Christmas and so are unsure of what the traditions are. Whatever their situation, it’s vital that they are helped to feel comfortable and involved in the lead up to Christmas and during the holidays themselves.

Our wonderful Affinity Foster Carers are experienced in helping children and young people navigate Christmas whilst in a foster home. Here are some of their tips.

Be open about Christmas memories

If you have children or young people in your care this Christmas, don’t be afraid to talk to them about their memories of Christmas. It’s a really good way to understand their feelings about Christmas and you can easily learn a lot about what makes them comfortable – or uncomfortable – around the festive season. Don’t presume that every child has bad memories of Christmas. Whilst some children in the care system may have had a horrible Christmas previously, not all have.

Create your own Christmas decorations

Why not create some personalised baubles or tree decorations? It’s a great way to help any children in your care to feel involved and welcome, and it’s also a lovely memento for them to keep. You can ask them if they would like to put the tree up with you too, and they can place their bauble on the tree where they would like.

Create your own advent calendar

Advent calendars can contain things like games, movies, crafts, or activities that everyone can get involved in. Why not include things like a Christmas movie night, or a hot chocolate evening, or going out to do something festive? It’s a great way to create new memories too.  Affinity fostering will have ideas on their social media page every day throughout December!

Chat to them about their birth family

A child or young person in your care may still be in contact with their birth family. If they are, perhaps help them to purchase a small gift for them. This demonstrates to them that you’re not trying to replace their family. Talk to them about their worries or fears about any concerns they may have about being away from their family at Christmas. An open, age appropriate, conversation will really help you to understand more and help them to realise that you are listening to them.

Be open about your plans

A child or young person in your home may be of a different faith to you and your family. You can help them understand Christmas means to your household. Also, for any child or young person who suffers with anxiety, being open about your Christmas plans from early on means they know what to expect. Some children and young people may not have celebrated Christmas before in the same way you do, and so understanding more about what goes on means they can make a choice about how they celebrate with you.,

Why not chat to them about what kind of food is traditionally served at Christmas, and ask if there’s anything specific they would like to see on the menu? Their family may also have traditions – perhaps it’s watching the royal speech in the afternoon or making turkey sandwiches in the evening. Understanding and incorporating traditions from their family will help to make them feel more included.

Ensure there is a safe space

Christmas can become quite overwhelming at the best of times, but if a child or young person is in a new household, it can become more stressful quite easily. Ensure they know that there’s a safe space they can go to if it all gets a bit much, like a bedroom or home office area.

Not everything runs smoothly all the time.

This is true of any family Christmas! If anything doesn’t go to plan, just shrug it off and take it in your stride. If the child or young person in your care does struggle with the day, have a chat with them in the New Year about how you can do things differently next year to help them. 

We hope you all have a happy festive season. Remember, if things don’t go quite to plan this Christmas, there’s always someone at the end of the phone here at Affinity for our carers. 

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