As we come into the festive season you may be full of excitement to be able to celebrate face to face with loved-ones, friends etc., after last year’s damp squib lockdown of a Christmas.
I’ve already got the freezer and cupboard filling up with Christmas foods and slowly started my gift buying. Hopefully, this year I will remember where I hid all of the presents – I really need to draw map or something.
You may have your diary filling up with parties, planned days out, who is coming when and cooking what (and who is bringing drinks, puddings, spare chairs etc., to make it less work for the host!)
Are you one of those families that make a special evening of decorating the Christmas Tree? A few snacks, some tunes, and lots of laughs (also perhaps some under breath muttering as you try to untangle the tree lights!)
All good times in the run up to the festive period? It is important to remember that not all will have the same opportunities. Many children and young people may have different experiences – many of these experiences may not be positive.
For many people experiencing their first Christmas as foster carers the temptation is to go for the full-on Christmas experience with exuberant decorations, mountains of food and all the friends, family and neighbours you can squeeze in (of course with, in these Covid times, all the windows open etc.!), but this may be overwhelming for your fostered child. Due to past experiences, Christmas may be a time of excitement but also anxiety. Be aware of this for your child and try to arrange the festive period so that they can manage what may be a big change for them.
We have some useful blogs below that give further information planning as well as insight into a previously fostered child’s experiences, but a good way to start is to have a conversation with your foster child as to what is going to happen over the Christmas period, your style of Christmas celebrations etc, but to find out about their experiences of previous Christmases and what may be challenging for them. You can then work around this to try to ensure that they have a less anxious and more enjoyable festive season.
You may already be fostering and caring for children who have had these difficult experiences, or perhaps thinking about starting the fostering process soon so that you can support a child or young person next Christmas who may be having difficult experiences. If you are also thinking ‘is there more that I can do?’ then you could consider donating to:
- Food banks – they need festive foods as well as staples so that struggling families can have a decent Xmas meal and a few treats for the kids
- Give a gift charities – some are big national charities or a smaller initiative local to you. This could be toy parcels, new books sent to a child at home etc.
- Organisations that support families at risk of violence at home – the festive season can be a flashpoint for many reasons, and children can be victims either witnessing or on the receiving end of adult violence.
- Homeless charities – many children are living with families in unsuitable and overcrowded temporary accommodation. Bring people together for what can be otherwise an isolating time of year.
- Supporting care leavers – young people may feel very alone and isolated so there are charities that offer Christmas lunches, Christmas gift packs and other support, particularly during the festive period.
For me, Christmas is very much about what you can do for others, reaching out and helping where (and however much) you can, all this as well as being with family and friends that bring you joy. Enjoy this festive period and best wishes to you all 😊
https://ukfostering.org.uk/christmas-an-emotive-time-for-looked-after-children/ Christmas – An emotive time for Looked after Children
https://ukfostering.org.uk/festive-tips-foster-carers-covid-edition/ Festive tips for foster carers
https://www.bigissue.com/life/how-to-donate-toys-and-charity-christmas-gifts-to-children/ The Big Issue – How to donate toys and charity Christmas gifts to children
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-59473490 BBC News – Youth homelessness could reach five-year high this Christmas
https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/2017/12/21/supporting-care-leavers-during-the-festive-season/ Childrens Commissioner – Supporting care leavers during the festive season
by Lynsey Dobbs, Senior Recruitment Officer