10 Ways to Make a Foster Child Feel Special at Christmas6 December, 2018
Christmas is a magical time of year for children, but it can be difficult for many young people in foster care, as the memories and emotions of the past come flooding back.
As the festive season approaches, we ask some of our Foster Carers for their tips on how to bring back the joy and make a foster child feel special and part of the family at Christmas.
1. Put The Tree Up Together
Spend some quality time together putting the tree up during the run up to Christmas. Let your foster child choose some of the decorations and place them on the tree, wherever they want.
2. Buy a Personalised Decoration for the Tree
Make your foster child feel special by purchasing a personalised Christmas decoration for the tree, that has their name or a photo of them on it, and place it on the tree next to any of your other children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews. They also make a lovely keepsake for when and if the child moves on.
3. Homemade Christmas Cards
When sending out Christmas cards, why not let your foster child write their own name, draw a picture in each of the cards or maybe even make your Christmas cards for close friends and family. Make sure you keep some safe for both you and your foster child, as it’s a great memory for if and when they move on.
4. Storyboard Christmas Day
On the first day of December, put together a story board of what happens on the three most important days – Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Include all the basics, such as when you eat breakfast, dinner and tea, when you open presents and if you’ll have any other guests in the house. Print out photos of the guests, use cut outs of the different foods you’ll eat and the wrapping paper that you’ll use for presents. This removes the element of surprise and really helps to reduce anxiety on the day.
5. Let Them Help Choose The Menu
Share your typical Christmas food menu with your foster child and ask what they’d like to eat on the big day – even if it is chicken nuggets!
A small gesture like this shows that you’re trying to make them feel involved. Maybe also let them help you prepare some of the food and let them watch as everyone enjoys the food they’ve helped to cook – great for confidence boosting.
6. Talk About Their Birth Family
Make time to talk to your foster child about their birth family, any traditions they had and let them share some of their memories. By listening to them speak, you can add some bits into their day that will make things seem a little more familiar and also find out what things to avoid if it’s likely to trigger some bad memories.
7. Buy a Special Christmas Card
Make them feel really special by getting them a lovely Christmas card – perhaps one that says ‘To someone special’.
These children may have suffered neglect for many years and just need to be told how special they really are – it’s small gestures like this that really help to build their self-esteem.
8. Gifts from Your Extended Family
If your own children receive gifts from your extended family, try to make sure that your foster children will get them too. This will really help them to feel part of your family.
Carry spare gifts just in case somebody buys presents for other family members, but not the child.
9. Take Lots of Photos
Christmas day is about making special memories, so make sure you capture every moment by taking lots of photos.
Once all the excitement is over, print them out, put them in frames around the house and keep spare photos somewhere safe for the child once they grow up – perhaps in their memory box or a nice photo album.
10. Be Mindful of Their Emotions
Remember, Christmas can be difficult for a child in care, so be aware of how they feel on the day. No matter how special you make them, they are likely to still miss their family.
Be patient and give them a quiet space to go to, if they need to be alone for a little bit or offer to go for a nice walk, just the two of you.
If you’re coming into your first Christmas as a foster carer, then we really hope some of these tips will give you some ideas to make this year very special.
If you’d like more advice, then please feel free to give your local team a call or have a chat with your Social Worker – we want to make sure that Christmas is enjoyable for everyone.