Christmas can be difficult for fostered young people – what do you do in your home to help children and young people cope with/enjoy Christmas?
It must depend on the children you have in your home. Some would to play down Christmas and why they do or don’t want to enjoy Christmas; it could be guilt, a past incident, or whatever.
All we try to do is if they don’t like it, we play it down a bit, but not enough to spoil it for other children in the house. We give all the children the chance to participate, or not, they receive their presents in 2 waves, smaller gifts like books etc by ‘overnight delivery’ and main or larger gifts later in the morning when we’re all up and about!
We try to enjoy the gifts together, for example, I’d be battery fitting or putting toys together or, these days, helping to connect to internet. Where appropriate we give the children a chance to have phone, FaceTime etc. with their family and we usually go for a walk after dinner!
What is your favourite Christmas memory while fostering?
Having Christmas with young people who have not experienced a ‘real Christmas’ as they put it!
Nexus invites children to send in drawings or paintings of Christmas to use on their cards, last year one child drew a Christmas tree with no decorations and just a couple of presents on the floor beside it, that spoke volumes to me.
The funniest was having a 2 year old opening their presents and letting the older children catch you being Father Christmas or pretending to trip while delivering the gifts.
Young people in care may have had very different experiences of Christmas than someone who has not been in care. Can you give us an example from one of your placements to help people understand what these children have been through and why Christmas can be stressful for them?
Some children come from different environments or countries, I’ve fostered UASC from Europe or East Africa.
Try to respect their religious beliefs, let them lead you and prepare their own food. They always like a present whatever their background, so just try to make a it a happy and peaceful time for them.
Encourage them to join in have fun!
Try to remember some of these children, whereever they come from, haven’t had a Christmas and it can be overwhelming for them. Either because their families couldn’t afford to, or they have come from war-torn countries or just desolated lives. So be aware and play it by ear.