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How to Make a Child in Care Feel Special at Christmas
Christmas is a magical time of year for children, but it can be difficult for many young people in foster care. Read our advice on how foster parents can make Christmas special.
Christmas is a magical time of year for children. However, it can be difficult for young people in foster care.
As a foster parent, you're probably excited to give the child in your care the best Christmas they've ever had. However, it's important to know that your child may be feeling a range of emotions, including joy, guilt, sadness, and anger.
As we head into the festive season, our foster parents share their top tips on how to make Christmas special for everyone.
10 ways to make Christmas special for children in care
1) Find out what they wish to do at Christmas
Speak to your child about what they would like to do at Christmas. Also, take the time to understand their family traditions, so you can incorporate some of their world into yours.
This helps them to feel involved and part of the day, whilst showing that you care about the things that are important to them.
2) Create a festive storyboard for them
Put together a storyboard that includes everything that happens during the run-up to Christmas and on days when you have lots planned, like Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year.
This should include all the important information, such as:
- When and what you will eat
- When you open presents
- Who will be with you - e.g. any guests
- Who you will visit
You could even turn it into a scrapbook with photos of guests, pictures of food, and squares of the wrapping paper you will use.
Your child will move into the festive period knowing what to expect, which can help reduce anxiety. It's also a really lovely keepsake for them to look through later in life.
3) Make Christmas cards together
Plan an afternoon of Christmas card-making, which you can use for their friends, family, teachers, and more. Don't forget to save some for your child's memory box too.
You could also let your child write their name on the cards you send to your friends and family.
4) Put the tree up as a family
There's nothing more joyful than putting up Christmas decorations, especially with kids. And look, your tree may not be as neat as you'd like it, but it will mean a lot to them.
Before getting started, you could even take your child to choose some decorations or surprise them with a personalised bauble with their name on it.
This might bring up big feelings for some children
Whilst putting up the tree, your child may think back to previous Christmases with their family and make comparisons. They may say something like, "Our tree never looked like that" or "We always have a star, not an angel". This can be upsetting for them.
Take it at their pace, provide them with a safe and non-judgmental space to share their feelings, and validate their emotions.
5) Help them choose gifts for their family
It's important to promote positive relationships with your child's birth family wherever possible, and Christmas should be no different.
If your child has planned family time, then help them choose gifts for their relatives and make Christmas cards together. If family time isn't possible, arrange a video call (where appropriate), so they can still speak to their family and share what they've been up to. Plus, send your Christmas cards in the post.
You may also wish to send their family a Christmas card. If you receive a card from your child's family, then place it where your child can see it. These small gestures show your child that their family are important to you and that you accept them.
6) Let them know that Santa knows where they live
We find that so many children worry that Santa won't know where to find them, especially the younger ones.
You can reassure them by letting them know that you've already told Santa where they live, and maybe also send a special letter or personalised gift to your child from Santa.
7) Create a family Christmas Eve box
Together as a family, make a Christmas Eve box filled with all your favourite treats and activities for an evening of fun. This could include:
- A selection of activities
- Some of your family's favourite treats
- A new set of matching PJs for everyone
- A book for everyone to read before bed
8) Go with the flow
Remember, however nice you can make it for them, they're not with their family. And that will likely be difficult for them. So you need to be flexible and understanding.
Make sure they know that they can get involved in everything you've planned, but also that it's okay to not join too.
Give them space when they need it, but also make sure they know that they're not alone. Some ways you can do this include:
- Check in with them regularly
- Take them some of their favourite treats and a couple of things they can do, like a colouring book
- Communicate what you're doing throughout the day and ask if they'd like to join
- Find out if there's anything they would like to do
- Suggest going for a nice walk, just the two of you
The day may not go the way you had planned it, but that's okay.
9) Gifts from your family and friends
If you have children and they receive gifts from friends or family, before the day, find out whether they have bought anything for the child in your care too. If they don't plan to buy gifts, have a few extra gifts wrapped up that you can give to your children on their behalf.
This is a simple but really important thing you can do to help the child in your care feel part of your wider family.
10) Go the extra mile with thoughtful gestures
Knowing that somebody is thinking about you is so important for our young people, and it also helps with their sense of belonging.
There are lots of simple ways that you can show that you're truly thinking about your child, including:
- Let them hang decorations on the tree that represent their parents and siblings
- Buy them a personalised stocking with their name on it and fill it with some meaningful gifts
- Make an advent calendar with all their favourite things
- Take a family photo where you're all wearing the same Christmas jumper and hang it up for everyone to see
- Plan a fun Christmas activity that's just for them
If you’re coming into your first Christmas as a foster carer, then we hope these tips have given you some ideas to make this year very special.
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