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Tips for supporting cared for children at Christmas

It's the most magical time of the year for many, but Christmas can be a period of overwhelm and confusion for some children who live in foster care.

Man and woman and young girl at a table at Christmas

With images of festive family occasions at every corner, trauma-experienced children can feel triggered rather than excited, and lonely instead of loved. We're bringing you tips and advice from experienced Foster with North East foster carers for fostering through the festive season.

 

Experiences of foster care at Christmas

The John Lewis Christmas advert in 2022 did an excellent job of raising awareness of Christmas as a foster carer and how to make a foster child feel welcome. We spoke to foster carers to ask about experiences of Christmas.

"One of my friends fostered a young lad and asked him if they could write a Christmas list together ready for Christmas. He asked them what they meant. They explained that at Christmas time, children write down what they might like to get for Christmas. He told them, 'Last year, Mum forgot it was Christmas, so I got a pound and a Pot Noodle'. Viv, Foster Carer.

Gift ideas for foster parents - how much do foster children get for Christmas?

Gift-giving can take a little extra thought as a foster carer at Christmas. While it's only natural to want the children in your care to feel special, receiving piles of gifts can be overwhelming. Use any knowledge you have about past Christmas times as a starting point. Foster carers often spread gift opening over the day or a few days. Christmas can sometimes leave children feeling different, which is why many extended family members of foster families often choose to give gifts to all children in the household, not just birth children.

 

Three tips for fostering at Christmas

Experienced foster carer Viv shared these three top tips for Christmas as a foster carer.

  • Involve children, plan activities together and anticipate behaviour challenges.

"I wouldn't go over the top with planning activities because a lot of foster children can't cope with that. You might say you want to do this, and I want to do that and plan some things together. You need to realise that they could get overwhelmed, and it could be too much."

  • When children stay with you long term, you can build things slowly.

"You can build Christmas up. At the beginning it's easy to think, oh, I want to buy them this because they've had nothing, but it's a lot for the kids to take in and you might be better off starting small."

  • Remind children of fun, festive times you've shared.

"For one of the children I care for his father died at Christmas, so it's never been a good time. I've got little books and keep photos with all their important dates. I keep notes of what Christmas has been like, what the year has been like. We also take them out in the run-up to Christmas and talk about the things we've done, what we did last year and how nice different things were. We chat about what we can do this year and if we should do the same or different things. It lets him see that he enjoyed himself last year and gives the reassurance of a happy memory."

Are you thinking about starting your fostering journey this Christmas?

If you're ready to explore how fostering can work for you and your family, we're here to help. Our fostering hub and advisers can offer support for the application process and to get you started in fostering. It takes less than a minute to complete our enquiry form to arrange a no-obligation chat or call us on 0800 917 7771.