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Creating positive memories for children in foster care this Christmas

Explore how to create positive memories for foster children this Christmas. Discover meaningful ways to make the holiday season special for them.

December 18 2023 - 5 min read

Fostering over Christmas can make a world of difference to children in care and foster carers alike. But while for many people Christmas is a magical time of year, it can be very stressful and difficult for children and young people in care.

For some children, it could be their first Christmas away from their birth families, while for others, they might have experienced trauma, neglect, and abuse and might not have ever had a happy Christmas.

We look at why Christmas can be a challenging time for children in care, and how you can help create precious Christmas memories for foster children that they (and you) can cherish for years to come.

Why Can Christmas Be a Difficult Time for Foster Children?

For some children in care, in particular those who may have experienced a trauma or a difficult upbringing, Christmas with their foster family can be a challenging or triggering time. Often seasonal holidays mean children and young people reflect on memories or past experiences and that can bring about mixed emotions. They might be missing their birth family, feeling out of place, or feel anxious about what the future might hold for them.

While you want your child to have the best day filled with joy and laughter, the reality can sometimes be a little different. Being empathetic to your foster child’s needs and embracing the happiness of Christmas can be a challenging balancing act.

Take the time to listen and understand how your foster child has experienced Christmas in the past and do your best not to make them feel pressured to join in with everything. They might be feeling overwhelmed being in a new environment over the festive season, so always be mindful of their needs and feelings.

Real-Life Story of Foster Carers Creating Positive Christmas Memories

It was early on in Caroline’s fostering career that she welcomed her first foster child over Christmas. Although her foster child was 17 and she was feeling uncertain about how she could support him, she and her two birth children welcomed him with open arms. She learnt that he had never had a proper Christmas, never had a Christmas dinner, and he had never had a Christmas tree or gifts. “When we gave him gifts in the morning, he cried”, Caroline recalls.

That first Christmas that Caroline and her family spent with a foster child made a lasting impression on her and her children, and they were all in agreement that it was the best Christmas they have ever had.

They spent their day playing board games, eating Christmas dinner and just spending time together as a family. Caroline said: “That young man, who was my second ever foster placement defied all expectations, and changed my Christmases forever. Spending time with him for those two weeks, and especially Christmas Day, made my family and I realise what was important, it was a big reality check.”

“That first Christmas honestly changed my life forever. I’ve gained a son, and there’s not a Christmas that goes by where I don’t hear from him and his family. It changed my family and I so much. We talk about it every year and imagine him now with his children and think about the impact that Christmas had on him and us”, Caroline shared.

Tips for Creating Positive Memories for Foster Children

Christmas can be a difficult time for children in care, but whether you’re fostering one child or fostering sibling groups, there are plenty of ways you can create positive Christmas memories for your foster children.

Although each child and situation are unique, let’s look at some ways you and your extended family and friends can support children in care over the Christmas period.

1. Foster Child Christmas Gifts

If you’re looking for thoughtful gift ideas for foster children to bring a smile to your foster child’s face, then you need to consider their wants and needs as well as your budget. To help with this, you can use your fostering allowance to help budget for Christmas gifts for your foster child.

If you haven’t had time to get to know your foster child before the big day, speak to your support team at your fostering agency. They can help fill you in on what your foster child likes. Consider their age and how long they will be spending with you.

Personalised gifts are a lovely way of showing them that you are thinking of them. They are gifts that truly belong to them, and there are lots of affordable personalised gifts available from books and socks to water bottles and bags. Whenever they use their gift, they can think of you and remember the wonderful Christmas you gave them.

2. Involve Them in Christmas Preparations

If you have your foster child with you in the lead up to Christmas, then nothing can create positive Christmas memories for foster children more than getting them involved in the Christmas planning.

Although family dynamics at Christmas can be tricky, especially if you are used to your own traditions, use this time to create new Christmas traditions for foster families or include your foster child in your traditions. Whether it’s choosing the tree together, writing Christmas cards to their birth family, getting stuck into some Elf on the Shelf antics, or watching your favourite festive films, involving them in the Christmas preparations is a lovely way to help them feel included.

Speak to your foster child in advance to let them know about the preparations so they don’t feel overwhelmed, and ask them if there is anything special they would like to do together to get ready for the big day.

3. Spend Time Together

Creating positive Christmas memories for your foster child can be as simple as providing them with a sense of stability, security, and love. And there is nothing that does this better than spending some quality time together.

Over the festive season, it’s easy to get swept away with being busy and the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, school plays, parties, and festive day trips. While all this is lovely, it can be overwhelming. You don’t have to try so hard to fill your child with the Christmas spirit. Simply spending time together by watching films, cooking, reading stories, and chatting can be all they need to feel loved and wanted.

4. Considering Their Needs

Not everyone’s Christmas looks the same. Your foster child might be used to a very different Christmas than yours, so tailoring the Christmas celebrations to your foster child’s interests can be key in creating positive memories.

Speak to your foster child about their previous experiences over Christmas. Is there anything that their family used to do? A certain food they always had for Christmas dinner? A place they visited every year? If so, see if you can include some of their traditions in your family Christmas to help show them that they are in a safe, supportive, and caring environment.

Help Create Positive Christmas Memories for Foster Children

It’s important to remember that every child is different and what works for one child may not work for another. It’s often the smallest gestures from you and your family that can really make a huge difference to a child at this poignant time of year. At Christmas, providing your foster child with a sense of stability, security, and love is often the best way for helping foster children create positive Christmas memories.

If you want to help create special foster care memories, consider your foster child’s needs and interests and get a little creative. Whether you have your own Christmas traditions or you want to create some new ones to help your foster child feel included and valued, the festive world is your oyster.

For more information on becoming a foster carer with FCA, and to find out more about the training and support, call 0800 023 4561.