Tips for a first festive season with a foster child

The festive season can be a magical time, but it can also be an overwhelming period for foster children. Many foster children will be dealing with feelings of sadness around the absence of their birth family, and for those foster children who have come from abusive backgrounds, the festive period may be associated with traumatic memories. Foster children who have only recently entered into foster care may struggle especially, as they adjust to living with their foster family.

For foster carers, a first Christmas with a foster child can be rewarding and challenging in equal measure. Creating a sense of belonging and comfort during this festive time is especially important.

Here are five top tips to make the first festive season with a foster child a positive experience…

1. Understand your foster child’s background

It’s a good idea to take the time to learn more about your foster child’s background. Understanding things like cultural and religious traditions, as well as any previous experiences with the holiday season, will help you tailor your celebrations to make your foster child feel comfortable and valued. There may be specific activities that a child would like to avoid or incorporate into Christmas, so encourage an open conversation about this. It’s also important to acknowledge that not everyone celebrates Christmas.

2. Establish traditions

Creating new traditions together could be an exciting idea for a foster child, but bear in mind it could also be overwhelming for some. Engage your foster child in discussions about their preferences and include their ideas into the holiday festivities. This not only helps them feel included but also creates a sense of control and ownership over the celebrations. Involve your foster child in plans for the day and, if possible, try to include elements of their traditions into your celebrations. This can encourage a sense of belonging.

3. Create a comfortable environment

Foster children may feel uneasy during the festive season, due to past negative experiences. Ensure that your home is a safe and welcoming space. From decorating together to talking through festive plans, allow your foster child to contribute to the holiday atmosphere, and encourage them to express their feelings and thoughts. You may want to avoid overly large gatherings of people on Christmas day.

4. Managing Expectations

The festive season can be overwhelming, with high expectations for joy and togetherness. Be mindful of your foster child’s feelings and try to pace the celebrations accordingly. Provide a balance between festive activities and quiet, relaxing moments, which will help them acclimatise to the new environment. Where appropriate, it may be possible to include birth family in the celebrations. Give your foster child a clear sense of who they will be seeing on Christmas day, in advance.

5. Be flexible and open to communication

Foster a culture of open communication. Encourage your foster child to express their feelings about the holiday season and be receptive to any concerns they may have. Actively listen and validate emotions, fostering a sense of trust and security. Also try to recognise that plans may need to change, and be flexible in adapting to your foster child’s needs. The holidays can be a time of mixed emotions, but being open to adjustments ensures a supportive and accommodating environment.

Welcoming a foster child into your home during the festive season is an opportunity to create lasting memories and instil a sense of belonging. Foster carers can play a key role in making the first Christmas in foster care a positive and transformative experience for all involved, and remember, Unity Foster Care are always here to offer advice and support, every step of the way.

Could you provide a safe space for children across Yorkshire and the North East? Start your application with Unity Foster Care today. Our friendly team are on hand to answer any questions you may have, as well as support you in starting your fostering journey.

To make a start on your application, call us on 0333 772 2333 or contact us online and we’ll be in touch.