Tips for navigating Christmas with a foster child

For many, Christmas is an exciting time to spend with family. However, for foster children it can be an emotionally challenging time. Foster parents play an important role in ensuring that the physical and emotional needs of children are met, especially at this time of the year. 

Our foster care practitioners have shared their top tips for carers who might need a little help with navigating Christmas with a foster child. Here’s what they shared: 

Help the child feel connected to their birth family

If it’s safe to do so (and depending on the directives of the Department of Child Safety), you can help the children in your care to feel closer to their birth family. This can be achieved through activities like: 

  • Helping the child buy or create gifts or cards for their birth family 
  • Supporting siblings who may be across different foster care placements to see or talk to each other over this special time 
  • Respectfully listening to the child as they talk about their Christmas memories with their birth family, like foster carer Julie  

While these initiatives may seem simple for foster parents, they might mean the world for a child who has deep emotional ties with their biological family. 

Be attentive to their emotions

For children in care, Christmas can be an emotionally challenging time. So, it helps to be extra observant of their emotional wellbeing. If the child feels safe and aware of your role as a careful listener, they may feel comfortable expressing their feelings to you. 

During this time of the year, we suggest carers spare some quiet time for their foster children. This can help to calm them, especially if they do happen to feel overwhelmed or upset. 

Involve them in your family Christmas traditions

Involving your foster child in family traditions can sometimes have more meaning to them than you might know. Activities that promote togetherness and bonding include: 

  • Decorating the tree or house together 
  • Buying them a personalised bauble to add to your Christmas tree 
  • Getting them involved with cooking food for Christmas Day

If your foster child has a tradition that they would like to share with you, do what you can to welcome that tradition. Traditions are special; it can mean a lot if they are willing to share theirs with you. 

Be prepared for when things don’t go to plan

Whether it’s their first or fifth Christmas in care, you should always be prepared in case things don’t happen as you expect them to. Don’t put pressure on the day and expect everything to go smoothly.  

It’s important that you are patient and observant of the emotional well-being of your foster children. That should always be your priority.  

Other tips for navigating Christmas with a foster child

Here are some other tips that may help you with navigating Christmas with a foster child: 

  • Respect different traditions and/or the cultural values of the child in your care  
  • Get creative and make craft decorations with your foster children 
  • Create new traditions at Christmas with the kids in your care 
  • Share your festive plans and encourage them to get involved 

Note: Involving children and young people in age-appropriate decisions is always important. It's particularly important to do so over the Christmas period, as the feelings of having no control over their situation may come to surface in tricky ways. 

The meaning of Christmas for a child in foster care...

Felicity is one of the foster parents that we work closely with. Recently she shared this message with us about how she embraces Christmas with children in her care: 

“Christmas looks different to every child. It’s important to understand what Christmas means to each child I care for and what makes it special for them. For some, it’s a time where they have felt left out – their friends get a heap of presents and they don’t; for others it’s the one time of the year that they eat a certain meal or do a certain activity. Knowing this allows me to do everything in my control to keep the spirit of Christmas alive for that child, or perhaps create a bit of Christmas joy that they will hopefully stay with them for years to come.” 

For more foster care support 

If you would like to access more foster care support resources for foster parents, we encourage you to look at the other blogs listed on our website

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