For most children, Christmas is an exciting time full of presents, decorating and time with the family. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case for children in foster care. Away from their families, their Christmases may look very different to what they’re used to, and as a foster parent, it’s up to you to make this winter celebration as magical as you can for them.
To get it right, here are nine tips for your first Christmas with a foster child.
Gift Them Something They Want – not Need
Essentials make ideal gifts for foster kids who may not have many possessions. Pyjamas, new shoes and notebooks can help them land on their feet during their time with you. However, Christmas isn’t necessarily the time for essentials. Instead, give them something that they want – perhaps something they’ve wanted for a long time. That might be a new toy, a princess outfit, or a giant pack of chocolate. Sadly, many children in care have experienced a neglectful or abusive home life, so they might not have received many special, meaningful presents. Choosing a fun gift they’ve been longing for will make the day memorable and show them that you’re there for more than to just provide a roof over their head.
Wrap Gifts Together
Wrapping presents is prime bonding time. You could help your foster child wrap gifts for their family members, friends, or other members of their new foster family. It will give you the chance to get to know your foster child while getting into the Christmas spirit. Bonus points for Christmas music or cheesy festive films playing in the background!
Ask About How They Usually Celebrate
Not everyone celebrates Christmas the same, and you might have a foster child who doesn’t celebrate Christmas at all due to a different cultural or religious background. To make the festive season inclusive, ask them about how they’d usually spend this time of year. That way you can accommodate specific foods or activities they’d normally experience and give them a Christmas that’s a little closer to home.
Make Their Favourite Food
For many, food is one of the best parts of Christmas. While you might love your homemade pigs in blankets and stuffing, your foster child might not. A lot of foster children are prone to developing unhealthy relationships with food if they’ve had to fend for themselves, not been fed regularly or had to find food for younger siblings in the past. This is why it’s so important they feel comfortable at the table during Christmas dinner. Make the occasion as enjoyable as possible, ask your foster child what they want for their Christmas lunch. They might ask for food that’s not particularly festive, such as chicken nuggets and chips, but it’s better they eat something that makes them comfortable and happy than be forced to eat food that will cause them stress.
Reach Out to Their Birth Family
If possible, help your foster child reach out to their birth family. Christmas is often spent with family, after all, and your foster child will likely miss the familiarity of their birth family more around the holidays. Watching their friends do fun activities with their parents, grandparents and siblings could make them dwell on the relationships they’ve lost. Help them overcome this sadness by encouraging them to write them a letter, or arrange for them to see their birth family through their social workers. It will give your foster child the chance to see or communicate with loved ones during a time that is heavily focused on family.
Get Them an Advent Calendar
For kids, one of the most exciting parts about Christmas is the run-up to it, so make it even more exciting by getting them an advent calendar. It’s a simple but effective way to get them excited about the holidays, all while giving them a small treat every day. They will love it!
Bake Christmas Cookies Together
Christmas is all about great food – and that generally tends to include a lot of sweet treats. If you want to go above and beyond, whip out your baking utensils and get creative by baking cookies with your foster child. You could make Christmas trees, snowmen, reindeer or angels. Not only will it help you bond and boost the excitement, but your foster child could potentially gift wrap the cookies to give as thoughtful, homemade gifts to members of their new foster family.
Decorate the Home
Foster children often struggle to feel at home in their foster family’s place – especially at first. For your first Christmas with your foster child, why not let them help decorate the home? You could hang fairy lights, place ornaments on the mantelpiece, hang stockings, and – of course – decorate the tree with a range of magical baubles! By allowing them to choose the colour of the tinsel or deciding what to hang on the tree will give them a sense of belonging and make them feel more at home. After all, they will have played a big part in how the house looks for Christmas.
Keep Things Calm
You might enjoy a crazy Christmas full of parties, lights, and music, but that might overwhelm your foster kid. We don’t mean to say you should celebrate in style, but that a relaxing atmosphere might be better to help them adjust and soak in the festivities with new people they might not have seen before.
Some types of foster care last longer than others. If you’ve had foster children for a long time, you might feel more comfortable upping the ante and celebrating Christmas like it’s the last one ever. However, for your first Christmas with a foster child, it’s better to play it safe and keep things calm. Also, don’t put too much pressure on your foster child to engage in activities. Go at their pace, follow their lead and most importantly, have fun!
October 25 2023
Activities to Help Children Manage Anger
Discover six therapeutic activities you can use to help the child in your care express their feelings of anger while developing their emotional regulation skills too.
October 12 2023
Talking to Children About War & Conflict
Learn about "remote exposure" and how war can indirectly affect young people in care. Plus, how to talk to children about war and conflict.
September 11 2023
Bedroom Ideas for Foster Parents
As a new foster parent, you might wonder how to make the bedroom good enough. Use the ideas listed below to ensure your first foster child enjoys their new room.
August 16 2023
Why Matching is So Important in Fostering
Why does the matching process matter so much in foster care? There are numerous compelling reasons, and we're here to share them with you. Keep reading to find out.
July 12 2023
Preparing for Exams with a Foster Child
If a young person in your care is taking exams this year, then here are some practical ways that you can support them.
Ready to start your fostering journey?
One of our team is available to talk to you over the phone to answer any of your fostering queries.
You can get in touch by filling out our online enquiry form with any queries that you may have.
Your local office
We have local teams covering most of England. Find your local office today.