Advice and support for fostering families at Christmas

Published: 20th Dec 2019

Christmas can be both magical and challenging for fostering families. We share our top tips for foster carers through the festive season.

As a foster carer you want to make sure that your family enjoys Christmas, but navigating everyone’s different feelings and traditions can be tricky. 

Our Therapeutic and Emotional Support Service (TESS) share their top tips for foster carers at Christmas below...

Be predictable

Predictability works.

A lot of our children and young people can perceive unpredictability and excitement as threats to their own safety and wellbeing. You can help to reduce their anxiety by keeping your visitors to a minimum and by ensuring that children know when  your visitors will be arriving. 

For some young children, it might be helpful to make a visual plan of the Christmas period, so they know what to expect, especially if this is their first Christmas with you.

Family traditions

Knowing what to expect works both ways. It’s always a good idea to ask children and young people about their birth family's Christmas traditions. Where approproate, try to incorporate some of these traditions into your own celebrations.This can be especially helpful if you don't usually celebrate Christmas yourself.  

Remind your family about your unique role

We all know that fostering involves the whole family! From your own children and partner to your extended family and friends, everyone in your close network can make a positive difference. Have a chat with your family and friends before any togethers, and make sure that they know what they can do to support the children in your care.

Father Christmas and presents

Some children might be worried about a strange man visiting their home at night, even if it is Father Christmas. Talking about what will happen and giving children some control over the situation, such as choosing where their stocking is left overnight, can help to ease their stress.

When you think about presents, it's important to consider how you’ll support a child if they don’t, or can’t, receive a present from their birth family. It might also help to consider how many presents a child or young person will be able to cope with at one time. If a child is likely to become overwhelmed, think about spreading their presents out throughout Christmas day or over the Christmas period. Recieving sensory gifts from you could also be a great way to help children manage their feelings. 

Get the conversation started with stories

Books and films can help you start difficult conversations with children about their expectations and emotions around Christmas.

Here are some of our favourite books on the topic:

  • ‘The Grinch Who Stole Christmas’ by Dr. Seuss (or the film version)
  • ‘Mog’s Christmas’ by Judith Kerr
  • ‘A Very Wobbly Christmas’ – a story for children who feel anxious about Christmas’  by Sarah Naish and Rosie Jeffries
  • ‘Holly and Ivy’ by Rumer Godden

Food and alcohol

Alcohol and food can be sources of stress for some children and young people. The chink of a bottle, the pull of a can or the raised voices of adults associated with alcohol can increase anxiety and act as trauma triggers from their past. If adults will be drinking alcohol, it might be helpful to reassure children about the difference between their past experiences of alcohol and now. 

You can help to keep stress about food to a minimum by involving children and young people in meal decisions and planning. 

Getting overwhelmed

Try to make sure that children and young people have a safe space to go to if they feel overwhelmed.

If you’re going to be working hard, helping to keep children and young people happy over the Christmas period, making sure that you don't get overwhelmed is important too. 

Try to find some time to yourself and don't sweat the small stuff. Stockings don’t have to be bursting at the seams, shop bought pudding is delicious and the things that matter most can’t be wrapped anyway – if they could, you’d be wrapping every day of the year!

So, be easy on yourself and try to find some time to relax. 

We’re here for you

If you foster for Birmingham Children’s Trust, we're here for you 24 hours a day, every day of the year, including Christmas day.

If you need help over the festive period, please make sure you get in touch through our On-Call number.