Celebrating Christmas as a Foster Family
For our children and young people Christmas can be a very challenging and emotional time. Have a think about what you have planned and how they may or may not manage. Below are some useful places to start:
Christmas dinner: The extra people, multiple courses, the banging of crackers and excitement of lighting the Christmas pudding can all make this meal a daunting experience for traumatised children. Consider eating at normal mealtimes – at your usual lunchtime or in the evening and give children foods they know and like – if pizza and baked beans will make them more relaxed and enjoy the meal, then put them on the table. Don’t force unfamiliar puddings on children – have the ice cream they like and be careful with crackers for children who do not like noise. Taking some of the strangeness out of Christmas dinner could go a long way towards helping children feel safe, making it a more enjoyable experience for everyone.
Look after yourself: Christmas is a time for getting together, spending time with family and having fun, but these can also mean that it can be an extremely stressful time of year. Making sure you do not take on all the organising yourself can help – make sure each member of the family has a task, to make them feel significant and take some pressure off you. Taking some time out to do what you want to do, whether it is listening to music, going for a walk, or even just spending half an hour reading a magazine with a cup of coffee, can make a big difference to your state of mind. Exercise generates mood-enhancing hormones and can leave you calmer, happier and feeling more in control. Going for a walk or a swim over the Christmas period could make a big difference. At stressful times it is a good idea to minimise consumption of caffeine, which can stimulate stress hormones and cause insomnia, and alcohol which is dehydrating and a depressant. Make sure you take some time to relax, and most importantly, remember that it is your Christmas too!
Plan each day: The lack of routine over the Christmas holidays can make it difficult for some children to cope. Building in routine activities – like meals at the usual times can help. Using visual timetables to plan each day in advance and help the child understand exactly what they will be doing and when can take away the uncertainty of this period. You can use these to plan activities, what times everything will take place, and even menus for different mealtimes. Making sure you all go out for some fresh air every day, whatever the weather, is another good idea and will help children burn off some of the extra energy or adrenaline they might have built up. And not having visitors every day – every other day at most – is likely to help keep the atmosphere a bit more familiar and safer for children.