Christmas, for most of us is a joyful time of the year. It’s a time when we get together with our families and loved ones, share our gifts and enjoy wonderful food together. When I started fostering, I was sharply reminded that not all families are lucky enough to experience this.
Some of the children we have looked after came from families who for them, Christmas was just another day. For some, it was a painful time, a time when they desperately wanted to be with their mums and dads, but couldn’t. And for some, it was a stark reminder of times when they had felt lonely and unloved.
Christmas for our family is still a wonderful time. In fact I get even more pleasure out of it now than ever. I just love seeing little faces light up at the Christmas tree, the lights, the gifts. But at the back of my mind I’m always aware of how sad they must feel. Sad to be apart from their own family at this time of year.
If you are a foster carer, you will understand what I mean then, when I say it’s a day tinged with sadness. All we can do is to try to ensure we make it as painless as we possibly can. I always try to arrange phone contact with parents if a visit isn’t possible. If there are other siblings and grandparents, I arrange phone calls with these too. I also set aside a special day when I take the children Christmas shopping with me. On this day, I make sure that we only buy gifts for their family, and then I help them to write special messages to put with their presents.
I know that children are resilient, but it has to be tough for them, seeing family get togethers, when theirs might be falling apart. All we can do is try our best to make the day easy for them. To recognise that they may need time out, or to acknowledge that if they seem sullen, they may have good reason.
I know that as a family, we will have a fantastic Christmas, and I sincerely hope that our foster children will too. So far, so good. They are as excited as any young children could be, have helped with the tree and decorations and have sent their letters to Santa.
I hope you all have a happy Christmas, and those of you who are looking after someone else’s kids, well, this is to you especially.