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Christmas traditions in a foster family home

Lewisham foster carer Claudia has fostered four children in long-term placements over 11 years. Here she writes about some of her Christmas traditions with her foster children.

Christmas is an exciting time for many families, including fostering families. Some of my foster children have never celebrated Christmas with their birth families, so it means that I get to be part of building traditions with them.

Christmas in our home starts with opening the advent calendar. This is an opportunity to talk about Christmas and to get a feel of what past Christmases may have been like for them. I always buy a real Christmas tree, which the children and I decorate and we make a garland for the front door.

On Christmas Day, our family comes in the morning and we open presents. The children in my care always have presents to open too. We usually have a big Christmas dinner. I keep an eye on my foster children to ensure they are enjoying themselves. Sometimes my previous foster children who have grown up come to my house for Christmas dinner too.

I have developed a tradition for all of the family to go to the cinema between Christmas and New Year's Day. This started in part because one of my foster children had never previously been to the cinema.

Before Christmas Day, I speak with the children in my care about when they want to see their birth families. Sometimes the families do not see their children and as a carer you have to be ready to handle that. The children I have cared for have complicated relationships with their birth families and this can mean Christmas can be a difficult time for some. I just let the children know that there is no pressure on them to do anything they don’t want to do. However, my foster children and I have never really had issues on Christmas - it's all just too exciting for them!

The girl currently in my care has never celebrated Christmas and she is caught up in all the holiday excitement. We will be going to Santa's grotto and making a Christmas cake. She has made a list of the gifts she wants this year and I have shared that with my family. She is very much a part of our family and will be included in everything.

It has been a lot of work making Christmas a magical time for her, but seeing her face while she’s running down the stairs on Christmas morning will make it worth the effort.

If you think you could make a child’s next Christmas special as a foster carer, please contact Lewisham Council for an informal discussion on 0800 015 0129 or email fosteringrecruitment@lewisham.gov.uk. Find out more at lewisham.gov.uk/fostering

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