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Christmas in foster care: Neurodivergent children

Copy Of Christmas In Foster Care Managing Christmas For A Child Who Has Never Celebrated Christmas Before (800 X 600 Px) (1) (1)

With Christmas just around the corner, most children will be getting excited for Father Christmas to come and visit but it isn’t always as straightforward as that for children in care. Christmas can be a stressful time for some, it can make them recall past traumas and sometimes they will never have experienced a traditional Christmas.

Christmas can be a challenging time of year for neurodivergent children. Routines change, school focuses on Christmas plays and other festive activities moving away from the regularly timetable. The addition of festive music in shops and school can cause sensory overload as can the twinkly lights and decorations.

Here's some advice from our team to help you have the best Christmas for you and your foster children.

  1. Don’t rush presents and push opening them, many neurodivergent people get overwhelmed with gifts or want to play and appreciate one at a time. Let them open gifts at their own pace. In this house it can take a few days to open them.
  2. If surprises can be an issue don’t wrap the gifts. See through wrapping cellophane can work!

  3. Some children are freaked out by the idea of Santa coming into their rooms, discuss this and leave the ‘stocking’ downstairs so their room is their space (this also applies to the tooth fairy!)

  4. Cook the food they want for them, don’t force them to have a ‘christmas meal’. It adds extra stress to the whole family. Should you want them to eat a traditional meal make sure there are elements they enjoy and let them only eat those. Pigs in blankets and roasties are a winner here! Christmas is about being with people you care about and enjoying yourself. Support them in making their Christmas enjoyable.

  5. If visiting people, try and give them a safe space where they can withdraw and regulate. Make sure you take along some things for them to use when in the safe space. A second living room works well for us as it’s difficult to deal with young children, noise, demands and sharing new toys. If possible, space out timing for visits and be clear regarding how long you will be there or they will be in the home.

  6. If staying home, reinforce their safe space, and include items for sensory regulation. We only decorate one room, so all the others are free and more relaxed.

  7. Make your own traditions as a household that include ways a neurodivergent person can also be involved!

Most importantly remember that it is only one day, and what may seem a small concession can mean the world to those struggling at this time. Remember if a problem arises you can always get in touch with Calon Cymru for support and advice.


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Date published

13 December 2023

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