Supporting your Tamariki this Christmas

Now that the countdown to Christmas Day has started, what is on your mind? Are you planning your Christmas lunch or dinner menu? Thinking about the colour theme for your tree? Wondering about what the perfect gift would be for those closest to you? For most, Christmas day is filled with laughter, happiness, and family time, but for tamariki in care, this may have not been the case.

We cannot assume that te tamaiti (the child) in your care understands what Christmas is. They may not have celebrated Christmas before or it may have been an unhappy time of the year.

What is the child in your care thinking about as Christmas nears?

Are they wondering whether they will get to spend Christmas with their biological family? Are they scared of what the unknown of Christmas day will bring?

Some children in care may feel like they are not being loyal to their biological family if they are having fun and enjoying the day with you. They may feel lonely because their biological family is not around, or they may feel sad as nothing is familiar to them.

Remember to be accepting of your child and what they are feeling.

How can you support your child’s emotions in the lead up to Christmas?

In the lead up to Christmas, spend time talking to the child in your care about what traditions they may have had on Christmas day with their biological family. If you can, incorporate some of these into your day. This will give them a feeling of belonging, of being heard, and will help them to feel more comfortable. While talking with your child, let them know about some of your own traditions so they know what to expect. Talk to them about the kinds of food you eat, the people who come to your house (or the people you will visit), or any other quirky traditions you have.

Be aware that behaviours may escalate as the child may not have celebrated or experienced Christmas before. Their behaviours are a way of keeping themselves safe, to keep you at a distance, to deflect their pain or because they are scared, worried or to show that they don’t care!

Because of heightened emotions you need to make sure that you practice self-care, at this time especially. You can only give of yourself as much as you have, so make sure you take time to replenish your energy. It is hard to stay open and engaged when your energy is low. So if you find yourself getting defensive – go gift shopping on your own, meet a friend for a coffee – do something that is just for YOU.

And finally, you can put your child’s mind at ease and help them make sure that Santa can find them. Pull out the craft box and help the child make a sign that says something like “Santa, stop here for [name]”. Pop it on your front door or attach it to something in the garden. Make some ‘Magic Reindeer Dust’, mix some glitter and rolled oats together and sprinkle it on the path to your house so the reindeer can see where they need to go!

We hope you have a wonderful Christmas break and enjoy spending time with your whānau and friends.