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A Trauma Informed approach to the holidays

A Trauma Informed approach to the holidays

Supporting children with traumatic backgrounds during the holiday season demands a nuanced approach, understanding, and an extra dose of patience.


As calendars fill with festive events and the regular school routine gives way to a holiday break, these moments can become emotionally charged for children in Foster Care. Memories of past Christmases, anxieties about the present one, and the absence of familiar rhythms and friends can weigh heavily on them. As well as tending to their physical needs, the child’s care team should ensure they are nurturing their emotional well-being.

Martha J Holden, the author of CARE: Creating Conditions for Change, aptly emphasised the importance of helping each child or young person have a great day, underscoring the significance of positive human connections and experiences. But what constitutes a great day for us? What relationships and experiences do children in care genuinely need? Jim Anglin echoes this sentiment in the foreword, highlighting how every interaction carries the potential for transformative impact, yet we never know which moment might create that change.

Navigating the holiday season with children in care presents various stressors. Loss of routine, memories of past Christmases, separation from family, struggles during family time, or the overwhelming sensory experiences of the season can trigger pain-based behaviours. These manifest in numerous ways – from withdrawal to hyperactivity, sabotaging experiences, meltdowns, and disruptions in basic habits like eating and sleeping.

It’s crucial to recognise that these behaviours often stem from attachment needs. Children express these needs through behaviour, seeking connection and nurturing relationships. Responding to these behaviours requires a mindful approach. Rather than reacting to the behaviour itself, understanding and addressing the underlying need behind it fosters a positive, supportive environment. Providing attention and support during moments of struggle helps children feel seen, heard, and supported rather than misunderstood.

Building attachments and developmental relationships necessitates certain key elements:

  • Availability: Actively engaging in a child’s daily life, fostering trust in your consistent availability and willingness to help.
  • Sensitivity: nurturing a deeper connection by being attuned to a child’s needs and unique ways of communication.
  • Acceptance: Embracing children for who they are and understanding that attachment-seeking behaviours are their attempts to belong.
  • Investment: Invest in children by celebrating their successes, instilling confidence in their abilities, and encouraging their growth.

While the holiday season can be stressful, it also offers opportunities to delve deeper into the child’s world – their family, customs, and traditions. It’s important to foster these connections, regardless of the child’s future living arrangements. Preplanning discussions, self-care, family involvement, emotional support, and managing expectations are vital strategies to navigate this time sensitively.

From involving the child in holiday activities to ensuring crisis care resources, a holistic approach is necessary. Building inclusion, respecting their background, and understanding their anxieties around Santa finding them are crucial to address. In conclusion, supporting children during the holiday season involves not just managing the festivities but also understanding, empathy, and providing an environment conducive to their emotional well-being. With thoughtful planning, patience, and a focus on nurturing connections, the holiday season can become an opportunity for growth, understanding, and strengthened relationships for children in care.


Challenge On Call service

We recognise that caring for children and young people is a 24/7 role. We want to ensure that our Foster Carers have access to emergency support when required, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, especially during this Christmas period.

Caseworkers and managers within your region operate our on-call service and are available for severe, high-risk, or extraordinary situations requiring immediate response.

The Challenge On-Call service is not a replacement for existing emergency services, where Police, Ambulance or Fire require an immediate emergency response, call 000.

Please get in touch with your local team to ensure you have the on-call number for your region.


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