We’re now in December and the dark nights are drawing in. Our minds are turning to the festive season and thinking ahead to that colourful and exciting time. Sadly, it is not always such a magical time for everyone. Christmas can be stressful, isolating and tough. This year Christmas is going to be very different for a lot of us. At Grandparents Plus the project workers from across England and Wales have heard from an increasing number of kinship carers about their worries and the challenges that the festivities this year will create, and for many are already are creating.
Christmas can be stressful enough even without a virus but this year families are anxious that they could be ill. Who will cook the dinner? Who will get up with the children to see if Santa has been? Many families have had children at home from school for several weeks isolating due to a positive test in school, but what would this mean if they had to isolate over Christmas?
“I’m so behind with everything this year, I’d normally have done so much more by now. It’s hard to plan when we don’t know what we doing.”Kinship carer
What we do know is that most of the country is still in various stages of lockdown. Yet, we also heard a week ago that the government has agreed that the rules will be relaxed for Christmas to allow up to three households to mix for up to five days. This has been great news for many who now can look forward to seeing family members, but for some, it has increased the pressure they feel to have a social Christmas despite wanting to remain distanced to shield themselves and their family.
Christmas is also a time of sensory overload with more people in the home, sounds and lights. Many kinship children have complex behaviours, which may become more pronounced as the other children at school plan for their family Christmas with parents.
Christmas is also a notoriously expensive and busy time of year. This year, more so than ever, many families do not have the financial means to buy Christmas presents or decorations. Even without Christmas, this year has been more expensive. The children have been at home, eating more, the television is on using more electricity, and now the colder weather is here, the heating is on.
Contact with family is a big issue at Christmas.
We have heard that for many kinship carers managing contact between the children and their birth parents is becoming increasingly difficult as birth parents increase pressure on the kinship carer to have more time with their child, despite the potential risks imposed by the virus. Kinship carers talk about feeling guilty and angry about it, as they wrestle with balancing the children’s needs and the expectations of birth parents.
“I’m already receiving messages from mum saying that Boris says we can now see the children at Christmas.”Kinship carer
On top of the external family pressures, there could also be inner family conflict. Lots of Kinship families have told us that their family members no longer see each other as they are not happy with them for taking on the child. Sometimes a kinship carer has been completely alienated from parts of their family who have sided with the birth parents. This is often hard to reconcile with the image of a typical Christmas, like on TV and in films, of big family gatherings singing around the Christmas tree.
“It’s making me anxious just even thinking about talking to her (birth Mum) about the Christmas arrangements.”Kinship carer
We are here for you.
Over the coming weeks project workers around England and Wales will be supporting families through these Christmas pressures and bearing these worries and anxieties in mind as we get ready for our festive celebrations in our virtual support groups and on social media.
There are no easy answers but our support groups will be a place to breathe, relax and gather our thoughts. They are a safe space to off-load and share concerns, queries and anxieties as well as a space to laugh, have fun and take some time out from the hassle.
For information on contact with birth parents click here.
For free support click here.
For advice and information click here.
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