More Stress and abuse at Christmas
The Christmas season can be a particularly stressful time for lots of families, with the extra monies needed for presents (an XBOX costs nearly £300), trying to meet expectations of children and with advertising kicking off Christmas in early November these days!
Christmas is supposed to be a time of ‘Peace & Goodwill’, but it can turn into quite a difficult time for families and the experience of lots of fostered children may not be such a happy one. There are lots of children living within the care system who don’t have a positive experience of Christmas, as for one particular child we know, Christmas was a time when his Dad stopped working and was on holiday for two weeks.
This should be a happy time but in John’s case this was a nightmare time as he knew exactly what was coming over the next two weeks. When John’s dad was not working he would start drinking in the morning instead of after work, using the excuse ‘I’m on holiday and its Xmas’. This would mean by lunchtime his Dad would be inebriated and the domestic violence targeted towards John’s sister and mother would be considerably worse than normal. The whole family was in a state of stress, with domestic violence incidents happening on a daily basis over the period of the two weeks.
Extra cash was needed to buy presents, again another issue which would ignite his fathers anger towards his mother, but also towards the children, as the presents would be for John and his three siblings. The alcohol intake over the Christmas period was excessive by both parents with Johns’s mother drinking to ‘drown her sorrows’ and take ‘the edge’ off the abuse she suffered. What was is also ironic is John, his siblings and and mother would always buy their father alcohol as Christmas presents, because they really could not think of anything else that would make him happier! Obviously fueling the domestic violence cycle, they were so immersed within.
John said he can remember Christmas day being the worst day of all, as the children would rise at about six in the morning, their mum would wake and then they would have to wait for their Dad to rise, who had been on a long drinking session on Christmas Eve. This was the Christmas morning routine for as long as John can remember. His Dad would get out of bed, hungover, feeling the worse for wear and before eight o’clock Christmas morning would have an alcoholic drink in his hand and we know how the story ends as the day progresses.
The evidence of a generation of Christmas days are the photographs John’s Mum would take on Xmas day and keep on her wall. The children have presents, they have their parents, but one only needs to look at their faces in the photographs without smiles, year after year on Christmas day.
Christmas Day in Foster Care
John was placed in foster care aged 11 years old and he was placed separately from his siblings, due to his violent and aggressive nature. John was also abusing alcohol, especially over the Christmas period and would steal anything he could get his hands on, to fund his alcohol abuse. Wherever he was living on a Christmas day, it always turned out to be difficult time for him and those caring for him.
Foster Carers need to be aware that sometimes the children they are caring for are not going to to be able to enjoys Christmas as all children really should and there are real reasons to why this may be. Try to be open, caring and supportive with your foster children at Christmas, but lets try not to pressurise your foster children to have a good time and be appreciative of what you have provided for them.
Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts (Janice Maeditere)