Top tips for Navigating the Christmas Period in a Trauma Informed Way

Dr. Leanne Johnson, Head of Trauma Informed Practice and Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Christmas can be a challenging time of the year, for children who have experienced trauma. It is important to be aware of potential triggers related to past trauma (e.g. a child going into care just before Christmas) and strive to minimize them, creating positive memories where possible. The below tips can help support.

Create a Warm and Welcoming Environment: Let children know regularly how special they are and what an important part of the community they are. For example, photos and artwork being on display. Surprise them with subtle random acts of kindness to show you are keeping them in mind.

Create Special Memories: Create memories together, giving children choice about what they would like to do. Taking photos and other ways to record these memories to look back on is important.

Communicate Openly: Encourage open conversations about their feelings and expectations for Christmas, ensuring they have a voice in the plans. Some children will want to really celebrate it, others may not – individual needs and requests need to be supported.

Foster Connections: Facilitate meaningful connections with supportive individuals, whether it’s friends, family, or community members, to reinforce a sense of belonging. Do not force connections, only positively encourage them and respect the child’s view.

Establish Predictability: Maintain routines and clearly communicate any changes in advance to help reduce anxiety and uncertainty. For schools prepare children for the end of term and transitioning to a new school year.

Offer Choices: Allow children to participate in decision-making regarding holiday activities, respecting their preferences and comfort levels.

Provide Coping Strategies: Equip children with regulating strategies, such as deep breathing exercises or creative outlets, to manage during the holiday season.

Celebrate in a Low-Pressure Manner: Keep festivities low-key, focusing on enjoyable and non-stressful activities to avoid overwhelm.

Respect Boundaries: Recognise and respect children’s need for personal space and downtime, allowing them to engage in holiday celebrations at their own pace.

Reflect Together: As a team – what is working well, what is challenging? What do we need to change or tweak? Try to stay ahead of supporting.

Seek Professional Support: If needed, involve mental health professionals/specialist support to provide additional guidance and support during the holiday season.

Importantly of all – make sure you work to recognise the impact of working with trauma on you – do not forget your Healthy Mind Platters throughout the holiday period.