Deciding to bring a foster child into your home can be a wonderful experience. You’re giving a child a second chance at having a better life. The experience is also usually very rewarding both as a parent and for the other members of your family.
Fostering is a decision that should not be taken lightly. It is going to be a dramatic change for everyone in your family. Relationships will be changed and bonds will be forged. Sometimes things will go right, and sometimes things will go wrong.
Before you decide to become a foster parent, there are a few things to know. Some foster children were born into households with one or more parents who have battled addiction issues. Others may have had parents who have experienced serious health conditions, or may not have had their parents around at all. Many foster children are raised by other family members or friends of the family. Some of them have problems adjusting to new people and new situations.
The social worker that you meet with should have a case file for each foster child. This information should include things like their family information, past fostering history and school records. They should also be able to provide insight as to the child’s favorite activities and some things to steer clear of.
Here are seven ways to help make your foster child comfortable with you:
1. Have a positive attitude
You should make every effort be happy the day that the foster child finally arrives at your home. Having a positive attitude is a great way to start their new life as part of your family. It’s a new beginning for all of you. Smile early and often. This lets the child know that they are welcome and that you are glad to have them. Greet them at their eye level with a handshake and a smile. Encourage the rest of the family members to welcome the child with open arms.
2. Do your homework
The social worker should have provided you with enough information about the foster child’s background. This information should also contain some details about their personality and interests. Before they arrive, take some time to buy a few things that will make them feel at home, like some of their favorite foods or maybe a beloved toy or two. Sit down and have a family meeting, so that everyone is prepared and should know what to expect when the foster child is there.
3. Give them a tour of your home
After the foster child has met everyone, it’s time to show them around your home. Show them the room where they will be staying. Make sure they know where the bathrooms, kitchen, living room and other important areas are. If you have a backyard, feel free to sit outside with them for a while. Give them all the time they need to feel acclimated to their new surroundings. It may take a few days, but eventually most kids will build enough trust to feel comfortable with their new family.
4. Talk to them
Once they’ve gotten to know their way around your family and your home, it might be a good idea to sit down with them. You should be open to any questions or concerns that they may have. This is also a good time to discuss any rules that you may have. Talking to them one on one in a calm, rational matter will help the child understand what is and what is not acceptable behavior. It’s also a personal touch that tells them that they matter to you.
5. Include them in family activities
If your family does regular activities like movie night or pizza Friday, for example, be sure to include the foster child in all the fun! Ask them what they like to do, and incorporate the things they like and their ideas into your activities whenever possible. This is a great way for all of you to bond and for your foster child to get to know you and your family members better. Remember to have fun and laugh!
6. Give them outlets for their anger
Many foster children are angry, depressed or frustrated for a lot of different reasons. They have every right to feel the way that they feel. If the foster child acts up or takes their emotions out on members of your family, it’s time to take them aside and address the issue. Let them take out their aggression on a few pillows or a punching bag in the garage. Do whatever it takes to help them feel better, as long as they don’t hurt someone else in the process.
7. Treat them how you would like to be treated
Following the golden rule is a great rule in life. It should also apply to the fostering situation. The foster child is a member of the family for as long as they’re in your home, so they should be given the same courtesy, dignity and respect as everyone else living under your roof. Kids just want to feel like they belong, so don’t single them out or treat them differently.
These are just some effective ways to help your foster child be more comfortable. It’s going to be an adjustment for everyone for the first several days or weeks. There may be times when the child lashes out, or refuses to talk to anyone. Staying calm, patient, understanding and persistent will eventually help them get out of their shell. Making your home, a loving and caring environment for them sets them on a healthy path for a more positive and successful life.