“Little things matter and set the tone for things to come”. ___________________________________________
“Foster Parents. This is for you…from a FOSTER CHILD’S PERSPECTIVE on how to make the first day easier”. Quoted from: “I was a Foster kid”
- Smile: If the child is small, please kneel down and meet at eye level. You are a big person and are probably scary. Reduce that power by smiling and saying hi where they see you eye-to-eye. Be sensitive to touch. You are a stranger.
- Show the child around the place. If there are other kids in your family, let the kids show the “new kid” around. Show the child his/her new room. Offer to carry the bags, but many times the child will want to carry his/her own things. The child may NOT unpack for ALONG time. That is normal. Have some new “age-appropriate” toys in the child’s room. Stuffed animals are always a good choice. Let the child look in the closet, under the bed, in the drawers ~ anywhere they might be afraid of. Show them that it is safe in “their space”.
- Have cookies or healthy snacks ready and available. I was ALWAYS hungry but afraid to ask.
- Invite the child to sit down at the table, have a snack, drink something. Then talk about rules. Don’t be harsh, but be clear. For example: “You can eat anytime you want, but you must sit at the table when eating.” ASK THE CHILD if he/she has any questions. They may not at first. Don’t just hand the kid a list of rules and say something along the lines of “follow them or else.” This is not building a relationship, this is building fear and distrust. Don’t be overly forceful, even regarding your rules. For example: You might have a household rule that everyone must close the door when using the bathroom. Your new foster child may not be able to follow that rule at first ~ if he/she was abused in the bathroom, closing the door might be frightening and overwhelming. Always try and understand what or why your child is behaving a certain way.
- Don’t bring up any other “parents” unless the child does. Some kids want to “forget” and “some kids will ALWAYS compare you to another parent. If you are constantly being compared, say something like “I understand that your bio-mother cut the sandwich better than me, I am trying the best I can and I hope we can work on making it better together.” NEVER disrespect any other parents, even if they did terrible things to the child. Be honest, but don’t judge. Validate the child’s feelings and listen. Example: “LT, I hear that you are really angry at your bio-mom and you have every right to be, she hurt you really bad. It was not your fault; your mother should have kept you safe.” Something like that. No disrespect to the mother, but truth and validation. Remember, that the child loves their parents and needs to heal and understand at their own pace.
- Foster kids want to be treated JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. Don’t ever introduce them “as your foster child” and don’t have different rules for them compared to your other children. They are already different, don’t make it worse, by treating them different. **The ONLY time treating a foster child differently than your other kids might be appropriate is regarding punishment. NEVER hit a foster child and in most cases, taking things away won’t matter, since they don’t have much to begin with. Also, sending them to their room may backfire, as they might want to be alone and are used to being alone.
- If the child has anger issues, buy ALOT of pillows and let the child hit the walls, the floor, the bed, etc with pillows. Also buy those blow-up ‘pop-up’ punch toys, that you put on the ground. If older, buy a punching bag. ANGER is natural. Don’t get mad because they are mad. Teach them to direct their anger appropriately.
- To help foster children come out of their shell: a) TIME, PATIENCE, UNDERSTANDING, COMPASSION, EMPATHY. b) Have fun. Do things the child might not have ever done ~ play a board-game, bake cupcakes, go to the zoo, have a movie night with popcorn, go to the park and play frisbee, etc.. c) Read to them, even if they can read themselves. d) If they are teens, spend the day with them. Go shopping, go to lunch, talk. e) REMEMBER TO LAUGH!
- Give the child a couple days to figure things out. For some children it will take along time to warm up. Keep talking with them and show you are interested.They are watching you and trying to figure out if they can TRUST you. Don’t just ignore them. Ask them how they are doing? How their day went? Can you help? Are they hungry? Be involved….don’t hide!.
- Ask the child what you (new foster parents) can do to make it more comfortable or to help them feel better. This alone shows to them that you care about how they feel.