By Ryan Bridges, Parenting Map
Fostering a child is a rewarding experience where you can have a positive impact on the child’s life. You’ll get to help a child who may not have been in the best situation to begin with.
The early stages of fostering a child will include a major adjustment period. After all, both your life and the life of the child will be changing significantly. The first few days tend to be the most difficult, but if you follow these tips, you can ease that transition.
Have the basics ready.
It will make your foster child’s transition easier when you already have the basic supplies that they’ll need. This includes some clothes, items for personal care, school supplies and food.
After you’ve met your foster child, it’s a good idea to ask if they want anything to eat or drink. This lets them know that you’ll take care of them. They could also be too shy to ask for food or a drink if you don’t prompt it first.
Keep the lines of communication open.
People typically don’t like to pour their hearts out to strangers, and during those first few days with your foster child, that’s what you are to them: a stranger. They don’t know you and they probably won’t immediately open up to you. That’s fine. What’s important is that they know they can talk to you if they want.
Let the foster child know that you’re always available if they want to talk. Ask them how they’re doing from time to time. You may get short, casual responses most of the time, but every so often, they may want to get something off their chest.
Be flexible and lower your expectations.
It’s your house and you set the rules, but it’s also important to remember that your foster child may have come from a much different environment. It’s unrealistic to expect them to behave a certain way, especially right off the bat.
There are some habits that change quickly, but others take more time or simply won’t change at all. Give your foster child leeway regarding your rules and lifestyle. It’s fine to reiterate your rules when necessary, just avoid being overly strict as they try to adjust to their new surroundings.
Tread carefully when mentioning birth family.
It may frustrate you to think about what a birth family has done. Your foster child may want to vent about it from time to time. But you should always remain calm and be cautious with how you talk about your foster child’s birth family.
Even if your foster child is upset about their birth family, they could still become defensive if you join in. Focus on listening and empathizing instead of interjecting with your opinion.
Take care of yourself.
Even though you’ll probably be focusing on providing a nurturing environment for your foster child, you can’t forget about taking care of yourself. It will be an adjustment period for you as well when you have someone new living under your roof.
You won’t be able to provide the best care for your foster child if you’re stressed. Take time to clear your head when you need it. For some, this could involve going on a walk or meditating, and for others, it could involve starting a new hobby. Find anything that helps you decompress so you can keep a clear head.
Establish yourself as a parent.
Although you want to be flexible with your foster child, it’s important that you demonstrate you’re the parent from the beginning. Acting like their friend isn’t going to help them, and what they really need is a structured environment.
Being the parent starts by explaining your home’s rules and boundaries to your foster child on the first day. Know from the beginning which rules you don’t mind negotiating and which are set in stone. Explain to your foster child what the consequences are for breaking a rule.
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