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Fostering Skills Spotlight: Communication

Like many of the skills you need to be a successful foster carer, communication is one that you’ve been honing all your life.

The first step to effective communication when fostering is listening – a topic we covered in a previous Skills Spotlight post.

But in any situation that arises, you also need to have a two-way dialogue. So once you’ve heard what the child is saying, you need to respond in a way that’s meaningful to them.

Communicate with empathy, understanding and warmth

Age isn’t the only factor to take into account when deciding how to communicate. Children are all different developmentally, emotionally and behaviourally – even at the same chronological age. So you need to take an individual approach.

When you’re trying to handle a challenging situation, the child needs to feel you’re on the same page. And if you’re warm in your approach, this will come through, whatever message you’re communicating.

It’s worth keeping in mind that young people often find it hard to articulate what they’re going through, and may not even understand their feelings. Phrases like ‘I understand you’re upset’ will not only show your empathy, but will also validate their emotions.

Don’t attempt to mirror the way young people communicate

It’s natural to think that ‘speaking their language’ will build a rapport and encourage young people to be open with you.

But they don’t need you to be their friend. They need you to be an adult who helps them.

It’s incredibly important to demonstrate that you care and understand what the young person is going through. But it’s also crucial to show you have the skills and experience to help them handle their situation.

Communicate with authority but don’t be authoritarian

Even if they don’t realise it, young people appreciate when you’re authoritative. They’re in a situation they can’t control, and knowing you’re there providing the right framework is hugely important.

The child or young person needs to appreciate you’ve understood what they’re saying and that you’re responding to their needs. So you need to talk with them, rather than dictating the rules or how you think they should handle a situation.

Remember, just because they may persistently repeat the same negative action doesn’t mean they haven’t heard. You need to reiterate the point and be consistent.

Also, communication is underpinned by action. So never make threats or false promises. Be true to your word, and clearly explain your reasons for the action you’re taking.

Effective communication will help you build and nurture a strong relationship

Ultimately, communicating well is essential to creating a strong bond with children who are fostered.

And remember that you’re never alone. You can contact us 24/7 to support you with any issues you’re facing. So never hesitate to pick up the phone – we’re here to help you communicate effectively and give the best possible care.

CTA: Download our new Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Foster Carer for more information about what’s involved in becoming a foster carer.


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During your lunch break, or the time you spend checking Facebook, another child will come into care. Right now, that child is thinking: 'Who cares?' More Videos
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