How To Improve Your Understanding of a Foster Child
Nobody said fostering was all sunshine and rainbows, but you could be forgiven for thinking so when things start off so brightly. You bond with this adorable and polite young person by welcoming them into your home, but after the honeymoon period a new set of challenges may be unearthed.
Therefore, it’s important to understand that a foster child may not be used to such a change in circumstances, a life that suddenly feels easier, and at this point boundaries can often be tested.
Recent evidence suggests that 1/4 of foster children in the UK move homes at least once, sometimes as often as six times before settling. A shortage of foster carers makes it hard to find a perfect fit, but realistically, there’s no such thing.
Each fostering relationship comes with its own unique set of challenges, so what are the most common hurdles, and what can be done to overcome them?
Dealing with Guilt & Rejection
Foster children will often blame themselves after being removed from their birth parents, so an early issue that may arise is guilt.
If the foster child has been awaiting placement for some time they may also feel hurt by rejection, persuading themselves that their best option is to return home, even to an abusive parent.
Recognising and dealing with this internal conflict is a crucial early step in forming a lasting relationship.
Lead a ‘normal’ life
Another common problem is the discrepancy between what you and your foster child consider to be a ‘normal’ life. From chaotic bedtime routines and pocket money palaver, through to whether dinner is at the table or in front of Coronation Street, every family is different.
Avoid passing judgement on previous habits, but instead aim to communicate by opening up a conversation, rather than a one way speech.
However, picking your battles is crucial in these situations. If the child is taking severe liberties then of course it’s important to challenge that behaviour.
There may also be a need to implement a longer term strategy to ensure they know what behaviour is required.
The Four Whats
One successful technique shared amongst our community is The Four Whats:
- What did you do?
- What happened when you did it?
- What could you have done instead?
- What would have happened if you had done that?
Letting a child enjoy these internal revelations is more productive than having it spelt out, and can make adapting to a new family far easier for everyone involved.
Unfortunately, as we all know, it can be difficult for young people to admit certain feelings, especially positive emotions towards their foster family.
Even blood relatives need a little coercion to say I love you now and then, so imagine how tough it must be to admit that to people who until recently were complete strangers.
Intuition and insight can help break down these barriers, but these aren’t your only tools.
Help & Support
Everyday we work with current and former foster families to create a sense of community, one whose knowledge and experience can be drawn upon in your time of need.
The choice to raise someone else’s child is rewarding, but also life changing, and the best way to cope with that is with a solid foundation of human support to guide you every step of the way.
If things turn start to turn sour, and like most families they inevitability will run into some difficulties, our network of foster families and trained professionals ensures you won’t be short of a solution to help gain a stronger understanding of your child’s behaviour.
Sometimes what seems like an insurmountable situation just needs a new pair of eyes.
With advice, training and support on hand from people who’ve been there, done that, and got the t-shirt, albeit a t-shirt covered in ketchup and tears, you’ll come to realise that no foster family ever has to take this journey alone.