How to Make Your Foster Child Feel at Home
Welcoming your foster child into your home isn’t going to be as easy as simply opening your door. You need to treat him like any other child but also consider the trauma he’s experienced. Your foster child may immediately embrace you, it may take time for him to warm up or he may never show how he feels at all. Every foster child’s reaction is going to be different. What may seem like a warm welcome to you could be a stressful situation to him. There are going to be times when it feels like making your foster child feel at home is a delicate balancing act. You need to step back, view it from his perspective and try to be flexible and understanding.
Your foster child’s first impression of his new home will likely form a lasting memory, so it’s important that you have as much as possible ready for his arrival. Even if it’s an emergency placement, there are simple things you can do to make the transition easier for him. While making your foster child feel at home may seem like a daunting task, it’s the little things you do that can make all the difference.
Making Your Foster Child Feel at Home
The Initial Meeting: When he arrives at your house, come out smiling and be one of the first welcoming faces he sees that day. Kneeling down to his eye level before introducing yourself will make you seem less intimidating and may ease some of the tension.
When walking him to your home, see if he’s open to you holding his hand if he’s younger, or placing your hand on his shoulder if he’s older, to start forming a bond and provide some much needed reassurance. If you notice that he seems hesitant or anxious, err on the side of caution and avoid making this day any more uncomfortable for him.
The Tour: Show him around the house. If you have other children, let them join you on the tour to help them start bonding. Explain to him that he shouldn’t feeling uncomfortable using different things around the house, such as the TV or computer, because he’s now part of your family. Doing so will give him a sense of belonging, which may be a first for him.
The Room: End the tour of the house with his room. If you have enough notice, you can ask his caseworker what your foster child likes so you can have it waiting for him, such as a poster of his favourite football team or a book he enjoys. You may also want to have a few new toys for him to play with. Let him know that you can help him rearrange his room if he would like.
The Basket: Preparing a welcome basket can be a nice surprise for your foster child on what’s likely an upsetting and scary day. You can fill the basket with new clothes, a blanket, toys, books and other things that interest him. Not only will a welcome basket show him that you care, but also that he’s worth getting a gift.
The Food: Put some cookies in the oven to fill your house with a welcoming scent. Once your family has greeted your foster child, put a pizza in the oven for him to eat after the tour. For dinner, find out what his favourite meal is and plan to make that in the future to create a greater sense of home.
The Ice Breaker: Once he’s had time to eat and get settled, you can gauge his feelings and see if he’s open to talking to you. If he’s willing to talk, you can start by asking questions to show that you’re truly interested in him, like asking if there’s anything you can do to make his room more comfortable. Let him know that if he ever has any questions he can feel comfortable coming to you. All of this will work towards building a bond. However, don’t think you did something wrong if he doesn’t want to talk. It’s likely been a very difficult day for him and he has a lot to process.
Some of these points may seem too commonplace to make that much of a difference, but to your foster child, who’s coming from a situation that was anything but normal, they will. Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t seem like he appreciates all that you’re doing. It may take him a few days, weeks, or even months to warm up to you as he adjusts, but with time and your love, he’ll start to feel less like an outsider and more like a member of the family.
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