6 Ways To Improve Communication With Your Foster Child
As a leading fostering agency, we know that becoming a foster carer is a truly remarkable and touching act of courage that will help give a vulnerable foster child the brightest possible future.
Whilst it’s important to have the determination and willingness to make a difference, it’s also crucial that you have the ability to effectively communicate with your foster child, so that their thoughts, feelings and emotions can be easily understood. Throughout your fostering journey it’s in our nature, as well as our motto, to make sure that you’re not alone at any point, as we’re here to support, train and encourage.
Although there are many other areas to consider, we have concentrated on the following 6 ways that we believe will increase your confidence and effectiveness as a foster parent when communicating with your foster child.
1. Building trust from the start
Preparing your home practically for the arrival of a foster child can be a fantastic way to make a child feel welcome, but it’s also important that the communication that you use during those early stages aims to build trust, as well as security.
Observing their behaviour and asking questions about the child’s favourite hobbies, toys, games and sporting activities are two extremely powerful ways of establishing confidence.
2. Remember to give your child a say
We all know that for any parent and child relationship to be fully successful there must be an element of bias to help ensure a sense of discipline.
However, we regularly see that the most successful foster relationships are those that incorporate open forms of communication, with children being able to voice their opinion as they become heavily involved in each decision that is made within the family unit.
3. Praise, and lots of it!
As a foster parent there may be a tendency to focus on overcoming the more negative behaviours that a child may display. Maximising the amount of praise that you provide for even the smallest of achievements can have a greater impact on their confidence, self-worth and trust for you as a carer, than if you were to constantly focus upon dealing with potential problems.
4. It’s wrong to judge
The last thing that a foster child really needs from a loving and caring foster family is to be judged, and although it’s in our character to do so, you should certainly try and avoid it. Having an open mind set that sidesteps the critical remarks is more likely to lead to a happy, healthy and secure foster child.
5. Be a good listener
Some foster children are as a quiet as mice and others are complete chatterboxes, but either way it’s imperative that you’re a good listener. When you listen to a child it shows that you care and that you value their opinions.
Whether or not you agree with their point of view is a different matter, but at this stage children are just looking for someone who they can share their thoughts and feelings with.
6. A smile can make all the difference
Having a huge smile, making eye contact and unfolding your arms are all active ways in which you can portray warmth, positivity and openness when communicating with your foster child.
For more information and advice about improving your communication with foster children, or to find out about the support and rewards that are available when you foster with us, get in touch with a dedicated member of the Perpetual Fostering team today.
We’ve previously shared our thoughts on how best to provide foster children with a new home for Christmas, with some thoughts and advice on how to ease the child’s transition. Hopefully we also highlighted how important this season of hope is for children in care.
This time we’ll go into more depth as to why this time of year, in particular, can be a complicated one for foster children moving between placements. The focus here is on encouraging the ideal approach from close family members. As mentioned last time, two things jumped out of the discussion: the importance of both communication and striking a balance.
There’s No Such Thing As Over-Communication
Navigating this festive season so that everyone is happy is dependent on communication. With your own family, communicate your thoughts, listen to theirs, and ensure everyone collaborates to create an atmosphere conducive to a positive placement. This coordinated approach will pay dividends, but if you’re new to fostering, it will require concerted attention and time. Naturally, the need for collective effort will lessen with time.
Leading on from that, opening a dialogue with the foster child is just as important. As an example, taking into account where the child wants to spend Christmas day itself is key; no one is better placed to tell you what they hope for than the children themselves. Even if your hands are tied, and the decision about where they spend the big day doesn’t ultimately rest with you, it’s crucial to let them know about the logistics in advance. This might seem like insignificant detail, but put yourself in the shoes of the child: this factor could shape their entire experience of Christmas for that given year.
Striking the Balance
Hopefully this makes it clear that communication should be conscientious, thorough and tactful, which leads nicely into the overall balancing act, i.e. balancing the needs of the foster child as evenly as possible with those of your immediate family. A definite positive is, that if you get the communication stage with your nearest and dearest right, this balance should be all the more straightforward.
Above all, this is with the view of communicating that the foster child is valued – and has a right to be valued. Get it right, and the benefits extend far beyond the one Christmas season in question.