Nurturing Children with Unique Needs and Circumstances
Becoming a foster parent is a noble and rewarding decision that opens your heart and home to children who need a safe and loving environment. Foster parenting comes with its own set of challenges, as the children in your care may have experienced trauma, loss, and uncertainty in their lives. While there are similarities between foster parenting and traditional parenting, the unique needs and circumstances of foster children call for distinct approaches and strategies.
In this blog, we will explore some essential parenting tips specifically tailor for foster parents.
As foster parents with firsthand experience in fostering and adopting teenagers, we understand the unique challenges that come with this noble undertaking. We have opened our hearts and homes to children in need, providing them with love, care, and stability in times of uncertainty. Throughout our journey, we encountered various obstacles that taught us invaluable lessons. In retrospect, we wish we had heeded some of the advice we were given, as it could have made a significant difference in navigating the complexities of fostering and adopting teens.
In this blog, we not only offer practical tips for foster parents but also share our personal insights and reflections on the trials and triumphs we faced. Our hope is that these shared experiences will empower aspiring foster parents to approach this rewarding yet challenging role with greater awareness and preparedness.
Foster children may have experienced disrupted attachments and trust issues due to past experiences. Building trust is a crucial aspect of foster parenting, and it requires patience, understanding, and consistency. Allow the child to set the pace for forming connections with you and other family members. Avoid making promises you can't keep and be honest and transparent about your intentions and actions. An example is when they enter your home, don't throw a welcome home party with all the neighbors. Don't take more than a photo or two and only if you have permission. Don't force cuddles and hugs. Don't expect they will say, "I love you" ever. If you get that, it is a blessing. Don't treat them with disrespect if you want to build trust. For example, yelling at them is disrespectful. Yelling will be a trigger to their fragile emotional state, and you might lose them forever.
Foster children often come from diverse cultural backgrounds. As a foster parent, it is vital to be culturally sensitive and aware of the child's cultural heritage. Learn about their traditions, customs, and values, and incorporate them into your family life when appropriate. Embracing diversity will not only enrich the child's experience but also create a more inclusive and accepting environment. Joe and I met a foster family at the state adoption certification class. They needed to learn how to care for their child's hair that was completely out of their scope of experience. They needed to be able to answer questions from the public and know what to do with people staring at them. The children might not be familiar with your favorite recipes and miss their mom's cooking.
Don't force them to talk and answer 100 questions at the dinner table on the first night.
Foster children may exhibit challenging behaviors due to trauma, loss, or feelings of abandonment. As a foster parent, be prepared for emotional outbursts, regressions, and difficult conversations. It's essential to provide a safe space for the child to express their emotions and feelings without judgment. Seek professional support and counseling if/when needed, as these experts can offer guidance on coping with the emotional challenges of foster parenting. I felt prepared until he suddenly, albeit quietly, ran upstairs to hide under the bed on the second day. It became known he wasn't good at math. I remembered the 'time-in' technique and every day we would sit on his floor.
In many foster care situations, the goal is to reunite the child with their biological family when it is safe and appropriate to do so. As a foster parent, it can be emotionally challenging to say goodbye to a child you have grown attached to. However, supporting the reunification process is vital for the child's well-being and successful family reunification. If invited to mentor the bio family, be prepared to do so. Reunification is the goal, and you may be able to guide the parents and encourage them. Please be advised, this isn't easy, but I believe you should try, but guard your heart and set boundaries.
Foster parents often play a critical role in advocating for the children in their care. Attend meetings with social workers, teachers, and healthcare professionals to ensure the child's needs are met effectively. Speak up for the child's educational and medical needs and be an active participant in the development of their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) if required. However, listen closely and don't get over committed. A friend of mine had the foster children removed from their care because she was receiving too many services. Sorry....Sadly it happens.
Attachment is a complex process that takes time, especially for foster children who may have experienced attachment disruptions in the past. Be patient and supportive as the child navigates their feelings and develops a sense of belonging within your family. Understand that attachment may not happen overnight, but with time and consistent care, strong bonds can form. Our sons call us by our names...Not Mom and Dad. Our oldest adopted son informed said, "I want you to know that I may never tell you I love you back." about two weeks after they moved in with us. He finally wrote it in a Christmas card five years later. "Mom, I know I don't say it enough, but I love you." I cried...
Trauma-informed parenting is an essential aspect of foster parenting. Educate yourself about trauma and its effects on a child's development and behavior. Create a trauma-informed environment that emphasizes safety, predictability, and positive coping mechanisms. Avoid punitive measures and instead focus on nurturing resilience and emotional growth. I realize this is a hard one. You may have raised some very successful bio children with other parenting techniques, and they are successful adults today. The parenting techniques probably will have to 100 % changed to match your new children's trauma effect. Get lots of advice and don't give up being the nurturing teaching parent. Set boundaries with respect and love. Schedule time with the family to communicate feelings and build their character. Let them know the good character you see in them. Help them to express feelings and emotional attitudes and teach them how to trust you when they want to 'vomit all of their feelings on you' when they are upset. Take the moment when they are calm to teach them how to handle emotions. Do you know how to handle emotions all of the time. I recommend you read, "The Insightful Parent" By Dr. Amanda Corbin. Some reviews: "This book is a wealth of knowledge to All parents!!" - Kim Squires" There are only three parenting books I hold in high enough regard to recommend. This is one of them." - Jessica V."
This is a wonderful book hitting upon some of the most crucial elements necessary to being the best parent that we can be." - Amazon Customer Just like children, we all need to be cared for.
Our ability to care for others and our children is directly related to how well we know ourselves. This is a book for parents: old parents, new parents, expecting parents, and surrogate parents. Take a journey of self-discovery to find the insights that will bring wisdom and wholeness, and in turn provide a healthier environment to raise our children." Wonderful book for every parent to read!!!! I would give it 6 stars if I could!!" - Amazon Customer" The journey of reflection that this book takes the reader on is one of discovery, hope, practice, and healing." - K. Wiezycki
Foster parenting is a unique and rewarding journey that requires compassion, patience, and understanding. By recognizing the unique needs and circumstances of foster children, and tailoring your approach accordingly, you can provide them with the love and stability they need to thrive. Embrace the challenges and joys of foster parenting, knowing that your efforts can have a profound and positive impact on the lives of these resilient and deserving children.
You will know that you are called, with the specific giftings to help these children SHINE.
Remember, you are not alone on this journey, and there are support systems available to guide you through the ups and downs of foster parenting.