Fostering a child can be a big and scary prospect and chances are the day they arrive you’ll be just as nervous and unsure as they are. Knowing what to expect and a little bit about how you can make it easier for you and your foster child will go a long way to a smooth introduction and integration into your home and life. Here are a few tips for first time foster care parents to help.
Prepare a Help and Support Network
Fostering a child isn’t always smooth sailing, and it’s important to recognise that and prepare for those occasions where you might need a bit of help. This might come in the form of social media or in person groups for foster parents, or it might simply be a call to your parents or friends with kids to offer you some guidance on how they might handle a specific parenting moment or responsibility. If you’ve never had kids before, there are going to be a lot of new experiences, so being able to talk and discuss things with someone makes all the difference.
Get Ready for Some Difficult Parts of the Day
Many foster parents discover and report back that they find the most difficult parts of the day are around mealtimes, bath time and bedtime. You can alleviate some of this by engaging with your foster child and talking to them about what they prefer. In the bedroom, provide them with a nightlight and some background noise that they can control, and try asking them about their favourite foods and snacks. Incorporate some of their preferences and needs without being too much of a pushover – you definitely shouldn’t be giving in to a diet of just junk food. Don’t force them to sit at the table if they don’t want to either – let them incorporate into your family at their own pace.
Establish a Routine Quickly
As soon as you can, establish a basic daily routine that you expect from your foster kids, and make sure they are familiar with your daily routine. Don’t be too pushy or demand too much and let them settle into the routine, but make sure that you have one planned out for them. Depending on the age of the children, you might want to use visual aids like flowcharts or pictures to help you. Try your best not to surprise them with anything too big, as this might cause them to withdraw. Most of all, establish clearly that you are ready and happy for communication and make sure that your foster child knows you’re approachable and happy to talk about anything they might need to talk about. A simple “how are you feeling?” question can go a long way.
Being a foster parent is one of the most selfless things you can sign up for. With the proper planning and preparation and a few tips for integration into the home, your foster care experience will reward you with a fulfilling and heart-warming experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.