Here are the Do’s and Don’ts
Foster parenting can easily qualify as one of the most arduous tasks in the world. It calls for nurturing, commitment, and dedication, and when it gets over, sometimes it also takes strength and resilience. Resilience to survive the heartbreak when the foster child leaves and strength to say yes to the next placement.
Foster children often come from broken families, trauma, and abuse. They do not know stability, and it takes a lot to love them and give them the security they are craving for. Foster children long for normal lives but getting to a normal with them is a long and gruelling journey. As foster parents, you will have to change tactics to deal with them and may have to follow the rules of therapeutic parenting to make great strides.
Let’s talk about some do’s and don’t of foster parenting that will help you keep your head above water and will give the foster children a healthy perspective into a normal childhood. Let’s start with the Do’s.
Do’s of Foster Parenting
Make Them Feel at Home
This is the first and the biggest step in making the foster life easy for the child. Foster kids come with a huge sense of loss. They have lost their parents, siblings, a home they loved or probably were used to and a life they have always known.
Try to understand what the child wants, right from his/her favourite food to if they like to sleep with the lights on. Make arrangements for what you can and what is right and talk about the habits you cannot allow and give them a reason.
Prepare your Biological Children
When you sign up for foster care, you sign up to expose your children to the harsh world outside. You will have to make them aware of the whole concept of fostering and prepare them for what may be coming their way.
Further, you will have to prepare your biological children for sharing. Once you have a placement, your biological children will have to share their toys, maybe their room, food, and even their parents with the new kid.
Say Goodbye to Expectations
Expectations on your part will create a mess. You cannot expect someone else’s child to behave according to you from day 1. Set aside the expectations and let the foster child paint a new canvas for you. Mould them in the process but do not expect any magical transformation. While you are at it, do not hope that you will get to adopt the child.
Keep aside your hopes and celebrations for the day of adoption, till then, work towards reunion. Yes, its easier said than done but you will have to live one day at a time to make it a great experience for everyone involved.
Don’t’s of Foster Parenting
Do Not Assume
Never assume that if a child is a certain age, he/she will understand the protocols. Every household is different, and foster kids often come from neglect, so they may not be in the mental space where they should be according to their age. The point is, as a parent, do not assume anything. Talk to the child about your plans, expectations, and more, and let the child in your care do the same.
Be open to all forms of communication in the initial weeks and yes, be prepared for tantrums and ugly cries because well, children are anyways bad at expressing themselves and when you combine that with trauma, you are going to have some tough initial days.
Do not get attached
Getting attached to a child is the most natural thing that will happen, but you will have to learn to keep your attachment to a level where it won’t hurt you badly when a child leaves your care. Not getting attached will take practice. The first few children will crush your soul when they go back to their parents or are adopted by someone else. You will learn the gig in some time, till then find yourself a therapist and work on yourself.
Do not Talk Bad About Biological Parents
This is a golden rule for building great relationships with foster children. Never talk about biological parents. They may have been bad to the children, but they are related, and the child (especially older children) will take offense to your attitude. Do not pass judgment, be neutral, and if you cannot, avoid the topic.
Work with the attitude that the child has come to you for love and care, and you have to give it at all costs. Leave the parent talk to the therapists and the caseworkers.
Foster parenting gives you a chance to make a difference in a child’s life. Grab it with both hands and do your best. Give yourself some grace when you make mistakes and follow the Do’s and Don’ts mentioned above. Trust yourself, and let love and compassion do their job.