Being a foster parent can be incredibly rewarding. For starters, you get to have peace of mind because you’re caring for a child that would otherwise be disadvantaged and you get the reward of seeing the one you’ve been housing out of love develop into someone who is a direct result of your influence. You get to establish a bond with a child who will hopefully love you back forever because of your willingness to take them in when they had no one else to care for them.
There is no doubt, however, that the foster care system can be downright traumatic for some children. Some of them, if they were taken when they were old enough, remember either the searing pain of being taken away from the home that they knew or perhaps what happened to get them taken in the first place. This can have a lasting effect on their development and self-image as they grow and mature, and begin making sense of what happened to them.
There is little one can do to help them feel differently about what happened to them and its effects, but there may be a few things that can help them along in developing the confidence that it takes not to let their past determine their future. After all, it’s not their fault their in the system. Essentially, being a foster parent, or foster carer, has many advantages, and one of these could include the challenge of trying to positively impact the children in your care. Try these three things to help start building their confidence and hopefully leave some lasting impressions on them:
Let Him/Her Vent
When speaking about children in the foster care system, they all are there for some reason or another. Some of them may come from tragic circumstances. If they wish to talk about hard subjects that may be uncomfortable for you to hear, it may help not to say anything and just listen until they feel like stopping, but don’t interrupt. There are many psychological benefits to venting. It’s not like you need a doctorate to help your child, but you should learn about or research good techniques to be a good, active listener and work to create an open, trusting relationship with your new addition. Listening attentively could be the foundation of their confidence because it allows them to know that they (and their feelings) matter.
Offer Praise And Practice Positive Reinforcement
Although there could be many reasons why a child would end up in foster care, some of them have likely been abused and/or neglected. This could take a toll on many aspects of a child’s psychological make-up. A bit of positive reinforcement goes a long way. According to a Harvard study, in some relationships, it can take up to 5 positive comments to reverse the effects of a negative one. Just imagine the impact of a toxic parental relationship on a child. One might, as a foster parent, choose to highlight and praise heartily the positive behaviors of the foster child to increase their confidence in their ability to do things right and also encourage them to have a sense of independence.
Make Their Health a Real Priority
One of the biggest problems in foster care is kids getting forgotten about. When someone is shuffled through a system like this, it’s easy to lose track of when or where they last had appointments with doctors, dentists, hygienists, or therapists. If you want your foster kids to shine brighter than ever before, first make sure that their well-being is a real priority for you. Good health is one of the most crucial aspects of childhood, since it sets up so much of what they can hope to expect from the rest of their lifetime. Getting your foster kids to their checkups, their vaccinations and medications, their counseling sessions, and their dental examinations will give them the positive reinforcement that they need to keep going stronger than ever.
Have A New Adventure
Your foster child is in a new environment, with new caregivers and may be feeling a bit out of place at first. This may have them feeling a bit insecure. One way to increase their comfort and confidence is to allow them some control over a space they can call their own, whether that be their room, their bed, or a wall in the home, having something that’s completely for them to decorate and control can allow them to create their own comfort space. Additionally, getting out of the house and experiencing a new adventure together could help with bonding and comfort. It doesn’t matter if the adventure is new to you or your foster child. It may even be a good idea to have a mix of both.
Do something that they are familiar with and like to do. Allow them to “give you a tour” of their comfort space or hobby. For example, if they like to skate, let them tell you where their favorite skate park is or find a new skate haven together! Allow them to teach you a new move or two! It might also be good for you to return the favor and take him or her to a new space to have a quick and fun adventure, so you both can get more acquainted.
If you are dealing with a small child, allow them to guide you along their familiar hobbies until you feel like they are a bit more comfortable before taking them on any new adventures. Color or play games with them until you feel like you have made a little ground in their trust boundaries.
Many foster children come from difficult financial circumstances and the thought of family vacations take a back seat to the basic necessities of life. Foster children yearn for a sense of normalcy and stability and as you plan larger adventures with them, help them create memories at well known places like Disneyworld or other destinations they’ve grown up dreaming about. For a foster child to say, “I’ve been there!” amongst their peers gives them confidence and allows them to feel more included.
Foster children come from a variety of different circumstances, and the fact that they are with you should implore you to be extra sensitive and take the extra mile in rebuilding their sense of self in light of their often difficult circumstances. For more advice on helping your child to gain confidence, whether that be at home or school, check out our blog!