So, the day has finally arrived. A new foster child has arrived in your home. As much as this is a dream come true, the nerves may set in a little. That is ok, and it shows an understanding of the importance of this special event. The first couple of days can make a big difference for the addition to your home. We gathered this post's ideas from two articles: Six Ways to Help Your Foster Child Adjust and How to Make Your Foster Child Feel at Home.
An important thing to remember is that the child coming into your home has experienced some trauma. Just the fact that the child is forced from their family is traumatic in itself. Other situations they have experienced or witnessed can have an impact as well. The urge to hug the child as a way of welcoming them may seem overwhelming. This experience may be a happy time for you but a scary time for them. The child does not control what is happening and is now in an unfamiliar house with unfamiliar people. Interact with kindness and try to understand how they are feeling. Allow the child to guide the interaction within reason. Creating a safe surrounding for the child, physically, mentally, and emotionally is essential.
As mentioned earlier, this young person is in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. Introducing yourself, other family members, and pets may be a great starting point. Then take the child on a tour of the house and use language that includes them. For example, you may tell the child, "This is the dining room where we will eat our meals." This simple explanation includes the child and will help them to feel comfortable. Spend a little extra time in the child's room and let them look around a little bit at their new space.
After the tour, ask the child if they are hungry or thirsty. If not, providing a small snack may be beneficial. This time is an excellent opportunity to ask what kind of foods they enjoy. Planning meals together gives the child a sense of control.
Take this opportunity to explain healthy eating and the importance of including all food groups. Do not stress if their food choices are limited or change as this is an area a child may try to control since many things are happening that are out of their power.
Another topic to discuss is their bedroom. Ask the child what they think about the space and what can make things more comfortable. If the child's requests are reasonable, plan and implement those things. Also, this is an excellent time to talk about clothes. Sometimes children come to your home with no extra clothes or supplies. Plan a shopping trip to get the needed items. Within reason, allowing the child to make decisions and choices can go a long way with their safety feelings.
Eventually, within the first day or two, a discussion of the rules needs to occur. Keep them simple so that the child can understand the expectations. Creating structure is essential but exercise patience; this may take time, and the child may come from a home with no rules. Give them time to acclimate to their new environment. It is a good idea to decide what structure may have some flexibility, at least in the beginning. For example, eating dinner with everyone in the family may seem commonplace to you but could be a new experience for the child. One that may make the child feel uncomfortable. This rule may be a task the child can follow with patience and time once their comfort level increases in your home.
Communication is vital and not always easy to establish and will require patience and understanding. The child may not initially talk or share a lot with you, or they may tell you everything in an endless loop of stories. If they are not talking, let them know that you are there when they are ready and take the time to listen actively. What they share may not seem important to you, but they are sharing, which is a step in the right direction.
This approach with every placement will lay the groundwork for a successful and happy experience. There may be other challenges down the road but taking the time to acclimate a foster child into your home is an investment that will benefit all involved and ensure a successful start to the child's experience in your home. If you are interested in becoming a foster parent through Lifespan Family Services, please contact us for information.