Going from an empty house to a full one overnight can be daunting. Will I be able to provide the support a child needs? Will they be able to trust me? No matter how you are feeling, put yourself in the shoes of your foster child- for them, entering a new home can be a time of great apprehension and stress. Your duties as a foster parent start as soon as they walk through the door, so it is important that they feel welcome and relaxed from day one.
Both the child and the family will have to make adjustments, but these are adjustments worth making. A successful integration can lead to one of the most rewarding experiences a family can have, and quite possibly change a life of a child for the better.
Here are four ways which will help aid a smooth transition of your foster child into your home.
1. Be Approachable
It is important you are friendly, so meet your foster child with a smile and positive body language so they know the door is always open. If your foster child is of a young age and proportionally smaller than you, kneel down to meet them at eye level when you are talking to them. This way, you won’t seem as so “scary” but more of an equal that they can learn to trust.
2. Be Sensitive
You may want to give your foster child a welcoming hug and show your affection, but some children may be sensitive to touch. After all, in their eyes you are still a stranger. Be aware of your child’s reactions but don’t overact or make a big deal about things. Trust will build slowly if you have created a warm and welcoming environment.
3. Introduce Routines and Rules
Routine will be influential in creating a sense of normality, so let them know how things operate in your house. Don’t be forceful, but try to be as clear as you can. Your child might have problems adjusting to your rules because of their past so always be understanding. Remember your child may be too afraid to ask questions so try to cover all angles. Keeps the house running close to normality so the atmosphere stays at a more relaxed level.
4. Be Patient
The amount of time it takes for a child to adjust is completely unique; no two children will ever be the same. The child’s temperament and previous circumstances will play an influential role, and children who have had multiple caregivers may take longer to feel at home with you. The first weeks at a new home will be the most traumatic, and a difficult period for children to be able to retain all of the information they have been exposed to. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself and ask your child what you can do to make them feel more comfortable.
Fostering a child is a combination of hard work but equal reward. To find out more about becoming a foster carer contact the National Fostering Agency on 0845 200 40 40 or visit www.nfa.co.uk.