It is never easy to come and live in a new home, especially when you don’t know anyone in it. Moving foster home can be a tough time for children and young people, especially I’ve they’ve been let down multiple times. It’s important that they feel welcomed and wanted. Here’s how you can start building positive relationships with children in foster care.
● Quality time – making time for your foster child doesn’t just mean being around when they are home from school or having dinner together as a family. Quality bonding time can be as simple as watching a film together, enjoying an activity or walking in the park.
● Building trust – just as enjoying quality time is a key bonding tool, so is giving your child space. This is especially true for older children. By being available to them at first, while allowing them room to breathe will help you both to adjust. This can take time. Allow your foster children to be themselves. It is important for the family dynamic and everyone within the family to have their own relationship.
Our foster carer Sara said that getting [her foster son] to bond with her and open up, “Was a process. The key for me was I let him drive it completely. I would say, what do you need from me right now? What would make you feel safer? That choice is vital.”
Bonding with a foster baby
● Face to face – bonding with very young children is all about looking at your baby and seeing how they react – sit or lay down near your child face-to-face for a few seconds and watch what they are doing. Are they looking at you? If they make sounds or smile, make sounds, and smile bac. You can help the bonding process in little ways, and there is so much you can say without using any words at all. Say what you are doing and copy the sounds that your baby is making.
● Singing – very young children enjoy hearing your voice. Share a story or sing along to your favourite tunes – you might even make up your own. Playing simple games with your baby to see what they enjoy can help the bonding process. Games such as peekaboo help to create moments between you and your child throughout the day.
The importance of routine
● Safety and belonging – establishing routine from the beginning of a placement has many benefits. Routine creates a sense of safety and belonging. Children in foster care are often craving stability as their lives have been sent in many directions. A routine reaffirms safety and allows a child to find a key role in the family. The simplicity of reading a book before bedtime, brushing teeth after every meal, or helping with jobs around the house (tidying away toys after playtime) are all ways to build a regular routine. It is something they can come to depend on each day and will help strengthen their trust in you.
● Have fun – children like to have fun, and this can be a very good distraction during life changes. Find out what they like to do, what interests them – go for a walk and splash in puddles, read stories together, have a dance party at home, throw a tea party.
● Privacy – part of helping a stable young person means providing them with unconditional love, compassion and privacy – this starts from a young age. You might be the first person in your child’s life to provide this. By offering your child the right to privacy you can help them heal and this will allow for the bonds between you to develop.
● Listening – effective communication is back and forth between you and your foster child – it is not one-sided. It may be hard to hear what is going on in their mind, especially when it comes to those events they may have encountered before entering your family. As a foster parent, it is important to listen and respond in the appropriate way. You want them to feel like they can confide in you and that you are always there for them.
● Praise – helping your foster child gain confidence is most positively achieved by praise. Even the smallest of achievements should be praised, as this will have great impact – building on their confidence and self-worth.
● Physical contact – touch can help establish an emotional connection with your foster child. However, it may be that your child has experienced difficulties in the past and may take some time to feel comfortable again. It is important to understand that a child may not be willing to accept contact, so take the time to build their trust. This is something that your foster support team can help you and advise you with.
Our foster carer Sara said that when her foster son came to stay, on his first night he was upset. “I asked if he wanted a cuddle. He said no. I said that’s fine, no problem. I let him have the sofa to himself whilst I sat in the chair. This way I wasn’t crowding him. I gave him his space while staying in the room, ‘an I’m open to you if you need me’ gesture.”
When you become a foster carer with Compass Fostering, you will be supported every step of the way. We provide training, resources, and a supportive community to help you become a confident carer – get in touch to find out more.