Coming into a new home can be an intimidating experience for a foster child – and creating a welcoming environment is one of the most helpful things a foster family can do. Parents set the stage for the relationships their foster children will develop within the family, but siblings play a vital role in helping a new arrival feel at home. Bonding with siblings can be tricky initially, but with the right encouragement fantastic relationships can be forged.
Creating a good relationship between foster and birth children can benefit both sides. Developing strong sibling bonds helps children learn cooperation and develop better social skills and conflict resolution. Siblings give one another a sense of connection and belonging that many foster children do not always have, and these relationships often carry on into adulthood. In fact, children with strong sibling bonds are more likely to have healthy and secure relationships with others as grown-ups.
How to help new siblings bond
As a foster parent, you play a vital role in helping to build these bonds – and there’s plenty you can do.
• Prepare your children before your foster child arrives
Discuss expectations and make sure your children know that it may take a while for their new sibling to feel comfortable or sociable. Come up with some ideas for how your children can help welcome their new foster sibling before their arrival so your children feel prepared.
• Give each child a safe space to retreat to
It’s important that young people can define their own boundaries and build a relationship in their own time.
Sometimes it’s a slow process, and sometimes it happens quickly – as foster carers Nicola and Lee and their 15-year-old birth son found out when they welcomed a 16-year-old foster son into their home.
“The boys got on from day one,” says Nicola. “They both have calm temperaments and were able to navigate living with someone new easily.”
Whether the bond happens quickly or slowly, allow your children to set the pace and make sure they each have a safe space to be alone when they need to.
• Take introductions slowly
Don’t expect your children to get on right away. Instead, focus on helping them find things in common so they can build a bond on their own.
• Create shared sibling experiences
Encourage your children and your new foster child to do things together, such as playing games or building things, can be brilliant sibling bonding activities. Nicola and Lee’s birth son is an avid martial arts competitor. When their foster son arrived, he joined in on activities like kickboxing.
“It was a great icebreaker,” says Nicola. “After a while he decided it wasn’t for him, but to be able to have an activity that they did together was brilliant and brought our foster son out of his shell.”
• Share family experiences
Similarly, the best ways for families to bond is through sharing the experience of doing something new. Try a ropes course, go crazy golfing, or take a family trip – the memories you create together will start to create shared experiences.
• Establish new traditions
Family traditions are a great way to create bonds, and you can help your foster child feel part of the family by starting new family traditions and rituals that include them. Some easy traditions to start include a weekly movie night, weekend trips to the park, sundaes on Sundays, etc.
• Focus on cooperation
To help build those initial bonds, get your children involved in activities that require them to work together, rather than compete against one another.
• Encourage your children to help one another
If one child is great at Maths, ask them to help their sibling. If another child is football-mad, get them to show their sibling some moves.
Giving siblings ways to help one another can build a nurturing relationship – and that help can be as simple as welcoming a new sibling into their friend group, as was the case for Nicola and Lee’s sons. Since they’re similar in age, their birth son was able to introduce their foster son to a group of friends to help him feel welcome.
“As time has gone on, our foster son has made groups of his own friends too,” Nicola says. “The boys spend time together frequently but are also very separate, which keeps a great balance.”
• Help your children talk through their emotions
Help them develop the language they’ll need to be able to talk through issues on their own by discussing feelings openly as a family. Take it slowly and be sensitive to the fact that your foster child may take a long time to open up. That’s okay – the more you model good emotional regulation as a family, the easier it will be for your children to learn these valuable skills.
Providing a safe home for a foster child can change their life forever. If you’re considering welcoming a child in need into your family, please get in touch with the Compass Fostering team to learn about the process and the support we offer our carers.
Getting involved with your children and figuring out how to get kids to do homework can be a struggle. But there’s no reason it needs to be!
As a foster parent, you can play an active role in encouraging homework which in turn will help your child with their education path. Younger children will need different guidance with their homework than older children, and providing homework tips can build your relationship. Homework is a great way for you to identify your child’s areas of strength, where they need some help, and to understand more about their progress.
Prepare the space
● Create a positive work area – set up a comfortable workspace for your child and make it inviting. Little adjustments to suit them and their individual needs will work well – like making sure the chair is comfortable and the right height. Good lighting is also helpful- don’t strain your eyes! Make sure they have everything they need – such as a laptop to work on and pencils, pens, books or paper for making notes.
● Distractions – if there is an option to set up a desk in a communal area of the house such as the kitchen, this can help discussions between you and your child – making it easier to get involved without it feeling like an intrusion. It is a good idea to arrange their homework desk away from the TV and any digital devices or toys. Removing distractions will help them focus – including noisy siblings.
● Supervising – set a time for your child to complete their homework – give them enough time but be firm when it comes to making sure they are finishing their tasks. Helping to build a routine will get them into good habits. They will be less likely to protest if they know they are expected to do their homework at set times.
● Be fair – while you may feel that your child could do with more time to do homework at weekends, children need playtime just as much as they need to study. The chance to enjoy non-school related activities is as important for their personal growth and development as school and study.
● Getting homework finished – be clear that you expect any homework set by their teachers to be completed.
● Getting things wrong – remember that it’s okay to to make mistakes and for answers to sometimes be wrong. Giving your child the right answer won’t help them in the long run. It also won’t help their teacher to see where they are struggling and where they are achieving.
● Problem topics – if your child doesn’t understand parts of a subject, this is a great way for you to spot problem areas or as a way of highlighting issues to the teacher, so that extra help can be arranged if needed.
● Planning – for older children with a heavier workload, you might like to create a homework diary together, so that both you and your child can be on top of their deadlines. This can also help a child to learn to manage their own time without leaving everything to the last minute – a skill they will need for life.
● Be present – checking in with your child to see how they are doing, and gently asking if they need your input is reassuring. Avoid using a red pen to highlight mistakes – it’s neither positive nor encouraging!
Some useful links for parents on homework:
● Discover online tips from the experts in child education, Hodder Education.
● Find helpful advice from real teachers at Teacher Toolkit.
● Family Lives has information on how to successfully create a homework routine.
● Our Education Team has put together a handy resource list that could help with homework planning.
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.
It’s natural to be concerned about what your child is getting up to online. It’s easier to keep an eye on them when they’re younger. You’ve got parental controls, child specific sections on streaming platforms and generally when they’re younger you’re in charge of their devices.
It’s a little harder to keep up with online usage once young people get into their tween and teenage years. They’ve got a whole computer in their pocket, access to the internet on the go and generally like to keep their social life private from their caregivers.
Here’s a list of social media sites and apps that are most popular with young people.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
These are the three main contenders when it comes to social media platforms. Believe it or not, Facebook is becoming less and less popular with young people (just when we thought we’d got to grips with that one)!
Facebook is the social networking site that you can share your comments, pictures and other content to a user’s profile. You can select a certain group of people, your ‘friends list’ to see your content or choose to share your content publicly.
Twitter is a social networking site designed to promote conversation and keep you up to date with the latest trends. This is where many people get their news as you ‘tweet’ in real time, and it’s public by default.
Instagram is largely a picture sharing website, but due to a recent format change it is becoming increasingly shopping focussed. Your profile can either be public or private and users can share ‘story’ content with a list of ‘close friends’ for 24 hours.
Whilst these are not necessarily social media apps that revolve around videos, all three have the option to share pictures and videos to the user’s profile. You can ‘go live’ on all three, meaning you’re open to real-time comments that the user could potentially do without like targeted bullying, mean or inappropriate comments from strangers or harassment.
You can change your privacy settings on all three apps. Facebook has the most options regarding who can see what on your profile down to individual posts, whereas Instagram and Twitter have the option to go completely private. You can learn here how to change your privacy options for these apps.
Snapchat is one of the most popular apps with children and young people over the last five years. Users can share pictures, videos and messages that are designed to ‘disappear’ once viewed. Much like many other apps it uses the ‘story’ feature to allows your contact list to see certain pictures or videos for 24hrs.
It’s important to warn users that while pictures do ‘disappear’ from chat logs etc, people can still screenshot (save these pictures) onto their own phone. It’s important for young people to know that everything on the internet can be traced back!
Video sharing social networking sites like Omegle have been around since 2009, similar to Chatroulette.
The website is a chatroom that links two strangers together either via just text or if you both choose to use your camera- by camera too. There is opportunity of talking to much older people, which can lead to exploitation or risk of inappropriate content via video chat.
Encouraging your children and teens to be SMART when they are online is a good start for websites like these. The internet is full of people they don’t know but being able to navigate how they communicate with them is key.
Monkey is an app similar to Omegle and Chatroulette. It’s an app that connects you to ‘like-minded people’ for 10 second video chats. The app connects you to others by using your Snapchat username.
This app uses a system very much like Omegle, and because the users don’t know who they’ll get pop up on their screen, it could be anyone doing anything. It uses artificial intelligence to help detect if inappropriate or explicit content is being shared, but this doesn’t always get picked up.
Users are required to state their age before they sign up to the app but there is no verification of this, so young people can lie about their age and get access to the app easily.
Video sharing social networking apps can be a force for good for teens, especially those that find socialising in person difficult. Monkey’s main aim is to encourage friendships by connecting people with similar interests, but with the anonymity element this can come with risks.
Originally named Musical.ly, TikTok is one of the most popular online live streaming video social networking sites from the last 12 months. If you haven’t seen your tween practising dances in the kitchen then you might not be too familiar with the app.
TikTok rose to popularity during the first coronavirus lockdown in 2020, with bored children, teens and even adults at home taking to the app to dance, sing and mime their way to being viral. You can go live on the app or film your own videos and upload them as posts.
There’s a special section on TikTok for children under 13 that includes additional safety and privacy features- so tweens can join in too without seeing some of the more mature content (things like swearing and references to sex etc).
As with many social media, there have been some controversial uploads on the app with inappropriate and disturbing content going viral before being taken down. The app has brought in strict banning and reporting of accounts to help keep their users safe.
Keeping up to date with the most popular apps can feel like a losing battle; but keeping your children safe online can be easier when you know what to look out for, and what settings are best. Having an open dialogue with young people and how they consume their content is a good way to keep a positive conversation going.
At Compass, we encourage every young person to explore their identity in a positive, healthy way. We offer our foster carers an extensive array of training for safeguarding young people both online and in person. Get in touch with us if you’d like to find out more about fostering.
Our bright home crafting ideas come to life when the weather is bad. Using items that can mostly already be found at home, these activities are fun and easy. They don’t cost much and can keep children entertained for hours.
Activities with your child can help the bonding experience and create lifelong memories. Arts and crafts can help improve coordination, which benefits a child’s development. We’ve put together some of our favourite cool winter crafts (excuse the pun)!
● Create your own storybook – use a notebook to write a story with the people in your family as the characters. Will you be solving a mystery together, or go on a trip to the zoo to see the lions? The possibilities are endless. Where will your imagination take you?
● Indoor memory game treasure hunt – use pebbles, shells, buttons, or thimbles and decorate to make them look like people in your family. Use glitter glue, pieces of felt and coloured paper to make trousers or skirts. You could even colour the items in and draw on the faces using felt-tip pens. Hide around the house for the children to find. A great activity for a rainy day.
● Create a Diorama – taking inspiration from your child’s favourite sea creatures, using an old cereal box, a few coloured pens or child-safe paints, you can create your own 3D underwater scene in a box. Cut off the front facing side of the box to make the base for your scene. Paint the inside walls of the box blue. Draw, paint and colour in seaweed shapes and animals, cut these out and hang from the top of the box with string – or stick them to the sides. Add pebbles or shells collected from seaside walks to bring your underwater ocean scene to life.
● DIY windchime – create a windchime for your garden or balcony using driftwood or a stick, old keys and colourful paints. It’s fun to bring materials you might have thrown away, or items you find in your own garden and turn them into something usable.
Paint the 5 keys and the wood in co-ordinating colourful sections and allow them to dry. Tie a piece of string to either end of the stick so you have a way to hang it. Attach string to each of the keys and hang them from the stick, making sure they are close enough together – you want them to chime in the wind. You don’t have to use keys – anything that will make a noise when the wind blows through it will work.
Nostalgia crafting for older children
● Create a family photo album – with photo albums a thing of the past, most children are unfamiliar with the concept of a photo book or scrapbook. Children of all ages, including teenagers, love to look at photos of their friends. Creating a book of memories is a great way to build relationships and family bonds. Print out digital photos, cut out and stick them into a book to build your own, or design your photobook online.
● Create a scrapbook – collect photos and tickets from activities you have enjoyed together and build a home scrapbook for all the family. You could decorate and theme each page – a summer holiday, Christmas, birthdays, or personal achievements. You might even include a page for the family pet.
Arts and crafts websites with affordable kits and tools for every budget:
● The Art and Craft Factory has a great selection of cheap and cheerful supplies.
● Find low-price crafts at Every Crafts A Pound.
● Stock up on supplies for your craft box at Little Crafty Bugs.
● Discover the range of low-cost crafting essentials at Craft Clearance.
If you liked these winter crafts for kids, we also have Christmas themed craft ideas too!
Providing a safe home for a foster child can change their life forever. If you’re considering welcoming a child in need into your family, please get in touch with the Compass Fostering team to learn about the process and the support we offer our carers.
It can be tough to entertain children when the weather gets wet and cold, but with a bit of creativity there are lots of winter activities for kids that can keep everyone occupied.
From indoor games and crafts, to cold-weather outdoor activities, we’ve rounded up our favourite ways to spend a chilly winter’s day with children. So get the hot chocolate and cold-weather gear ready – winter needn’t stop you from having heaps of family fun!
• Game tournaments. Whether your children prefer video games or board games, it’s easy to organise a friendly tournament by making a leader board, setting silly challenges, and giving everyone prizes.
• Make a bird feeder. The Natural History Museum has a great tutorial on making a simple bird feeder out of a plastic bottle, along with tips for getting the most out of your bird feeder. Keep a chart of the different birds and wildlife you see visiting your feeder.
• Build a fort. Chairs and sofas are good for structural support, while blankets, sheets and towels make walls and roofs. Fairy lights and lamps set the mood, while pillows make the floor a super comfy spot for colouring, reading, or playing games.
• Build with toothpicks and marshmallows. How tall can your children make their structure? Who can build a bridge? This is a simple (and tasty) STEM activity for young children.
• DIY play dough. Flour and salt form the base of this long-lasting homemade play dough from The Imagination Tree.
• Make pet rocks. Go rock-hunting in the park or your yard, then decorate your rock finds with paint, glitter, googly eyes, and whatever else you can find to make a portable pet.
• Homemade slime. Oozy slime is a delight for children – and it’s simple to make at home. Fun Science has several recipes depending on what’s available.
• Make a hallway laser maze and play secret agents. Start small, building your maze out of streamers or ribbon and adding more as your children conquer the ‘laser beams’. Set secret agent challenges to make the game more exciting.
• Indoor snowball fight. Get creative to have an indoor snowball fight using extra large pom poms (or even balled up socks – just hide all the breakables first).
• Puppet theatre. Big boxes are useful for building a stage, while socks make great DIY puppets. Between building the set and planning the play, a puppet production can easily take up an entire day.
• Have a spa day. Break out the towels and robes and do each other’s hair, make homemade face masks, and paint finger and toenails while sipping on cucumber water (or juice).
• Stage an indoor campout. Clear a space to set up a tent inside. Turn off all the lights and tell spooky stories around a torch. Serve hot dogs, marshmallows and hot cocoa, and snuggle up for an overnight sleep out in the tent.
• Winter scavenger hunt. A great opportunity to help children learn to identify things they find in nature, scavenger hunts can be easily be tailored to any environment or season. Challenge your children to find things like leaves from certain trees, acorns, pine cones, or mushrooms. For anything living, a ‘look, don’t touch’ policy is a good idea.
• Stargazing. While the sun sets early, take advantage of a clear evening by wrapping up warm and going stargazing. The National Trust has some great information on what to watch for.
• Chalk art. Wait for a dry day and make your street or local park a bit more cheerful with some coloured sidewalk chalk.
• Build-a-nest challenge. A great activity to get kids thinking more deeply about nature, task them with building a bird’s nest. Set the stage by learning a bit about birds together (RSPB has some good resources), then head to your local park and scavenge for nest-building materials like twigs and dried leaves for the outer layers, and moss and softer materials for the inner layers.
The winter months can be especially trying for children with unsafe homes. Providing a warm, safe environment for such a child can change their life forever. Get in touch to learn more about becoming a carer with Compass Fostering.
Arguments between siblings are a natural part of growing up – but when they dominate family relationships or turn aggressive, fighting between brothers and sisters can cause real problems.
Our foster carers know this all too well. Not only do they often have their own biological children’s spats to contend with, they’ve also experienced adding other children – often with traumas of their own – into the mix. Compass carer Kate has fostered children for over 20 years, and her birth children were only 6 and 8 years old when they welcomed their first foster child into the family. She’s learned some valuable lessons on dealing with fighting between children – biological and foster – over the past two decades.
We’re sharing our top tips on handling and preventing fighting between siblings, backed by behavioural science and real-life Compass Fostering experience.
Be clear about family rules
Children of all ages and backgrounds cope best when they know what’s expected of them. Work with your children to set clear family rules and decide the consequences for breaking them – involving the children will help them feel a sense of ownership and agency over their own behaviour.
If you’re bringing a new child into the home, be careful to introduce rules slowly so you don’t overwhelm them. Be consistent in implementing rules and consequences, and keep a copy where everyone can see them, such as on the fridge.
Respect each child’s boundaries
Every child is unique and will react to the same situation differently. Some children are comfortable expressing themselves verbally (sometimes too comfortable!) while others may find it difficult to put their feelings into words.
Be understanding of your children’s personalities, and respect their boundaries – as Kate learned to do with her first foster placement. “She was about 14 or 15 and didn’t want to engage at all,” says Kate, “and my children didn’t understand why.”
“Sometimes a young person just doesn’t want to talk to anyone and that can be difficult to navigate. I had to explain to my children that it wasn’t their fault she didn’t want to talk, but it wasn’t her fault either.”
Reward good behaviour
When you see your children taking steps to get along, give them praise and encouragement. Reward consistent good behaviour with positive affirmations and activities you know your children enjoy.
Help siblings bond over things they have in common
Finding common ground can help children develop stronger bonds. Kate has often used this trick over the years to establish a relationship between her biological children and new foster children.
“If a foster child is holding something of their own, for example a teddy or a toy,” says Kate, “I’ll say, Oh! my daughter has one just like that! Why don’t you go and get yours too? Then they find that they have something in common – because it’s difficult for young children to find things in common with one another.”
Reduce sibling rivalry
Sometimes parents stoke the fires of sibling rivalry without intending to do so. Take care to reduce sibling rivalry by:
• Avoiding labels, such as ‘the smart one’, ‘the sporty one’, etc – even positive labels can create friction between siblings.
• Treating each child with compassion, even when one has been aggressive towards the other. Try not to treat them as if there is a ‘victim’ and a ‘perpetrator’.
• Not taking sides and staying calm when an argument breaks out – this will help you react with a level head.
• Not comparing one child to another.
Don’t place blame
Squabbles are normal amongst siblings, but it’s important not to place blame when rows break out.
“As soon as you blame any of the children for anything that’s happened that’s when it can get hairy and you’ll get pushback,” says Kate.
“I turn it around a little bit – instead of saying you’ve started a fight so go upstairs, you can say why don’t you go upstairs and play by yourself for a bit and the others won’t annoy you? Don’t use blame or punishment, as it can be really damaging for everyone involved.”
Reduce opportunities for fights
Pay attention to when and where arguments tend to happen, and take steps to prevent fighting. If your children often squabble over who gets to pick what to watch on television, set up a schedule so they each get a chance to choose. If they fight over toys, make sure there are enough toys to go around.
While you’ll never be able to prevent every fight, reducing these ‘hot spots’ in the home can help create a more peaceable atmosphere.
Give children tools to work it out themselves
Learning to get along and resolve conflicts is a valuable lesson for children – in fact, it’s one of the long-term blessings of having siblings. Encourage your children to work out their differences on their own by giving them the tools to do so.
Give suggestions and ask questions, such as is there a way each of you gets a chance to play with the toy? and let them set up their own arrangement. Over time, they will hopefully only need gentle reminders to find their own ways to resolve problems.
While sibling relationships sometimes take a little work – and go through the occasional rough patch – the bonds that your children form when young will last their entire lives. Kate’s children, who are now in their 20s, have benefitted greatly from having foster children in their home.
“My daughter has grown up with fostered children so she’s fantastic with young people,” says Kate. “She’s a football coach now, and teaches our foster children in the garden. The relationships carry well on into their adulthood and I think it’s amazing.”
If you’re considering becoming a foster carer like Kate, please get in touch and our team will be happy to answer any questions.
For many families, Christmas means special meals and time spent together in the kitchen preparing festive fare. There’s lots of Christmas cooking for kids to take part in, make it a memorable Christmas this year by getting the entire family involved with the Christmas cooking.
From baking and decorating tasty treats and edible gifts, to helping out with Christmas dinner, these cooking ideas are sure to get your little kitchen elves in the spirit of the season – and teach them a valuable skill or two along the way.
Christmas baking, sweet treats and snacks
Children are drawn to sweets and treats, which makes baking an easy way to get them excited about helping out in the kitchen.
• Christmas biscuits are a classic. Teach your children how to measure, get them to help stir, and have fun decorating as a family. Biscuits perfect for shaping and decorating include sugar cookies, gingerbread and shortbread.
• Christmas barks and brittles. Nut brittles and chocolate bark are ideal recipes for children because they’re simple – and the final results are so impressive! Add shaped, coloured sweets for a merry touch.
• Fudge. Easy to make, and a tasty gift. Children can help decorate the packaging with ribbons and coloured paper.
• Christmas tray bakes. Rocky road, brownies, chocolate peanut butter squares, blondies, spiced flapjacks – these classic tray bakes are easy to make and delicious to eat. Decorate with red and green sweets, hundreds and thousands, and other colourful cake toppers.
• Clever cupcakes. Make a batch of cupcakes together to form the base of this fun edible craft. Decorate chocolate cupcakes as reindeer, vanilla cupcakes as snowmen, red velvet as Santas, or use coloured icing to turn them into any festive form your child can dream up!
• Festive popcorn. Spiced with nuts or tossed in caramel, popcorn is a healthy holiday snack that you can turn into a simple gift by packing it into a Christmas bag or container.
Helping out with Christmas dinner
Christmas dinner is a special meal for the whole family, and preparing it can be fun for the whole family too. Make it an event by appointing your children kitchen elves – bonus points for coming up with an elf uniform for them (apron and hat?) and their own elf names!
• Canapés. Pick a few easy starters for your children to make (crudites and dips, pigs in blankets, cheese straws), or go with no-cook classics like crisps, olives and nuts. Let your children plate them and serve them around to everyone.
• Table prep. It may not seem like the most exciting job, but it can be a lot of fun to decorate the Christmas table. Put your children in charge of laying out place settings, folding napkins, setting out Christmas crackers, making place cards, etc.
• Washing and peeling veg. This is one job that can be an immense help to an overloaded cook. Teach your children how to properly wash and peel vegetables and set them to work – just make sure to closely supervise sharp implements like vegetable peelers.
• Stirring, mixing and measuring. You children can start to master these basic cookery skills under your supervision. Watch for the sense of pride and accomplishment when you serve something that they helped prepare.
• Mashing potatoes. A fun task that can help children expend a little of that extra Christmas energy.
• Wrapping the pigs in their blankets. This is an entertaining skill for older children to master, and the end result is sure to please.
• Helping with the washing up. All the best cooks clean as they go – lucky for you, this is a perfect task for your young kitchen elves! Get them to take turns washing and drying and the kitchen will be clean in no time.
Coming together as a family to prepare the food you’ll share over the Christmas season can build positive memories for your children, and will hopefully get them excited about cooking. Heap praise on their efforts – no matter how small or how successful – and watch their confidence grow.
Share the Christmas spirit this year and give a safe home to a child in need. If you’re ready to find out more about becoming a foster parent with Compass Fostering, please get in touch.
Christmas is a great time of year to encourage a child’s creative side. There’s lots of easy Christmas art you can create, from personalised cards and gifts, to homemade ornaments and decorations- we’ve got ten great Christmas craft ideas to keep idle hands and curious minds busy throughout the festive season – all using materials you’re likely to have around.
No matter what age your children, they’ll enjoy getting a bit messy and making these fun crafts – so pop on the Christmas tune sand get crafting!
Cards and gifts
• Snow globes. Simple snow globes make great gifts and are easy – and fun! – to make. Children can paint and decorate wintery toys, figurines, and whatever else they want to put in their globe. Then take a plastic jar and use the top to form the base of the snow globe, gluing their figurines to the inside of the jar’s top. Once the glue and decorations are dry, fill the jar with glitter and water, screw the lid on tight and flip it over for a super festive homemade snow globe.
• Card free-for-all. Grab any and all craft supplies you have on hand, plus anything non-perishable from the kitchen or garden that you think might work (pasta, cinnamon sticks, dried leaves, etc) and let your children’s creativity run wild. Precut and fold paper cards and set out glue and tape so all they need to worry about is decorating their cards.
• Make old cards new again. Holding on to old greeting cards for no good reason? Give them new life as Christmas collages. Children can cut out illustrations and greetings from old cards and use them to make new cards or colourful collages on pieces of coloured paper. Glitter glue, stickers, and pom poms make great add-ons.
• Card painting. A simple activity that children of any age will enjoy. To make it friendly for young children, have stencils and finger paints for them.
• Potato print wrapping paper. Don’t forget about decorating gifts! Cut different shapes into halved potatoes to make stamps that your children can use to decorate kraft paper – or, make it a low-waste Christmas by using newspaper or other recycled paper. Just make sure the paint is dry before wrapping those precious gifts!
Ornaments and decorations
• Garlands. Kids’ DIY Christmas ornaments can suit any age. Materials for younger children include paper rings and cut-out handprints or snowflakes, while older children might enjoy stringing popcorn or making more complex garlands out of dried fruit slices. Oranges are particularly festive and give the house a lovely aroma.
• Salt dough ornaments. Mix together 4 cups of plain flour, 1 cup of table salt and 1 ½ cups of water to make salt dough. Once your children have shaped them into ornaments (with your help, depending on age/ability), poke a hole through the top for the string, then bake at 120° C for 3 hours. Once cooled, it’s time to decorate for a truly unique Christmas ornament. Stuck for ideas? Snowmen, Christmas trees, candy canes, and handprint Santas all make great additions to the tree. Make them extra-durable by applying a layer of white glue over the paint to seal, and a backing of card paper to help them stand the test of time.
• Ice-cream stick ornaments. These make great snowflakes and Christmas trees, just glue into the chosen shape and then children can add decorations and a ribbon for hanging on the tree.
• Paper plate Christmas trees. Take a paper plate and form into a cone shape, securing with glue or staples (being careful of the pokey bits), then have children decorate with paint, stickers, pom poms, buttons, bows, etc.
• Handprint wreaths. Help your children trace handprints on coloured paper and cut them out, then glue or tape to a paper plate or circle to make colourful and personal wreaths.
Christmas is a time for family – but too many children in the UK don’t have a safe home to call their own. If you’re thinking about welcoming a foster child into your family, please get in touch today.
Mindfulness is, simply put, the practice of focusing the mind on the present moment. It works well for all ages, and especially for people who have suffered from trauma and instability in their lives – making it a powerful tool for positivity amongst teens and children in foster care.
For a simple practice that’s open to anyone, mindfulness has a great impact: it improves focus, reduces stress, leads to better sleep, boosts the immune system, teaches emotional regulation, increases compassion for oneself and others, and builds inner resilience.
While mindfulness is considered a safe practice for most people, for foster teens and children who have experienced severe trauma or who may be suffering from PTSD it’s best to seek guidance from a medical professional before beginning.
5 steps for teaching mindfulness to teenagers and children
1. Be mindful together.
One of the best ways to get your foster teen to try mindfulness is to show them how mindful behaviours can help by practicing them together.
Ask your teen to help you in the garden and encourage them to engage their senses by smelling the different plants and feeling the different textures. Or try eating mindfully by setting aside any distractions (like smartphones and tablets) and take turns describing your food to each other, really paying attention to details like the smell, taste, and texture.
There are many simple ways to bring mindfulness into your daily life – even age-old activities like looking for shapes in passing clouds can encourage you and your teen to bring your focus to the present moment.
2. Use metaphors and visualisations.
For people who are new to mindfulness, some activities like meditation can be a bit hard to manage at first. Use simple metaphors to help your teen understand what’s going on in their minds, and how they can take control.
One helpful metaphor is to think of the mind like a monkey, jumping from thought-branch to thought-branch all day long. The monkey is useful when it comes to keeping track of our daily lives, but when he’s running the show, things can get a bit hectic. Learning to listen to your monkey mind without letting it take over is one of the goals of mindfulness.
Another popular visualisation technique is to picture your thoughts as clouds floating across the sky, or as boats floating by on a lake. They can be acknowledged, then left to continue drifting away.
3. Get physical.
Using physical props and movements can help easily distracted teens stay focused.
Yoga and mindfulness walks are both simple ways to combine gentle exercise with mindfulness. In yoga, keep focused on the breath and the sensations of the body, while mindfulness walks involve paying attention to the world around you – the colours, the smells, the sounds, etc.
Body scans are a type of relaxation technique that involve slowly focusing on each part of the body in turn, while prayer beads are an age-old tool for concentrating on prayer and meditation.
4. Find the right environment.
Choose the right space and the right time to minimise distractions like noise, hunger, fatigue, and other interruptions. Mindfulness doesn’t have to take long, but it is much easier to do in a calm and quiet space.
5. Give your young person the control.
Let your teen choose how and when to do mindfulness activities, and encourage them to experiment on their own using apps or videos. Mindfulness has a much greater impact when it’s something that you do for yourself – particularly for independence-seeking teens – but they’ll probably need a nudge.
Many apps, like Headspace and Calm, include prompts to remind users and will let your teen track their record for days in a row. You can even join them in your own mindfulness practice to encourage a little friendly family competition.
Are you able to give a teen a stable home? Reach out to our dedicated team at Compass Fostering to find out more about how you can become a foster parent.
Any parent or carer knows how difficult it can be to watch your child struggle with anxiety. While a certain amount of fear and worry is normal and will usually pass in time, anxiety becomes a problem when it starts to interfere with your foster child’s daily life.
It can be difficult to figure out how to deal with anxiety in children, but there is plenty of support and information available to help you get started. Let’s look at common fears in children and see how to recognise when your child might need help coping with their anxiety.
Common fears and anxieties
Normal concerns and worries include separation anxiety (distress brought about by leaving a caregiver or being left alone), as well as fears and phobias like being afraid of animals, insects, storms, heights, water, blood, and the dark.
Certain life changes can also bring up anxiety for children, including starting a new school, being away from home, tests and exams, and going through puberty. Shy children may also feel anxious in social situations.
Most foster children will have a degree of trauma in their past and may deal with occasional anxiety due to recurring instability in their lives – but these worries become a problem when they begin to impact on daily activities.
Signs of anxiety in children
Anxiety presents in different ways for different children, spanning both mood and physical changes.
Changes in a child’s behaviours and demeanour can indicate a growing problem. Irritability and clinginess, being tense and fidgety, and having frequent crying fits or emotional outbursts can all be signs of stress. Children can also lack confidence, experience negative thoughts, or attempt to avoid triggering situations, such as going to school or seeing friends.
Difficulty sleeping, such as waking in the night or having bad dreams, is a common sign of anxiety. Loss of appetite, wetting the bed, and frequent headaches or tummy upset are also symptoms to watch for.
Causes of anxiety in children
Childhood can be tough, particularly for foster children who experience more instability and change than most. Big life changes – such as being put into foster care or changing carers – can trigger anxiety, as can traumas like car accidents, house fires, or witnessing or experiencing abuse.
Family arguments or frequent fighting amongst caregivers can also be a source of stress for a child, as can changing social dynamics, such as those experienced by teenagers at school. In fact, teens are more likely to suffer from social anxiety than younger children.
How to help your anxious child
It’s difficult for any carer to watch their foster child suffer with anxiety when they could be learning and playing, but you can help.
- Talk to your child about their fears and worries. Avoid judgement; accept and empathise with your foster child’s feelings. For example, if they are afraid of the dark, show empathy by acknowledging that sounds scary.
- Work with your foster child to find solutions. Come up with ideas together – for a child afraid of the dark, you might suggest using a nightlight, leaving the bedroom door open, or giving them a torch for when they get scared.
- Try not to let your child’s anxiety stop them from doing things, rather search for ways to reduce the amount of fear or worry they experience. Positive thinking can help combat smaller worries. Talk through their ‘worst case’ scenario, and how they could handle it – help your child see that they will be okay even if their fear comes true.
- Talk to them about anxiety, if your child is old enough. Learn together about what happens in the brain, how anxiety builds up and eases off, and work with them on developing coping mechanisms to manage their feelings.
- Try simple relaxation techniques – these reduce anxiety in both adults and children. Use easy breathing techniques, like breathing in for three counts and out for three counts, or introduce more involved practices like mindfulness and yoga if your foster child is old enough.
- Make a ‘worry box’ and encourage your child to write down their worries and put them into the box. Once a week, sort through their worries together and discuss what was worth worrying about and what wasn’t. Help them come up with a plan to handle similar worries if they come up again. The goal is for them to feel in control of their worries and not the other way around.
- The GP is always a good first place to start, especially if you’re worried your foster child may be suffering from an anxiety disorder or other mental health issue.
- YoungMinds has tools for helping children cope with anxiety.
- Youth Access offers advice and counselling for young people.
- Reach out to the Compass Fostering team for more guidance on helping your foster child.
Are you ready to provide a safe and secure home for a child in need? Get in touch to find out more about becoming a foster carer with Compass Fostering.
According to the NHS, we should be keeping children active for a minimum of 60 minutes every day – and while they’re bound to get some activity in during their school day, it’s unlikely to make up the full hour.
Physical activity is important for children of all ages, with a host of physical and mental benefits. Physically, exercise helps children strengthen muscles and bones, maintain a healthy weight, and sleep better. Mentally, being fit can lead to better concentration, reduced stress, higher self-esteem, more confidence, and improved social skills.
Luckily, lots of fun and easy ways to help get children moving are simple for any parent or foster carer to manage! Check out these eight tips to help you encourage your child to be more active.
How can we encourage children to be more active?
1. Play sports with them.
School sports and after-school activities are great, but since they don’t always add up to enough exercise on their own, you can bolster your foster child’s activity level by helping them practice.
Alternatively, take up a sport or game that the family can do together, like frisbee, cycling, or rock climbing.
2. Prioritize time for exercise.
Many children have a lot on their plates with schoolwork and after-school activities, so it’s key to set time aside for exercise.
With younger children, make sure they have time every day to run around and explore – most youngsters will get enough exercise just by being their curious selves.
If you’ve got a teenager (or your child isn’t naturally energetic), structure their time to include physical activity every day.
3. Get fit as a family.
Show how fun and beneficial exercise can be by keeping fit yourself. If you struggle to get enough exercise in your life, then make getting fit a goal for the whole family.
If you’ve got teens, try starting a family exercise group using a training app like Strava, or signing up for exercise classes together. For younger children, encourage activity by setting a goal for the whole family – such as completing a long bike ride or hiking a local mountain – and then train together to reach your goal.
4. Choose active toys and provide a safe environment for play.
This is particularly important during busy times of the year when you might not be able to oversee your child’s activity as much as you want.
If you have a garden, make sure it’s clear of any dangers and provide plenty of outdoor toys. If outside space is hard to come by, try making a dedicated area in the house where your child can be more physical and stock it with active toys like play tunnels, mini trampolines, and movement games like juggling and Twister.
5. Use technology wisely.
Limit recreational screen time to 1-2 hours a day to keep it from becoming a bad habit.
Instead, harness technology to help get your foster child active. On top of traditional training favourites like Strava and Nike Run, lots of apps get children moving, like the UNICEF Kid Power app that pairs with a wrist tracker, or Fitness Kids that lets children compete against one another alongside animated videos.
6. Go exploring.
Take walks or bike rides as a family. Find new neighbourhoods and parks to explore, or try using scavenger hunts and colour walks to keep your child engaged.
An easy scavenger hunt is to find one item beginning with every letter of the alphabet, while colour walks see you looking for each colour of the rainbow in turn and letting what you find dictate your route.
7. Have a dance party.
Dance parties are a great way to get active when getting outside isn’t much of an option. Put on some music and get grooving! Silly outfits and dance battles can help keep children interested -or challenge yourselves to learn a dance routine together.
8. Embrace their competitive nature.
A lot of children are naturally competitive. Try activities that test your foster child’s speed or endurance, like races.
Family sports days can also be fun – get your child to help plan activities, and invite a few friends to join and play as teams, or make it everyone for themselves. Add in some silly prizes and you have the makings of a great – and active – day!
For more tips on staying healthy, including activities for disabled children and children’s sports in your area, visit the NHS’s Change 4 Life.
Bring more life into your home by welcoming a child in need! If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, get in touch to find out more about fostering with Compass.
Social media often gets a bad reputation when it comes to how much time children and teens spend glued to their phones – but there are lots of ways that social media can be a tool for good in the hands of a teen.
As a foster carer, you can make social media a positive experience for your foster teen by helping them to be aware of the risks and empowering them to take advantage of the benefits.
The ups and downs of teens and social media
Social media issues for teenagers can be rife, and most parents are aware of the dangers. Cyber-bulling is a real problem, and studies show that too much time spent on social media can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and depression amongst teens who compare themselves to unrealistic ideals they see online.
While these are serious concerns, you can help your teen limit the negative consequences by encouraging them to enjoy social media in moderation. Teens need time to enjoy life offline – exercise and face-to-face socialisation are both important for their growing brains and bodies.
In fact, a 2019 study found a strong link between the negative effects of social media and a lack of exercise brought about by too much time spent online. That means balancing time on devices with plenty of physical activity can help mitigate some of social media’s more harmful effects.
Face social media together
• Empower your teen to use social media safely.
Talk about what is safe to share online and what isn’t, and make sure your foster teen knows what to watch out for to avoid online predators, scammers, and cyberbullies. Teach them to recognise false information and to think critically about what they read and see online.
Help them understand the risks to their mental health and self-image and decide together how to deal with these feelings if they come up. Make sure they know how to change their privacy settings on different platforms.
Looking for more guidance on internet safety? The UK Safer Internet Centre has a host of resources for teens from 11-19.
• Encourage self-expression.
Not only can social media be a great way for teens to explore new things like art, culture, and history, it’s also a versatile tool for self-expression. Many creative teens use social media to showcase their own art and performances, while others use it as a platform for building a unique personal brand through what they share and how they engage with online communities.
Using social media in this way can teach a teen digital skills and build an online presence that will put them in a good position for future education and job prospects. You can help your teen build their digital skills through online and in-person courses, such as photo/video editing and content creation. Check out BT’s Skills for Tomorrow portal for a host of free family resources.
• Keep connected.
For foster children, social media can be a useful way to keep in touch with old friends and family members and build important connections for the future. It also helps many teens strengthen friendships and build communities around shared experiences and interests – particularly when it’s not possible to see one another in person (like when schools are closed, or across long distances).
Being a teen can be lonely if you feel like you don’t fit in, but you can always find someone who’s interested in the same things you are online – whether that’s someone who loves the same band you do or someone from a similar cultural background.
• Inspire your foster teen to do good.
With the world more connected through social media, teens today have access to a lot more information on global issues – and many more ways to have an impact. Consider 17-year-old Greta Thunberg; in two years, she’s been able to reach a global audience with her message of fighting climate change and now has an Instagram following of over 10 million.
Help your teen find an issue that they care about and encourage them to get involved and have a positive impact, such as promoting community initiatives and organisations.
• Be involved.
Model healthy social media use by not looking at your phone during meals or family activities, and limit screen time close to bedtime.
Follow your foster teen on social media and make time to chat with them – in person and in a non-judgemental way – about what they and their friends are posting and seeing online. Share interesting and educational feeds with them and keep communication open so your teen knows they can talk to you if they see or experience anything upsetting online.
Teenagers can be truly inspiring with the passion and energy they bring, but many teens suffer without a safe space to grow up. If you have the room to give a young person a stable and supportive home, get in touch today. You can also read our article about fostering teenagers here.
Most foster children have faced difficult challenges in their lives, which may have included instability, separation from their parents, and other traumas. Moving homes and leaving families can create a lot of uncertainty and inhibit a child’s sense of belonging and self-worth.
That’s why it’s so important for carers to help their foster children rediscover their inner confidence. Having confidence helps build the resilience to face any challenges ahead – and can greatly improve a child’s long-term prospects such as education and employment.
Confidence is also key in social situations, and increases a child’s ability to adapt, even when things don’t go the way they want.
So, how can you help your foster child build their confidence?
How to build confidence in children and young people:
Make time for play
Play is a safe way for children to try out new things and build new skills, which will in turn help build confidence. They get to practice decision-making, work cooperatively with others, and discover their inner strengths. Open-ended and creative play, in which children aren’t pressured to achieve any sort of final outcome, is particularly important for building confidence and self-esteem.
Working through a situation or experience through play – like playing dentist or doctor – can help a child feel more comfortable facing the real-life experience.
Give chores and help set goals
Show your foster child that what they do is valuable and makes a positive contribution to the family by giving them household chores.
Work with your child to set goals, from schoolwork to behavioural achievements – and celebrate when they complete them. Being able to mark their accomplishments can help a child build confidence in their abilities.
Listen when your child speaks, and talk to them about issues that are important to them and to your family. Show your foster child they’re important by how you react to their ideas and their actions, and encourage them to think critically and independently. These are valuable skills for building confidence, self-assuredness, and resilience.
Encourage trying new things
Encourage your foster child to try new things, but make it safe for them to fail – confidence isn’t about being good at something, it’s about having the resilience not to let failure stop you from trying. While so much of a child’s world is about measuring achievement – such as grades – it’s important for them to also experience learning from failure without feeling like a failure.
Give lots of the right kind of encouragement and praise
Encouragement and praise are great, but pay attention to the words you use. Try to frame success in terms of effort and perseverance, rather than the final outcome.
If your child studies hard for a test, praise them for their effort no matter what grade they get. Build confidence by encouraging the behaviours that lead to success rather than innate ability.
Help them discover their passions
Encourage confidence building activities for children to pursue. Make sure to show your own enthusiasm in the things they’re interested in – if your child shows a natural talent or passion for something, whether it be drawing, sports, or animals, encourage that interest as much as you can.
People naturally become better at things they enjoy because they do them more often. Encouraging your foster child to spend time on a passion will let them see how investing time and effort into an activity can really pay off.
Be confident in yourself, and share with your child how you overcome disappointments, mistakes, and other life challenges.
As parents and carers, we can sometimes try to shelter our children from the difficult life situations that we face. Sharing how you overcome these challenges with your foster child will give them a positive model for how to face the same kinds of difficulties in their lives.
Show them that they belong
For foster children, a feeling of belonging to a family and a community is a significant step towards building a sense of self-worth.
Show your foster child that they’re a valued member of the family by hanging their artwork and pictures of them around your home. Encourage them to get involved in community activities, and attend community events together to help build their feelings of belonging.
Are you ready to help a child in your community by providing a safe and happy foster home? Get in touch to chat with our friendly team about how you can be a part of the Compass Fostering community.
While it might seem to you that teenagers are always sleeping, in reality most teens don’t get as much sleep as they need – with 7 out of 10 sleeping less than the recommended minimum of 8 hours.
Why do teenagers sleep so much, why is it important for them, and how much do they really need?
We can all agree that the coronavirus pandemic has brought widespread change for us during 2020. The way we’ve lived our lives has been overhauled and our day-to-day hasn’t looked the same since the beginning of March – and that’s just us grownups. But what about our children and young people’s lives?
While smoking in your car isn’t illegal on its own, thanks to legislation passed in 2015, smoking in the car when children are around is. This important law applies to every driver in England and Wales, and protects children from the harm done by secondhand smoke.
Here’s what you need to know, and a few tips on other ways to stay sane with children in the car.
Is it illegal to smoke in a car with children?
It’s illegal to smoke in a vehicle carrying anyone under 18 years of age, and both the driver and the smoker could be fined £50 for doing so. Under the same legislation, anyone in a car carrying a child could be fined for not stopping someone else from smoking.
If you’re caring for a child who’s on the shy side, you’ve probably noticed that it can be a little difficult for them to make friends – especially in all the bustle of school. The good news is that there’s lots you can do to help your shy child gain confidence.
Support your child to show positive behaviour with these effective behaviour management strategies.
Behaviour management can help children learn how to act appropriately by giving them structure and guidance. Positive behaviour management strategies work by rewarding good behaviour instead of disciplining for doing something wrong. Rewards can be as simple as praise, a popular activity, or a favourite meal.
Millions of Muslims around the world will be celebrating the start of Ramadan on Monday 12th April 2021. Ramadan is considered to be most holy month in the Islamic calendar; it is a month for devout prayer and fasting during daylight. Sometimes it can be difficult to explain why Ramadan is important, especially to children or young people who may have never heard of it before.
While the rest of the country has been stock piling toilet rolls, the Compass Education team have been stock piling a list of useful home schooling websites in preparation for possibly long periods of school closures. These websites should ease that slight feeling of anxiety about how we are all going to cope with the Corona Virus Limbo and come out the other side.
Internet Safety for Children is a hot topic at the moment. Children are gaining their own digital independence from as early as the age of 10, a recent study by Ofcom states, so keeping an eye on your child’s internet usage is key when it comes to their safety.
Significantly less children are reading for pleasure; The National Literacy Trust has found. In 2019, just over half of 8 to 18 year-olds said that they read for fun, and only a quarter of young people read daily.
We all have a role to play in helping to make sure that the internet is a safe, fun place for young people to explore. This Safer Internet Day, we’re celebrating children being able to express themselves online, whilst being SMART.
We are not born knowing what it is to be a boy or a girl or with an assigned gender; whether we like pink or blue or cars or dolls, but we are encouraged into a binary from a very early age. If your child begins to continually reject their gender’s stereotypical traits, it can be surprising and sometimes unexpected.
The night before you collect your results try to get a good night’s sleep. Getting your results can be both an exciting and anxious time. Make sure you know what time and where to collect your results and aim to be on time.
Well done if you have achieved or succeeded your grades!
If you tried your best but haven’t quite achieved the grades you hoped for or needed for your next step whatever that may be – don’t panic!
If you have applied to a college and haven’t achieved the exact entry requirements, contact the college in the first instance. Colleges can be flexible and depending on your grades it may not make a difference however it is advisable to call them. On some occasions you may be offered a lower level course which just means you have an extra year of study but this can be a good thing as you will gain more skills and knowledge along the way and give you a good understanding of your subject for the following year’s course.
Sixth form and year 13
For sixth form and year 13, if you haven’t achieved the desired grades speak to the post 16 adviser within the school, they may be flexible with entry requirements depending on your grades.
However if you do not have the desired grades for 6th form it is hoped you have a back-up plan of another school or college place. Call the school or college immediately on receiving your results.
Many colleges will accept applications on results day if they have the places available on their courses.
If all else fails and you find yourself without a post 16 or college place, there are other options such as apprenticeships and training providers offering courses which have start dates after September.
Most importantly speak to the adults around you who will help you to make decisions.
Unhappy with your exam results?
If you are unhappy with your results, speak to your teachers about the best options for you. You might decide to see your exam paper, go for a review, or re-sit your exam.
Congratulations if you have achieved the grades you needed for your chosen University course.
If you haven’t achieved the grades you needed you can apply for other courses through Clearing.
Clearing is a service from UCAS which gives students a final chance to apply for a university course beginning in September. It runs from mid-July to September each year.
In Clearing you can see which courses have places remaining. You can use Clearing if you:
- have already completed a UCAS application
- apply after 30 June – You’ll automatically be entered into clearing if you apply late for your course (after 30 June)
- didn’t receive any offers (or none you wanted to accept)
- didn’t meet the conditions of your offers
Finding a course through Clearing
You can find out which courses have vacancies through UCAS from mid-August to late September. Not all universities or courses have vacancies, and some may be filled quickly.
You can contact universities and colleges about getting a place once you’ve got your exam results.
Learn how clearing works
Accepting an offer
You can only accept 1 offer. When your place is confirmed, you have to accept it and can’t look for another place.
Help & advice
Contact the UCAS Exam Results Helpline for free advice – 0808 100 8000
Useful websites and apps:
Apprenticeships – www.findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk/apprenticeshipsearch
The Princes Trust – www.princes-trust.org.uk
UCAS (The Universities and Colleges Application Service) – www.ucas.com
National Careers Service – www.nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk
Child line (free 24 hour counselling service for children and young people) – www.childline.org.uk
Stop Breathe & Think. A free mindfulness, and meditation app aimed to reduce stress and anxiety – stopbreathethink.org
Calm. A free meditation app to reduce anxiety, sleep better and feel happier – Calm.com