Being a foster parent comes with a range of challenges. It’s a tough but rewarding experience that helps a child build a stronger and better future.
That is only possible when a strong connection is built between yourself and the child in your care, though. With a good connection established, you have a better chance of helping that child reach their full potential.
The question is, how do you connect with your foster child? Every child that walks through your door will be different. Some may be comfortable in your presence from the get-go, while others may be more reserved. It can be especially difficult if the child is emotionally closed off due to traumatic experiences. That doesn’t make the endeavour impossible – it just takes a little more work on your part.
6 Tips On Connecting With Your Foster Child
Here are six tips for building the connection that is so essential in foster families.
1. Listen first
As a foster parent, it is tempting to overload the child coming into your care with information about how things work around your place and all the great things they have to look forward to. Even if you’re telling them how wonderful your Christmases are or how they can look forward to trips out, it’s important to stop yourself. Sure, you can talk to them about life with your family, but you need to open your ears to them first. Otherwise, you won’t know what they like/dislike; and you might overwhelm them with your different lifestyle.
Listen to the child any chance you get. Whether they’re telling you about their day at school or what type of food they like, you must take a step back and give them the room to speak – and be heard. That way, you will understand them better, leading to a stronger bond.
2. Give your time
You might think that bonds come from presents and fun days out. While they may help, it’s not all about toys, parks and sweet treats. The most important way to establish a connection with your foster child is by giving them your time – whether that means one-on-one chats over the kitchen table or nights in front of the TV watching movies.
There are many reasons why children are taken into foster care, and those who have faced adverse experiences will need lots of care and attention. That might mean time together isn’t full of laughter and conversation. That is OK. Any time together is beneficial, so don’t feel like you have to be giving the child in your care the best day ever to establish a bond.
3. Bond through activities
Children in care may not want to open up to you verbally (at least at first). There are still ways to connect with them without conversation, though. Specifically, you can bond through activities like reading, painting, sports, or anything else they enjoy doing.
Ask your child or their social worker what their hobbies are and take an interest in that hobby so that you can do it together. Words needn’t be said when you’re running around together on a field or quietly sketching cartoon aliens.
4. Show you care even when you’re not there
Showing the child in your care that you’re thinking about them even when they’re not with you is another great way to build a bond. Something as simple as a note in their packed lunch, or a little text to wish them a good day at school for the older ones, are easy ways to show you care.
Over time, these little gestures will have a big impact on how the child feels about you.
5. Ask if they’d like a hug
Some children in care will not have experienced the love of a parent’s touch. Little gestures like hugs can help establish a stronger bond between the pair of you – all while showing the child the love and care they deserve.
Remember to ask the child whether they would like a hug first, though. Sometimes, they might want to be left alone and not be touched, and it’s important to respect that decision. Some hugs when they’re sad or hand-holding when they’re feeling anxious, however, can be really helpful.
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