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Ways to Effectively Communicate with Your Foster Child

Learn effective strategies for communicating with your foster child in our latest blog. Discover tips to build trust, express empathy, and foster healthy relationships.

March 19 2024 - 3 min read

At FCA we recognise the importance of considering children’s individual needs when we communicate with them. As adults, it’s important that we keep alert to what factors may be influencing our ability to have rewarding conversations with young people so that we can encourage them to feel safe and supported when expressing themselves.

Here we’ll explore five key skills you can use to help you to communicate effectively and sensitively with your foster children.

5 Ways to Effectively Communicate with Your Foster Child

  1. Identify Barriers to Communication

    It’s important to take note of if there are any potential barriers when communicating with your foster child. Barriers can be environmental, such as finding a safe space to talk rather than a crowded area when having sensitive discussions. They can also be cultural, such as if a child’s first language is different from our own. They may be physical, such as if a child has a hearing impairment. They can also be developmental. For example, if a child in your care has a learning difference or is non-verbal, you might decide to introduce them to Makaton sign language and embark upon the exciting journey of learning sign together. Recognising and accommodating your child’s individual needs is a fantastic way of breaking down any barriers you might have to communication.

  2. Use Open Body Language

    It’s important to be mindful of your body language when communicating with children. Certain types of body language can feel intimidating, especially to little ones. For example, if you stand over a small child, they may feel somewhat unsafe. Instead, kneel to a small child’s level if you are able to. This helps them to feel more comfortable, improves eye contact and can be beneficial to their overall engagement in the conversation.

    For another example of how body language can have an impact on a child’s willingness to communicate, let’s consider folded arms. This often unconscious gesture can give your foster child the impression that you are disinterested in hearing what they have to say, or that you are annoyed or angry with them. Having a relaxed, open posture and a friendly smile can go a long way towards having rewarding conversations with your foster child.

  3. Show Your Interest

    Being engaged in a conversation is another great way to improve your communication with your foster child. You should always be sure to show interest in their day-to-day lives by asking them about their day and taking a keen interest in their hobbies. This not only strengthens your relationship, but it also teaches your foster child that you care deeply for them. By showing interest in the little things, you show them that you are a safe person to open up to about any challenges they may face, now or in the future.

  4. Engage in Active Listening

    Another way to communicate effectively and sensitively with children is by giving your full attention when they are speaking with you. Limit distractions during conversations, such as by silencing your phone or finding a quiet place to talk. Try to avoid interrupting or finishing your foster child’s sentences for them. It’s important to be patient and considerate of what kind of tone you are using. You should be sure to use words that your foster child can understand. When your foster child has finished sharing, you can show that you have are invested in what they have today by asking more questions and encouraging them to share more if they want to.

  5. Knowing Your Foster Child

    Here at FCA, we use a careful matching process to help ensure that you and your foster child are a great fit for one another. As you learn and grow together, you may find that it takes some intuition to recognise which of these communication skills are best suited to your family. For example, when it comes to body language, kneeling when talking with a slightly older child may feel condescending. While good eye contact is generally recommended, many children are uncomfortable with prolonged eye contact. You may find that some children feel more able to open up to you while in a relaxed environment which doesn’t require lots of eye contact, such as while driving to school or doing the washing up together.

    While it’s important to show an active interest in your child’s day, some children may find that being asked lots of questions as soon as they get home from school feels overwhelming, or like an invasion of their personal space. Some children benefit from time alone to relax after a stimulating day, such as by playing video games or taking time to do their homework in a quiet space. You may find that they’re much more eager to talk once they’ve had time to decompress from their day. By taking the time to really get to know your foster child, you can tailor your communication practices to best suit them.

At FCA, we aim to provide plenty of resources for foster parents and children, including hosting support groups for both children and adults and our Young People’s Forum. You can learn more about the support we offer here.

If you care passionately about improving the lives of children, you could be the ideal candidate to become a foster parent. To learn more about how to make fostering your career, join us for one of our virtual information sessions.

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