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Looking After Your Mental Health as a Foster Parent

Join us this mental health awareness month as we explore four holistic strategies you can use to help look after your mental wellbeing as a foster parent.

May 1 2024 - 4 min read

At FCA we have nearly thirty years of experience in helping foster parents, and we know that life for our foster parents can often feel so busy that looking after one’s own mental health can feel like an afterthought. However, it’s important that we understand the importance of taking good care of our own mental health so that we can take the best care of others and lead a healthy, fulfilling life.

Join us this mental health awareness month as we explore four holistic strategies you can use to help look after your mental wellbeing as a foster parent.

How to Look After Your Mental Health as a Foster Parent

Spend quality time with your loved ones

Regularly socialising with friends, family and even our pets is a great way of improving our overall mental health. Making time to enjoy others’ company has huge benefits and has even been linked to a longer life span! In our busy modern world, it can be hard to find the time to spend quality time with those we love, but it is essential that we prioritise this time so that we can all live life to the fullest.

You can find space for quality time even on busy days, perhaps by cooking a delicious meal with your partner or by reading to one another before bed. You can spend quality time with your foster children by chatting together on the drive to school, or by squeezing in half an hour of playtime together before dinner. Shared family time is an excellent opportunity to deepen your bond with your foster child. You may decide to reserve time each week where the whole family get together, such as by having a family movie night or spending Sunday afternoons playing board games together. Having strong bonds with our loved ones is key to looking after our mental health.

At FCA we put on plenty of events for foster families and children throughout the year, which provide plenty of opportunities to spend time together as a family and make new friends. Click here to learn about the range of local events and activities which we run for our foster families.

Build healthy physical habits

Getting out and about and enjoying some exercise can be a great way of spending time together as a family, whether it’s a game of football in the back garden or an afternoon spent bouncing around at a trampoline park. Not only does physical activity make for great bonding time, but healthy physical habits can make all the difference to how we feel both emotionally and physically. Being physically healthy and feeling positive towards our bodies can have a great impact on our mental health.

When you were a child, you most likely exercised without even realising it; exercise was play, and play is enjoyable! However, many of us find that as we become adults and experience adult responsibilities and aches and pains, exercise can begin to feel like a chore. While an hour spent at the gym is a fantastic way of keeping healthy, finding a lighter form of exercise which you enjoy can be a game changer. Joining a dance class or trying out a fun new hobby like roller-skating or boxing may help to make exercise feel like fun again. Building healthy habits can also be as simple as making small changes, like walking to pick the children up from school rather than driving, or choosing a healthier meal deal option.

It’s important to eat nutritional, nourishing foods, get plenty of good-quality sleep, and avoid harmful health habits such as the overconsumption of alcohol or the use of cigarettes and vapes. Practicing healthy physical habits it not only good for you, it also sets a great example for your foster children.

Make time for yourself

Another way to take good care of your mental health as a foster parent is by setting aside time to focus on yourself. It is likely that your home is a busy one, and many of us thrive best when we have some alone time. Time to ourselves can help us to decompress and pay better attention to our personal needs. Many people find that introducing mindful practices, such as journaling or meditation, has a hugely positive impact on mental wellbeing. Finding simple mindful moments throughout the day, such as by savouring a freshly brewed cup of tea or taking a moment to watch the birds on the garden hedge, can help to bring a sense of peace.

Self-care practices come in many different forms, such as taking an hour in the evening to watch your favourite soap or sports team, going for a quiet walk with the dog, or taking the time to cook and enjoy your favourite meal. Be sure to indulge in your personal interests, and to value them as important and worth your time. Our foster children can be a great place of inspiration on this front; children tend to find it easier to prioritise fun, and are passionate about what they enjoy, whether it be a sport, a hobby, or a favourite TV show. Value your interests in the same way you would encourage and uplift theirs.

Reach out for support when needed

Fostering is both challenging and exceptionally rewarding, and it can be hard to admit when we are feeling overwhelmed. Many of us pride ourselves on our ability to ‘do it all’, but bottling up our emotions can be harmful. If you feel uncertain about anything or feel that you are struggling to cope, do not hesitate to reach out for help. Needing support is not a sign of weakness or incapability. In fact, having the self-awareness to know when you need support from others is a great strength.

We here at FCA will do everything we can to help if you are struggling. We also provide opportunities for you to connect with other foster carers and share your experiences. Don't hesitate to reach out to us if you need our help, whether in person, online or over the phone.

If you have noticed a significant change to your mental state, such as persistent feelings of stress, sadness or anxiety, it may be wise to seek out the advice of a doctor who can help you to establish the root cause and manage any symptoms. If you believe yourself or a loved one to be in a state of mental health crisis, you can reach out to the Samaritans or contact NHS 111 for advice. Always remember to call the police in an emergency.