The long awaited day is almost here! You’ve gone through all the steps to qualify as a foster family and now your child is about to be placed with you. In fact, you are not the only one getting more excited by the day as your own kids (if you have them) are looking forward to a new family member. It’s probably going to be someone else to bicker with, but that’s what kids do anyway, right?
However, you’ve asked them to go slowly because everything will be new to this child. Everyone has agreed to help the new child settle in, but the obvious questions arise. How can we make them feel welcome and comfortable so that they’ll want to stay with us? Actually, there are some things you can, and should, do to help foster kids settle in. Here are 10 suggestions to get you started.
1. Give Them Their Own Space
All foster children need their own room, this is their safe haven, a place where they can retreat and have privacy. Prior to their arrival, why not try and find out some of their favourite things so can you have them ready in their room to make them feel at home.
2. Help Them Unpack and Organise Their Room
This is a great way to get to know your new foster child. One thing we should mention here is that you really should ask before assuming it’s okay to start unpacking their bags. That ‘stuff’ may be important memories they just aren’t ready to share just yet – and who would be at this early stage? Some kids may be okay letting you help them, but at least you might help them arrange and decorate a bit.
3. Make Sure to Include Them in Every Family Activity
While you would always include them in family activities like picnics and trips to the local park for a hike, you might not consider those karate or dance classes a family activity. The one thing you will want to do is see if these weekly lessons are something they’d like to do. If not these, is there any kind of lesson they’d like? Perhaps they would like to take swimming lessons at the community indoor pool. You’ll never know until you ask!
4. Ask Them How They Want You to Refer to Them
Some kids feel a bit odd being referred to as ‘foster’ kids. They somehow feel like they aren’t really a family member. Other kids are adamant about the fact that they have a birth family so a foster kid designation is fine with them. Either way, it is important to be sensitive to their feelings and this is one way to show you care.
5. Hang Pictures of Them in Areas Where Family Photos Are Hung
You probably don’t have any pictures at the very beginning, but you have a mobile phone don’t you? Why not have a bit of fun while you’re at it? Take and print some snap chat type photos with the silliest filters you can find and hang pictures of the entire family, including your foster kids, and it will serve two purposes. Being included in family photos shows that they are an important part of a family team and secondly, silly pictures are great icebreakers which should get them opening up a bit.
6. Place Them in Chore Rotation
Okay, this is the point where foster kids KNOW they are part of the family! If you assign chores weekly and go on a rotation type system, they will be able to step up to the slot coming up for them. Just make sure to distribute chores evenly across the number of kids in the family. No one is exempt, and that means everyone! You might cut them some slack on their first week, but after that they are part of the cleaning brigade!
7. Display Their Artwork and Important School Papers
It probably isn’t necessary to tell you to invest in refrigerator magnets, is it? You probably already have the front of your fridge covered with your kids’ artwork and perhaps tests where they landed an A. If you don’t have enough magnets to accommodate all the kids, they’re readily available at your local art stores or at an online marketplace. With that said, if you don’t have enough now, then transfer some of your kids’ art to your memory box and then display the artwork or school papers of the newest family member.
8. Ask How They Would Like You to Refer to Them
Speaking of family members, you might also want to ask you foster kids how they would like you to refer to them when introducing them to family and friends. Do they want to be called a foster kid or maybe they just want to be referred to as Johnny, the newest member of our family. Okay, so you aren’t going to call Sally, Johnny, but you get the point! Conversely, let them decide what they want to call you. Are they comfortable saying “Hey Mum…” or would they prefer to call you Ms or Mr Surname. It's important that they are comfortable when settling in.
9. Ask Them About Their Favourite Foods
Do you take turns preparing meals around foods your kids love? Don’t forget to ask your new family member about the kinds of foods they like and unless it’s too outlandish, cook their favourite meals as well. What a blessing it would be if they loved the same foods your birth kids do? It surely would make shopping a whole lot easier if nothing else.
10. Give Them a Turn Planning Family Night
If you don’t already have a family night, it’s time to plan one! This is so important in today’s world where we spend the bulk of our time online on social media or watching Netflix. Family night is simply a time to get together to enjoy each other’s company. It is not family group session, it’s a night of entertainment, so by all means, give your new member a chance to plan something they would enjoy too. Although your motive is to give your foster kid a chance to do something fun for them, you can learn a lot about them just by seeing what they consider to be entertaining.
There you have 10 different suggestions for helping your foster kid settle in. Can you think of anything we’ve missed?
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