Foster parenting is parenting. Like any parent, you experience ups and downs when raising your children. You have financial, emotional, and time commitments just like you do for a child who is born into your household.
The good days far outweigh the bad, but foster parenting comes with some unique ups and downs that you should know about so you can be prepared to handle or celebrate them accordingly.
Mental and Emotional Health
Taking care of yourself so your mind and emotions are in the best possible place will help you manage your foster child’s behavioral shifts and meet their emotional needs. If you are stressed and feeling overwhelmed, you may not react in the best way. This could result in overreacting to something small, like a toy being left out when it should be put away. On the other hand, it could also be not appreciating a meaningful moment for your foster child, like when they get a good grade on a project they worked very hard on.
Some foster children have had to fill the role caretaker in their families. Therefore, your ability to be self-sufficient creates a space for your foster child to begin caring for themselves and stop relying on the survival skills they needed in the past.
Another necessary skill is patience. As the old adage goes, “never pray for patience, there are plenty of opportunities to practice.” And yes, you really should practice. Some parents count to ten or take a couple deep breaths before responding in a conflict. Another strategy is to have daily calming practices that you can draw on when things get rocky.
By taking care of yourself in these ways, you can better model the behavior for your foster children, helping them learn healthy habits and behaviors! By being caring for yourself well, you can be present and put forth the energy to make the little moments and big wins really count for your foster child.
Adjusting Behavior Management Strategies
Structure and boundaries create safe reliable spaces for children to grow. Consistency creates a sense of trust and that helps them relax and focus on being a kid. All kids make mistakes, misbehave, and need to be held accountable for their actions.
These moments can be particularly challenging for foster parents. How do you manage their behavior in a positive way that helps build a relationship while also preventing more poor behavior? Two very simple strategies include ignoring mild misbehavior and praising good behavior.
By focusing on the larger behavior issues you’ll save energy and emotions when it comes to minor issues, like poor table manners. By praising them for good behavior, you positively reinforce what you want to see more of.
Positive Relationships with Their Biological Family
During your term as a foster parent, you may be the one to take the kids to visit their relatives. That’s an important relationship, but there can be anxiousness around meeting biological family members.
By keeping the focus on the goal of reunification and doing what is best for the child, you will be able to keep a level head and stay focused when emotions run high or it comes time for the kids to leave your home.
You’ll also help the foster children learn how to maintain healthy relationships with their families, build a sense of identity and stability, and develop resilience. It can be a great stabilizer for you to encourage positive family contact. If you are unsure of how to go about that, we’ll be here to help guide you through it.
Start within your home if you already have children of your own or a partner. Make sure everyone is on the same page of what their role is and how they can help your foster child feel at home and get acclimated to life together.
Outside of your home, think of those people who you can go to for advice and who will console you through hard times. You also want people who will truly understand and appreciate your victories as a foster parent, no matter how small. Get to know other foster parents in your community!
Many life choices that have the power to positively change your life also have hard points, causing you to grow. Becoming a foster parent is one of those choices. We are here to help you be successful in your foster care journey. There are also resources online to help you navigate foster parenting.
If you are ready to get started, a dedicated support staff can answer all your questions and walk you through the process.
If you want to know more about how to manage the ups and downs of being a foster parent or have any other questions, we invite you to learn more in our eBook Enhance the Life of a Child by Becoming a Foster Parent linked below.