You might have spent months preparing to welcome a foster child into your home, but nothing is quite like the reality of their arrival. If you’re wondering how you can most effectively help a foster child settle into your home, here are some of the main things to keep in mind.
1. Be Patient
Every child is different, and they might not feel ready to eat dinner together, have long conversations, or meet other family members yet. Let them know that they don’t need to do anything they aren’t ready to do and allow them the space to settle in before expecting them to do more.
2. See Yourself Through the Child’s Eyes
It might be difficult to imagine just what this experience is like for a foster child. Many children who move to foster homes have been through difficult circumstances and may have fears, anxieties, and reservations about meeting strangers and new people. In some cases, they may not even want to move to a new home, or they could have moved around frequently already during their young lives. Put yourself in the child’s shoes and imagine what their perceptions may be like.
3. Get to Know Them
Take small steps to get to know the child and their likes and dislikes. This could be simple in the early stages, such as asking what they want to eat for dinner or what they enjoy doing after school. Over time, you will get to know them better and be able to adjust your lifestyle to help them settle in better. For example, ask them whether they would like to go somewhere after school or if there is a favourite game they would like to play together. With short term fostering, it can be difficult to get to know a child properly within a limited amount of time, but there are always small steps that you can take to help a child settle in well.
4. Be Friendly and Approachable
In your words and body language, maintain a friendly and approachable personality so the child knows they can speak to you whenever they want. Doing this in the early days can also create a lasting first impression and help to break down barriers and build stronger bonds with the child in the long term.
5. Be Clear About House Rules
Starting as you mean to go on can help a foster child settle into a new home easier. When they arrive, be clear about any house rules that they must abide by. Set rules out in a friendly and practical way rather than in a forceful manner and let them know you are happy to talk more about them. This will help the foster child to have clarity about what is expected of them and how they should behave while they are living with you.
There is no perfect way to help a child settle into your home well, and each foster parent will have their own individual style. However, following some basic principles can help you and the child to make a great start.