Being a foster kid is tough. Most foster parents cannot possibly understand what it’s like unless they were once foster kids themselves. For these kids, it’s like having two families but not really a part of either one. Kids in foster care may feel lost with no identity. They don’t really “belong” anywhere. As foster parents, it’s your job to help help your foster kids learn who they are and how to be themselves while helping them fit in with your family.
Help Your Foster Kids Be Themselves
Kids in foster care often come with a lot of behavioral issues because of the life they’ve already lived. They are taught not to do this or that because it’s not appropriate. It can be difficult for these kids to know how to act or how to “be themselves” in the right way. Foster parents can help them learn this important skill.
Give your foster children choices as often as possible. Ask them what foods they like, what clothes they like to wear, and what TV shows they like to watch. They may not always make appropriate decisions, so you might want to limit their options to two or three of your choosing. On the other hand, will it really hurt if they wear plaids and stripes to school one day or if they eat macaroni and cheese for breakfast?
You might get the answer “I don’t know” when asking for their choices on certain subjects. Some kids are afraid to make their wishes known while others may not have developed a preference. You can use this opportunity to help them get to know who they are by talking about their options. Be careful that you don’t say anything to show your preference because it may cause them to choose what they think you want to hear.
Instead of saying “I like red” when discussing whether to wear a red or blue dress to school, you can mention how blue is the color of the sky and red is the color of flowers. This tells them that both colors are good, so it’s up to them for what they like.
Help Your Foster Kids Fit In
Foster care is viewed as a temporary situation even when the child is in care for years. Because it is temporary, many kids feel like they never belong anywhere or fit in. This situation can hamper their emotional development and cause irreparable damage. However, foster parents can provide a sense of permanency and belonging even in a temporary situation.
Include the foster child in family events. Take them along to meet your parents, grandparents and cousins. Make them part of your birthday and Christmas celebrations. Celebrate their birthday in ways similar to how you celebrate yours, your spouse’s, and other kids you have. It will help them feel like part of the family.
Get them involved in activities just for them. Sign them up for gymnastics, soccer, or basketball. If they don’t have an interest, or you don’t know what they’re good at, try different things. Having their own activity will help them to feel “normal,” like other kids. They will develop skills in something they enjoy, which will give them more confidence. They will also build friendships with others who are in the same activity. They are all a bunch of soccer players or gymnasts rather than being just foster kids. This helps them to establish their own identity which is not built on their life situation and to be part of a group where they can feel like they belong.
Even though it’s difficult for foster kids to learn how to fit in and to be themselves, foster parents can make this transition period a little easier. They should be aware of the issues and find unique ways to solve them so the kids can learn who they are and become part of a group where they belong.