Being a foster parent means making a huge difference in a child’s life, but it isn’t for everyone, and it certainly isn’t for those who have romanticized ideas about what being a foster parent is like. The children who come to you will be suffering.
Perhaps it won’t seem like it, perhaps it may take them years or decades to look at what happened to them to end up in foster care head-on, but it will happen. Being prepared, and having these top parenting tips for first-time foster parents, can make a massive difference in how you care for and protect your new kids.
Understanding Your Commitment
There are many things you need to know about fostering, from what the criteria are to become a foster parent all the way to the different types of foster parenting and the strategies associated with them. Understanding your commitment can help you adapt your parenting strategy.
If you are only fostering for a few months while your foster kids’ parents get back up on their feet, your strategy will be different than if you have a permanent fostering situation on hand. Similarly, you’re parenting style should change based on the background of the child you foster.
A kid whose parents have died will need a different approach than those whose parents are currently in rehab or prison. You aren’t, after all, taking on a blank slate. The children in your care deserve to have your parenting style reflect their complex needs and mental state.
The Importance of Routine and Boundaries
Kids need routine, and they need boundaries. Being very clear and consistent with these routines and boundaries is the best way to help kids get settled and feel safe. When they push those boundaries, it’s important to set consequences, but not punishment. Say a kid steals, rather than “punishing” them, it is better to have consequences, for example, they have to work to pay for the item’s worth, even if they gave back the item in question. They can even keep the money at the end, but working can help them understand the value of the item beyond just a number.
Being clear about the consequences and rewarding good behaviour can help foster children settle and feel stable. If they don’t know the punishments or their limits, they won’t feel like they can trust you or their situation, especially if they have come from a bad place.
It Isn’t Up to Your If they See You As a Parent
Foster kids have parents. Those parents are either unable to take care of them, a danger to them, or have passed on. It is not up to you if they see you as a parent, call you their parent, or anything else. When it comes to how they feel about you and what they see you as they take the lead, you need to follow it.
Have a Support System
From therapy for the foster kid to family therapy to a group support system, you will want to go overboard with the number of support options that you have. Big or small, the kids you take under your wing will be dealing with difficult situations and may not have had the time or space to react or process it, which means doing your best as their foster parent can actually cause them to finally look at their trauma head-on and react. By having a strong support system, you can be prepared for whatever happens.