Imagine bouncing from home to home every few months. If the thought of switching roommates every few months doesn't sound fun to you, you can understand that moving from home to home is challenging for many foster children. Since it is such a grueling experience, many foster children develop a tough exterior. As a result, it can seem hard to connect with them. However, as an adult who longs to make sure your foster child feels safe and loved, you know that it's your job to create an environment that's conducive to that. Consider the following tips for encouraging your foster child to open up.
Encourage Them to Write About Their Experiences
Keeping a journal is one of the most encouraging forms of personal expression. It allows you to take your emotions and put them on the page. Give your foster child a journal. Make sure that they know that it's a safe space for them to release their emotions. Let them know that you won't read it without their permission. Sometimes, a child just needs to be able to write out his or her thoughts without talking.
Find Common Ground
Take time to get to know your foster child's likes and dislikes. If there's a specific TV show or activity that they enjoy, find ways to enjoy it together. This common ground can promote a sense of familiarity and community and help you bond with each other.
Be Warm and Inviting With Your Communication
If you've ever been in a family counseling session, you know that there's so much that goes into communicating with others. You have to take your tone, body language, and intonation into account. If your facial expression doesn't match what you're saying, it can easily cause the other person to feel a sense of distrust toward you. That is why it's important to consider those factors when you're communicating with your foster child. When the child can rely on you to be warm and inviting with your communication, they will be more likely to feel at ease.
Listen in Order to Understand
Foster children go through so much. As a result, they might have a different vantage point and perspective than you. You may be able to go through a file folder to see what they've experienced in their past; however, you don't really know the impact of what they’ve gone through has had on their life and mental state. With this knowledge, it's best to listen in order to understand. Do your best to avoid judgment. At their core, everyone wants to feel loved. When a person is heard and understood, they feel loved and accepted. Brace yourself for what you have the potential to hear. Listen in order to understand fully, and don't interrupt them as they work to get their point across.
Empathy involves the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes to understand where they're coming from. Develop a habit of showing empathy by regularly expressing a sense of compassion and understanding for where your foster child is coming from. When you're able to cultivate a tradition of empathy, your foster child is more likely to open up in time.
You can actively show empathy by asking simple questions. Ask your foster child how their day went at school and listen for the answer. If they talk about a challenging experience, listen for the reason why it hurt them. Express sympathy for the fact that they had to experience that pain. Find out if there's anything that you can do to relieve their pain and make their day better. That is empathy, love, and concern in action.
Invite Them to Be Creative With You
There are so many activities that you can enjoy that will spark the creative genius within your foster child. Cooking, candle making, painting classes, or making a book together are a few fun activities you two can participate in together. Find out what type of creative activities they would like to try, and then make time to do those activities together.
Give the child an opportunity to express themselves and create their own space by giving them creative control over their room.
Understand that opening up is a process, and relationships take time to develop. Do your best to come outside of yourself and think of your foster child’s needs first. When you implement these six tips and exercise patience, you'll be able to create an environment that's safe and welcoming to your new foster child.
Storie Child believes in promoting the relationship between parents and children by creating stories that can be shared together for years to come! Take a look through our products and start building a personalized and memorable book for your loved ones today!