It’s no secret that being a foster carer comes with challenges, some of which are unique to taking on this parental figure role. It can be difficult for the children in your care to adjust to their new surroundings, and they are learning to cope with other emotional hardships, too. This is why it is essential to form a bond with your foster children and establish that as soon as possible so that you form a trusting, loving relationship that you both are happy and safe in. Here are some tips on how you can help these bonds take shape.
Even if they appear to want to be left alone a lot at first, just by making sure that you are present in the home and speaking to them when they come into a room to indicate that they are seen and cared for is great. Asking them how their day at school was, or asking if there is anything that they would like to do at the weekend, all of these things will show them that you do have time for them but more importantly, you want to spend that time with them, too.
Positive reinforcement can make a big difference to a child’s confidence and help to teach them good behaviour. Although there will be times when you will have to be a disciplinarian in your parental role, when your foster children do achieve something positive at school, behave well at home, or do anything that makes you proud, let them know.
If you want to bond with your foster child, another important thing you need to do is listen to them. Having a conversation without truly engaging can make you seem indifferent and make them feel reluctant to share with you. While there might be times where you are distracted because you’re making dinner or something else, let them know that you do want to talk and ask if you can speak once your task is complete so you can give them your full attention, then follow through with this so that they know you mean it.
Your foster child might not be ready to hug you straight away, and you should never force this on them as it will make them uncomfortable. However, patting them on the shoulder or back when you’re asking them how they are or praising them for something good they have done can be a gentle way to introduce physical contact. Making eye contact with them when you are having a conversation is also incredibly effective at helping bonds form and will show them that you are engaged in what they have to say and who they are. You can find out more about how to make physical contact appropriately in foster carer training from the FCA.
If you want to bond with your foster children, consider the tips above and see how they can help you to build that trust and make them feel safe and loved. It certainly won’t be easy all of the time and requires patience, but once those bonds are formed it will all be worth it.