Friday, October 19, 2012

{31 Days} Choosing to Foster- Preparing Your Children for the Experience

When a couple finds out that they are pregnant, they spend months preparing the other children in the home for the new sibling's arrival. This often includes big brother/big sister books, picking out new clothes, showing the children where the new baby is going to sleep, answering any questions that may arise.

Just as pregnant parents prepare their children for a new baby, it is important to prepare your children for foster siblings. This of course will look a little different depending on the age of your children and the age of the foster children you will be welcoming into your home. Still, the over all message that you will want to get across is that these kids are going to live with you (not forever), which will mean sharing time, space and toys, but that your kids are your kids for always.

First, decide what type of foster home you want to be and prepare your children accordingly. Fore example, in a receiving home, "these kids need a safe loving place to stay for a few weeks."

We have a traditional foster home. For my children (ages 3 and 1) I say that some kids (before I knew age, gender or names I said “someday some kids,” when I know the other details I try to be as specific as I can) are going to come stay with us for a while because their mommy and daddy can't take care of them. This can be a lot of fun for us but sometimes sad and scary for the kids that are coming just because they miss their mommy and daddy and their things so much. They get to stay with us until their mommy and daddy can be ready for them to come back home. Until then, they will need to share mommy and daddy and the family's toys with the kids. Then I show my girls the kids' room and talk about that being their space and that sometimes everyone needs a little space and that they can take space too. I have a welcome basket for each of my foster kids which I'll go into a little more later in this series, but one thing we do in preparation for a new child is make a card from the whole family to welcome them. Again, I reassure my kids that their place in my home is permanent, that I love them and that they will always be mine and they can talk to me about anything.
Take the time to reassure your children of
their permanent place in your family, that you
love them and that they can always talk to you.

With older kids you can open up a little more about what foster care is: a temporary, safe and loving home while biological parents work out their stuff. Discuss some of the things that you learn at your foster parent training. It's also important to tell your kids that the fact that their new foster siblings are in foster care is personal and it is not their job to talk about it. Teach them that they will need to be willing to share some of their things - not necessarily all of them, I think it’s important for every child to have a couple items that are just their own. Of course the items that they do not wish to share need to be established ahead of time and this would need to extend to your foster children as well; make sure they have some things that are just their own. Also, prepare your children to be sensitive when the other children want space.

As far as abuse or trauma it's easiest to generalize, but don't ignore completely, your child will need to know that sometimes their new foster sibling may act in a certain way because they are scared or because they were hurt in the past. Show them that it is our job to be loving and patient and show their new foster sibling to share, use their words, etc. In this conversation, let them know that it’s never okay to hit or hurt someone, talk about safe vs. inappropriate touch and that they can tell you anything. Again, reassure them of their place in your family and that you love them immensely.

This was a very brief overview of how to prepare your children for foster care because the following sites already have it written out so nicely. Please check out Preparing Kids in Your Home for Fostering from Adoption Resources of Wisconsin  and What to Teach Your Child to Prepare Them for a Foster or Adopted Sibling from, you will find them to be an invaluable resource!

Tomorrow: Choosing to Foster - Raising a Foster Child with Biological/Adopted Children

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