As a new foster parent, you may be having trouble connecting with your foster child. Don’t worry - it is very common for parents to have trouble forming a bond with their new family member, no matter what type of foster placement you have.
A connection with a child in your care may be something you have to work on, so that’s why Excel are here to support you throughout. If you feel that you are struggling to connect with your foster child, we have compiled a list of helpful advice so you can form the desired bond.
A common reason for young people not being able to initially form a bond with their foster carers is due to feeling like they don’t belong, or that the placement is only temporary. However, this can be easily curbed through redecoration. When your foster child first arrives, your home is just another house that they are staying in - so by redecorating in terms of either moving around possessions, or actually redecorating their bedroom to their favourite colour, is likely to make them feel much more at home.
Once they’ve settled in a bit more, adding family pictures that include them around the house will give the sense that your home is theirs as well. Another idea is to scatter your child’s belonging around the house - for example, you could leave their blanket in the lounge, or keep their mugs in the kitchen cupboard. Having their possessions outside of their bedroom will make the whole house feel more familiar and encourage them to spend time outside their room and with you.
If you’re looking for something new for the house, like new cutlery or a bedside lamp, why not invite your foster child along on the shopping trip and ask them to choose something? Again, this is a great way to give them a sense that your home is their home.
There really is no better place to bond than over the dinner table. Having your dinner at the same time each day, with every member of the family, will form a routine which can help your foster child to settle down and make them more comfortable.
If you can’t sit down every evening together as family, try and book in one or two days a week where this happens. Many in foster care have lacked a routine - so something as small as a family dinner every Sunday will create a sense of stability that they yearn for. We encourage family dinners at least once a week to give you a chance, as a family, to catch up and bond.
It is likely that your foster child will have an interest in something you have never heard about before. However, by taking an interest in this, this is the perfect way to start developing a strong relationship between foster parent and child.
When your foster child mentions something that interests them, keep them talking - ask them to go into a bit more depth, or to maybe give you a demonstration if applicable. This light chat will help to build up trust and develop your relationship.
Sometimes the best way to bond is to not talk, but to do - and the best way ‘to do’ is by organising a daytrip. Plan a fun activity or day out with your foster child, making sure you ask them beforehand what they want to do. Why not ask them if there’s a film they want to see? Or you can go out to their favourite restaurant.
Perhaps your foster child enjoys animals? With zoos and farms all over the country, take your foster child to a day trip that you can both enjoy together. While you’re out, make sure you give them your full, undivided attention to make them feel cared for and important.
Although taking your child out can help to form a bond, there is a lot you can do from the comfort of your own home. Activities such as baking, movie nights and board games make for great bonding sessions.
During these activities, it is important to listen to your foster child and allow them to take the lead – if they want to play Monopoly instead of the planned Cluedo, let them! If your struggling for ideas, our Kid Zone has a number of suggestions and print outs so you will always have something to do.
Making sure your foster child knows they have autonomy and freedom under your care is one of the most important things you can teach them. The best way to do this is by letting them have their say on day to day decisions.
This could be for the smallest of things like which toothpaste to buy, or something bigger like giving them the freedom to decorate their room how they like. Either way, that autonomy will help your foster child to trust you, and help build the bond between you.
Ensure that your child knows you will always support them - as a parent, this is the most important part of establishing a strong bond. The best way to do this is to reaffirm your love for them. Even after they have done something wrong, reiterate that you are still here for them.
For children in foster care, there is always the fear that they will be cast out – your reaffirmation of wanting them there will help develop your connection and bring you closer together.
Now you’ve learnt some of the ways to connect with your foster child, find out more tips for foster parents from our Knowledge Centre. For more information on connecting with your foster child, our friendly and professional staff are always here, so don’t be afraid to contact us.