Supporting The Mental Health Of Your Foster Child
Children who grew up in a foster care facility experience trauma throughout their lives. Even though they’re happy with your family, there are still instances where they’ll fall into the pit of sadness. That’s how unpredictable their lives are.
The instability of their emotions stems from the constant move from family to family. On top of this is the loneliness they feel without the comforts of their biological family.
Because of this, the risk of developing mental health problems for foster kids is high. The American Academy of Pediatrics associates this with the fact that most of their physical, emotional, and mental needs are not met. Some of the statistics that they revealed regarding the mental issues of a foster child are the following:
– More than half of the children in foster care have clinical mental health problems
– Upon growing up, 34% of these individuals experience more than two mental health disorders
– 11.6% of the foster care population experiences Panic Disorder at least once in their lives
With this in mind, what is your role as a parent in ensuring that the child’s mental health stays healthy throughout? Here are ways on how you can support them in this journey.
Establish Effective Communication
One of the traumas that foster children experience is being unheard of. Given that they do not have someone look after them most of the time, they long for someone they can talk to. Therefore, it is your primary responsibility to listen to them.
Make sure that you don’t treat them as if they are an outsider. Let them know that you’ll always be there for them despite not being blood-related. Make them feel comfortable by offering help whenever they have any problems or whenever they encounter difficulty adjusting. Allow them to vent out their concern before giving your advice.
Take Care Of Your Mental Health First
To be able to take care of your foster child’s mental health, you have to take care of yourself first. You will only be able to fulfill your responsibility fully if you’re as stable as you need to be. The best way to go about this is to find a support network.
Believe it or not, foster parenting isolates you from the world most of the time. The majority of the people do not understand how it works, and they are likely to judge you for what you’re doing. They’ll question your desire to house someone who is practically a stranger to you. Having to deal with these can cause you to feel stressed and sad.
However, you are lucky to have co-foster parents who can fully understand where you are. Make sure to maintain constant connection and communication with them. It is vital to have people who can understand you and the challenges you’re facing.
Should you have questions on the technicalities of foster parenting, ask them for advice. If you feel the need to take a break, call them. This support group will be healthy for you and your child’s mental health in the long run.
Implement Positive Discipline In Conflict Resolutions
Foster children experience extreme things throughout their lives. Therefore, there will always be instances where they’ll do something terrible and unacceptable. Their capacity to differentiate right from wrong might be a little rusty because of how they grew up.
Always keep in mind that these kids are doing their best. What they’re doing may not be aligned with your values, but you can always address them. Sufficient conflict resolution requires love and support, not punishment, and stern discipline. Understand that corporal punishment may not be the best way to go because of the trauma they have faced in the past.
Here’s how you should attack conflict resolution:
1. Understand Your Children’s Behavior
Deep dive into what makes them who they are and focus on that. If you don’t know the reason behind every move, it will be hard for you to solve it.
2. Build A Solid Bond With Your Child
Be as open as possible, and do not keep secrets from them, especially if something is related to their identity. Once they trust you, it will be easier to talk to them and improve their behavior.
3. Always Remain Calm
There will always be instances where your foster child will push you to your limits. However, losing your cool will only push them away. Always be gentle to them and never hurt them physically to discipline them.
4. Reward Them
Whenever they do something good no matter how simple it is, make sure to reward them. This technique is what we call positive reinforcement. If you show your appreciation to them, they’ll tend to do better.
A Challenging Role
It is not a surprise to others that being a foster parent is challenging to do. It demands a lot of sacrifice from you—time, money, commitment, and effort. Add to this the difficulty in ensuring that your child is healthy physically and mentally. But along with difficulty is a complement of a fulfilling emotion.
The fact that you’re providing an impact on a child’s life should be enough to make you happy. It may be chaotic, messy, and unpredictable, but it is also gratifying, redemptive, and remarkable. These are feelings that most people won’t feel in a typical setup. As a foster parent, you’ll be lucky enough to experience these fantastic emotions.