Tips for foster carers and adoptive parents

Coronavirus is affecting everyone’s lives. As adoptive parents and foster carers, you may face the added challenge of caring for children who’ve experienced adversity, trauma and uncertainty.

Foster carer sitting with boy and girl looking at a computer

What changes in behaviours might I see?

You may remember challenging behaviours when your child first came to live with you. If they’re feeling anxious right now, they may revert to some of these. For instance:

  • Hiding
  • Becoming withdrawn or clingy
  • Being argumentative, fidgety or crying

Behaviours are a way of communicating needs and expressing emotions. It’s similar to the ‘flight or fight’ response we all experience in moments of stress.

Go back to basics

If you recognise old behaviours, try the responses you used when they first appeared. You may have to change them to make them age appropriate. For instance:

  • Create new, predictable routines that take account of current restrictions. Try to stick to these.
  • Plan ahead where possible and make sure your child understands the new routines.
  • Use a visual ‘timetable’ showing what will happen during the day. Split it into chunks and use pictures for younger children.

Talk, listen and acknowledge feelings

Children are likely to have lots of questions and concerns about coronavirus.

  • Acknowledge their feelings and make time to listen.
  • If your child doesn’t express their feelings directly, show you understand. Say things like: “I can see that your worried about this” or “I wonder if this is making you feel scared?”
  • Reassure them that it’s OK to feel this way, and that you’re there to listen.

Plan calming activities

Give your child opportunities to feel calm throughout the day to feel calm. You could try:

  • Low-key games and puzzles
  • Craft activities
  • Mindfulness or yoga
  • Indoor games (safety first)
  • Physical activities to release energy
  • Listening to music, singing or playing instruments
  • Building dens indoors (or in the garden depending on weather)

Maintain connections

  • Where possible, arrange online get-togethers with extended families, friends and schoolmates.
  • Organise activities with friends: writing letters or working on projects together. You can use FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, etc., to say in touch. Some schools may have their own networks for students.

For some children, returning to school after being away for so long can feel daunting. Nurturing connections now can help them return to daily life after Covid-19.

Be kind to yourself

It’s important to look after your health as well as your family’s. Try mindfulness or mediation, get active to blow off steam, or just take time for yourself during the day. If it helps, talk to friends and family, and don’t be afraid to ask for professional support if you need it.

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