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Finding Balance as a Foster Parent

5 June 2022 • Words by Karla Pretorius 2 mins

It takes an exceptional parent to foster children. You are already doing an amazingly selfless thing – taking care of another and not expecting anything. It is effortless to become accustomed to this little being in your home and become part of the family. It is very typical to want to keep the status quo when things have settled or to change anything and everything in your home to acquire this calm, stable home for this child.

The thing is, though, that fostering children for a short while is not all that natural. It is a difficult job to create a safe and stable home for a child that is already feeling, most probably, a bit unsettled.

Finding balance as a foster parent – for you both: 

Try and keep things consistent

The child you foster is probably used to change, which is not great for any child to be used to. The one thing that is extremely important for any child is a consistent routine. According to Hawk et al. (2018), caregiver consistency in early life is highly associated with social-emotional development.  Keep mealtimes at the same time. Be clear with your expectations of chores such as brushing teeth, taking their plate to the kitchen, getting ready for bed, etc. 

Being a foster parent is a job

Some people believe it’s a calling, and that’s great, but we need to also have some boundaries as foster parents. Otherwise, it might feel that your child is being taken away once the foster child is placed in their adopted family. Caring for your foster child is a beautiful thing, but remind yourself that they will move to another home and that your job is to set them up for success. To give them the tools to cope in the “real world.”

Your job is critical

Although you probably should see it as a temporary “fill in the gap” position, you should also remind yourself that it is a significant period for any child. If they feel safe, secure, and loved during this transitional period, you are doing a phenomenal job preparing them for any upcoming changes. 

You are not there to entertain

I have to constantly tell myself not to fall into the “holiday parent” trap when my partner’s children come and visit us during holidays. It is easy to think of our jobs to entertain and keep it fun when this might not always be the right approach to set a child up for successful transitions. Especially children going from foster home to a new family that might have adopted them.

Add a few healthy habits

You can always do a few of Moshi’s nighttime stories with your foster child and then ask the new family, when they move, to continue with this. Suppose we introduce fun and relaxing activity, such as listening to a mindfulness story or meditation at night, and our foster children can take this to their new home. It might help them stay calm and feel connected to a golden thread of stability. Click here to listen to Major Moony’s Cosmic Stressbuster meditation. 

You are doing a fantastic job supporting children in a very unstable period of their lives. Remind yourself that it is probably quite emotional for you as a foster parent. Perhaps it is time to get a puppy that can stay with you and support you in these different phases of your life?

Karla Pretorius

A registered counselor with a MA in Psychology. Co-founder: AIMS Global & Leadership at: Augmental