By Carol Jones
One issue you may not have thought much about is the fact that foster children are deeply affected by special occasions. Birthdays can be a time for the foster child to miss their birth family or to be angry that their previous birthdays were not celebrated. Most times the child will not even understand why they are upset. Then the foster family having spent time and money making the day special see the child melt down over something small, which can leave everyone feeling angry or resentful.
To help your foster children, think about the number of people you invite to the party. It’s been said that the age of the child plus one is a good number. Please remember that this party is for the child, not the rest of the family. You might want to have a small party with the child and few friends early in the afternoon and then have the rest of the family come later after the friends have left. Don’t be surprised if the foster child acts tired and out of sorts before the day is over.
Many foster children have never had a birthday celebration just for them. They don’t know what to expect and how to react to presents and the overwhelming attention of the party goers. It may be a good idea to practice with the child how to respond to the people who attend the party.
If a gift is not exactly what they want, foster children have been known to throw it across the room and say something like “I have one of those!”. It is important that instead of becoming angry with the child or punishing the behavior, that the foster parent take the time to explain the appropriate way to respond. It is also important that the child thank the people who give him/her a gift even if they don’t want the gift. Role modeling the appropriate behavior is important for the child to learn for later situations.
Another important issue with parties is that the child might eat a lot of sweets or junk food if it is available. Don’t be surprised if the child eats so much that he/she becomes sick. Without a watchful eye, children can eat 4 or 5 hot dogs or a half dozen cupcakes ruining the day for the child and the family.
Many foster children are stress eaters. They can sneak food and eat a surprising amount of food. When a 3-year-old foster child saw that we had a whole bowl of apples on the kitchen table, he took one bite out of each apple to make sure they would all be his.
The special occasions and holidays are still to be enjoyed, but plan your days around the knowledge that your foster kids may have to be taught how to enjoy a party.
Preparing the child for the social workers visit
Many times we don’t think about the visits of the various workers as a stressful situation, maybe because we are also stressed about the visits. Children do not know where or when they will be moved to a new home. They do know that when they are moved, a worker will be taking them away.
Aside from getting your home ready for the visit, make sure you prepare all of the children in the home. Your own children need to understand that the worker is there to find out how things are going with everyone in the home. The kids need to know that this is a business visit and the worker is not here to play.
Your foster child needs to know that the visit of the worker is just that, a visit to see how things are going. Assure the child that he/she will be able to talk to the worker by themselves if they want. Don’t stress over the condition of the child’s room. Most workers expect the child’s room to look like a child lives there. It does not have to be perfect, just relatively clean and free of hazards. There should not be broken toys, things that are not age-appropriate or things that could be dangerous for the child just as sharp objects.
Try to remain calm when the worker visits, the child will pick up on your stress and act out accordingly. It might be a good idea for the child to pick out something to show the worker, such as a new toy or a picture they had drawn. It will give the child something to think about and a feeling of control over part of the visit.
One thing that workers appreciate is for you to put up your animals. Not everyone appreciates a cat or dog barking or sitting on them.