Session 3/15Page 3/6: Topic introduction: Topic A and Topic B
Topic A: Containment and patience in the transition period
Caregivers tend to underestimate how long it takes for a child to settle in new surroundings and start the process of creating emotional bonds with the foster parents. You should think of the first year as a transition period where the child spends most of its energy to adjust to its new situation. The older the child is, the longer it may take. The child must reorganize all its feelings and thoughts, and this is very demanding.
If foster parents are nervous about not being good enough but want to prove that they are, they may look only at the progress of the child and put too many demands on the child for good behaviour, expecting signs of love and a quick progress in development. It is better to think of the first period as a reparation period: the child needs rest, soothing, comfort and tolerance. It is going through a crisis.
As foster parents you can help the child by containing its reactions – the child may be constantly stressed, or very angry or sad. Your reaction should be calm and kind and you should not take these reactions personally – they are natural reactions to a new and difficult situation. You should also be very patient and not put too many demands or expectations on the child. The most important thing is to help the child get used to new caregivers and new surroundings and you should not focus much on teaching the child a lot of skills in the transition period. A few and simple daily routines will do.
Topic B: Avoid separating from the child
It is a good idea not to separate physically from the child in the first few months – one of the foster parents should always be present, and you should think of the child as a child needing the comfort and presence of the caregivers as much as a young child would do. Many foster parents can tell about their foster child going into panic just because it was left alone for a minute. This will cease after some time – sometimes much longer than you imagined in the start, so be very patient.
It is not a good idea to make a lot of activities, holiday trips and inviting friends or family in the start – this will make it more difficult for the child to adjust. Try to have many days where you are together much of the time and just do everyday things together before you involve others.
In the transition period the child needs to learn the daily routines in the family. This is a very helpful way of getting the child out of a chaotic state: Repeat the same things every day at the same time! For example reading the same bedtime story about a hundred times can be a very good way of showing that your world offers a stable frame to live in. Think of what traditions and activities you can create in everyday life to create a predictable world for the child.