When a foster and or adopted child enters your home, the initial goal is to develop a “healthy and safe” attachment bond. Without taking this first crucial step, life can become very difficult for you down the road. It is also important to your sanity.
Trying to create an atmosphere where “trust” is slowly formed will be rewarding to you and your foster/adopted child. It will also reduce your stress level tremendously.
Here are some tips to help you create a safe bond!
Foster/adopted parents can help alleviate the foster child’s anxieties and fears and create a healthy attachment by:
• Acknowledging that the foster child’s biological family still exists; denial can be a real enemy.
• Not taking sides but spending time exploring the foster child’s feelings if he is open to this.
• Realizing that a foster/adopted child is more than their “label.” They are also children who have dreams and hobbies.
• Learning to redefine what it means to be a family, both foster/adopted and biological.
• Giving your foster children permission to have feelings about being separated from their family of origin without feeling guilty.
• Helping the child identify what has been lost (the loss may not be limited to the actual parent – loss could also include the membership of that extended family, the loss of the home or town, the loss of having a family that looks like them, or the loss of their family surname.
• Create a “loss box.” In her work with adopted adolescents, therapist Debbie Riley guides youth as they decorate a box in which they place items that represent things they’ve lost. This gives foster/adopted children both a ritual for acknowledging the loss and a way for them to revisit the people or relationships in the future. Get a tissue box, some crayons, glue and paper. Let the child decorate it anyway they please. It is their place to experience their emotions. They can write notes and put it in the box or draw pictures of how they are feeling.
• Understanding that sometimes certain events trigger feelings of loss, such as holidays, birthdays or the anniversary of an adoption. Alter or add to family rituals to acknowledge the child’s feelings about these important people or relationships that have been lost. For example, adding an extra candle representing the child’s birth family on his or her cake may be a way of remembering their part in your child’s life on that day.
Foster and adopted children need empathy, unconditional acceptance and trust that you will be there for them to work through their pain.
Honoring their identity, good bad or indifferent is key to connecting with foster and adopted children.
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