Take a moment to think about the life of a child in foster care.
They’ve spent a large portion of their lives being neglected or abused. Then one day someone comes in and tells them they can’t stay with their family anymore. They are pulled out of their home and sometimes their school and community. These children are then dropped off at a strange person’s house.
Once they’re in your foster home, there’s new rules to follow. There are bedtimes and homework time. They probably aren’t watching the tv shows they’re used to watching or eating the food they’re used to eating.
These children have little to no control over their lives. Children have ultimate control over three things: If they eat, where/when they go to the bathroom, and if/when they sleep. For children who have lost total control over their lives, it’s no wonder that the three common struggles with foster families has to do with potty training/accidents, food struggles, and sleep issues.
As a foster parent, you can give control back to these kids without compromising your rules or expectations.
How can you give them back that control?
Let them pick their own clothes/hairstyle.
If you’re brave and think you can handle it, tell them they can wear whatever they want as long as it’s school and weather appropriate. If there’s no way you could do that, pick out two or three outfits and give them the final choice. Either way, you’re telling them you trust them to make a decision for themselves. It not only gives them control, but it boosts their confidence.
Allow them to decide how they want their hair. If you have a little girl with long hair, the possibilities are endless. Let her choose. Show her a few different styles and ask which one she likes. Boys don’t always care about their hair or have the ability to change their hairstyle, but if they can, let them. I watched a young man with his foster family getting a trim and he made sure the stylist left his six inch rat tail alone. The thought of a rat tail makes me cringe, but it was something the family could allow him control over.
Get them involved in meal planning and prep.
When you’re writing up your grocery list, ask them what they’d like to eat. Allow them to go to the grocery store with you and help you shop. Take it one step further and encourage them to help you cook.
If you know that you struggle to get them to eat peas, but they love green beans, make green beans. At least it’s a vegetable! One less battle and everyone’s happy.
One of our families had an older foster child and they decided to give this child an allowance. Not only did it help teach budgeting and how to spend money, but if the child didn’t like what they were eating, they would take the child out and allow them to buy themselves something to eat with their own money. Chances are that your foster child is going to discover that spending $10 at Taco Bell isn’t worth it when they could eat at home and spend the money on something more fun like clothes or movies.
Take a moment and think about what control you can give back to your foster children.
You may find battles ceasing and discover a child responding to you in a way they haven’t before.