As a parent and a foster carer, you will be keen to create a welcoming environment for your foster child while also supporting your birth children. Thankfully, the home atmosphere will become far more positive when you encourage a strong bond between your birth children and their new foster siblings.
It may feel like a daunting prospect, but these 10 tips will have an immensely positive influence, and this will help you and your family in your fostering journey.
10 top tips
Know that you’re not alone
First and foremost, you should know that you don’t have to face the fostering process alone. At Tree House Care Fostering, we provide a range of support and training to help you master the transitional phases and create the best surroundings for all kids. This covers everything from completing the forms to actively introducing your foster child to birth children.
As well as our support, you can find plenty of resources online. We have a range of knowledge within the team. We are always happy to help, just a phone call away!
Involve your birth children
The last thing you want is to make your birth children feel left out. Likewise, this is a major change for them to encounter, which is why you must avoid taking them by surprise. Whether looking to foster short term or permanent fostering. it’s important to let your birth children know about your intentions at the first stage. It gives them more time to prepare. This will assist you in making changes early on to support your safer care plan later.
When birth children are involved from the earliest possible stage, they are likely to feel excited about meeting their new foster sibling. In the latter stages birth children might like to create a welcome pack for their new foster sibling. Birth children can help to relieve anxiety for foster children on arrival.
Be open and honest with your birth children
There is little point in sugar-coating the situation. Your birth children need to be aware of the hardships that their foster siblings are likely to have experienced and the impacts that it may have on their behaviour. It can help your birth children understand why you may be a little more lenient with their bad habits in the early stages of the relationship.
It also gives you an opportunity to gently remind them of what is acceptable from them. If birth children are older than the foster child, you can also use this to your advantage by asking for their support as a big sibling. This added sense of responsibility encourages them to act lovingly towards their new sibling and those feelings will soon become authentic love.
Dedicate one-on-one time to all children
Sibling rivalry is a very real issue and can be particularly apparent between birth children and foster children. While you certainly want to strengthen the bond that they share together, it’s important to understand that the perceived battle for your attention could be one of the main reasons that disputes surface. So, you must find time for each person.
When all children feel that they are treated fairly, the likelihood of jealousy surfacing is greatly reduced. It’s vital for building healthy parent-child relationships with the foster child but will also go a long way to making birth children feel included in the family dynamic. When kids are content with these aspects, it lays the foundation to build stronger connection and sibling links.
Find a shared interest that siblings can enjoy
When scratching beneath the surface of sibling rivalries, personality clashes are a very common cause. You cannot suddenly change a child’s character. Quite frankly, you shouldn’t want too either. Nonetheless, you should not find it difficult to find a shared interest that brings them closer together.
It could be something as simple as a love of sport, music, a favourite Disney film, or collecting stickers. Whatever it might be, put focus on this shared source of enjoyment and the siblings will quickly realise that they have other things in common. It will support their developing friendship and create a sense of belonging within the new family dynamic.
Build shared moments
The formative years will influence both birth and foster children throughout childhood and into adulthood. Therefore, it’s vital that you create as many magical moments to be enjoyed as a family as possible. From enjoying family mealtimes to days out and vacations, those are the moments that will stick with children forever. Building lasting connections and relationships between you, them, and wider family members.
It encourages all children to make the mental note between their new siblings and positive experiences. This will naturally encourage the bond to strengthen.
Celebrate cultural differences together
Fostering a child from a different cultural background can present several considerations for the entire family. You need to make your foster child feel comfortable and able to celebrate their heritage, but you should not shy away from your family background or the traditions that your birth children have celebrated since birth.
Rather than allowing this to become a source of potential disagreement or uneasiness, it can be one of the greatest weapons in the battle to build a strong family dynamic. Birth and foster children can learn about their each other’s beliefs or traditions while also introducing them to their own. Creating a united and inclusive setting will deliver stunning results.
Decorate their bedrooms
Every child deserves a space to call their own. For a foster child, decorating their own bedroom can be a key step to making them feel truly settled in their new home. Meanwhile, allowing your birth child to redecorate their room as well provides another source of excitement linked to the fostering process. Again, it cultivates a sense of fairness.
It is also an opportunity for the siblings to share ideas and talk to each other about their respective room design ideas. While it’s not all plain sailing, the benefits of fostering include the friendship that they share. It can be a great source of bonding for same-sex siblings that are roughly the same age, but all kids will respond well.
Embrace your pets
The benefits of a shared hobby or passion have already been mentioned. However, kids can also quickly bond over the love of a pet. So, if you already have a family dog or cat, you should show an eagerness to use this to your advantage. Activities, where the siblings share time with the pet, will bring them closer through an osmosis-like connection. The foster carer should supervise around the family pet especially in the early days.
Pets have been shown to provide a variety of other rewarding features, like supporting brain development and general happiness.
Let children have time apart
Finally, you will want siblings to enjoy a strong bond, but you must not fall into the trap of forcing them to be joined at the hip 24/7. All children need time to themselves. This can be a significant step during the transitional phase as it is their chance to maintain some stability with the habits and activities that they previously enjoyed before this change.
It is a particularly crucial factor when the birth and foster siblings are at different ages. After all, a six-year-old and a 12-year-old will be vastly different people, especially when you consider their contrasting childhoods. Allowing them to be individuals and celebrating this fact will subsequently encourage them to share a closer bond in the moments spent together.