As a foster parent, your primary goal and responsibility is to provide a comforting and nurturing home for your child, to allow them to grow and develop in a positive direction. Successfully accomplishing this requires that you first and foremost build a strong foundational relationship with them that enables trust and reassurance. As this is easier said than done, here are a few tips on how you can work towards connecting with your child.
Pay Mind to Your Body Language
55% of communication is nonverbal. Those around you pick up on your body language, tone, and demeanor more than you realize, and children tend to be even more perceptive of nonverbal cues. Maintaining eye contact, smiling, and using a calm and respectful tone reflects positivity and allows your child to feel welcomed and safe. Be mindful of physical touch as well — some children may be fearful of physical affection while others may crave it depending on their past experiences. Young children and infants greatly benefit from human touch as they rely more on physical communication and tend to find comfort in being held or hugged. Holding your child’s hand or consoling them when they’re sad with a pat on the back lets them know that you are a source of comfort and warmth.
When a child is neglected, they often end up feeling unimportant or unwanted and seek attention with disruptive behaviors. Making sure you’re available to them and always open to listening to their concerns or troubles teaches them to address their feelings healthily without acting out or hiding them. Giving words of encouragement and simply being responsive and engaged helps them in building trust in you as well as developing their own communication skills. Above all, never ignore your child when they come to you seeking help or attention. Doing so may remind them of their past experiences and provoke them to engage in increasingly negative behaviors and withdraw from you further.
Engage With Them
During the developmental years, children require higher levels of social interaction and engagement to build healthy relationships and social skills. Participating in activities with your child where they are able to think creatively and take lead in the situation allows them to fully express and discover themselves while connecting with you on another level. Playing a game with them, listening to their stories, or simply spending authentic time with them helps them feel supported and cared for, leading to a greater sense of comfort and connection with you as a parent.