You have chosen to open your home to a child in need. You are about to embark on an exciting journey that even with all your training and prep may still seem daunting. You went to the classes, you prepared your home, and even your heart, but still, you are anxious.
In these situations, it is fair to state that the child will be incredibly anxious as well. They are young, have been removed from the world they know, and in most cases, pulled from hard situations. They are nervous and concerned with a hundred different things, from how long they will be staying, to their cases, school work, and families.
Due to the likelihood of swirling anxiety, it is important to create an environment of support and love. Each situation is different and it is important to remember that when your foster child is acting out, it’s not a reflection of you. It’s a reflection of the situation that they are facing. When they act out, struggle, or do not connect with you, remember that this is a result of fear and anxiety, as they may have been moved between different families multiple times and are therefore afraid of forming new relationships and ties.
When you open your home to a foster child, remember that they may have just lost everything they know; do not expect them to show that they are grateful for you taking them in — expect them to need lots of love and emotional support.
Anxiety is said to be the “feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come” and that is exactly what these children are feeling: fear. They do not know their future, just as you do not know yours. They only know the present, and currently, they do not recognize anything about it. Remember that they have lost many of the things that are familiar to them, and for a child, this is terrifying.
The best way to show them love and support is by remaining calm, consistent, and empathetic. This situation is something you prepared for, and as an adult, you have a lifetime of experience and training to help you deal with what is happening; whereas for a child, this is not a situation, this is a life for which they had no preparation or warning of.
When these situations of anxiety and stress arise, remember not to feel upset or offended; listen to what the child has to say, or sometimes even what they are not saying. Do what you can to help them feel comfortable and safe, remind them that their feelings are valid and there is nothing wrong with how they feel. During these situations, children may not want to hear these encouraging words, but that does not mean that they are not making some type of impact.
Additionally, during this time remember that there is also nothing wrong with how you feel and the emotions you are experiencing. Your anxiety is also important, it’s just different from that of the child who has just moved into your home.