Loving a child that isn’t yours as if she is a unique situation to be in. When a foster child comes to you home, you don’t know anything at all about her. Loving a stranger is hard because you just don’t know them. So the key? Getting to know her. Pay attention and try to find ways to communicate love.
1. Encourage your foster child
Find ways to encourage your foster child. One easy way is to leave notes for her. You can put them in her lunch box or tape them to her mirror. The notes don’t have to be anything special – just an encouraging word or two to let her know you thought of her and took a little extra time to let her know. Also, another way is to pay attention and then let her know you see her. Like if you see her being kind to a friend/sibling or making a good choice or trying really hard at something, tell her you noticed it. It will communicate to her that you see her and appreciate her. For children, especially children who were neglected, a “good job” goes a long way.
2. Buy gifts that mean something
Pay attention to what your foster child likes and buy gifts that will mean something to her. Pay attention to what her favorite color is, what TV shows she likes, what kinds of things she’s into, and then buy gifts that you know she’ll really love. A gift that actually means something to her will communicate to her that you’re paying attention and that you actually care about her as an individual. It doesn’t even have to be anything big – it could just be some candy or stickers, anything to let her know you thought of her.
3. Physical affection
Physical affection can be tricky with foster children because of their pasts. Some kids who experience abuse and/or neglect aren’t comfortable with physical affection. If they are, hugs, kisses, and snuggles obviously are great ways to show love. But if they aren’t comfortable with those things, just a little touch can go a long way. A pat on the back before bedtime, a high five after she finishes her homework, a stroke of their hair as they pass by. Look for appropriate moments to subtly touch your foster child to validate her.
4. Serve your foster child
Find ways to help and serve your foster child. Some of these ways might just be ordinary parenting tasks like making a lunch she likes or cleaning up her room for her every once in awhile. Other ways might be unique to just this foster child. For instance, going out of your way to help her with a task she doesn’t love doing or driving her to her parent visit so that she doesn’t have to wait on transporter and tag along while the transporter picks up and drops off other children. You can also find ways to help her stay connected to her birth family like offering to facilitate a phone call with her parents or a sibling visit. All of these things, big and small, will show your foster child that she is worth caring about and for.
5. Spend one-on-one time together
Make sure to spend one-on-one time with your foster child. Life is so busy, but quality time is so important to get to know each other. Spending this kind of time with your foster child will communicate that she is worth your time and attention, which is something she may never have experienced before. You can just hang out, watch a show, play a game, or whatever the child would enjoy doing. It doesn’t even have to be for a long time, just a little time set aside specifically for that child would go a long way to communicate value to her.
These five ways to show your foster child love all have the same theme – seeing your foster child as a unique individual, getting to know her for who she is, and then respond accordingly.