In this year of sport, the Olympic Games in Tokyo has now taken centre stage. So is this another sport-themed blog from us? Well, vaguely – it is the Olympics after all. Really though, it is about support. And connection, which makes that support all the more effective.
When Team GB triathlete Alex Yee won silver in the men’s competition just a few days ago, there were far fewer people cheering him home than when his teammate Jonny Brownlee took the same accolade in Rio. Why? Was Alex a less worthy winner, perhaps?
Clearly, the answer is COVID-19. The current pandemic making it too risky for travel and enormous crowds. Still, the absence of roaring fans all rooting for Alex seemed sad, as it has for the other incredible athletes we have seen on our screens. Contrast this with the famously jubilant scenes from Team Tom if you want to be reminded how brilliant absolute support can be.
And at one level, this is what things are like for foster children. Absent is the reliable family to root for them and in its place, the care system. As a foster carer, you have been charged with caring for, advocating on behalf of and generally cheering home any children in your care.
Whatever the individual circumstances, the world can be a lonely place with no supporters to congratulate you on doing well, arrange the counselling you need, or make you dinner. So how can you as a new, if temporary, supporter give that support most effectively? For one, connection.
Ok, so it’s not always easy, but here are five top tips to try and get that connectivity up and running.
Firstly, take time and give attention. We get to know people by spending time in their company, so take care to create a special space in the weekly routine for time when just you and your foster child can be together. Find an activity like watching a film or going for a coffee, where you can build up shared experiences and find out about each other naturally.
Next up, listen. Not everything your child says may be easy to hear, but a consistent, concentrated ear and appropriate response will help them to understand that you really are on their side.
Thirdly, cheer them on – literally. Praise and encouragement for positive behaviour and achievements can do wonders for self-confidence. Cheering even small details will reinforce your care and hopefully also the benefits of good behaviour. Fourthly, there is touch. Always speak to your child’s social worker about their history of physical contact, but within appropriate bounds, a hug or simply a touch on the shoulder will encourage both physical and emotional connection.
Finally, build trust. The above will all contribute to this, as well as being an honest role model yourself. Allowing your child appropriate responsibilities or to do something ‘grown-up’ can also help build up valuable trust that will bring barriers down and build connection.
Supporting your foster child is an important job, made all the more effective by connection. If you want to chat about cheering your child home, please contact us. We’d love to connect more with you too.