Receiving a new foster child brings a wave of emotions. Even if you’ve fostered many times over, each individual child brings with them unique struggles and situations to overcome. In certain situations, it can take time for foster parents to fully adjust, and that’s perfectly normal. Don’t expect everything to be normal overnight.
Many people, especially new foster parents, expect to fall in love with their foster child right away. They expect to be overwhelmed with emotion and empathy- but sometimes this happens very gradually. Some placements will happen quicker than others and will creep up on you when you’re not quite ready. You may even feel a slight apprehension towards the child at first, for a number of reasons. This doesn’t mean you’re a bad person- it simply means an adjustment is in order. So, what should you do if you find yourself in this situation?
When expecting the arrival of a biological child, you have nine months to prepare. In foster situations, you have days or sometimes hours. Be patient with yourself. The biggest way to do this is to set yourself up for success- don’t feel sorry for yourself, or that you’re destined to fail. Ask for extra help during the first few months, rearrange your priorities, and lower your expectations for yourself in appropriate areas. For example, realize that you may not be able to go to a workout class or watch tv every day. Your house may be a little messier than normal and you may need your family to help out with dishes. For a month or two, you may find you’re eating out more than usual. These are all perfectly normal adjustments that you may find you need to make.
Most importantly, ensure you spend time with your new foster child. No matter the age, regularly spending quality time together is so important for building a bond, for both you and the child. Do all you can to care for and nurture your child. If they’re older, take them out for one-on-one activity dates, and let them choose what they’d like to do. This way, you get to know more about them, and they feel support and love from you- making it easier for them to open up and adjust. Let your love grow, and don’t rush it. Over time, your bond will build naturally.
Lastly, if you feel like you need it, reach out for help. There are many therapists specializing in foster and adoption that would be more than happy to help walk you through processing your emotions. Look for one in your area. Talking with friends and family is so helpful too, as sometimes simply getting things off your chest offers huge relief. Always remember, you’re not alone.