Integrating Foster Kids into a family with Biological Kids
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Foster parenting can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also be stressful. If you already have children at home, you have probably worried about how bringing a foster child into the mix will disrupt your home. Any new child, whether biological or foster, will create changes in logistics and family dynamics, but these do not have to be negative.
One of the worst things you can do is hide your head in the sand and insist that challenge won’t happen. Who knows? Maybe you will get lucky, and your kids will all magically get along. It does happen. However, even if it has happened before, every child you bring into your home will change your family dynamic. While we don’t want you on edge, we want you to understand that challenges are perfectly normal, but they don’t have to be deal-breakers. Expect some challenges and be prepared to handle them.
IDENTIFY THERAPISTS OR PROFESSIONALS WHO CAN HELP
Whether your foster child needs therapy or not, it’s always good to have professionals available to assist your family. This can be a faith-based minister or clergy member or a licensed social worker or therapist. Children may have some reservations or emotional upheaval, whether biological or foster. You should be there for your children but understand that they may need more assistance. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
HELP CHILDREN GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER
Sometimes foster children are older than biological children. However, this doesn’t mean that your children will “lose their place” in line. You have to dispel the birth order myths within your family. Your biological children should help the foster kids learn the ropes, but they should never be put in charge of another child, regardless of age. Help the children get to know each other rather than know the ranks of children in the home. Each child brings something to your family, so help each person find their role in the family together.
Let children know that in your family, everyone gets what they need. You will need to express that in the beginning, the foster child might need more help than your biological children. Be honest and let them know that this doesn’t mean that you love them more or that they are more important, but they should be aware that the foster child’s needs can be more urgent. You should also let the foster children know what behaviors are expected and what will not be tolerated. Children like to know what is expected of them and the other children in the family. Treat everyone fairly, but make sure that children understand fairness isn’t always equal. Sometimes one person needs more attention or fewer responsibilities.
TAKE YOUR TIME
Changes are difficult for every family. Take them one step at a time. While you prepare yourself for challenges, you don’t want to rush getting through them. Some things take time. Likewise, children take time to acclimate to new environments and changes in their routines. Biological and foster children will need time to adapt, and you will too! Everyone just needs to be patient and take things as they come.
The abuse may be brief, but the trauma lasts a lifetime.
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