Attachment is important in the lives of all children. For those who have been in the foster system, though, it’s an even more crucial component to their well-being and development.
Most foster children have been through a lot, and many have had negative experiences with the adults in their lives—whether that be their biological parents, other family members, or other foster parents.
So, what can you do if you’re a foster parent or considering adoption? How can you help those children form healthy attachments?
Develop Secure Routines
Children thrive when they have a routine. That’s true for all kids, but it can be especially important for foster children who aren’t necessarily used to the security of a familiar schedule.
Routines help children feel more comfortable and stable, but they also can offer a sense of control. For foster children, all of those things might be unfamiliar, but desired.
The best part? Your routines don’t have to be anything “special”. Setting mealtimes, having nighttime rituals, and doing fun things together like family game nights once a week can make a huge difference for your foster children, and it will make it easier for them to form attachments because they’ll feel more secure.
Have One-on-One Time
Dedicate time each day for each child you have. One-on-one time is a great way to get to know more about each of your foster children. It also will help them learn more about you and can strengthen their trust in you.
Talking and playing together is a natural way to increase communication. It’s also a wonderful way to improve eye contact and allow your child to become more comfortable.
When they know they can talk to you without judgment or fear, they’ll start opening up more, so you can always make sure you’re giving them exactly what they need.
When it comes to physical contact, you may need to go slower.
You may not know everything your foster children have been through. Some might not want any form of physical contact. Others have a mistrust of adults from years of abuse.
But, as you form a connection and your child feels more secure, having that one-on-one time can give you openings for healthy, appropriate physical contact. It can be something as simple as a hug, or something as practical as braiding your child’s hair.
Show Them They Are Permanent Fixtures
When foster children have been “in the system” for a while, it’s not uncommon for them to worry about moving from place to place.
If you plan on remaining a foster parent or adopting, make sure those kids know their place in your home.
Plan future events and include them in the process. That will let them know they’re going to be there for a long time. Take a family photo with them and display it in the house. Bring them to family events, and enroll them in the local school district.
Anything you can do to establish their permanence in your home will also strengthen their secure attachment with you.
Helping foster children create healthy attachments isn’t always easy, especially if they’ve had a difficult life. But, these ideas can help.
If you’re still struggling to encourage attachment, consider reaching out to other families for advice. Or, talk to a professional. Working with a therapist or counselor can help to alleviate the stress you might be dealing with as you work on creating healthy attachments. Don’t forget to take care of your own well-being along the way.