Children are often placed in out-of-home care during the summer months and beginning of the school year. This can be a trying time for them, especially if they are starting school in a new district or even new town! While most kids are anticipating the back to school rites of passage: new clothes and old friends, foster children can be experiencing high levels of anxiety resulting from all the recent changes. They will have new teachers, meet new friends, learn more difficult subjects, not to mention try to fit in with the latest styles. All of this can be overwhelming, can cause avoidance and be a recipe for failure. What can we do to decrease that anxiety, build confidence and foster successful outcomes?
Try these 6 tips from our expert foster parents:
1. ORGANIZE A MEET AND GREET.
Grayson, KY Foster Mom, Kim Stevens, likes to do a meet and greet before any of her foster kids step foot through the school doors, "If I have family and friends who attend the school, I introduce my foster kids to them so they know someone there who can show them around." Having an already established connection with someone in a new environment can make foster children feel more secure.
2. FIND THE SILVER LINING.
South Point, OH Foster Mom, Shannon Steele, says its all about finding the silver lining. "I tell them 'It's ok if it's tough. It's ok if it's hard. Then I find something they will look forward to, like going to football games and cheering against the rival team." What interests your foster child about this new adventure?
3. GET A CASE OF TEAM FEVER!
Hazard, KY Foster Mother, Connie Stafford, believes that team sports can go a long way toward a foster child's success. "I would talk to them about any sports they want to play. Sports can help a child feel like part of a big, loving family." Sports can also help the child with discipline, patience, teamwork, and an overall feeling of value and importance.
4. NEW YEAR, NEW STUFF.
Necco of Cincinnati foster parents had plenty to say about the importance of back to school traditions. Some of their advice includes "Turn the day of back to school shopping into a back to school celebration! Pick out new clothes and talk about back to school over lunch", "Let the child pick out things that speak to his style so he can show his personality at his new school", "Let the child pack his own book bag and lunch". The new school year signifies a new beginning, a fresh start. Clothes should be current and supplies should be pristine; ready to take on the school year!
5. SNAP A PHOTO.
Nothing says you are proud of your foster child's first day of school venture like a photograph. Never mind the teenager who rolls her eyes while you're chasing her toward the bus. Take the photo anyway. The photo symbolizes more than just marking the moment. You are communicating to your foster child that you are proud of her dedication to education. Plus, its fun to see how much they have grown by the end of the school year!
6. CHAT IT UP!
West Virginia Foster Parent Chad Messer and Macon, GA Foster Mother, Luethel Smith feel that making after school discussions a daily ritual will have a huge impact on the child's success. Chad says, "When school starts, take a vested interest in the child's day. Be excited about what they did, and don't shrug it off." Luethel believes that the communication should be about the old and the new. "Talk to them about some of the things they were involved in at their former school. Ensure them that we have a great school system."
The overall theme from our foster parents? Be involved. When foster children see that someone is taking an interest in their education, they are more likely to want to succeed, to prove themselves, to perform. Here's to a great school year of building families and celebrating the accomplishments!