Kids in foster care already have a full emotional and psychological plate. Many of these kids are being pulled out of the homes where parents or grandparents are not doing the job they should, or worse, doing much worse things to these children. Add to that the pandemic or any other situation that prevents children from attending school and navigating life normally, and you are going to have children who are very resistant to anything you ask of them.
If you understand their troubles and difficulties, then you are best able to help them manage their mental health. However, many of these kids don’t come with a portfolio of information beyond age, name, and their home life situation. It often leaves foster parents trying to figure out what to do. If you are a foster parent struggling with helping a foster child manage his/her mental health, here are a few helpful tips.
Almost 50% of These Kids Have Mental Health Issues
As young as two and as old as fourteen, children in foster care are among the highest demographic of kids with mental health issues. It is estimated that almost 50% are in need of mental health care and/or treatments. As a foster parent you should always assume that you have a child that needs help in this department. Get him/her to see a licensed therapist that works with children right away. The sooner these children begin to talk about how they feel and what is/was going on with them at home the faster they will heal.
Encourage Them to Talk About Emotions
Some kids are desperate to talk about what is going on inside of them. Some more kids will start talking and never stop. It’s the kids that refuse to talk that are in the most danger of hurting themselves or others. Encourage all foster kids in your care to come talk to you when they need to.
Establish a bond and trust with them and never break it if you can help it. These children need to know that you are a safe person to talk to and a person they can trust. Once you have established a secure emotional trust connection, they may come around to ask to talk with you. Don’t push it aside and tell them later. Talk when they need to talk and when they want to talk.
Give Each Kid a Journal or Sketchbook
It is a really good idea that you give each foster child a journal or sketchbook. Let them know that this is their own private world in which they can write everything that bothers them, or draw pictures if they can’t write. Encourage them to “journal” something every day. It will help them work things out mentally, emotionally, and independently. If and when a child leaves to go home or go to another foster home, the journal or sketchbook is theirs to keep.
Help Them Find Emotional Outlets They Enjoy or Emotional Outlets That Help Them Release Feelings
Many kids in foster care are, in a sense, “broken.” They have been through something that forces them to put up walls and causes them to act out in unacceptable or inappropriate ways. You need to help them find an emotional outlet that is healthy, that they enjoy, and/or that help them release feelings in a very healthy way. An example is teaching a child how to make bread by pounding it and kneading it to release anger, or by punching an inflatable punching bag.
Finding the right outlet for each child isn’t easy or quick. However, it is important to teach them about releasing emotions in a healthy way. It will go a long way with them through life if someone can give them a few tools now to manage their emotions and mental health now.