When your family is ready to welcome their first foster child, is it okay to have mixed feelings?
Yes. Worry, for example, is a completely natural response to a new person coming into your usual routine and safe environment. What will they be like? Will we be friends? How do I know if I’ll be safe? Will my parents still have time for me? These are all good questions to ask. As long as there is an open line of communication between you and your parents, all these problems can be figured out.
So, if you are feeling worried, that’s valid. Here are some worries and their answers you might need to help you feel a bit better.
I’m Worried – Does That Make Me Mean?
No! You’re not mean in any capacity for feeling anxious at the thought of this change. It will be a big one, and everyone around understands those feelings. There is a good chance that your parents are feeling worried as well. There is a definite chance that the young person moving in is feeling anxious. Everyone feels this way when standing in front of a big change.
What Will Change?
It is important that people are honest with you about how this journey is going to play out. The truth is that things will change. Your house is welcoming a brand new person into your inner circle.
This means a shake up of your usual routine, a stranger (for now) to get to know and potentially troublesome behaviour to navigate too. Your parents will be a little bit busier than usual while they help everyone in the house adapt.
That means your usual activities might be temporarily interrupted as you all evolve with the new addition. This is a natural part of life. There is change sometimes, and you will always face this as you grow up in some way or another. So, fostering will actually help you when you have things to navigate on your own later in life, because of this solid foundation that you are all building as a team.
What You Can Do About Feeling Worried
With anxiety and everything that comes along, it is constructive to think about all of the things that you can do. Being active is great. You will feel empowered, and learn some new skills along the way. So, what can you do about feeling worried? Plenty!
Talk to Someone
Who do you have that you can talk to? The answer might be a social worker who has been helping you become established as a fostering unit. Or, maybe your parents because they are the ones in charge of your care. A teacher or a friend are also good options, and they're really is no wrong answer. You can even try a young person’s helpline if you want to use an anonymous voice.
Write it Down
If you don’t feel like you can use your voice, don’t worry too much about this. There is a lot to be gained from writing down your problems. Why else would diaries still be such a popular thing? It can be anywhere. Handwritten or typed, whichever you prefer.
The purpose is to get those worries out of your head and out into the open where you can see them through a different lens. If you then feel like you want to share it, letting someone you trust read what you put down is often easier than speaking about it.
Empathizing is easier said than done, but it is a valuable thing to be able to do for lots of reasons. Some of these are explored further down, but the key things to remember are that this new foster child is coming away from everything they’ve ever known into a completely new situation. You are going to be one of the first people they meet that is in a fortunate position to be able to help them feel safe. That is a brilliant thing.
Thinking About What You Can Control
What can you control? A major part of worrying is feeling overwhelmed or like you’re not in charge of your own life. When this is happening, it is great to stop and pause. Take note of what you can do in the face of your anxiety and choose to act.
The biggest thing that you can control is how you respond. Even when you really don’t feel like it, it is always better to try and stay neutral. You are feeling worried, but so is your new foster sibling. It’s always good to remember that you’re new to them too and a bit of kindness is worth more than you will ever know.
Your Way of Thinking
Empathy is a great skill that takes time to grow as you do. It is not always intuitive, which means that you have to learn some of it as you move forward and it takes time to process. The ability to see life through the eyes of someone else will help your brain grow too. When you decide to see someone else’s story and think about how that might make you feel and, therefore, how they are feeling too, you gain a whole new way of thinking about things.
How You Adapt
You might be wondering how you’re going to adapt. The simple answer and this is in no way meant to be patronising, is that you will! One day you will wake up and it will feel a little easier. You will get to know the new foster child and over time even create a familial bond, especially if the placement is a long-term one. This might be the biggest adventure you’ve ever had!
Name your worry as much as you can. I am worried about meeting our foster child. That is valid and reasonable. You will be able to handle this change if you use your team around you and think about why you are feeling worried and what you can do to shape your responses. There is lots of support out there, so please don’t ever feel like you’re doing this alone.
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