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How to Build Strong Bonds Between Your Foster and Birth Children

Fostering a child is one of the most amazing things that you could ever do. And the love that they bring into the home environment can be the final piece to complete your family.

Nonetheless, it is a major life decision and requires a lot of consideration. One aspect that needs some careful thought is the impact fostering can have on your birth children. This quick guide will help you understand the changing family dynamic and develop a strategy that allows your family to enjoy the benefits of fostering without hitting any major obstacles.

Appreciating the Impact of Fostering on all Children

Statistics show that the number of children in foster care currently grows at a rate of around 11% per year. Despite the fact that there are over 45,000 fostering households in the UK, there is a growing demand for people like you too. While many foster parents don’t have their own children, it is also very common for families with birth children to foster a child. And this can be great for foster children and birth children.  Many children whose parents were foster parents decide to become foster parents themselves.  For example, Carrie Marsh, who started up Match Foster Care, grew up in a fostering household – her parents were foster parents and she counts her foster brothers and sisters as members of her family.

Nevertheless, fostering may present challenges for both foster children and birth children alike. Some key examples include:

  • Birth children may feel that they are losing a part of their parents,
  • Foster children may worry that they will never be as loved as birth children,
  • Birth children may copy some of the negative behaviours that the foster child displays as a result of past trauma,
  • Foster children may not feel 100% confident in expressing themselves or celebrating their cultural background,
  • Birth children have to learn to share their home and toys,
  • Foster children may struggle with accepting the transition into a loving environment.

Of course, parents have to adapt to the changing circumstances too. However, foster care placements remain the most common solution for the 100,000+ UK children in care and the benefits of fostering for parents, birth children, and foster kids alike are huge.

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10 Top Tips to Build Strong Bonds

As a parent, you will be desperate to establish a welcoming environment for your foster child while also supporting your birth children. Thankfully, the home atmosphere will become far more positive when you encourage a strong bond between new siblings.

It may feel like a daunting prospect, but the following 10 tips will have an immensely positive influence.

#1. Know that you’re not alone

First and foremost, you should know that you don’t have to face the fostering process alone. At Match Foster Care, we provide a range of support training to help you master the transitional phases and create the best surroundings for all kids. This covers everything from completing the forms to actively introducing your foster child to birth children.

In addition to our support, you can find plenty of local and online groups to connect with other foster parents in similar situations. It’s a great outlet to celebrate the benefits of fostering together but also becomes a great outlet to discover solutions to any issues that you may encounter – whether this relates to the bond between siblings or other areas.

#2. Involve your birth children

The last thing you want is to make your birth children feel left out. Likewise, this is a major change for them to encounter, which is why you must avoid taking them by surprise. Whether looking to use short-term or permanent fostering, it’s important to let your birth children know about your intentions at the easiest stage. It gives them more time to prepare.

When birth children are involved from the earliest possible stage, they are likely to feel excited about meeting their new sibling. Painting a picture of the existing home environment will be a useful tool when spending time with your foster child before they are introduced into the home too. Removing the sense of unknowing makes things less scary for all.

#3. Be open and honest with your birth children

There is little point in sugar-coating the situation. Your birth children need to be aware of the hardships that their foster siblings are likely to have experienced and the impacts that it may have on their behaviour. It can help your birth children understand why you may be a little more lenient with their bad habits in the early stages of the relationship.

It also gives you an opportunity to gently remind them of what is acceptable from them. If birth children are older than the foster child, you can also use this to your advantage by asking for their support as a big sibling. This added sense of responsibility encourages them to act lovingly to their new sibling and those feelings will soon become authentic love.

#4. Dedicate one-on-one time to all children

Sibling rivalry is a very real issue and can be particularly apparent between birth children and foster children. While you certainly want to strengthen the bond that they share together, it’s important to understand that the perceived battle for your attention could be one of the main reasons that disputes surface. So, you must find time for each person.

When all children feel that they are treated fairly, the likelihood of jealousy surfacing is greatly reduced. It’s vital for building healthy parent-child relationships with the foster child but will also go a long way to making birth children feel included in the family dynamic. When kids are content with these aspects, it lays the foundation to build stronger sibling links.

#5. Find a shared interest that siblings can enjoy

When scratching beneath the surface of sibling rivalries, it is clear that personality clashes are a very common cause. You cannot suddenly change a child’s character. Quite frankly, you shouldn’t want to either. Nonetheless, you should not find it difficult to find a shared interest that brings them closer together.

It could be something as simple as a love of a sport, a favourite Disney film, or collecting stickers. Whatever it might be, put focus on this shared source of enjoyment and the siblings will quickly realise that they have other things in common. It will support their developing friendship and create a sense of belonging within the new family dynamic.

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#6. Build shared moments

The formative years will influence both birth and foster children throughout childhood and into adulthood. Therefore, it’s vital that you create as many magical moments to be enjoyed as a family as possible. From enjoying family mealtimes to days out and vacations, those are the moments that will stick with children forever.

Perhaps more significantly, it encourages all children to make the mental note between their new siblings and positive experiences. This will naturally encourage the bond to strengthen. Besides, they will naturally talk more when spending time at events rather than sitting in front of the TV or on the Nintendo Switch.

#7. Celebrate cultural differences together

When fostering a child from a different cultural background, it can present several challenges for the entire family. You need to make your foster child feel comfortable and able to celebrate their heritage, but you should not shy away from your family background or the issues that your birth children have celebrated since birth.

Rather than allowing this to become a source of potential disagreement or uneasiness, it can be one of the greatest weapons in the battle to build a strong family dynamic. Birth and foster children can learn about their sibling’s beliefs or traditions while also introducing them to their own. Creating a united and inclusive setting will deliver stunning results.

#8. Decorate the bedrooms

Every child deserves a space to call their own. For a foster child, decorating their bedroom can be a key step to making them feel truly settled in the new home environment. Meanwhile, allowing your birth child to redecorate their room provides another source of excitement linked to the fostering process. Again, it cultivates a sense of fairness.

It is also an opportunity for the siblings to share ideas and talk to each other about their respective room design ideas. While it’s not all plain sailing, the benefits of fostering include the friendship that they share. It can be a great source of bonding for same-sex siblings that are roughly the same age, but all kids will respond well.

#9. Embrace your pets

The benefits of a shared hobby or passion have already been mentioned. However, kids can also quickly bond over a love of a pet. So, if you already have a family dog or cat, you should show an eagerness to use this to your advantage. Activities, where the siblings share time with the pet, will bring them closer through an osmosis-like connection.

Pets have been shown to provide a variety of other rewarding features, like supporting brain development and general happiness. If you don’t already have a pet, though, it may be best to delay the process a little while. Otherwise, it could be too much change – albeit exciting – for your birth child.

#10. Let Children have time apart

Finally, you will want siblings to enjoy a strong bond but you must not fall into the trap of forcing them to be joined at the hip 24/7. All children need time to themselves. It can be a significant step during the transitional phase as it is their chance to maintain some stability from the habits and activities that they previously enjoyed before this change happened.

It is a particularly crucial factor when the new siblings are at different ages. After all, a six-year-old and a 12-year-old will be vastly different people, especially when you consider their contrasting childhoods. Allowing them to be individuals and celebrating this fact will subsequently encourage them to share a closer bond in the moments spent together.

Become a Foster Parent Today

As with any major life change, a period of transition is to be expected. Nonetheless, when you build a loving environment that supports foster children and birth children alike, it can be an incredible blessing in your lives.

One of the most important factors is to partner with a reliable foster specialist. For more advice on fostering and supporting your birth children, contact Match Foster Care today.