The start of the school year can be overwhelming, especially for a child in foster care who’s adjusting to a new environment. As a foster parent, it’s important that you establish routines that allow the child in your care to feel happy, confident and supported as they navigate through these changes. From starting the morning with a healthy breakfast to ending the night with a bedtime story, each moment throughout the school day has an impact on your child’s emotions. To ensure that the school year is one that creates lasting memories for the child in your care, we recommend establishing these four routines in your household:
Introduce yourself to your child’s teachers and the school administration
Whether you have several children in the same school, or the child in your care is your first in the district – it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to your child’s teachers and the school administration. Most schools will host a “meet the teacher” night before school begins. This is a great opportunity for both you and your child to meet school staff. When you introduce yourself to your child’s teachers, explain that the child in your care is in the foster system. Share contact information and create an open channel of communication so that both you and school staff feel comfortable contacting the other should a situation (positive or negative) arise. Not only will this make you feel more comfortable, but it will also allow your child to get acclimated to the adults that will inevitably make a lasting impact while they’re in your care.
Enroll your child in after school activities
During the school day, your child is engaged in learning. Aside from lunch and recess, there usually isn’t a lot of time for socialization. Your child will inevitably have pent up energy to release at the end of a school day. Take time to get to know the child in your care and enroll them in an after-school activity that aligns with their interests. Dance classes, gymnastics and youth sports leagues are all great ways to burn energy. Art classes, piano lessons or computer coding classes are good for getting creative juices flowing. There are after school activities to fit every family’s budget – you can pay one time or monthly fees for reoccurring classes or sports leagues or find free after school activities in your neighborhood. Talk to parents at your child’s school or in your area to find fun, safe and affordable options.
Set aside 10-15 minutes each night to review your child’s homework and answer questions
School can be difficult and overwhelming, especially for a child who is getting used to a new environment and new routine after their world has been shaken up. Set aside time each night to sit down and help your child with their homework. Answer questions, go over notes from class, sign any papers that need to be returned and talk about upcoming tests or projects that require at-home prep. By doing this, you’re creating a meaningful bond that will help the child in your care feel confident when coming to you with problems or questions. It also allows you to feel more prepared and knowledgeable about what’s going on in your child’s school life.
Establish a weekly emotional check-in
Most likely, the child in your care has gone through a lot of emotional challenges. Being placed in the foster care system is a lot to process for a child. Adding in a new school, new routine, new friends and new adults to look to for protection and guidance can often be a lot to handle. Sit down weekly with your child to check in on how they’re doing emotionally. It’s important to communicate in a way that is age-appropriate and that works best for them. These check-ins may take time to become fully effective. For the first few weeks, take time to build trust. From there, conversations can become deeper. Throughout each check-in, reassure your child that you see them, you hear them and you’re there to love and care for them.
Grade school years are some of the most formative in a child’s life. By creating and implementing these routines, you’re letting the child in your care know that the past hardships and traumas they’ve experienced don’t have to be the norm. Healthy habits, especially those that involve learning, can make a lasting impact on the child in your care. Have you implemented any of these routines? Let us know in the comments below.
To learn more about how you can become a foster parent, visit Upbring.org/FosterInfo.