“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.” – Sarah Dessen
Since the first day our children were placed with us we’ve tried to make them feel at home, and not just at any home, but their home. When they arrived we had their names and pictures up in their rooms. We had new sheets and comforters on their beds. We wanted to create an environment where they not only felt accepted, but an environment where they felt comfortable.
Over the first ninety days we feel like we have had some success. And yet, even with some success we still see uncertainty in their lives. We were reminded of that tonight as our 9-year-old foster son came around the corner from the kitchen and said, “Mr. Keith, I fixed your trash bag.” He was referring to fixing the bag in the trash can. He started to walk away and then I called his name and said, “hey buddy, you didn’t fix my trash bag, you fixed your trash bag, because this is your home too.”
It sounds so simple, but we think it is impactful. It reminds him and his siblings that for this season they are a part of our family and this is their home. They may not readily accept it. In fact, they may never accept it, but we are not responsible for their response. We are responsible for being proactive to help them feel at ease and at home.
With so much uncertainty in a foster child’s life, it is up to the foster parent to create an environment that allows the child to feel safe, comfortable, and accepted. Here are a few ideas we have come up with;
Create a space that is their own. Easiest place is probably their bedroom. Allow them to hang up pictures, pick out paint colors, etc.
- Hang up pictures of your foster children around the home. (Our extended family (grandparents) even chose to do this too!)
- Hang up their art work, report cards, and other items that might be important to them. Refrigerator recognition makes most children feel valued.
- Help them unpack and hang up their clothes (if they will let you.)
- Plan meals around food items they like.
- Have them help you shop and cook.
- Take them on ALL family trips that your own children would go on.
- Ask them how they want you to refer to them in public.
- Make sure they have their own things and that they understand those items will always be their items.
- Give them chores around the home, so that they feel a part of the family.
- Allow them to pick out family activities. Empower them to have a voice, just like all family members should.
- Allow them to decide what they will call you. It empowers them and allows them a comfort level with you. Three of the four foster children in our home now prefer mom and dad. The fourth one is still comfortable with Mr. Keith and Mrs. Staci. Both are okay with us!
As we do this, we hope the things we do will be, “but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that they can take with them for their entire lives, wherever they may go.”
We would love to hear from other foster parents about different ideas they have tried to create a ‘home’ environment for children who may only be around for short season. Feel free to share in the comment section below.