If you are a foster parent, you have the innate desire to care for others. If you did not have that desire, you would have not have spent months going through several interviews and preparing your home to care for a child that you have never met. It is such a gift to have some many wonderful individuals and families opening up their homes to provide love, safety, and security to children in need. Children in foster care have experienced various kinds of trauma and often have several needs. Your foster child may have a doctor’s appointment today, visitation with a biological parent tomorrow, and therapy the day after that. Schedules can get busy and things can be hard to juggle. As a foster parent, it can be easy to neglect your own needs in order to make sure that the needs of your children are met. While taking care of your children is important, it is important to prioritize yourself and your needs as well. Here are some tips to help you practice self-care as a foster parent.
- Find a Hobby: Find activities that you enjoy and make time to do them every day, even if it is just for a few minutes. Maybe you can take a quick jog around the neighborhood, read a book, journal your thoughts, or do a craft project. The possibilities are limitless. Find what re-energizes you and make it a priority. When you take time for yourself, you will be able to care for your children better.
- Take Care of your needs: You are probably already running in several directions and have several appointments that you have to keep track of for your children, but make sure that you are making time for your needs as well. Do you have an appointment for yourself that you have been putting off? Do you desperately need a haircut, but you do not feel that you have any time for that? Make your needs a priority and give yourself permission to care of yourself. When your needs are met, you are better able to provide for the needs of your children.
- Use Respite Care: Take a night or weekend off. Find trusted friends or family members that are willing to watch your children for a few hours. If you are married, take a date night. It is important for you to maintain a healthy relationship with your spouse. If you are single, take a night to yourself or go do an activity with your friends. Having a few hours to regroup, can be helpful to your emotional well-being.
- Ask for Help: It is okay to ask for help when you need it. Find people that you trust, and let them know what you need. Several people are willing to help, but do not know what to do. Whether you need someone to watch your children for a couple of hours so you can go to an appointment or need help finding a good pediatrician or child facility, do not be afraid to ask. Also, make sure that you are communicating with your foster care worker. Let them know about your questions, concerns, and frustrations. Your foster care worker is there to help and support you.
- Join a Support Group: Find a foster care group and join it. Several churches and community organizations have started groups specifically for foster parents. If you are a Nightlight Foster Family, our offices plan specific groups and events for foster parents as well. Contact your foster care advocate for more information. Groups are a great opportunity gain additional support and to connect with others that are going through the same process.
Being a foster parent is not always easy, but it is very rewarding. When things get hard, take a breath and remind yourself why you do what you do. Take time for yourself, take care of your needs, and ask for help and support when you need it. As a foster parent, you are doing great work and the love and compassion that you have for the kids in your care does not go unnoticed. Thank you for all that you do for the children that need you.