Welcoming a new foster sibling into a home changes the dynamics in any household; especially for any children already living there. Difficult behaviors should be expected to a certain degree from both your foster child and from your biological child or children, depending on their ages. It’s not an “if,” but a “when” and a “how” when it comes to handling these behaviors. Use TFI Family Service’s tips below to navigate the challenges that come with welcoming a foster child, so that you can be proactive instead of reactive, and more importantly, so that you can make sure that this transition is as smooth as possible for everyone involved.
Before Your Foster Child Arrives
The best way to ensure that the children who already live in your home are prepared for a new foster child is to sit down with them and have an honest conversation. Below are some topics you may want to address during this conversation:
- Your purpose in becoming a foster parent
- How you have prepared for this role
- The emotions that your foster child may be going through during this time
- Your biological child’s feelings about welcoming a foster child into their home
- Tips for welcoming a new person into their home and starter questions for them to ask their new foster sibling
- Reassurance that you will always be there for them, no matter what
Tips for Combating “Sibling Rivalry”
Sibling rivalry is normal in many households, but it may be difficult to manage when the rivalry involves a foster child who may be dealing with many unprocessed emotions. Below are some tips that will help you to make the most helpful and fair decisions if a “sibling rivalry” should occur:
- Talk to each child individually about their perspective and how they are feeling
- Do not assume that one child is the “bully” and the other child is the “victim”
- Find activities for your kids that encourage cooperation, problem-solving, and teamwork
- Notice each child’s unique qualities and characteristics (and point them out!)
Do You Need to Make a Change?
Examine your own rules and ask yourself if they may be a source of conflict. Are your expectations clear to your new foster child? Do your house rules make sense to your foster child? Are you consistent in your discipline? Do the consequences you give match the transgressions? Below are some ideas to help manage difficult behaviors, for both your foster child and your biological children:
- Create behavior contracts with each child that includes personal goals and rewards that motivate them individually
- Rewrite and review the house rules and guidelines as a family (don’t forget to discuss their purposes too!)
- Reward positive behavior as much as possible
- Practice restorative justice by giving your children opportunities to right their wrongs and genuinely apologize for their mistakes
- Use logical consequences (i.e. if you break something, your consequence is fixing or replacing it; if you hurt someone’s feelings, the consequence is figuring out how to make things right with that person, etc.)
You Can Do This!
All in all, there is no “magic wand” that will make this transition completely easy for your biological children or your new foster child. The best you can do is be proactive when you can, and be as fair as possible when a reaction is necessary. To learn more tips to make family visits effective, visit us at TFI Family Services.