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Effective Strategies for Nurturing Positive Behaviour in Newly Fostered Children

When a foster child first becomes a part of your family, it can be a challenging period of transition. Each child is unique, and their experiences in their previous home environment may influence their behaviour in a variety of ways. Using the example scenarios below, we will explore some key strategies which can help to guide your foster child’s behaviour in a positive way.

April 5 2024 - 5 min read

3 Scenarios to guide children's behaviour in a positive way

Fostered Child With Teddy

Scenario A:

A child in your house comes to you in tears, telling you that one of their teddies has gone missing. Upon investigation, you find that your newly fostered child has been sleeping with the toy in their bed.

Seemingly challenging behaviours in children are often a way of expressing a need, whether physical or emotional. In this scenario, perhaps the child has sought comfort in the object due to feeling unsettled in their new environment, or perhaps they are frightened of sleeping on their own for the first time.

It is important to engage in active listening and use positive language when having conversations with your foster child to better understand their needs and the reasons behind any given behaviour. By using open body language, asking open ended questions and paying close attention to what the child is saying and feeling, you encourage your child to open up to you and help them to feel safe and valued.

Once you understand the reason behind the behaviour, use the information to identify the means of overcoming the problem. In this scenario, the resolution may be as simple as providing the child with a night light or a teddy bear of their own. If the child continues to struggle with adjusting to their new sleeping arrangements, implementing positive behavioural strategies such as a reward’s chart could be hugely beneficial in helping them to overcome their fears. As milestones are reached, such as sleeping through a whole week in their new bed, it’s a great idea to celebrate the little wins with words of praise and perhaps a small reward.

foster teenager on Social Media

Scenario B:

After some weeks together, you’ve started to become concerned about the amount of time your foster teenager is spending on social media. When you try to have a conversation with them about restricting their screen time, it turns into an argument and they storm off to their bedroom.

A child in this situation may have come from a home with no boundaries set around technology use, or where social media provided an escape and much needed communication with friends. Limiting their access to online social interaction may feel like an attack or an attempt to isolate them.

It is important to have open conversations around these issues and introduce children to clear boundaries. Having boundaries which are well established and easy to understand provides them with stability. Many families find it beneficial to introduce a set of family expectations. These should be simple, fair and consistent.

You may choose to apply certain family expectations to all members of the household equally to set a great example. In this scenario, it may be appropriate to introduce family expectations around not using mobile phones at the dinner table, or restricting access to technology after a certain time. By leading by example you can encourage everyone to respect the household rules and provide the children in your home with a great role model to imitate.

foster child refuse the meals

Scenario C:

Mealtimes have become a source of frustration in your household. Your foster child has been struggling to sit down and eat their food and will often refuse the meals you provide.

It is important to keep an open mind when a child displays a behaviour which might be seen as inconvenient or challenging. Pay close attention to your foster child’s behaviour around mealtimes to get to know their likes and dislikes and consider if any of their needs are not being met. Often issues can be resolved by making reasonable adjustments to cater to the unique needs of your foster child. These could include learning about a neurodivergent child’s sensory preferences around food, or embracing the culture of a child from a different background to your own by embarking on the adventure of learning new recipes which they know and love.

A child who is displaying distressed behaviour around mealtimes may not be used to sitting at a dining table or in a high chair for long periods of time. Developing a consistent routine around mealtimes takes patience but can aid children in adjusting to new experiences. When dealing with a misunderstood behaviour, it is often worthwhile to choose your battles and avoid negative reactions, as these can reinforce negative responses. It is also important to recognise children’s individuality. Children, like all of us, have their own tastes and preferences. They may never learn to like carrots, but by being consistent and positive in your efforts to encourage them to eat a balanced diet you can help them to develop a healthy attitude towards mealtimes and overcome any challenging behaviours.

No matter what challenges may arise within your family environment, implementing positive behavioural strategies can help your foster child to develop the skillset they require in order to communicate their needs a healthy way. You can find a more in depth explanation of the different types of positive behaviour management strategies here.

Always remember that your fostering agency and social worker are available to support you and your family no matter what challenges you might be facing. Never hesitate to reach out if you require help or advice regarding behavioural concerns.

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