Foster carers are quick to tell you that caring for a child in need is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. But being a foster carer also brings challenges. Many children in care have experienced abuse or neglect which can manifest in challenging behaviour. They may also be experiencing physical or mental health issues. At times as a carer, it can feel as though you’re being stretched beyond your limits.
“When a child or young person first comes into your care it can be particularly challenging,” says Kate of Challenge Community Services. “No matter what you try, nothing seems to make any difference. This can be disheartening and it may take some months before you notice any changes. But be assured that by providing a safe and loving home you are immediately making a difference to a child or young person’s wellbeing. Congratulate yourself for every milestone, no matter how small.”
Getting support from your Challenge Community Services case worker is one of the best things you can do for yourself and the children in your care.
When you’re busy caring for children, even finding 10 minutes for a bit of self-care may seem unattainable. Here are some small steps you can take that will make a big difference.
Nurture your own interests
As well as introducing the children to new experiences, don’t forget to schedule some time for your own interests. You could join a yoga class or bushwalking group, or learn a new skill like drawing or woodwork. Put the activity in your calendar, even if you are doing the activity at home, to make sure it happens.
Keep physically fit and well
Looking after yourself by eating regular healthy meals, going for a daily walk and getting enough sleep will give you more energy. Modelling self-care also sets a good example for the children and young people in your care. They may never have seen adults care for themselves before.
Maintain regular contact with others
Having family and friends around you who encourage you and listen without judgement can help you keep a healthy perspective. If day-to-day tasks become overwhelming, be sure to ask for help. Accept any offers of assistance from trusted friends and family, such as taking the children off your hands for a couple of hours. If you keep saying ‘no’ because you think you should handle everything yourself, the offers may stop.
Looking after yourself by eating regular healthy meals, going for a daily walk and getting enough sleep will give you more energy to care for others.
“If you’re feeling overwhelmed or unsure how to handle a situation, it’s so important to contact your Challenge Community Services case worker. Foster care is about team work. Talking a situation through with your case worker will not only give you practical strategies to try, but will help you feel supported. Some foster carers expect too much of themselves or had different expectations about what it would be like to be a carer. Talking to your case worker can give you a much-needed reality check – you are no doubt doing better than you think.”
No matter how caring, well-prepared or experienced you are as a foster carer, some stress is inevitable. This is particularly so during the challenging times we are currently experiencing with COVID-19.
Seeking help for yourself when you need it is a sign of strength. Be kind to yourself and remember to give yourself permission to take a break. By managing your own stress, the children in your care will benefit. Not only will you be better equipped to help them, but they will also feel more secure.
During these unusual times, we all need a little extra help. Don’t go it alone – if you’re concerned about a child or your care, talk to your Challenge Community Services case worker today.