Providing a healthy, supportive environment is crucial for all children, but especially for those in the foster system who may have experienced adversity or instability. As a foster carer, you have the power to make a tremendous difference in the physical and mental well-being of the children in your care. This guide outlines five key areas to focus on as you support your foster child’s health and development.
1. Provide Balanced, Nutritious Meals
As the foundation of good health, nutrition should be a top priority. Provide regular, nutritious meals and snacks with plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and dairy. As children settle into new routines, they may resist new foods or overeat comfort foods. Gently encourage balanced eating while allowing children autonomy over their food choices whenever possible.
2. Encourage Regular Physical Activity
Physical activity strongly promotes both physical and mental well-being. Aim for a minimum of 60 minutes per day of exercise, including aerobic activity as well as bone and muscle strengthening exercises. This may include playing sports, dancing, using playground equipment, going for family bike rides or hikes, active video games, yoga, or other age-appropriate activities.
3. Establish Healthy Sleep Routines
Sleep plays a critical role in development, including immune function, mood regulation, memory, and growth. Work to maintain regular bedtime routines and aim for the recommended sleep hours for the child’s age group. Be attentive to signs they may have trouble sleeping due to anxiety, nightmares, sleep disorders, or medications. Seek medical advice when needed for ongoing sleep issues.
4. Provide Mental Health Support
When you foster a child from a fostering agency like Fosterplus, it’s important to understand that some foster children will have endured significant adversity and trauma. Providing mental health support can aid enormously in their ability to cope, heal, and thrive.
Watch for signs of conditions like anxiety, PTSD, or depression. Connect children to counselors or therapists equipped to address trauma. Respond with empathy, reassurance, and consistency in your interactions. Promote positive self-esteem and self-care skills.
5. Create Structure and Routines
Foster children thrive on consistency and predictability after experiencing disruption and uncertainty. Create regular daily and weekly routines for things like meals, bedtime, chores, schoolwork, activities, etc. Communicate expectations clearly and provide plenty of preparation for any changes. Structure and routines build security and model healthy lifestyle habits.
6. Make Time for Play and Joy
Finally, prioritize play, creativity, social connection, and fun as pillars of wellness, too! Make time for unstructured play, arts or crafts, trips to museums, parks, and libraries, play dates, family game nights, reading together, or just laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Building strong relationships and joyful memories supports mental and emotional resilience.
The health of children in foster care intersects medical, psychological, developmental, and social domains. By taking a holistic approach across all facets of wellness, foster carers have the profound privilege of shepherding children into brighter, healthier futures. Reach out to resources like fostering agencies, health providers, counselors, and community services that can support you on this journey.