Foster Parent Self-care Guide for Coronavirus - COVID-19
Fostering Self-care in an era of Coronavirus - Covid-19
5 Positive Ideas for Helping with Self-care for all your Family.
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has become our new norm. Fostering self-care, in this time of crisis, needs to be center stage. With our family and community at risk of serious illness, I want to take a moment and give some practical advice, not about washing hands for 20 seconds, while singing happy birthday or using Clorox wipes after touching items. I ask you to consider your own mental wellness within this national pandemic which has not been seen in most of our life times.
Foster Parents and adoptive parents tools for success.
Foster children and teenagers react in different ways due to what they have experienced and learned from adults and biological parents in the past.Their perspective may be different from that of your family. Foster parents and caregivers who deal with the COVID-19 need to present the facts in a confident, age appropriate and logical way. Calmness is key, to provide the best support for your foster children as well as other family members. A parent who is prepared for the adverse effects of this pandemic will give reassurance to all around them, especially younger foster or adoptive children in your home. A child’s stress can show itself in many ways; here are just a few.
Frequent changes to watch for in a foster or adopted child could include:
- Excessive crying or irritation with members of the household
- Regression to behaviors they had outgrown or stopped exhibiting since arriving at your home (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting)
- Sadness or worry has returned above their average level
- Eating less or more than normal
- Hoarding of food
- Sleeping has increased or decreased significantly
- Irritability and "acting out" behaviors towards others
- Poor social performance Challenges with attention and concentration
- Staying away from activities they have enjoyed in the past
- Headaches or upset stomach or joint pains that they cannot explain
- Seeking or returning to poor decision making
What things can you do to support your foster or adopted child?
Invest time to talk about the COVID-19 outbreak and find a reliable source like the CDC and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that they can understand.
Reassure your child, that they are safe. Let them know that it is okay if they feel scared and nervous about this, and that it is very normal for all children and some adults to have these feelings. Share with them how you deal with your stress so that they can learn how to cope alongside of you. I have given examples of adult ideas at the end of this blog. Control your exposure to 24/7 news coverage of the event, including social media. Children will misunderstand what they hear and will be frightened about something they do not understand. When you are not around to guide them or correct their thinking, this may lead to more behaviors and feelings as I discussed earlier.
Keeping and maintaining a routine is so important. As the Virginia Department of Education has closed all our public schools, think about creating a schedule for learning activities, relaxing or fun activities are so important.
As a foster parent, you are the role model. Be a great one! Take breaks. I mean regular breaks! Get plenty of sleep and try to quiet the house a couple of hours before bedtime. You can do this by lowering the volume on the TV, cutting off lights and lowering the temperature in the house. Exercise as a family activity is a great way to take away the stress that may have developed in the house over the day. Try and eat well; make sure you have a supply of food on hand, perhaps little more than your average. Try not to panic buy, as this will send the wrong message to your foster child. Panic buying shows that you are also concerned about the food shortages, and this may be a trigger from their history with bio families. Connecting with your friends and family members by phone or video can also be very important. Your child is very likely missing their school friends, and perhaps siblings placed in other homes, as well as other bio family members.
Self-care ideas for Foster Parents and your Family in a Time of COVID-19.
As always, my #1 is exercise in this time of Coronavirus. We know that gyms are closed as we practice social distancing (see graphic below) for the first time in our lives as a society. Look for ways that you may be able to put exercise into your new routine. Park your car a little further, search for an empty parking space away from the entrance, not the first row. Practice Yoga (video below) with the family. There may be websites that offer programs for free; This is a fun activity as you discover just how challenging relaxation can be! Just walking around the block can make a significant difference in your mental health and that of your family.
My #2 is stretching, and relaxing your muscles. This is a fantastic way to remove all the stress build up in your body. Working areas of your body that hold tension first are the best, and again the internet is an excellent resource for a good 20 minute stretch. So is a warm bath… add bubbles for a fantastic escape; if you can light some candles, lower the light and close the door for just 30 mins, you will be revitalized and or rested so that you can get a great night's sleep. By putting bath time into your self-care regimen, you will thank yourself every day. The bath works for your foster children just as well to pull down their stress.
My #3 is sleep. Setting the stage for a great night's sleep is so rejuvenating for your mental health. The best way to get your full night's sleep is to train your body to expect that, for example, 10:30 is bedtime, and you wish to be asleep by 11:00. I would recommend that you stop all caffeine by 6:00 for yourself, have finished dinner by 7:00 and try to limit snacks after this time. Remind your body again to calm down. Lower the volume on the TV by 5% every 30 mins lowering the lights in the house by 30% at 9:30 and again another 30% at 10:00. This behavior tricks your body into a sunset and will reset your body clock and make you and your household feel tired. A rested body can make a difference in these challenging times.
My #4 is eat well, and I am not just talking about a balanced diet, I am talking about eating well together; well-balanced food is essential but is not the lifeblood of your family. You have a captive audience… use this time to create a new schedule…. Have meals together as a family. Make meals a wonderful event! I believe coming together at a set time is vital to the mental health of the house. So eat well, talk well, and enjoy each other around a safe and reliable place which is your dining room table. This type of ritual can bring stability to your home in a time of confusing circumstances. Remember cooking together and producing a great meal together is a fantastic gift to a foster child that may not have seen before how a meal is prepared as a family!
Last but far from least is my #5 in this self-care to-do list, and the word is "Have FUN!" with this situation. Look for opportunities to play board games, card games, and classic games which are around the house. How about hide and seek, or learning new skills like drawing, coloring or painting. For the first time in forever, we have so much family time! We have to relearn these family skills that were so easy just a generation ago. So bring the fun back into your home and put down the devices! Here’s to re-engagement and family group fun!
Please stay safe and look after all members of society.