5 Tips to Help your Child Cope with their Feelings after Visitation
Visitation can be an emotionally charged time for your foster child. Try these 5 techniques to help your foster child manage their emotions.
Hey, y'all! We are about 2 1/2 weeks into our Foster Care journey after a 3-year-old boy and a 2-month-old baby girl were placed in our home. Little Boy and Baby Girl are two of the sweetest kids, they are both mild-tempered, sweet and easy-going kids. Life is a breeze...until visitation day rolls around.
Parent visitations are court ordered, although our visitations started before the bioparents went to court. Typically a foster child will see their bio-parents 3x a week for 1.5 hours. Sometimes these visits will be combined for a longer period of time with less frequency. For example, they might have 1 3 hour visit and 1 1.5 hour visit.
The visitation appointments foster children have with their biological family (aka bio family) can stir up a slew of emotions that the child(ren) simply doesn't comprehend how to process. Imagine being in their shoes- the removal process is hard on EVERYONE but especially the children.
Although our baby doesn't seem to have any trauma from the removal, our three-year-old most definitely does. Sadly, he has seen and experienced some things that have caused him to have lots of feelings he doesn't know how to deal with. He has severe attachment issues and refuses to be in a room alone (although he does request privacy when going to the bathroom). Dropping him off at daycare is absolutely heart-breaking but unfortunately, it's a necessity for us all.
Other effects of his trauma are almost constantly rocking back and forth (either or the couch or from side to side on his feet when he's standing). He is easily intimidated by men and suffers from nightmares. All of these effects intensify tremendously after his visitations. Just when we get him readjusted and calm another visitation rolls around and we have to start all over.
Here are some things we are attempting to help make these visitations easier for our little guy to handle.
1. Establish a set schedule for visitation. Work with your casework to come up with a set schedule. Consistency is key. If the child knows when visitations will happen, they can begin mentally preparing for it. It can also give them something to look forward to (in some cases). Display visits and other special events on a calendar so children can countdown to their next visit.
2. Try to transport the child to visitation yourself. This obviously very difficult. Our visitation hours are Monday through Friday from 8 to 5- which of course are normal working hours. If you are unable to transport the child to and from visitation yourself, help encourage a warm relationship between the caseworker and your foster child so they feel comfortable with them.
3. Plan something special. Our foster son's bioparents tend to load him up on sugar during his visits. It's lovely (insert eye roll here). We plan on taking him to the neighborhood park to let him run off some of that sugar after his visits. It also helps him get out any frustrations that he may have. Other ideas are coloring or painting, going to a bouncy place, taking them to an indoor play space or something they enjoy doing.
4. Prepare their favorite meal. We try to feed your little guy his favorite foods on days he has visitation. Chicken nuggets, pizza and macaroni and cheese are some of his favorite, super quick, lunches or dinners. Ice cream has a tendency of making everything feel better, even if it's just for a minute.
5. Plan on nothing going as planned. Although it's nice to plan something special, don't go overboard. Keep things simple. There's a good chance your plans or intentions won't work out. Our foster son has a tendency of coming home and sleeping for about 2 hours after his visits (coming down from the sugar rush? Emotionally exhausted?). Your foster child may be way too emotional for anything you planned, and that's okay. Remember, this is a difficult time for them.
These are things that we have found that help our little guy recover and handle all of the emotions he is feeling during this difficult time. What have you found works for you?
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