Foster carers will know a thing or two about stress. Fostering children – often described as challenging and rewarding, which it is – is also stressful. Caring for any child will mean some degree of stress on a day-to-day basis. That goes with the turf. One of the best ways of dealing with stress is simply to be aware of it. Review and reflect is a useful habit to get into. That way the effects of stress can at least be recognised.
Last April was Stress Awareness Month. This was great for creating awareness, but this must be maintained. The first thing to say is that a degree of stress is normal in our lives. Just realising this helps. But for foster carers, there are unique factors that can combine to boost stress levels. Managing the needs of a family, any family can be stressful. Foster parents have to deal with the additional demands of keeping records, attending meetings and – if they have their own children – meeting all their needs. Finances must be managed; was today the day the dog had to go to the vet? There’s still a family holiday to organise as the end of the school term begins to be glimpsed. And, there’s still the housework! When you add to this mix, the needs of a foster child who might arrive at your house late at night confused and upset, it’s not surprising stress levels rise.
People who only have a rough idea of what fostering a child involves would probably be surprised at just how stressful it can be. If a child or young person also has emotional, behavioural – maybe even physical needs – fostering can start to look like one of the most stressful things it’s possible to do. Fostering is ‘full on’. Carers can find themselves feeling run down and fatigued. This leaves no time for relaxation or interests. Reaching this point is a wake-up call. Ignoring stress can compromise mental health. If this happens, it’s not possible to care for a foster child properly. If fostering just becomes about coping, something has gone – or is going – badly wrong.
The answer lies in effective organisation and planning.
To be a foster carer, you have to be organised. It’s part of the role. One of the best ways a foster carer can deal with stress is to extend the organisation they need to do on a day-to-day basis to include their own needs and requirements. This is about effective time management. Setting aside forty minutes every day – and ensuring it is every day – just to relax over a coffee is a must. There are plenty of good children’s TV programmes to give you the space you need for personal time. Daily structure works wonders: have a planner or calendar up in the kitchen. These should detail any activities that are taking place.
More informations about stress management is available at – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/understanding-stress/
The importance of support cannot be emphasised enough. Foster carers will be able to rely on support from their agency. The provision of Respite is something all fostering service providers will offer. But developing a network of family and friends can be invaluable. This can mean a foster carer can have an evening off for a hobby or evening class – or just trip to the cinema. This is important because a foster child will see that their carer is also entitled to fun and interest in their lives. A carefully chosen activity by a carer – such as a cookery class – can bring enormous benefits to a foster home. A foster child can become involved in cooking, choosing recipes all of which can lead to discussions about health and nutrition.
Ultimately being a successful carer means getting the balance right. Planning to have breaks is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength. A foster parent who is able to put themselves first is actually ensuring they can be the best they can be for the child or young person they look after. A foster carer able to practise good proactive self-management will be delivering for the child they care for. Doing this well can be extremely satisfying. It is, after all, a job well done. And it opens the door to the very tangible and multi-layered rewards that fostering can bring.
Find out that fostering with Rainbow means being cared for.
At Rainbow, we work to ensure that our foster carers are supported to achieve the right work-life balance. We offer the very best support for our foster carers. This is central to the ethos at the heart of Rainbow. We have been judged to be “Outstanding in all areas” by Ofsted. They recognised our commitment was to make sure that “children remain at the heart of our service”. And we do this by making sure our foster carers are there too.
Fostering is fun! Happy children can make us all feel youthful again so find out if life as a foster parent would suit you. It’s very easy – just call our National Line 0330 311 2845 or our Head Office 020 8427 3355. We have an extremely knowledgeable and friendly recruitment staff waiting to take your call. They’ll be more than happy to answer all your questions and there is no obligation. And remember, all the training provided to applicants and foster carers is provided free.
There’s one more thing: you must have a spare room to foster a child which will be for their exclusive use. If you’re serious about fostering, it’s a good idea to spend some time on our website. There’s plenty of information – http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/about/ and