Resilience is a skill that is just as important for kids as it is for adults. Resilience enables us to recover and adjust or continue moving forward confidently after a setback. This skill is valuable in tricky school situations or disagreements with friends and peers. It is particularly important for children in foster care who experience other challenges and have different experiences during the school year.
Here are six ways to engage with your foster children after school to help them build resilience:
Create a communication routine.
One may assume that an ‘agenda’ or ‘routine’ is unnecessary regarding communication, especially with your kiddos, but it can be beneficial. By creating a communication routine, your child will be confident that they can speak to you openly about school at this time (or every other day, depending on the child’s needs). This will allow them to feel safe, seen, and heard while communicating their experiences in an open and accepting environment.
Open the conversation in a way that doesn’t feel intimidating.
Start the conversation with your child by asking a series of fun, light-hearted questions that don’t feel overwhelming. This will allow you to dig deeper as the conversation continues in a way that feels natural. Here are some examples of fun questions to get you started:
What was the funniest thing that happened to you today?
If you could show up to school as a superhero, which one would you choose and why?
Would you rather be the funniest or smartest person at your school?
Which teacher do you think is the nicest/funniest/smartest?
What would it be if you could change one thing about your school?
Focus on the positives.
If your child opens up to you about a mistake they made or an obstacle they could not overcome, be sure to focus on the positives that evolved from that situation first. By doing so, your kiddo remains open and receptive as you move through the conversation, rather than shutting down as you try to discuss the experience on a deeper level.
Normalize their emotions.
Let your child know that all emotions are normal and okay to experience. Validate their feelings by saying things like, “I understand why you feel angry, and in your situation, I would too,” and relate to them by sharing personal examples of your own life — especially on the topic of school if you can recall — so they feel understood in their emotional experiences.
Highlight the lesson.
Every failure has a lesson. Every negative experience teaches us something that will lead to something greater. Being able to recognize this when something doesn’t go our way is what resilience is all about! Encourage your child to think analytically about the situation and determine what they learned from the experience they can use in future situations.
Teach your kiddo problem-solving skills.
Knowledge empowers us. The more your child understands how to solve their problems at school; the more empowered and resilient they will be when faced with difficult situations. When your child opens up to you about an issue, explain or help them formulate a strategy they can use to resolve the problem. This will help them feel less intimidated and more confident in handling a similar situation in the future without your assistance.