In the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s (ADAA) most recent study, they found that 70% of adults in America deal with stress or anxiety every day. If you have a child in your home, to some degree, you likely fall into this statistic. Foster parents experience every level of stress, from the small things like is your foster child going to like the new toy you bought to bigger things like whether your foster child will like you.
While some of these situations are fleeting, the stress from them can stay with you for days or weeks.
When a stressful situation hits, the parent in you puts others’ needs ahead of your own, while leaving your needs unattended. While you can get away with ignoring your stress for a little bit, it will catch up to you and start affecting your day-to-day life. Before you start questioning your sanity and whether you are cut out for this life, take a step back and try these stress-reducing tactics for foster parents.
• Breathe – Take several deep breaths and push all thoughts out of your head. Deep breathing lowers your heart rate and sends a calming effect throughout your body. With a clearer mind, you may find the issue was more manageable than you thought.
• Exercise – Along with offering physical benefits, exercise is good for your mental health. Regularly exercising can decrease tension, improve your mood and help you sleep better. It also provides you with much deserved alone time and the opportunity to reflect on what is stressing you out.
• Journaling – Writing down your feelings and thoughts can be a great outlet for your stress and frustrations. Putting the situation on paper can help you see things more clearly and help you find an answer. Re-reading journals is a great way to remind yourself how much you’ve grown from previous stressful situations.
• Find Support – There are going to be times when the stress of foster care makes you feel like you’re alone and that no one understands what you’re going through. Finding a support system, whether it’s friends, family or other foster parents, is vital to getting through foster care’s most difficult moments. Having someone to talk to who has gone through a similar situation will reassure you that you aren’t going crazy and that you can make it through. If you are unsure of where to find support, Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) offers the Heart to Heart Mentoring Program, which matches you with an experienced foster parent who’s there to offer support and guidance whenever you need it.
With these stress-reducing tactics for foster parents, you will be prepared to manage stress in a healthy and helpful manner. When a nerve-racking situation occurs, try turning it into a learning experience and see what you can do to prevent it from happening again.
If you find that your stress is becoming too much for you to handle, you can talk to your caseworker about finding respite care for your foster child while you take some time to recharge. Many foster parents have found that respite care helped them avoid burning out and stabilized their homes.
If you would like to learn more about stress-reducing tactics for foster parents, FAFS offers a free home correspondence course to all licensed resource families in New Jersey on the causes and impact of stress, as well as techniques to combat it.
As a foster parent, you may find that some of the stress you experience comes from working alongside your foster child’s caseworker. Remember, he/she has the best interest of the child at heart. However, navigating through foster care can still be stress inducing, which is why you can always turn to your FAFS Family Advocate (FFA). Your FFA can answer your questions about the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) and is someone you can talk to about any of your foster care issues.
Stress is unavoidable, especially for foster parents who are trying to make a difference in children’s lives by going above and beyond. When things get stressful, remind yourself why you foster and how rewarding it is when you see the positive impact you make on your foster child.