Tips for looking after your mental wellbeing as a foster carer
Foster carers do an amazing job of looking after children and young people. A good foster carer will be as committed to the children in their care as much on the good days as they are on the challenging days. Foster carers work hard to help vulnerable children to heal and move on from previous trauma, they are a strong and stable presence in the lives of children who need to know there is a caring adult in their life who will always support them, no matter what. Foster carers spend a lot of time and energy looking out for the mental wellbeing and happiness of the children in their care – but who is looking after the foster carers?
Life as a foster carer can be incredibly rewarding, helping a child to heal and thrive and reach their potential is a privilege and a joy. However, often children in foster care have come from a turbulent or abusive family home and their behaviour can be influenced by this. A large part of a foster carer’s job is to prioritise the children’s mental wellbeing and happiness; fostering is not just giving a child a roof over their head. There are lots of meetings and appointments and visits with birth families to navigate as a foster carer, these can sometimes cause upset or take a lot of organisation. Fostering isn’t always easy and it is essential that foster carers look after their own mental health, as well as the mental wellbeing of the young people they look after.
But how can you look after your own mental health when you are a busy foster carer who is dedicating so much of their time to providing the best care they can to their children? In this post we are providing all foster carers with easy to implement self-care tips that will help them stay in a healthy headspace while they continue to do the amazing work they do for children in need.
Self-care tips for foster carers – How to care for yourself when you are a foster carer
Talk to your fostering agency/social worker – If you are finding things difficult, don’t keep your feeling bottled up inside. If there is something in particular that is causing you stress, anxiety or a lot of upset then contact your fostering agency. At Focus, we encourage our foster carers to talk with us about any aspects of the job that may be bringing them down. By addressing issues early on you will stop them growing into bigger problems that may have a negative impact on your mental health. We support our foster carers so they can support children to the best of their ability. Foster carers are human beings and need a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on sometimes, just the same as everyone else.
Make time for yourself – You are unlikely to have as much time to yourself now you are a foster carer but it is still essential that you schedule in time for you to relax and do the things you enjoy. Fostering isn’t the sort of job you can forget at 5pm on a Friday and not think about again until Monday morning. Foster carers are parents in their own rite and we all know parenting is a 24/7 job. It may be hard to get away for a weekend or even have a full day away from the children you care for but you can still make time for yourself. Grab the pockets of time when you can and do something you enjoy: read a book, phone a friend for a chat, go for a walk or take a bath. It is important that you continue to do little things for yourself while you are looking after other people, if you are running on empty you won’t be able to provide the best care that these children need. Doing the things you enjoy is an act of self-care but also an act of care for the children in your life too, time to yourself will you to be a better foster carer.
Socialise with other foster carers – Before the Covid-19 pandemic, our fostering agency arranged regular days out for all of our foster carers, their biological children and, of course, all of the looked after children too. These days out were a great opportunity for foster carers to meet and chat to other people in a similar situation to them. Often speaking to someone who knows exactly what you are going through and can completely emphasise is all a person needs to help them back to a more positive frame of mind. Friends and family are unlikely to be able to completely understand your situation or know how to help you if you are struggling, but a chat with a fellow foster carer could help you to feel more confident in your fostering journey and make you see you are not alone in your worries and struggles.
Write a journal – Journaling is a really effective way to maintain good mental health and well-being. If you are finding life as a foster carer difficult or are just going through a difficult patch, try writing everything down in a journal. Although talking definitely helps, sometimes we can work through our worries on our own, simply by writing them down. You don’t have to write every day but if you feel like you have a lot of bad feelings and you need to decompress, you might feel better by getting them all out onto the page. Journaling is great self-care tool for both adults and children and writing can be extremely cathartic in times of stress.
Remember, you are a foster carer – you are not superhuman! If you are finding life tough, it is ok to ask for help and to seek support from your agency, friends and family or other support services. You can’t pour from an empty cup, look after yourself so you can look after the children who need you
To find out more about fostering and how to become a foster carer with our independent fostering agency, please read the following pages on our website:
Types of foster care.
Who can foster?
How to become a foster carer with Focus Foster Care.
Fostering – frequently asked questions.
The benefits of fostering with Focus Foster Care.