It's very easy as a foster parent to focus on the needs of the foster children placed in your home. After all, that's why you chose to be a foster parent in the first place, to help children in need. It becomes even more difficult when the foster children placed in your home have extreme behaviors and it seems like your children's needs are getting pushed to the side.
However, if you have children of your own, whether at home or out of the home, it's equally important to not lose focus on them. They are still your children and need you too. Here are a few ideas on how to not lose focus on your children while fostering.
Listen to the concerns of your children. Are they having difficulty with one of the foster children? Try not to explain away or make excuses for the foster child's actions. We as adults understand that there are real needs driving the behavior of the foster child, but your child does not need to know these details. Your child is also not mature enough to understand that a foster child may steal their belongings due to past drama. Your job is to listen to your child. Are your children telling you that they don't want to do foster care anymore? Are they telling you that they need a respite break from the foster placements? These are things that need to be discussed as a family. Taking the time to listen to your child's concerns will mean a lot to your child.
Spend time with your children. They will tell you when they need time with you, so listen. Don't include anyone else in this time. Just like the foster children benefit from one on one time with you, your children need this time too. Take a moment to tuck them in at night. If appropriate for age, have their bedtime a little bit later than the foster children so you can have some quality time together.
Enjoy your child's growing-up years. While you get distracted with the needs and interests of the foster children, don't forget to spend time focusing on the needs and interests of your children. Go to their games or dance recitals. Volunteer at your child's school or coach a team. This gives you time with your child when your focus will be only on them and their interests. Do not miss these opportunities to enjoy your child growing up. Make sure that your foster child's visitation schedule or therapy appointments do not conflict with your child's activity schedule. It will go by all too soon, and while you may have helped numerous foster children in need, you will not be happy knowing that you may have missed out on some of your child's special moments as well.
Protect your children from exposure to negative behaviors. We all want our children to be safe and are often very selective of who and what enters our homes. We may have rules about what they can view on television and movies. We may limit computer time. We may also have limits on how far they can stray from the house without supervision. Do not overlook what a foster child may bring into your home and family. Continue to monitor play between a foster child and your child and listen to their conversations for several months after placement. Do not get too comfortable. Some foster children can honeymoon for several months. When a foster child is throwing an extreme tantrum, or having an angry outburst that may include inappropriate language - make sure your child is not in view of this if at all possible. Ask them to go to your bedroom or watch a movie in the family room. Try to protect your children as much as possible. If your foster child acts out a lot, it may be wise to create a family safety plan. Be sure to discuss the event with your child after, to help them process what they have witnessed.
Be your child's champion. Sometimes foster children have behaviors and your child may be a victim of these behaviors. Your child may be physically hurt or wronged by a foster child. For example, your child's belongings may be taken or destroyed by an angry foster child. Don't make excuses for the foster child or expect your child to ignore the infraction. Let your child know that you will not overlook this loss. Your child does not need to be a part of the consequence, and it is not necessary to consequent the foster child in front of your child. All that will be important to your child is the knowledge that you heard them, understood their feelings, and that some action will be taken on their behalf.