How Routines Help Build Resilience in Your Foster Child

In the world of mental health, the word “resilience” is used to describe a person’s ability to recover from traumatic events, and for children in foster care, the list of traumatic events is long. Unfortunately, the mitigating circumstances of children coming into foster care is just the beginning of their trauma. While it might be tempting to think that being placed in a safe home is removing them from trauma, the truth is that being placed in foster care is yet another traumatic event.

While it might be tempting to think that being placed in a safe home is removing them from trauma, the truth is that being placed in foster care is yet another traumatic event. Everything is new, foreign, unknown, and ultimately scary.

While we cannot spare our foster children from all of the trauma of being in foster care, one of the best things foster parents can do is cultivate a home life aimed at helping build resilience in their foster children, and in this and the following two videos, I will be offering three things you can do every day, beginning on day one of a new placement, to do just that.

In this video, I am sharing about the vital role routines can play in helping children develop a sense of stability, security, and safety as they adjust to being in a new place (your home). Because of how chaotic and disruptive it is for children in foster care, they experience a sense of insecurity associated with instability. By instilling and maintaining routines, we offer our children the ability to predict what’s coming next—something that is often taken from them when they come into care.

In this video, I discuss daily, weekly, and seasonal routines and rituals that help kids feel a sense of order and predictability in an otherwise chaotic and unpredictable world. I hope you find it helpful!

Click here for some free downloadable PDFs of routines we use in our home!

Two Videos About Food and Foster Care

A few years ago, I shared a video about Food and Foster Care and since then, I’ve been asked by many of you to do another video along that theme. So today, I shared a new video that continues where that video left off!

In this video, I’m giving you an idea of how I handle feeding a new child in my home. Those first 24 hours are so vital for helping children feel safe and setting a positive primacy bias.

I hope the tips I share here are helpful!

Here are the main takeaways:

  • Start with cookies and milk. When a new child arrives, I try to have a plate of cookies fresh from the oven on the table. I keep break and bake cookie dough in my freezer so I can whip up a freshly baked batch on very short notice.
  • At the beginning of a new placement, it’s all about keeping things as familiar as possible. Stick with foods kids would be likely to have at school—it may not be their favorite, but it will at least be familiar!
  • Don’t hesitate to ask a child what they like! “What foods to you love? What tastes like home to you? What do you like to have for breakfast?” Then keep their requests on hand.
  • Offer limited choices. As I have shared in previous videos, children crave feeling empowered, and for a child new to foster care, they feel anything but. Choices can be a great way to give a child a sense of empowerment. However, too many choices can feel overwhelming! I recommend giving two or three choices at the most.
  • Let them have junk food, but limit it. If a child has been used to eating as many Doritos as he wants, let him have Doritps—just stick with the small, single portion bags and don’t make a lot of junk food readily available.
  • Walk the line between helping a child feel comfortable and, later on, helping cultivate healthy dietary habits. If you saw my ACEs video, you will recall that high instances of childhood trauma are linked with many long-term health issues—some of which correlate with diet (i.e. diabetes, obesity). Part of the long-term goal of foster parenting is to help prepare children to thrive in adulthood—and that includes learning healthy food habits.

Here is my first Food and Foster Care Video:

I hope you find these resources helpful!

I’d love to hear about your experiences with food and foster care. Please share in the comments below!

Photo Credits:

Featured image by Providence Doucet on Unsplash

Food and Foster Care: The First 24 Hours photo via Canva

Food and Foster Care photo via Canva

5 Tips for Vegetarian Foster Parents (with Liz from I Heart Vegetables)

Recently, I had the joy of welcoming vegetarian blogger and foster mama Liz, creator of I Heart Vegetables, to be my guest for a Flourishing Foster Parent Coaching Call. I had asked the community (as I often do) what they wanted to talk about in our Coaching Calls, and two people asked us to address the unique challenges of being a vegan or vegetarian household and complying with the expectations and challenges of foster parenting.

While I love vegetarian food, and could happily live on a plant-based diet, I am not a vegetarian, so I needed to call in an expert. It took me nearly six months to find just the right person to speak to this, so I was delighted to stumble across Liz in a foster parent Facebook group. I became a fan of her blog, stalked her on Instagram, and finally reached out to invite her to join our call. And she said yes!

You can hear the whole call by joining The Flourishing Foster Parent (there are two tiers of membership, neither of which require any kind of long term commitment, and both of which include full access to all thirty-five-plus Coaching Call recordings). But I thought I’d share a few of my takeaways from Liz’s excellent insights—and introduce you to her resources if you’re looking for ways to introduce more veggies to your kids’ lives or just find inspiration for pursuing a healthy lifestyle!

7 Tips for Vegetarian Foster Parents

  1. Give Them What’s Familiar to Start With. The first week or two of a new placement is not the time to introduce an entirely new way of eating to a child who is already in crisis. Instead, help ease their transition by giving them what is familiar. For a vegetarian (or just very health-conscious) foster parent , it might be very difficult, but a trip to McDonald’s or some frozen chicken fingers is a small price to pay to help a child feel more comfortable in what is a terribly uncomfortable season of their lives. Being a foster parent requires a fair amount of flexibility and compromise, and this might be one example of when compromise is required for the sake of a child’s mental health.
  2. Introduce Healthy Options Slowly. Several foster parents I’ve spoken with have found that hummus is a great way to introduce kids to raw veggies. Try making carrot sticks, celery sticks, bell peppers, sugar snap peas, and cucumber slices available with a bowl of hummus. Liz also recommends keeping bananas, apples, and oranges on hand as “anytime snacks.”
  3. Batch Meal Prep & Double the Recipe. To avoid relying on prepared meals or processed foods (which are quick, easy, and oh-so-tempting when things are hectic in the home), batch meal prep and double the recipe to make cooking once, eating twice (or even three times) more feasible. If you have to chop onions for a recipe, chop three and freeze two for quick use later. Same with other veggies (zucchini, bell peppers, carrots, etc.)
  4. Come Up With “Winners” & Make Them Often. Liz admitted that, in the past, she would meal plan with the goal of making something different every day of the month. Now, she recognizes healthy options the kids love and comes back to it frequently. Tacos, Breakfast for Dinner (high-protein waffles and fruit? Yes, please!), and Stir Fry meals are some options that generally go over will with children.
  5. Offer Vegan Alternatives to Popular Snacks. I mentioned on our call that for children on the autism spectrum or with other neurological differences (ADHD, executive function delays, etc.), there is evidence to show that high-protein snacks can be helpful. Liz recommended replacing my go-to cheese sticks and pepperoni sticks with nut butter on crackers, fresh fruit, a handful of nuts, and even cereal as a snack.
  6. Offer Meatless Versions of Familiar Foods. Chickpea pasta (which is higher in protein than regular pasta), meatless burgers (Liz and I both love Beyond Burgers as a satisfying replacement for hamburgers), vegan “chicken” nuggets, and vegan “meatballs” are often as tasty as the real thing and kid-approved. Liz also recommended Right Foods Vegan Ramen and That’s It fruit snacks.
  7. Sneak Veggies Into Other Foods. One member of the Flourishing Foster Parent is not looking to become vegetarian, but is very interested in how to get her kids to eat more veggies. This tried-and-true strategy has been around for a while, and it’s still a great idea. Add riced cauliflower, spinach, or shredded zucchini to fruit smoothies (Liz mentioned that blueberries can often disguise the green color that turns some kids off). Make Liz’s chocolate zucchini muffins for breakfast (“Kids will eat anything with even a tiny bit of chocolate in it!”). Puree mushrooms and zucchini and add them to marinara sauce. I’ve tried that, and my kids love it (and were none the wiser)!

These are just a few of the wonderful insights Liz gave us in our call. We also discussed some of the stigmas around being vegetarian, how to handle it when a child’s parents are not comfortable with her having a plant-based diet (hint: compromise!), and a lot more.

Vegetarian Foster Parents is available in the Flourishing Foster Parent Resource Library. To gain access, select either the Full ($20/month, which includes participation in the live calls) or Library ($10/month) tier on my Patreon page!

Veggie Photo by Nadine Primeau on Unsplash

Fruit Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash