We all know there are significant challenges in foster care. Foster children enter care from homes where they have been abused and neglected. They are in need of a positive environment and this is where the foster parent can make an immediate impact. Foster parents serve an important role in the life of a foster child. A breakthrough foster parent has the potential to save the life of a child.

Here are 10 ways you can become a breakthrough foster parent.

1. Adopt a growth mindset.

“I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

Our brain literally forms new connections when you challenge yourself and learn something new. Develop a growth mindset in your own life and encourage it in your foster child’s life at every opportunity. Remember, failure is one of the best ways to learn.

2. Think positive.

“Always end the day with a positive thought. No matter how hard things were, tomorrow’s a fresh opportunity to make it better.” – Unknown

Pay attention to how you think and focus on what you say and do. If you find that you dwell on the negative aspects of life, you will typically live in a negative setting. Your foster child cannot live like this. Otherwise, what was the point of being taken from their home in the first place?

3. Talk to your foster child about what they are going through.

“You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.” – Brene Brown

Your foster children have seen some things in their short life that you can’t even imagine. Get to know who they are and what they have been through. If they are willing, talk to them about their past so they can grow from their personal trauma.

4. Be a leader.

“There is no greater leadership challenge than parenting.” – Jim Rohn

I hear foster parents regularly comment, “I treat my foster child just like my own child.” However, most people fail to actually do this. They are just paying lip service to this remark. So, don’t just pay this lip service, actually do it. If you discipline your own child one way, discipline your foster child the same way. If you reward your own child one way, reward your foster child the same way.

5. Become a critical thinker.

“She’s got bite marks on her tongue from all the things she never said.” – Unknown

Become a better thinker than you currently are when making decision for yourself and your foster child. What I mean is, develop the skills and insights needed so that critical thinking becomes second nature to you. Don’t just blindly follow a checklist or wait for a social worker to provide you an answer.

6. Adopt a morning routine.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

Wakeup early and create a morning routine. Think of how powerful each day would become for you and your foster child if you simply created a habit of waking up early, exercising, reading, and eating a nutritious breakfast!

Here are some tips to help you accomplish this:

- Plan ahead by mapping out your day the night before.
- Discuss your routine with your family and figure out the optimal routine.
- Log or journal your daily routine by creating a checklist of what you want to accomplish.
- Use technology! Set reminders or use a smartphone app to help stay motivated. A phenomenal app I use is the 5-Minute Journal app by Intelligent Change Inc.
- Be a visual person. Place visual reminders where you are forced to look at them (i.e. checklist, inspirational images, etc.).
- Stick to your routine even when you travel.

7. Exercise and increase your intellect.

“Exercise is Miracle-Gro for the brain.” – Dr. John Ratey

Dr. John Ratey discusses the relationship between exercise and intelligence in his fantastic book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. He discovered that aerobic exercise helps produce a magical substance known as Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This is a nerve growth factor that impacts the development and growth of our brain cells. It is a powerful substance that stimulates Neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is literally the birth of new neurons (brain cells). So, by simply exercising, we can literally grow our brain cells and improve our intellect!

8. Become a voracious reader.

“It is only through human’s effort that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

Read at every available opportunity. Read with your foster child, read on your own, read with your family. You can even listen to audiobooks.  Audiobooks provide us an opportunity to receive new knowledge while driving (perfect when stuck in traffic or on a long trip), exercising, while doing household chores, and even in the shower. Reading allows new doors to open in your mind. Doors that have always been present, yet were previously closed.

9. Learn something new every day.

“The structure of your brain changes every time you learn something new.” – Unknown

Learning something new is a rewarding experience, yet learning should not be difficult. Our mind is an amazing tool, so embrace it! Strive to learn something new every day. Think outside-the-box and find new ways to learn. For example, find instructional videos online (i.e. YouTube, Khan Academy, etc.). Use the Learning Theory, where you download new knowledge, process the new information, and then apply it (teach it or write about it).

One last thing about learning… do not fear math. Embrace it and encourage your foster child as well.

10. Provide your foster child a purpose.

“The best way to predict your future is to create it.” – Abraham Lincoln

For life to have meaning, it must first have a purpose. Foster children often times suffer from learned helplessness. They blindly go through a difficult life with disastrous outcomes.

Show your foster child that there is more to life than what they currently know or see. Demonstrate to them that life is a gift and they have control over what happens to them.

Finally, remember this sage advice:

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” – Pablo Picasso