How To Adjust to a New Placement

Three mantras for survival until you figure out your new normal.

Kristy O'Neal December 15, 2017
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It’s been a little over a month since I got the phone call that would lead to two more children joining us in our home, two siblings aged three and four. This is my eighth placement, and after going through this process seven other times, I’ve learned a few things about adjusting to the change in our home and family. These are some of the things I’ve done that have eased the way, along with one that I wish I had done better.

Give everyone a break. Especially yourself.

Emotions are going to be running high for everyone in your home. Your new foster kids are traumatized and confused and grieving, and that’s going to look like sadness and fear and anger. Those that are already living in your home will also be dealing with these changes. And you, as the parent? If you’re anything like me, your emotions are all over the place, too – grief at what the kids in your home are going through, worry about being able to help them and meet their needs, compassion, frustration.

Here’s the bottom line – give everyone space to have and express their feelings, and give them grace when those expressions show up in hurtful or annoying ways. Most of all, give yourself grace. This is a huge transition and you might be in survival mode for a little while. It will get better.

Sleep when you can.

This one is so hard for me, and yet I know it’s so important! I struggle to make sleep a priority anyway, even more so when my schedule and to-do list has been flipped upside down. The minute my kids are in bed I start thinking of all the things I want or need to get done that I didn’t finish earlier, plus there’s just something about enjoying a quiet house. But sleep can be a precious commodity during the first few weeks, no matter what age a new placement is. It might mean that some things are left undone at the end of the day, but that’s okay. The truth is, I’m a better mom when I’ve had enough sleep.

Accept help.

You can’t do it all, and you don’t have to. If friends or family offer to help, take them up on it! Be honest with them about what would be helpful and what will just add to your stress. Know what supports are available via your foster agency or a local foster parent association. It really takes a village, so don’t be afraid to use yours.

This is also a good time to outsource some of those regular chores that you used to do yourself. Order groceries online or pay someone else to handle household cleaning or chores. Buy a frozen lasagna or have pizza delivered. Depending on what you’re used to, this may even feel extravagant, but it’s okay to focus on the things that only you can do and pass on the rest, even if it’s for a very short time.

Foster parents, what would you add to this list? What are the things that get you through those first few days and weeks?

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Kristy O'Neal

Kristy is mom to two sweet, funny, wonderful kids and works full time in information technology. During her spare time, she likes to browse Pinterest and thrift stores, create things, and hang out with her kids. As a foster parent, Kristy cares about advocating for the needs of kids in foster care and supporting foster families. You can read her thoughts on these and many other topics at her blog.

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