Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety response that is triggered when a tragedy, shock, or abuse in any form takes place. Things of this nature cause a significant impact on our minds. You can imagine that a child who is still growing and learning and navigating his or her own emotions and mental psyche can be deeply affected by difficult situations.
When I was a child, I was swinging on the swingset in my backyard, and I jumped off at a high point and landed on my arm. I broke my arm very badly, and now I get a sick feeling in my gut if I ever see someone swinging or get on a swing myself. This is an example of PTSD.
PTSD can be similar for many different people in many different circumstances, with varying results. There is a great chance that the foster child that comes into your life has seen or been through some very difficult and traumatic experiences. So what can you do?
First, empathy. Children are extremely receptive and sensitive to the people and world around them. They need time, patience, love, and compassion. Put yourself into their shoes: many of them have been traumatized, have feelings of being left alone, and are now expected to adapt to a new world and new people. It would be difficult for anyone.
Create a relationship with the child that feels safe and secure, something that she can depend on. She has most likely been forced in some way to grow up too fast. The best thing you can do for a child is to let her be a child. Give her a foundation.
Children also need stability and trust. In the situation of PTSD, a child needs less to worry about. Any way that you can take away his anxieties, or calm his fears, can make a huge difference.
Help him develop hobbies. Give him an outlet that he can go to in order to feel and understand himself. Doing so will give him the chance to express himself in some way. This is a very therapeutic way to relieve stress and work through emotions.
All in all, let them be children. Let them know that they are cared for and that you are there for them. Give them a chance to express themselves and be at peace with the world for a time, and when they have hard days, let them. Allow them to feel, allow them to work through their emotions. All you have to do is be there for them through it all.