Welcoming an Older Child Into Your Home: The First 24 Hours

How can foster or adoptive parents minimize a child's fears and help them feel comfortable?

Denalee Chapman August 08, 2016
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Whether bringing in a foster child or adopting an older child, parents are often concerned with minimizing the trauma for a child entering an entirely new environment. How can foster or adoptive parents minimize a child’s fears and help them feel comfortable? Upon arrival at the home:

  • Feed the child. Especially for children who have been in situations where they’ve had to scramble for food, eating can be a great comfort. Ask what they like to eat, and be prepared with some typically enjoyable food like PB & J, Pizza, Chips, etc. Forget about health food and balanced meals for this first welcome home eating time. It may be late at night when your child arrives; if so, consider offering some graham crackers and milk or another good bedtime snack.
  • Tour the house. Your new child will need to know where his/her bedroom is, the location of the bathroom, where to find extra blankets, and definitely where you’ll be. Do you have an open-door policy so your child can come in at any time? Or do you require knocking. Whatever the case, give your child a sense of security by letting him/her know how to get to you if needed. A more specific tour of the house can take place the next day or later in the week.
  • Try to read your child’s need for physical touch or space. Would she feel more comfortable holding a stuffed animal that first night, or being cradled in your arms? Maybe a quick hug will be what’s best for him. Whether your child needs his space or not, starting the bedtime routine that first night will breathe security and trust into your relationship. So consider a song and prayer before bed, allowing your new child to choose if she participates, just listens, or even turns her back on you while you do the work.
  • Provide a small gift. Everyone loves gifts . . . it helps us feel loved.  Although it will take some time to learn your child’s love language, providing any token of your acceptance will go a long way to feeling comfortable. Depending on the gender and age of your child, you might consider a doll, a personalized blanket, a book, a piece of jewelry, a teddy bear, a small Lego set, a ball, or a game. Having the gift wrapped with a little card will make the day feel like a true celebration.

For other ideas on how to make that first day successful, take a look at this post by an experienced foster mother. It might also be good to prepare for that first day by talking with others who have experienced what you’re about to embark on. Check out social media or forums to get started. And good luck . . . you’re about to begin a wonderful adventure!

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Denalee Chapman

Denalee is an adoptive mother, a motivational speaker, a writer, and a lover of life. She and her husband have adventured through the hills and valleys of life to find that the highest highs and the lowest lows are equally fulfilling. Book Denalee to speak to your group, or find Denalee's writings, including her books on her website at DenaleeChapman.com.


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