The nature of short-term foster care is that you may welcome foster children at short notice. These children may be distressed or anxious and it is important to know how best to calm them down. 

Anxiety can be a challenging emotion for children to handle, and as foster carers, it’s important to provide the children in your care with the necessary tools to manage their anxiety effectively. By creating a calm and supportive environment, using specific strategies, and seeking professional help when needed, you can help your child navigate their anxiety in a healthy way. 

Here are some helpful tips on how to calm an anxious foster child:

Recognize and Validate their Feelings 

Acknowledge your foster child’s anxiety and let them know that their feelings are valid. Show empathy and understanding by saying things like, “I can see that you’re feeling worried right now, and that’s okay. I’m here to help.”

Create a Calm Environment 

Foster children may come from chaotic homes and providing a safe space for them to relax is important for their mental and physical well-being. If you are providing emergency care, where welcoming a foster child at short notice is the norm, has more information on interim placements.

Create a calming atmosphere by dimming the lights, playing soothing music, or using aromatherapy with scents like lavender or chamomile. Make sure their bedroom is somewhere where they can go and unwind.

Use Positive Affirmations 

Positive self-talk by using affirmations can be helpful. Encourage them to repeat phrases like, “I am brave” or “I can handle this.” Remind them that they have the strength and ability to overcome their anxiety.

Establish a Routine 

A consistent routine can provide a sense of security for anxious foster children. They may have come from a home where there was no routine at all. Establish regular mealtimes, bedtimes, and daily activities. Knowing what to expect can help a foster child reduce their anxiety levels and create a sense of stability, which is very important.

Encourage Physical Activity 

Regular exercise can help reduce anxiety by releasing endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. Encourage your foster child to engage in physical activities they enjoy, such as walking, biking, dancing, or playing sports. Not all foster children will want to participate in sports, but a family walk or a trip to the park will help too.

Limit Exposure to Triggers 

Identify the triggers that tend to worsen your child’s anxiety and limit their exposure to them. This may include reducing screen time, avoiding certain situations that upset them, such as busy places, or gradually exposing them to their fears in a controlled manner.

Model Calmness 

Children often mirror the behavior of adults in their life. Show your child how to manage anxiety by modelling calm and confident behavior. Practice self-care, engage in relaxation techniques, and remain composed during stressful situations.

Seek Professional Help if Needed 

You might need professional help if a foster child’s anxiety is significantly impacting their everyday life. A mental health professional can provide additional strategies and support tailored to the child’s specific needs. Speak to your foster agency for guidance if this applies to your situation.

Remember, every child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Patience, understanding, and open communication are essential when helping an anxious foster child.

How to Calm an Anxious Foster Child