Foster parents have the job of encouraging social interactions for youth in their home. This is a big responsibility, but it is also a wonderful opportunity to teach invaluable lessons. Having a close friend, learning new skills, and feeling a sense of belonging truly makes a difference in a child’s life. Try some of these ideas to help your summer be a time of growth for the whole family.
- Take a break. Adults need to play too! Spend fun time as a family, as a couple, and alone. Remember that you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of others.
- Practice makes perfect.Children with underdeveloped social skills can benefit from teaching and role playing to prepare for successful peer interactions. Help your child practice being a good friend, solving problems, and managing angry feelings. Teens may benefit from practicing assertiveness skills.
- Schedule for fun. If your kids need a high level of structure, break up the day into activities and unstructured time. Some busy parents take a recess every afternoon and use the children’s quiet time to renew themselves.
- Turn off the television. Summer is an active, growing time. Children don’t grow physically, emotionally, or socially from sitting in front of the set. Limit screen activities to short periods of time. A week without television can lead to amazing leaps of creativity.
- Be adventurous. Try new activities with your children. Brainstorm about mini-adventures for the whole family, and commit to trying something new. Remember that role modeling is the best way to teach!
- Set small goals. Kids with poor social skills need lots of small opportunities to practice and improve. An hour at the swimming pool may be more realistic, and more fun, than a day at the water park. Big outings can be a long-term goal for the end of the summer.
- Build a network. Take advantage of recreation programs in your town and nearby communities. Many foster parents plan group activities together. Several parents can share the responsibility and the fun of an active group of kids.
- Put out the welcome mat. Become the kid-centered house in your neighborhood. When your child has friends over to play, you have the opportunity to supervise as necessary and to teach in the moment.
- Alexandria vonKirschner, CICSW