Helping children settle in
Children coming into care for the first time or from a previous care arrangement may be apprehensive, anxious, distrustful or depressed. They might appear indifferent, eager to please, angry, withdrawn or upset. These are all normal reactions to great personal loss, separation and change. It is important to remember children may be feeling as though they have lost everything familiar to them – parents, siblings, friends, school, their home, pets and a familiar routine.
Practical ways to help them to settle in
Before a placement starts talk to the care team to find out about the child’s likes and dislikes, and any special activities they enjoy.
When they arrive greet them warmly but ask their permission before hugging or touching them. Some children may need some time before they are comfortable with this.
Introduce them to the other members of the household, including pets.
Show them around your home, including their new room, bathroom, toilet and the yard.
Let them know they can personalise their room. Offer to help them unpack or let them unpack in their own time if that’s what they prefer.
Ask them if there are things they like or don’t like to eat before preparing meals so they are not embarrassed by having food served they don’t like or can’t eat.
Talk about household routines such as bath time, dinner time, bedtime, any planned activities etc.
Talk about any household rules. Remember rules can only be about safety. Negotiate any initial expectations and make your priority welcoming children and beginning to get to know them.
Tell children about any household norms such as busy bathroom times.
Give children time to learn your routines and activities.
Remember everything is new to them.
Allow them time to play with your own children and get to know each other.
Take them to local places (age appropriate) like the park, library, swimming pool and shops so they become familiar with the area.
Be careful not to criticise their parents or make negative comments about their family.
Don’t talk about them when they are there as though they are not present. Respect their right to privacy and their need to have some time alone.
Express interest in their family and their background but don’t question too closely. Ask if they have photos they would like to put up and speak positively about these.
You can read more about trauma, loss and grief here