What To Do When Your Foster Child Refuses To Eat

So you have a kid that just won't eat? For some reason or another your foster child simply refuses to eat the food you cook- and you just can't figure out why. First of all- that's okay. You're doing nothing wrong and neither are they. Every child is entitled to their own opinion. And you have to remember your kid came from a different home with different food- and your food is new and 'gross' to them. Be patient and do not get mad. In the mean time- here are a few tips to help your picky eater gain an appetite.

Have them help you make dinner: It's a simple task that can go such a long way. Invite them to help prepare dinner. For younger children have them mix a salad or spread butter on bread. Older kids can help with actual cooking tasks such as chopping and preparing food- as well as frying or baking it. If they still don't like the food smile and tease "You must not be a very good cook then- you made it." Younger kids take this as a challenge. And older kids are usually fairly proud of themselves and are way more willing to eat food that they themselves prepared.

Find their 'comfort food': Every child has a favorite food. For many kids in foster care I've discovered it's simple things like ramen noodles, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or even plain bread. Ask your child what they like to eat and what their favorite food is. And let them eat those things once in a while. Their entire diet doesn't need to be perfect. And letting them have something they enjoy is a nice way of saying that they still have control in their lives.

Persuade them with creative food displays: This one tends to only work for younger children, but creative food displays are so much fun. Organize your fruit to make a rainbow. Have the condiments on your cheeseburger make a smiley face. Or use cookie cutters on meat loaf to make it into fun shapes. Little kids can't help but eat things that look so neat.

Let them help grocery shop: Have your foster children go grocery shopping with them. Be open to their ideas. In the veggie and fruit aisle make a point to let them pick out something to bring home and try. Have them help you pick out other items too- such as a fun new flavor of cheese, packages of lunch meat, and certain brands of cereal. If they help buy the food, they'll probably be more likely to eat the food. If they keep attempting to get certain snacks or unhealthy items- let them pick one and explain that they can't have too many because it's not healthy.

Let them help pick out meals: Your foster child should be included in every aspect of your life- including meal time. Do they crave a certain breakfast food? Make a point to offer it regularly on school mornings. Let them pick out dinner once a week. During holidays invite them to help pick out a side-dish (if they can't think of one- give them a recipe book to pick from). If you go out to eat often, occassionally let them pick the resturaunt.

20 Tips For Being A Great Foster Parent

1. Be Patient
I really cannot stress this enough. Patience is key. Breathe deeply and have a kind heart. Do not expect the child to be comfortable, respectful, or even happy right away. Most likely they won't be (and nor would you in their situation). Be patient. Your patience and ability to overlook their bad times is going to make them appreciate you so so much. So as hard as it may be to take a breath and love them through the tough times- do it. Patience is a virtue. And a wonderful one indeed.

2. Give Respect Before You Expect Respect
If there is one thing I know about kids, it's that they are much smarter than we give them credit for. If we don't give them respect, they most certainly are not going to return it. And that's why it's important to respect your child. Respect their privacy, their stuff, their space, their feelings, and most of all their opinions. When you start to say, "I absolutely respect your opinion. I may disagree, but I respect it." that opens up an entirely new perspective for them. And when you respect them, over time they will respect you too.

3. Encourage More Than You Discipline
I'm a bit outspoken on this opinion. But I don't believe in disciplining. I don't believe in scolding or yelling or demanding better behavior. Now, this doesn't mean I don't say 'no'. It doesn't mean I don't have rules. And it doesn't mean that I have my bad days where I get mad and raise my voice. But it means I think before I act. If a child is misbehaving, is yelling at them really going to fix the problem? Not usually, and with a child who is already sensitive from the past- I don't find it the right way to handle things. So instead I encourage. I ask them nicely. I explain to them that they've hurt my feelings by not listening. I explain to them in clear terms why I don't want them doing something (they'll get hurt, break something, etc). I show them a different activity that could replace the one they're doing. Instead of getting mad and scolding them, I take a deep breath and figure out a way to encourage them to behave better. If they persist to misbehave discourage them from doing so by threatening to take away an activity- no video games, limited computer time, or having to miss out on a shopping trip with their friends. Physical punishment (even not direct contact like absence of food or standing in the corner) is never okay.

4. Don't Replace Their Parent
This is a common... mistake? Many people take in a foster child with the intentions of being their 'mom' or 'dad'. But the truth is, you are NOT their mom or dad. You are their guardian and their caretaker. You love them dearly (even consider them a child of your own), but in that child's heart they have a parent. If they ever decide that you are their mother/father- that is wonderful! But that should be their decision. Not yours. So don't be 'mom' or 'dad'. Be yourself and never expect to replace their parent.

5. Be A Best Friend
This kind of goes along with the one above. Honestly, this child has gone through more than you could possibly imagine. One thing they REALLY need in your house is a best friend. So be one. Listen to what they have to say. When they come to you with a problem, never get mad- feel happy that they trust you. Treat them with the most respect and always have faith in them.

6. Trust Them
I realize that not every foster child makes the best decisions. Often times they are dealing with things and don't react properly to bad situations. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't trust them. Have clear rules, and consequences for when they break them. But don't feel like you need to monitor their every move. Don't be constantly checking up. Take a deep breath and realize they will make mistakes (all kids do). But if you trust them, honestly, they will take that into regard. Let them know you trust them, and I bet you a million dollars they will strive not to break that trust.

7. Ask Questions
You know the quickest way to start a meaningful relationship? With a nonchalant question. Ask them about their hobbies, favorite colors, dreams, hopes, aspirations. Ask them everything and anything. And try remember everything they say. Do they love basketball? Guess who's going to basketball camp this summer! Did they mention that they really wanted to see that one movie? Well, we do have a few spare hours this weekend to waste. And what about their favorite color? Perfect, now you know what sweater to buy them for their birthday.

8. Be Involved
Be involved in everything your kid does. Check up on their school work- a lot. Go to their sports events. Know their friends- host lots of sleepovers. Sit down for dinner each night. Attempt to play their favorite video game (even if they just laugh and make fun of you the whole time). Play sports against them. BE INVOLVED! As a parent, it's your job.

9. Support Them
Give high fives until your hand goes numb. When they get an A or B on a report card praise the heck out of them. Did they just score a field goal? You better be that crazy person in the crowd cheering your butt off. Applaud them for big things and give them high fives for small one. Even if all they did was get a good behavior sticker in school, smile really big and tell them how proud you are of them. Many kids in foster care have a lot of doubts about the future, so make sure that they know they are absolutely worth every future minute they'll be alive. They are a great human being and it's your job to let them know it every chance you get.

10. Be A Good Role Model
Monkey see, monkey do. Child see, child do. If your kid hears you curse, and yet you tell them not to curse- that's contradictory. Be the person you want your kid to be. Respect others, smile and laugh often, attempt to be organized, work hard, and enjoy life (even through the ups and downs).

11. Breathe Deep, Don't React Right Away
Kids say hurtful things. Sometimes they do stupid things. And more often than not they'll be rude. Do not- I repeat, do not- react right away. Go to your room. Breathe deep. Settle down. Then return to the situation when you can react rationally. It will prevent that absolutely horrible outburst of anger that can so quickly ruin a relationship.

12. Choose Your Arguments and Your Anger
Kids will be kids. They'll make mistakes. So choose your arguments carefully. Decide whether or not it's worth arguing over. Is it really necessary to get angry that the kids won't leave grandma's house on time? Or is it best to just buckle down and muddle through. Most of the time being mad won't help the situation. So choose your anger very wisely.

13. Have Fun
Go on vacation. Take a trip to the zoo. Eat ice cream for dinner. Have a picnic. Build a blanket fort in your living room. The quickest way to make a child happy, healthy, and full of life- is to have fun with them. Do everything in your power to make sure your kid has plenty of fun while their with you. Give them lots of memories and lots of new experiences. Honestly, it's more rewarding for you than it is for the kid. And I promise every happy second spent will be worth the huge smile that comes onto your kids face.

14. Teach Responsibility, But Don't Enforce Chores
I don't teach kids to do their chores by making them do them. I give them a choice. When they do the chores they are rewarded. If they aren't there is something taken away. I do believe in paying the kids for a job well done- good grades and finished chores. And I also believe in taking away the xBox when the job isn't done- F's on the report card and dirty dishes. I don't make them clean dishes (although I do try to make them do their homework), I give them a choice. And over time they learn that if they give, they get. Responsibility being taught through trial and error not verbal explanation.

15. Celebrate The Heck Out Of Holidays
I'm a holiday nut. Birthdays are a HUGE deal in my house. Cakes, decorations, and presents galore. Every kid deserves to be celebrated at least one day out of the year. So celebrate them! Christmas is another huge day (belief in magic is such an amazing thing). Thanksgiving is avidly enjoyed. Even small holidays like July 4th and Valentine's Day are big deals in my house. And they should be. Every kid should be subject to adoration during the holidays. It gives me a chance to appreciate them, and them a chance to enjoy simply having a day to enjoy.

16. Say Yes
I say 'Yes' a lot... maybe too much. But it's a word that not a lot of kids here. 'Can I go to the mall with my friends?' Yes, but you need to be home by dinner or else you can't go next time. 'Can I get a bike?' Yes, if you do your chores for an entire month to earn it. 'Can we go to Red Lobster for dinner tonight?' Yes. Just because. Yes is a great word and I throw it around freely. And when kid's hear it often, they become more apt to actually listen when you do say 'no'.

17. Be Proud
I am proud of every kid in my life. So proud. I brag about them to everyone. When they get an A on a test, everyone in the town knows about it. I post pictures of their arts and crafts on my facebook page way too often. I let them know how great they are, and how proud I am to have them in my life. Because there is no better way to instill confidence, than to be ridiculously proud of a kid that deserves your pride.

18. Be Happy
This isn't always easy. But a happy household isn't created with an unhappy parent. The ONLY way to have a cheerful home, is to be smiling yourself. So start every day with a GOOD morning and end every evening with a GOOD night. A good mood can go a long way.

19. Appreciate Them
Every kid should know they are appreciated. Say 'thank you' every single time they help out. Give them gratitude for every kind word they say. Appreciate them when they make an effort to appreciate you. Appreciation can often go farther than good praise.

20. Love Unconditionally
They may not be your birth child or your legal child. But that doesn't mean that they don't have to be your child in your heart. Love them so deeply. It makes everything else easier. Every bad moment seems a bit better when you love the kid that's causing it. Every bad day gets a little better when a kid you love is a part of it. Every struggle is much easier to overcome when there's kid you love relying on your strength. So love them- more than they will ever know. That love will take you everywhere you want to go.


Things No One Tells You About Foster Parenting

When I became a foster parent, I dove in head first. We were in such dier need in my area that classes weren't even necessary. I signed up, passed a background check, had an interview, and two weeks later had three kids dropped off on my front door step. I'd done a bit of research, but nothing could prepare me for the experience of truly having children living in my home. And there are a few things I've learned along the way.

The first month is the hardest.
The first month is an adjustment period. Many foster kids have previously had no order to their lives. Children need regularity, but getting in the habit of a daily schedule is still difficult. Without a doubt the hardest part, for me, with every child put in my home is the first month. As expected there are many tears shed. The kids are under an enormous amount of stress- having been placed in a new environment. There is a lot of defiance against authority figures, as they begin to learn why they should respect you. They'll usually test their bounderies. And they do so because you need to earn their respect. They need to know how you'll handle certain situations. They need to know what's expected of them. But once those things have been learned every single one of my kids settles themselves down and makes themselves comfortable. The first month is the hardest, but the time following that is when you truly start to grow as a family.

Bedtime is difficult.
During the day there are a lot of things to clear kids minds, but at night- once the lights are turned off, everything bad can easily come rushing back. I've seen this time and time again, with all ages of kids. There are a few ways to discourage it. Bedtime stories, watching a children's movie in bed, or having a talk before they go to sleep all help clear their minds. I find books and movies work best- as they can then fall asleep with their minds on something other than their own thoughts.

Sometimes social workers are wrong.
Over time, no one is going to know your kid(s) as well as you do. You've lived with them. You've seen their ups and downs. You know them; the good, the bad, the ugly. And that's why it's important for you to express your knowledge of the kids to other people involved in their lives. One of my foster children was misdiagnosed with ADHD and I began to notice that the medicine she was taking had an adverse effect on her. Without her medicine she was a lovely, hyper, normal child. With her medicine she was a zombie plagued with a horrible case of insomnia. It took a while and a lot of fighting, but eventually I corrected her diagnosis and had her removed from medication. Don't always assume social workers, case workers, and legal officials know what's right for your kid. Trust your own gut feeling- your motherly instincts are there for a reason.

Your relationships with the kids will never die.
My kids are my kids- no matter how long they've been away from my home or how far away they are. They'll always be a part of my family. They'll always hold a dear place in my heart. And to many people's surprise- they consider me family too. I keep in touch with all of my kids. I make sure they get Christmas and a nice birthday every year. I'm still a safe home for one's who need it- even if they're over 18. Once you've been a mother to a child- even for just a few weeks, you will always be a mother. Motherhood never dies. And that's the same in the kids eyes. If you have truly loved them, they will truly love you too. That's one thing they fail to mention in many classes. We're all taught to 'let go', but they forget to tell us it's okay to hold on.

You're a foster parent to the birth parent too.
Too many people hate birth parents. They feel like their mistakes define them. But as a foster parent it is not your place to judge. You are merely there to care for the kids. And by caring for the kids it's your responsibility to attempt to let them have a good relationship with their birth parents. I always extend my hand to the birth parents. They are included in holidays, recieve pictures and regular updates, and have regular contact with their kids. I fight for the birth parents as much as a I fight for the kids. I want there to be a 'happily ever after'. And by having a foster parent's support, many birth parents will feel even more motivated to get on and stay on the right track.

January Foster Parent Bucket-List

My New Years Resolution this year? Create a bucket list for each month of five things I can do with my foster kids. Then DO THEM! If you'd like to join me, I'll be posting my "Monthly Foster Parent Bucket List" on the 1st of each month on this blog!

Make A New-Years Resolution List: On January 1st, take a moment to sit down as a family, and write down new years resolutions together. Let your kiddo pick out any goals they want to work towars this year, and make a promise to help them achieve them.

Visit A Local Children's Museum: Sometime throughout this month, visit a children's museum. Make a day of it. The admission price is worth the learning experience. Not only will your child be filled with educational exploration- they'll have a memory that will last a lifetime.

Learn To Cook A New Cultural Food Together: Find a food related to your child's ethnicity or culture. If they are caucasion- trace their last name to the region of Europe they were from and cook a meal that's popular there. If they are from a specific Asian country- look for a food that's often eaten there. If your child is hispanic look for traditional Mexican foods. These tehcniques can be used for all races of children.

Go Ice Skating: If you can find a local ice-skating rink, make a point to visit. Even if you yourself aren't a star skater- they'll usually have children's lessons that are well worth the money. Your child can learn a new skill, while enjoying a traditional winter activity.

Buy And Do A Science Experiment Kit: There are a variety of science kits available on the market. Most are $10.00 to $15.00 and offer great educational value. You can mine for stones and gems or build a volcano. Whatever you and your child choose- you'll have fun learning together!