What about me?
This April is Stress Awareness Month, a month to bring public awareness of the causes of stress and ways to combat it.
Stress is normal in our everyday life and not an uncommon factor for foster carers. In fact, they are very closely linked together. There are so many elements that can cause stress for foster carers. Having to manage their biological families, work, social workers, relationships, housework, finances and then the added pressure of having the responsibility of a young person/s who often have very complex behavioural, emotional and sometimes even physical needs.
Fostering takes up a large percentage of a carers life, often leaving little space or energy for other activities or downtime to relax and clear their head. this can lead to stress and general tiredness, which sometimes means foster carers are not being able provide the best support for children.
Occasionally feeling stressed is not a bad thing and is not something to be ashamed of; It is natural especially when you have huge demands. What is important is to be able to recognise it and seek appropropriate support from the team around you. If you are feeling stressed it is important to find ways to manage and deal with it. Ensuring good mental health should be the main priority for any foster carer, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.
We’ve put together some advice to help foster carers recognise and deal with stress, before it gets overwhelming and impacts the young people in placement.
One, two, three. . .exhale
Taking a moment for yourself is so important, especially if you are the primary carer. It can be as simple as taking 30 minutes out of the day to have a cuppa and some time to think or keeping the children occupied with an external activity so you can have the day to yourself. But taking the opportunity to have some well deserved ‘ME’ time is necessary.
Planning and organisation can be an ultimate lifesaver. Having to manage multiple schedules can be overwhelming at times, but having something as simple as a planner stuck on the fridge so everyone knows what’s happening that week and where they need to be (including yourself) can be a huge help.
You will need support as a foster carer and it’s vital that you establish a strong support network. From professional support provided by your agency, family and friends and foster carer support groups. Having a safe space to ‘vent’ can really help to eliminate some of those stressful days. Just being able to have someone to talk and listen to you can make a huge difference.
Respite is recognised as a way to support foster carers and gives them a much needed break. It doesn’t suit everyone and if you feel your Looked After Child will have negative feelings about respite . It is important to discuss it with your supervision social worker about other alternative ways of support. Respite can be taken if you need to spend time with your own family or simply need some time to yourself.
Having a break does not mean your weak; it means you are human and it will make a huge difference to your own mental health. As a foster carer, you have to put yourself first as you are one of the most important people in your children and foster children’s life and if you don’t function effectively, they won’t be able to.
At Ascent fostering we are keen on that our foster carers achieve the correct work life balance and support their own mental health appropriately and proactively manage the stress in their lives.