Each child is different. Though the various foster children who come into your home may have some things in common, all of them will have something special about them that will make your experience with them entirely unique. Foster children will try to push your buttons and they will each have eccentric personality characteristics that will challenge you as a parent. The key to being successful at parenting foster children who are all very different from each other is consistency. In order to be successful at working with kids who are coming from very different backgrounds and very different genetic predispositions, you need to be consistent, otherwise you’ll start to feel as though you’re going mad. Consistency is the key to being successful at discipline as well as praise, and it is the key to maintaining your own personal sanity.
Children do thrive in consistent environments. Families can weather all sorts of ups and downs, but if the parents are consistent, children will be able to tolerate it. For example, schedule changes may be difficult for some children while trying new foods might be hard for others. The reality is, as a foster parent, you may not always be able to maintain a regular schedule as new foster children with different needs come into your home. You may not always be able to guarantee that there are hot dogs on hand. It’s okay that you can’t control everything that happens. Consistency, however, is about controlling yourself. Your response to your child’s rising anxiety levels about anything should always be approximately the same. Your response to a child’s refusal to eat food that’s good for him should always be the same. This is the kind of consistency that helps children thrive. They can grow to depend on adults who respond predictably to their own behavior.
Now, at the same, it’s vitally important that your response to a child’s behavior or to a situation that is beyond your control, is positive or at least logical. Yelling or freaking out does not count as “consistency” even if you do it all the time. The reason why is because yelling and freaking out are behaviors that indicate that you’ve “lost it”. You are no longer in control of yourself or anybody else. Consistently maintaining self-control is what children come to depend on over time. If you can control yourself, you can control the world (sort of). Being consistent means thinking about your response to stressful situations and being a role model, rather than just a person at the mercy of his or her environment.
Whatever life throws at you, if you’re a foster parent, you need to have a personal philosophy that can provide you with guidance and keep you consistent in your response to stressful or unexpected situations. Consistency is key to creating an environment that feels safe and predictable to foster children who are living in your home.