Thursday, October 29, 2015


School holidays are no holiday for the foster parent.

They're no holiday for any parent, but I find them harder work than with my own children, and not just physically.

With my own children it was easier to get a balance between the 3 ways of spending a block of days when there's no school; those three seem to be;

  • them having me-time  
  • doing things as a family  
  • them doing things with friends. 
With my own children some mornings they needed to just chill out around the house, get up later than on school days, veg in front of a screen or do some mssging. 
One or two afternoons I'd pile them into the car and we'd do something as a family, something ten-pin-bowling-ish. Or stay in and bake brownies.
Other times they'd hook up with friends at our house or at the friend's house. 


Maybe it's not universal, but the children I've looked after seem okay on the first two, but struggle on the last one, the hooking up with friends. 

We foster parents are well aware that looked-after children need help in lots of ways depending on the child and their backgrounds. Things like feeding them better than they've been used to, getting them sleeping better, looking after their teeth and hair, bathing regularly, getting their academic progress on track. 

Helping them find some peace and self-esteem is huge too, but harder to mentor, harder to measure.

The big thing that seems widespread and really, really hard to nail is their friendships. Their ability to socialise is often sad to watch. I find this aspect of our job is highlighted during school holidays. 

Looked-after children are often short of a good solid friendship group. They struggle to keep a "Bestie". I wonder why, and what we in fostering can do to help?


As to the question why are they poor at friendships; maybe their role models weren't much good with other people. Their parents and wider family may have been chaotic so those role models won't have helped the child learn about how to interact positively.
There may have been antagonism among siblings, which is where children do a lot of learning about interaction. 

Transfer that bad start at home to the playground.  Most children bring a reasoned interest in other children and the beginnings of an ability to give and take. The troubled child brings different basics, and can end up a loner. Worse still, can end up doing the things that were done to them; pick on vulnerable ones or get in squabbles. 

Schools report this as anti-social stuff, and it can set in as their personality, maybe for life.

As to the question of what we in fostering can do to help; I think we're somewhat on our own here. What I mean by that is that all the other important areas of child development such as nutrition, physical and academic progress, attachment (to significant adults) and emotional development are comparatively well researched and understood. 


The matter of making and maintaining good friendhip groups is one of the most crucial aspects of childhood, it brings a sense of safety (in numbers) it teaches co-operation which is great for later family responsibilites not to mention workplace success. 

Yet what do we know about it, and how to mentor it?

By comparison to the other important things very little.

Here's an example of how important we all think friends are; the first ever so-called help book was written in 1936, is one of the top 100 sellers, and it was;

"How To Win Friends and Influence People". 

Turns out everyone wants to learn how to make friends. The book makes a stab at it, but it's for adults. And it's 80 years ago.

But it seems to remain the main bible of making friends; c'mon you psychologists out there, time for an update surely?

There is stuff out there; Google 'how to help children make friends' and you get some decent starter material eg

There are things you can try, but I end up feeling so sad for my looked-afters who seem destined to be a bit lonelier than most.

I've got pals I see quite often, sometimes they come to the house and we go through eavh others lives. We're all more interested in each other's goings on than our own. Maybe that's the best we can do, along with making sure, wherever possible that our house is as peaceful and co-operative as posssible, and that the business of getting along with others is demonstrated, and kind of rubs off.

Funny, in fostering even having a pal around for a cuppa and getting their news becomes part of the job.


  1. Ella and I have a theory - I blame the parents of the ordinary kids. When we were living in the Children's Home we got almost no invitations to normal houses. It always felt that we were seen a potential burglars "casing the joint" or "ladies of the night" looking to get our claws into their darling son.

    Adding to the problem was that parents didn't want their kids coming round to the Home and so the whole idea of taking turns for a venue didn't work so friendships struggled.

    1. You're not wrong Authors. I find parents of ordinary kids either over-cautious or sometimes over-keen (people often want to help too much). We had one child who kept getting invited to classmates to play for all sorts of slightly wrong reasons:
      'He's quite outspoken your boy, we'd like some of that to rub off on ours'
      "He'll get along well with ours, they both have trouble making friends"

  2. I'm really sorry you guys had that experience. We must be lucky as generally the parents I’ve meet have been really positive and supportive. Not always sensitive, sometimes too curious, but at least welcoming.

    That said the kids themselves have not always been good a making and maintaining their friendships, and I have experienced the same issues as the Secret Carer. One of mine really struggled as she has poor socialisation for all her short life, and at 10 still couldn’t handle not getting her own way and was completely unable to compromise, a “my way or no play” attitude that saw her switch friends daily. I sympathised, no experience of friendships at a young age, and then having so little say in her day to day life it was no wonder that the playground was one place she felt she could get some control.

    1. Thanks Mooglet.
      It's a shame they are left to their own devices in playgrounds, even the tiniest bit of help with their recreation would do wonders. I guess in the end you can't protect them from everything, and as long as the home is a safe place for them they stand a better chance of sorting out the rest of the outside world.