Marriage can be tough. Every marriage is going to experience challenges from time to time. It is only normal. Foster parenting can be difficult, as well, as there are unique challenges that foster parents face as they care for children in need. Tragically, many marriages will suffer while taking care of children in foster care. When you are putting much of your energies and time into your foster child, you may be so drained and exhausted that you soon neglect your spouse. Further complicating this, some foster children are skilled at pitting one parent against the other, bringing some heated and very unproductive arguments to your home. Without a doubt, there are many obstacles that can challenge a healthy marriage when becoming a foster parent. In order for a marriage to survive while caring for children in foster care, it is necessary to put into practice several steps and strategies.
- ensure you have commitment from your family
- schedule time for your marriage
- learn to communicate together
- take time for yourself
- let the children behavior separate the two of you
- think you can do it alone
- ignore the word “no”
- fail to continue learn and find resources
It is most important that you and your spouse are both in agreement when it comes to being a foster parent. There will be times when you will rely upon your spouse for help, strength, and decision making. Furthermore, if you have children of your own living with you, you will also need them to be supportive and on board with your decision to care for foster children. Your own children may have concerns. Perhaps they are worried that they will have to share you with their new foster sibling. They may resent that there is a new person joining their family. Ask them to share their feelings with you, and listen to what they have to say. Reassure your own children that you will always be there for them.
Marriage takes not only commitment, but work as well, from both partners. Otherwise, a marriage will become unhealthy, and soon fall apart. With this in mind, it is necessary that you spend some alone time with your spouse as often as it is possible. Perhaps schedule a date night once every two weeks, or once a month. If that is simply not possible, perhaps a lunch together, a walk in the neighborhood with the two of you, or another activity that allows the two of you to have some private time together. This time alone is important, as you can share your concerns, desires, hopes, and wants, not only as a foster parent, but as a married couple. Another way to spend time together is by closing the bedroom door once a week, grab some snacks and food, and watch a movie in bed together. Work to make your marriage the cornerstone of your home, and work to make it a productive and happy one.
Any good marriage is built on strong communication. In fact, many experts say it is the most important tool you can use for your marriage. Be open and honest about your feelings with your spouse, and do not hide things from your partner. If something is bothering you, share this concern with your loved one. When your spouse is sharing their concerns with you, be sure to listen; simply listen. When you are having an open and honest conversation with your spouse, make sure there are no distractions around. Turn the TV, radio, computer, and phone off. Try to find some place where you will be uninterrupted by children. The art of listening is one that needs to be practiced and worked upon in order for it to truly work.
Don’t neglect who you are and what makes you special. After all, your spouse fell in love with you for who you are! Try to engage in your hobbies and interests as often as you can. Go out to lunch with friends. Read some books for enjoyment or for self help. Don’t forget some personal quiet time, as well. If you keep yourself happy and in a good mood, it will help to ensure that you are in a better mood and spirits for your foster child, your spouse, and others.
Some foster children, like all children, know how to manipulate one parent over the other. Remain united with your spouse, and make sure that you do not allow a foster child to come between you. Along with this, do not take your foster child’s behaviors personally. Keep in mind that his behavior is a learned one, probably from the environment that he came from previously. Your foster child is behaving the way he was taught and allowed before he came to live with you. Do not let his behaviors affect you and your marriage.
No one really understands a foster parent like another foster parent. We can laugh and cry at stories, as well as look for guidance from others who have experienced similar situations. Along with this, training hours and valuable information can be shared. Join your local foster parent association. If there is not one in your area, ask your local child welfare agency to assist you in starting one up.
Not only can you find support from a local foster parent association, but there are also great state led organizations, as well. Along with this, the National Foster Parent Association is a wonderful nationwide support group of foster parents that brings together foster parents and advocates from across the country. There are also faith based groups and organizations that support foster children and foster parents.
There are times in all of our lives when our plates are full, and our limit has been reached. Sometimes, we say yes to too many requests, and take on more than we can handle. When this occurs, stress builds, responsibilities are not met, and we cease to be helpful. Instead, we become even more exhausted, over burdened, and may experience feelings of depression. Without a doubt, your marriage will be harmed, as well. The word “no” is a powerful word, and it can be a difficult word to say to others who are seeking our help. Yet, there are times when we all need to say it. Therefore, we need to make sure that we do not overextend ourselves.eir jobs for long periods of time, as work burnout is common in child welfare careers.
For foster parents, there is an explosion of information being released, each day it seems, related to foster care. New books, websites, articles, and other resources are becoming available on a larger scale than ever before. When you seek out and locate help and resources about all things foster care, you become a stronger foster parent, and thus help to strengthen your marriage, as well.
If we do not take care of ourselves, we may very well become filled with anxiety, grow weary, and face burnout. Yet, when we take the steps discussed above, they help to alleviate much of the stress and anxieties that can quickly overwhelm a marriage. When we do take time for ourselves, for our marriage, and our own children, we not only help ourselves and our family, we also help the foster children living in our homes. May you all take time for yourselves, and may you all continue to care for children in need.