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July/August 2021Vol. 22, No. 7Talking to Children in Foster Care About Their Stories

A blog post from AdoptUsKids offers advice to foster parents and those adopting children from foster care on talking to children and teens about their lives, their pasts, and the circumstances that brought them into care. The following tips can help parents navigate these conversations:

  • Use the right language-The information you share with a child and how you explain it should depend on the child's age. For example, the short sentences with basic, simple information you may give a 4-year-old while he or she sits on your lap awaiting story time are likely not suitable for a 16-year-old who is prepared for a more no-nonsense but respectable discussion. Additionally, the age level should reflect the child's developmental age rather than just their actual age. 
  • Have a plan-Prepare in advance and know what you are going to say. Remember that talking to kids about their pasts should be a conversation, not a speech. To ease the pressure on a child (and adult) during a tough talk, opt to take a drive, which eliminates the need or perceived obligation to make eye contact, or converse over a favorite meal. 
  • Continue the conversation-As you develop a relationship with your child, follow the storytelling pace you feel is appropriate and natural. Understand and help your child know that this is an open and ongoing story that will unfold as he or she is ready.
  • Share your feelings-Not only does sharing your own feelings normalize healthy expression, it also models for your child ways in which he or she can face tough facts and the feelings they evoke.
  • Be transparent-Although some details of a child's life may be difficult to share, never lie. When presented thoughtfully and at the right time, a child's full story can and should be told.