Did you know that it is "Stress Awareness Day"! As a parent, it is completely normal to experience ‘parenting stress’ – a form of stress which is caused by intense feelings of not being able to cope anymore with the demands and pressures. After all, being a parent is one of the most stressful (yet rewarding) jobs out there. Not only are you expected to look after yourself and your interests but you must also support a child in their development, which can all get too much sometimes.
Particularly for foster parents, this type of stress can quickly arise when taking care of a young person with emotional, behavioural and physical needs. Therefore, it’s important to spot the signs of stress earlier on to prevent potential placement breakdowns.
On Stress Awareness Day, the team at Mosaic Foster Care - one of the UK’s leading therapeutic foster agencies, would like to share our top tips for reducing and managing stress as foster parents. The below tips come from our lead therapist, Aly:
When you’re a foster parent, you can often forget to check in with your own feelings. Feelings that are so important to listen to and not ignore as they are useful tools for understanding the internal worlds of our developmentally traumatised children. Thus, taking care of a young person with extreme emotions, that you need to understand and empathise with continually, is often an extremely exhausting process. To add to this exhaustion, there are feelings of frustration and stress that can impact on your parenting capacities.
It is so important to remember that we are human and when our minds are cloudy with stress, they need time to clear, otherwise it becomes more difficult to resist the urge to escape from the young people's intense emotions by abandoning empathy and becoming non-responsive to their needs.
Here at Mosaic Foster Care, we are big fans of Dr Amber Elliot and her many tools for therapeutic parenting. One of which is the P.I.E.S method – which is designed to show therapeutic foster parents how they can nurture their empathic brain. The tool asks you to answer the question: ‘How do I look after myself?’ With a focus on four key areas, P for Physical needs, I for Intellectual needs, E for Emotional needs and S for Supportive needs.
A strong support network is a foster parent’s greatest asset when it comes to stress. As soon as you begin to feel stressed, it is important to lean on your agency - as well as your family and friends for support. Some fostering agencies have supportive foster parents (otherwise known as respite) who will look after the child for a period of time so you can take a break.
Here at Mosaic Foster Care, we provide many opportunities for parents to unload and unwind with like-minded people. All foster parents are invited to our weekly reflective groups with our in-house therapists so you can talk about your week there. We also host a support group for just foster parents four times a year, helping you get to know each other. Finally, we are one of the only fostering agencies in the UK to provide a men’s only reflective group – allowing male foster parents to open up if they’re stressed or feeling overwhelmed by the experience.
However, this doesn’t stop you speaking to one of our therapists or your Supervising Social Worker any time you need them.
It can be hard to think about yourself when taking care of a child with complex needs but hobbies are an important stress reliever. Things like going to an exercise class or baking are great for your mental health because they help to decrease tension in your body and improve your mood. They also give you the recommended alone time you need to reflect on what is happening and how you can manage it.
For our foster parents here at Mosaic Foster Care UK, we actively encourage our families to explore hobbies outside of each other. This is because our team understand the importance of letting go of tension and coming back together in a positive mood. We host a range of school holiday activities throughout the year so your children are occupied while you explore your hobbies. There are also Support Workers on our team who can take your young person out for a few hours a day so you can go to yoga or even take a trip to the cinema!
Find out more about our therapeutic fostering services by clicking here. Otherwise, get in touch with our team and make an Enquiry.