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How to help your foster child express their feelings

Often, foster children have feelings they may not be used to feeling due to a change in environment. Because of their backgrounds, they may be used to acting a certain way without consequences, leading to difficult behaviours.

We have a list of tactics to help you and your foster child or young person talk about how they feel to tackle these unfamiliar emotions.

Our recommended tactics

1 Talk about how feelings can be expressed.

It can be a good start to ask the child about how they feel and how they think is appropriate to show that feeling, then talk them through what is a good way and what is an unhealthy way to express a certain feeling. You can then go on to show them how to control their feelings with your own examples of when you feel similar emotions.

2 Listen to your child’s feelings

It can be difficult to see a child upset or angry but sometimes they need to express their feelings to feel better afterwards. When feelings are minimised or dismissed, they will often be expressed in unhealthy ways.

3 Name the feeling

Naming feelings is the first step in helping children learn to identify them. Your child or young person will build an emotional vocabulary over time which will help them get to the point where they are able to identify those feelings and talk to you about them.

4 Resist the urge to punish

Punishment is often used when children misbehave, however, this doesn't help them deal with their emotions. Children get the impression that feeling a certain way is a negative for everyone, and as a result, they try to bottle their emotions until they get to a point where it “overflows” one day through a meltdown episode.

5 Encourage with praise

Give praises to your child whenever they talk about their feelings. This brings across the message that they did the right thing and that you are proud of them for reaching out to you and talking about feelings and emotions as opposed to lashing out.

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