How to Help Your Foster Kids Pass Their Developmental Stages With Flying Colors
According to ego psychologist Erik Erikson, all people go through eight specific stages of development. These psychosocial development stages help to determine self-actualization later in life.
As you might expect, healthily going through those stages is important for all children. For foster children, however, it becomes even more imperative. Foster kids have often gone through traumatic experiences or may not have experienced a real “home” until recently.
How can you provide a support system for them in your home? How can you help them pass their developmental stages now, so they can be more stable and secure as they eventually transition into adulthood?
Let’s take a look at Erikson’s stages and what you can do to help your foster kids through each one.
Developing Stages Through Relationships
Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development are:
- Trust versus mistrust
- Autonomy versus shame and doubt
- Initiative versus guilt
- Industry versus inferiority
- Identity versus confusion
- Intimacy versus isolation
- Generativity versus stagnation
- Integrity versus despair
If you take a look at that list, you’ll see that all of the “positive” sides have one thing in common – they can all be achieved by forming a healthy relationship with your foster kids. To encourage them, you have to build trust. From there, you can work with them through each additional stage.
One way to earn that trust is to make sure they know they’re in a safe environment. They might have experienced trauma or even abuse in the past. When they know they’re safe and won’t be harmed, they’re more likely to open themselves up to learning and growing in different ways. Keeping them safe and comfortable every day is important, but it’s also crucial to have emergency preparedness plans in place for your whole family. If you live in an area that is prone to natural disasters like storms or flooding, incorporating your foster kids into your safety plan will further assure them that they are loved and cared for.
Familiarizing yourself with Erikson’s stages of development can help you better determine where your foster kid currently is and where they might need help. Trust versus mistrust often begins at infancy, but it can “start over” when they are somewhere new. If you have a preschool-aged child, you can focus on initiative versus guilt. Adolescents often need guidance through identity versus role confusion, and young adults can struggle with intimacy versus isolation if they aren’t taking the right approach.
So, what can you do to help your foster kids through these developmental stages? A combination of research and experience is the best way to work through them. There are plenty of resources available that can help you to guide your foster children at any age. But, don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember what it was like to be a child at that age and think about how you were feeling, where you were struggling, and what your own parents or guardians did to help you through. You have more existing knowledge than you might think.
Helping With Roadblocks
There will be challenges along the way. That’s true with every child. But, for a foster kid who has already had a hard life, it’s normal to expect roadblocks. Learning how to navigate them and how to keep moving forward will be an important key in helping them pass their developmental stages.
They might have emotional delays due to what they’ve been through. Trauma impacts everyone differently. In some cases, your foster kids might benefit from professional mental health help.
Everyday “roadblocks” can also become a problem. You want your foster kids to feel comfortable in your home, but you shouldn’t let those creature comforts keep them from growing. For example, you might have a child who loves playing video games. But, too much gaming can cause problems like:
- Emotional suppression
- Social disconnection
- Relationship issues
- Decreased motivation
Make sure the comfort and fun you’re giving your foster kids aren’t hindering them in other ways. It’s about striking a healthy balance and finding ways to make them feel safe, secure, and happy while encouraging them through each developmental stage. You have a unique opportunity as a foster parent to make a big impact, no matter how old your foster kids are. Take advantage of that as much as you can, and take pride in knowing you’re doing something beneficial for the future of those children.
Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to child development, health and wellness, mindfulness, and productivity. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn