The circumstances leading to being placed in care — neglect, substance abuse, poverty, inability to care for a child — mean significant adjustments for children in care. Being separated from their family and culture can affect their mental health, self-esteem, and overall well-being.
Connecting children in care to their cultures can help them feel affirmed and loved — and help them develop the skills they need to succeed in life. Continue reading for tips to help children in care stay connected to their culture.
Be Open to Talking, But Don’t Force It
If a child doesn’t want to talk about their culture, don’t force them into talking about it. Children in care may feel isolated, but allowing them the space and opportunity to talk about their culture will help them feel more connected with themselves and others around them.
Use Books, Photos, and Videos
Books, photos, and videos can help children feel connected to their culture. For example, when possible, use photos and videos of their family or other people who are important to them. Then, talk about them so they can learn more about their family history.
Have children’s books available that show different races and cultures. There is a bias toward “traditional” white families in children’s books, so it’s essential to offer a range of books so that children can identify with the characters and family makeup. When selecting children’s books, be mindful of the illustrations, stereotypes, relationships, and messages about different lifestyles.
Consider Using Artwork and Symbols To Decorate
Celebrate the child’s heritage with artwork or symbols that reflect their culture. Our homes reflect who we are and how we view the world. Celebrating the art of a different culture normalizes it. Don’t limit it to only the child’s room. Incorporating the child’s culture of origin throughout your home communicates the message: this is part of who we are.
Attend Community Cultural Events
If you live in a culturally diverse area, seize opportunities to participate in events and programs that are open to the public. If none are available in your community, consider starting some. All children benefit from learning about other cultures, and more families like yours are seeking a place to do so.
Incorporate Ethnic Meals
Providing multicultural foods with your family can be a fun way to learn about other cultures. Most grocery stores have a decent selection of spices, foods, and ingredients to make dishes that are indigenous to other regions of the world. In addition, the internet offers an endless supply of recipes from all over the globe. Of course, there’s always takeout if you’re not a cook. You could even create an international meal to incorporate all the cultures represented in your family.
Make Culturally Religious and Educational Options Available
While this step may be challenging, it’s important that a child learn their religious history. Religion can play a significant role in culture, and ignoring it can rob a child of their history. For those who have culturally specific educational opportunities, consider those, too. For example, begin by teaching small phrases in their native language and encourage the whole family to learn them.
Discuss Current Cultural Events
Age-appropriate conversations about events and news affecting a child’s culture are another way to help them learn about their culture. Help them think through stories they hear by asking questions to encourage discussions.
Share Your Cultural Identity
Talking with children in care about your cultural identity can help them understand how important it is. Share your family traditions and history with them. Learning about other cultures paves the way to discuss similarities and differences.
Take a Field Trip
Although it may not be possible to take the child in care to their country of origin, there are other ways to immerse them in their heritage. For example, trips to museums and exhibits can bring it to life.
Fostering children requires an ongoing commitment to learning, growing, and building community and connections. Promoting cultural connection in a manner that empowers and communicates love and acceptance can help children in care form a healthy sense of self.
Change a Child’s Life Today!
Consider becoming an SOS Illinois Foster Parent. As an SOS Foster Parent, you can provide a safe, loving atmosphere that has the power to change a child’s life. One thing that sets SOS Children’s Villages Illinois apart from traditional foster care is full-time, professional Foster Parents. The SOS Illinois model places Foster Parents in single-family homes in one of its Villages, which up to six children, ranging in age from infants to young adults, call home.
If becoming a foster parent isn’t for you, there are many other ways to support foster children and other foster parents. Donations change lives! You can also help by participating in an SOS Illinois fundraising event or contributing to our Amazon wish list. The generosity of donors has enabled us to provide safe, stable, loving homes for thirty years.