When Mike and I first became foster parents to BlueJay more than two years ago – and it felt as though utter chaos descended upon our home – our village stepped up with support. One friend brought us a full dinner, complete with homemade bread. Another friend sent a gift card to the local ice cream shop. A group of friends banded together to purchase a family pack of tickets to the local – super expensive – amusement park.
When we became foster parents a second time to James earlier this year, one friend hopped online to buy him a few new shirts for summer while another friend sent us four tickets to a minor league baseball game.
I’m often asked how non-foster parents can help support their foster parent friends and family in the wake of a new placement. First of all, I give a big thumbs-up to all of the above. Every single one of those acts brought us to tears. Every offer of support lifted us up.
In addition, I bring you this Gift Guide for the Foster Parent in Your Life (*bugle sound*) courtesy of UncommonGoods.
(Side note: I’ve purchased several gifts from UncommonGoods over the years, and although I’m always impressed with the quality, I’m most impressed with the company’s commitment to offering products that are both environmentally friendly and socially responsible. This is a company that donates $1 for every sale – and the consumer gets to pick the recipient of that donation. Win-win-win.)
1. Give the gift of relaxation.
Foster parents – especially if they’re stay-at-home parents – are often on their feet all day, both in the physical sense and in the emotional sense. They manage not only the cooking of meals and the washing of laundry; they also manage the child’s trauma, which can come out in any number of unexpected ways. Not to mention the daily phone calls, emails and visits from social workers, healthcare providers and therapists.
Foster parents need stress relief. Think warm baths with colorful aromatic bath salts. An organic muscle rub. Herbal warming slippers for him or her.
Or, my personal favorite, this handmade wooden foot massager, which looks to me like stress relief for the whole family.
2. Give inspiration.
Some days are harder than others. I can’t imagine there is a single foster parent on this planet who hasn’t had a day (a week? a month?) where they haven’t asked themselves, “What on Earth was I thinking signing up for this?” Sometimes when you’re in the thick of it, you need a little reminder of who you are and why you’ve taken this path.
I love this inspirational paperweight that can be displayed on a desk or table and changed daily with a series of cards to remind us to be anything from thankful or reliable to adventurous and bold. Also, this silk-wrapped “warrior” bracelet that is soft in feel but fierce in its reminder to stay empowered in your beliefs.
And don’t forget about the dads. Mike may not have been home all day with me and the kids, but oftentimes his reality was more difficult than mine. He had to compartmentalize what was happening at home and go to work every day with a clear, creative head. And then he had to come back home to God-knows-what every evening. Remind the dads how important their role is with this Dad’s Playbook full of inspirational sports quotes or an Anatomy of a Father’s Heart screen print.
(And FYI, UncommonGoods has pulled together two great collections of gifts for men for you to peruse — check them out on this page and this page.)
3. Give nourishment.
Foster parents forget to eat and they forget to hydrate. You know how I know this? Because I fainted in my kitchen one morning after having forgotten to properly nourish my own body too many days in a row. Consider a small care package filled with non-perishable snacks, treats, coffees or teas (check out this “Good Morning Tea Set” made with ingredients from small tea farms around the world, or these sweet – but healthy – green pea cookies). Make the package as grown-upy as possible so the kids won’t be too tempted to beg for a taste.
4. Give comfort.
Maybe one of the very best things you can do for your foster parent friends is to help provide the kids in their care with comfort. I love the idea behind this color-your-own-pillowcase, which not only offers the kiddos a quiet, artistic activity, but also is something they can personalize for their new bedroom.
But I’ve saved my absolute favorite thing for last: These adorable worry-eating plush pals.
Kids can write down all their worries – from monsters under the bed to the anxiety of starting a new school in the middle of the year – and “feed” them to these adorable monsters. I can see how these would be especially helpful for kids in care who carry an abnormally heavy burden of anxiety and fear from home to home. (Find more super sweet room decor, toy and book ideas for littles here.)
Foster parenthood isn’t for everyone, but the support foster parents receive from their friends, family and extended community is crucial. Even if it’s just the occasional text or phone call to say, “We’re here. We’re with you.”
(Disclaimer #1: Most of the ideas here would actually be great for a new parent of any type, be it biological, adoptive or foster.)
(Disclaimer #2: This post is sponsored by UncommonGoods. However, all opinions are my own.)