COVID-19 has completely changed the way the world works, from business and education to hospitality and holidays. Fostering is no exception. During lockdown, people were confined to their homes with limits on what they could do for the first time in their lives.
For foster carers, this meant having to spend all day with the children in their care who could not attend school or social activities as normal. Even post-lockdown with more flexibility on what you can do, keeping children busy and entertained until school starts again can be a struggle.
There’s no need to worry about how to fill the days however, as we’ve got handy tips on how to keep everyone busy, happy and healthy.
How can I keep kids busy?
There are an endless number of ways that you can keep children interested and engaged with activities inside and outdoors. Even if the children are different ages, there are also plenty of options that everyone will enjoy that can be modified for little ones or teenagers.
Home cinema – Choose a film and play it on a TV, laptop or even make your own smartphone projector (there are videos on Youtube showing how to do this.) Buy popcorn or other treats and make ‘tickets’ from paper or cardboard to give everyone before the film starts.
Game night – Let everyone take it in turn to choose a game on a set night of the week. There are plenty of games suitable for a wide age range and trying a new game once or twice a week will keep things interesting. You don’t have to keep buying board-games either. You’ll find plenty of online games and quizzes to choose from, or you can buy one online game package with lots of mini games included.
Cooking class – During lockdown there were plenty of people dusting off their aprons and rediscovering their love for baking and cookery. Why not decide on a recipe together and cook up a storm? Younger ones can help with safe steps like reading the recipe or mixing ingredients while older ones can learn important new skills. Enjoying the results afterwards and sitting down to a shared meal will be an extra bonus.
Thankfully, there’s no longer a restriction on how much you can go outside like there was in March and April. That means there’s a whole world of activities to choose from in the great outdoors.
Picnic in the park – Make sandwiches and snacks at home, pack a blanket and take a walk to your local park for some fresh air and socially distanced sunshine. Not only will it do everyone good to get out and stretch their legs, but enjoying a picnic together is a fun, relaxing activity that everyone can enjoy.
Mini Olympics – Another great way to get fresh air and exercise is to create a mini Olympics. Build obstacle courses from household items, create challenges like 20 star-jumps in a row or bring back traditional games like egg-and-spoon races. You can even make medals for the winners and runners up to wear using cardboard, crayons and string or ribbon.
All of these activities are not only great for bonding and having fun, but keeping busy and learning new skills is an important part of having good mental health.
What else can I do to look after their mental health?
Lockdown was unfamiliar territory for many people, and some will still experience anxiety, sadness and fear for a while to come. It’s important to remind foster children that they can talk to you openly about any problems or uncertainty they may be facing. Reassure them that though things may currently be scary and different, eventually it will pass, and life will continue as normal.
Many charities are calling on the government to ensure that mental health programmes for young people and children are fully supported and funded following COVID-19. You can get involved by signing petitions or fundraising for a charity and alk with the children about the positive impact of supporting each other and the community.
Charities and helplines can also offer support and advice about protecting and improving mental health if you’re struggling or need someone to talk to. The NHS even has dedicated COVID-19 support information covering everything from the importance of looking after your physical health to damaging effects of fake news.
Taking time out for yourself
Being a foster carer can be demanding at the best of times. When you have the additional worries and problems that come with COVID-19 and keeping everyone healthy and reassured, it can leave you especially drained. It’s vital that as well as making sure your foster children are taken care of, you also look after yourself.
Try to make some time for yourself every day. It could be 20 minutes in a morning to practise meditation or yoga or an hour at night to do a hobby you enjoy. Doing activities that are just for you will boost your mood and make you focus on yourself.
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to functioning properly, so try to have a night-time routine where you can unwind before you go to bed. Avoid watching or reading the news right before you sleep as this could make you feel anxious and prevent you from resting properly.
Learn to speak to friends or support workers about any issues you may be facing and never worry that your problems may not ‘be serious enough.’ All problems are valid and deserve consideration and helpful solutions and having someone to talk to can help lighten your mental load.
Speak to the experts
Remember, the team at Olive Branch Fostering is always on hand for our carers. If there’s anything we can do to help with fostering during this tricky time, don’t hesitate to contact us. You can send us an enquiry using our contact form, get in touch over email, or give us a call on 01706 558910.