It’s that time of year again. The weather is getting cooler and schools are opening up for the new term. Returning to school can be both an exciting and stressful time for foster carers and for foster children. But for foster teens in supported lodgings, it can present a different set of challenges. While foster teens in supported lodgings are learning to live independently, there are still many ways in which you can help them prepare for returning to school and give them vital life skills that will aid them down the road as they enter adulthood.

If you’re considering fostering a teenager, or foster care in general please reach out – we’re available by phone or email to answer any questions you have. You can also fill out our online form here.

Help your foster teen cope with stress and anxiety

The transition back to school can be overwhelming for some teenagers, especially if they have recently experienced trauma, loss, or isolation. You can support your foster teen by listening to their concerns, validating their emotions, and encouraging them to seek professional help, if needed. You can also teach them some valuable coping skills, such as breathing exercises, mindfulness, journaling, or positive affirmations. This will show them how to self-sooth, so that even if they get overwhelmed when they’re away from home, they’ll have the skills to manage their stress and anxiety themselves at short notice.

Make sure they have the necessary supplies

To make the transition back to school as stress free as possible, make sure your foster teen has everything they need for their classes including textbooks as well as stationary such as notebooks, pens, pencils, calculators, etc, all of which are covered by the allowance for foster carers. You can also pre-emptively check if there are any school forms that need to be filled out or updated, such as vaccination records, permission slips, or emergency contacts. Be sure to involve your foster teen in the process: take them on the back to school shopping trip and organize things with them to make them feel more engaged in the start of the new school year. This will also teach them to be proactive when beginning new life chapters such as going to college, or their first day at a new job.

Encourage your teen to reconnect with their peers

Being social is an important but often overlooked part of school life for teenagers. Connecting with their peers can help your foster teen feel less isolated and more motivated to learn and engage in school life to the fullest. It’s a good idea to encourage your foster teen to reach out to their friends and reconnect before the term starts. It’s also a great idea to encourage them to join a few clubs, sports, or participate in more extracurricular activities. If your foster teen is struggling with any aspect of school life or particularly stressed, you should encourage them to reach out to their teachers or if the school has a guidance counsellor, to contact them. Not only can they be an invaluable resource for academic success, but they can also help to equip your foster teen with coping strategies if they’re struggling with their mental health.

Teach them to establish a healthy routine

Anyone fostering a teenager knows that they need enough sleep, nutritious food, physical activity, and downtime to function well at school, and in life generally. You can help your teen readjust to being back on a school schedule by encouraging them to reset their sleep patterns back to normal at least two weeks before the first day of school. You can also teach them the importance of preparing healthy meals and snacks, as well as getting on top of homework, and extracurricular activities to avoid last-minute stress. As always, preparation is key!

Provide your foster teen with love and support

Of course, no matter if they’re returning to school or not, you should provide your foster teen with support and encouragement, but during this time they may need some extra encouragement. For teenagers struggling with social anxiety, this can be a particularly trying time. Having some treats ready for when they get home from their first day, or carving out some time that evening to talk about how they’re doing – including what went well/what didn’t – can be a great way to show your foster teen that even though they’re learning to live independently, they still have someone to love and support them.

If you’re interested in foster care, please reach out to Orchard Fostering today. We’re available on the phone or via email – you can also fill out a form directly on our contact page.