Your Foster or Adopted Child Needs Space to Heal

6 Ways to Give Your Child Space

Summertime with a son is so much different from when we didn’t have any kids. When it was just Danielle and I , summer wasn’t much different than any other time of the year.


That is all different now that we have a six-year-old son. Danielle’s main summer job is thinking of ways to keep a very active boy busy. So we spend days at the swimming pool with friends, going out-of-state on a plane for the first time, vacation bible schools, sports camps, visits to family and friends in other towns. Did I leave anything out?

We easily could have signed our son up for a baseball league, a swim team, a soccer league, and gymnastics. Why not? It’s what American, middle-class families do these days. We don’t want our kids to miss out on anything in life. Or, for me at least, I don’t want to hear those words, “Daddy, I am bored!” Besides what will we post on social media if we don’t do all of it?

The thing is a busy schedule might not be the best thing for your foster or adopted child. Some would say it’s not good for any kid.

Still, most of our families are busy…too busy. A mistake that a foster or adoptive family makes with their kids after they are placed into their families is to overwhelm them with activities, especially if the family already has other children.

Instead of our goal being for our foster or adopted children feeling like they fit in, we need to consider what they need so they can heal and overcome the trauma they have experienced. That will mean we need to give them space which includes room and time.

Here are some 6 ways giving your child space might look like:

  1. Postpone any big parties or celebrations. This probably is mistake number one. Naturally a family, and everyone around them, is excited when a child is placed into their family. This might not apply if the child is a young baby, but it will with an older child. Give your child time to adjust to his or her new surroundings before throwing the party.
  2. Spend lots of time together as a family so you can bond. This means that you will need to slow down your schedule. That might include delaying travel plans, turning down a promotion that will demand more of your time, or cutting back on other commitments. Your whole family will benefit from this and you might never go back to that crazy schedule.
  3. Don’t rush them into leagues or activities that require a big time commitment. I love sports, especially team sports. My son is at the age where many of his peers are playing baseball, soccer, on a swim team, etc. If my son begged me to do the same, I would consider it, but he isn’t.
  4. Allow for plenty of free time. This feeds off the previous suggestion well. Because my son doesn’t have any longterm commitments like a sports league, he has time to just play. He explores, builds, reads (or we read to him), and taps into his imagination.
  5. Adjust expectations for school. That might sound strange when we are talking about making space for your child, but our expectations can put undue pressure on our kids. The longer a child has lived in a chronic state of fear, the harder it is for them to focus on learning. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a learning disability, but we as parent will need to adjust our expectations.
  6. Space for big emotions. Children who come a hard place have big emotions. We need to learn how to be okay with that and how to properly respond to these emotions. Squelching or shaming our kids when they express big emotions will never give them the space they need to heal from the cause of the emotion.

A couple of things to remember:

First, your child’s needs for space will ebb and flow especially as they move through transitions. Second, let other people’s unhelpful criticism or questions roll off, especially those who don’t understand trauma. You know what your child needs to heal better than anyone.

What would you add to this list of ways to give your child space to heal?

If you haven’t already, grab your copy of Foster and Adoptive Parenting: Authentic Stories that Will Inspire and Encourage Parenting with Connection on Amazon. This topic is discussed throughout the book. 

If you have read the book, will you do me a huge favor? Click on that same link and leave an honest review of the book. Your review will bring more attention to the book. Thank you!

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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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