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by JulieAnne

How to Set Up a Bedroom for an Older Foster Child

Creating the right environment for an older foster child can be tricky. It needs to be a space where they feel comfortable, can enjoy an element of independence and privacy, and be a blank canvas that they can put their own stamp on. Most of all, it should be a place where they feel safe and secure; a stable bolthole for them to relax and escape everyday stress.

Setting up your spare bedroom for the arrival of a new foster child is exciting, and making such preparations in advance will make the transition period go more smoothly when they move in. The decisions you make when kitting out their room will have an impact on how they feel, how they respond to your family and how quickly they settle in, so there are a few important things to remember.

Here, we look at some of the things you should consider when setting up a bedroom for an older foster child. Use the links below to navigate or read on for the complete guide.

First Steps: Creating a Welcoming Feel

No matter how small or large the space, it’s possible to make any room feel welcoming to a foster child. First impressions matter when you’re welcoming an older child into your home, and they’ll really appreciate the effort you’ve gone to in helping them feel comfortable.

Here are some of the things you can do to make sure they feel safe and welcome in their new bedroom.

Remove Clutter

Spare rooms often become a dumping ground for laundry, old toys and assorted clutter, but all this will need to be moved elsewhere before they move in. It’s important that the child feels a part of your family from the outset and that their space is respected. Putting them in a room that’s crammed with toys and family mementoes won’t make a very good first impression, so make sure their space is treated like any other bedroom and get rid of the clutter before they arrive.

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Try Not to Over-Personalise

While it can be tempting to redecorate their room in a scheme you think will be appropriate for their age and gender, it’s better to keep things neutral and not over-personalised until they’re settled in. It’s impossible to know what a child might like and dislike until you get to know them, so keep things simple with warm, neutral colours and avoid stereotyping with very specific wall colours and accessories. Your first job is to make sure they feel comfortable and welcome – decorating can come later.

Think Forward to Their First Night

A good way to make sure they feel welcome and comfortable on arrival is to think about their first night in your home, and all the things they might need. Depending on the circumstances, it may be a good idea to add a ‘welcome pack’ including things like a toothbrush, face wipes, deodorant and small torch in case they need to find the bathroom in the night.

Make sure there’s plenty of free sockets for them to charge their devices, as well as a bedside lamp and plenty of storage for them to hang their clothes and store their belongings. Little things like this will make a big difference, helping them to feel comfortable and cared for in their new environment.

Furniture and Things to Include in Their Room

While it’s easy to add things like furniture and accessories after they’ve moved in, there are a few bits and pieces you should add beforehand. This will help the space to feel more like a bedroom, encouraging them to settle in and find their feet in your home.

For older foster children, the following items are essential when setting up their bedroom:

  • A comfortable bed – if the space and budget will stretch, we’d recommend purchasing a suitably-sized bed. Make sure there’s plenty of pillows, too, as everyone has different preferences.
  • Clothes storage – a basic wardrobe and chest of drawers are essential when they first move in. No child should feel like they’re living out of a suitcase, so encourage them to unpack and make themselves at home shortly after arrival.
  • A desk – despite the upheaval, life must go on for foster children – and that includes schoolwork. Make sure they have a comfortable space where they can work and focus, especially if they’ve got exams looming.
  • A laundry basket – day-to-day things like laundry are easy to overlook, but they might not feel comfortable adding their clothes to your family’s communal laundry basket. Add their own so they feel comfortable.
  • Space to reflect – if there’s space, add a spot where they can enjoy a little quiet time away from the rest of the family – be it a comfy chair or beanbag.

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We understand that kitting out a bedroom can be costly. But remember, discount retailers such as Argos and IKEA offer some great quality solutions for those on a budget, while it’s also possible to pick up some good second-hand furniture from charity shops. Just make sure the pieces you pick are durable and built to last, as teenagers can be boisterous.

Things to Remember When They’ve Moved In

Once they’re moved in and settled, there are things you can do to improve their room and help them put their stamp on it, so that it begins to feel like home. Here, we look at some of the things to remember after they’ve moved in and suggest simple ways to give their room a touch of character.

Let Them Have a Say on the Decorating

A neutral colour scheme is appropriate for when they first move in, but after a while you may want to decorate so that the room marries up with their taste. Before you reach for blue paint for a boy and pink for a girl, however, it’s a good idea to get their take on how they’d like their room to look. Not only will this ignite their creativity and help them feel valued and at home, it will be a great opportunity for the two of you to bond over a project and learn more about each other’s interests.

Remind Them it’s Their Space

For a young person to feel completely settled, they need to feel like their room is theirs, so they can come and go as they please. Try not to encroach on their privacy and independence, and instead accept when they need time to be alone. It’s also a good idea to let them personalise their room independently with posters and mementoes so that they can really put their stamp on it and start to make the place feel just like home.

Make Sure They Have Everything They Need

Depending on their age, you may need to add things to their room to ensure they have everything they need to be comfortable, feel creative and have the ideal place to study. Encourage them to be creative by adding a chalkboard or install a memo board where they can add things and keep up-to-date with their studies. It’s all about giving them a space where they can be themselves, whether that means listening to music, drawing or simply sitting down with a book. This is their home, not just a stop-gap, so make sure they have everything they need to make it feel like one.

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Stay Understanding

Welcoming an older foster child into your home takes some adjustment, both for them and your family, and the situation can be more challenging if they have behavioural problems or additional needs.

Remember, however, that your foster child may have come from a disruptive and insecure environment, so it’s vital that you remain understanding and give them the space they need. Even if you’ve gone to a lot of trouble to set up a bedroom for them, it may go unnoticed, but try not to be disheartened and continue doing everything you can to help them feel safe, comfortable and supported.

At Pathway Care, we help hundreds of foster families across the country offer loving and supportive homes to vulnerable children of all ages, helping them create an environment where their child can thrive. Find out more about fostering with us at the homepage or call us now on 0800 170 1706.