A great way to get children to care for and understand each other is to introduce younger children to the setting. Whether it be siblings or family or friends, seeing how a baby is cared for a loved by his or her mother can be very encouraging to children who don't have the experience of siblings and is a great way to teach love and respect by example.
See if you have a parent willing to visit with a new baby to show the children what they look like, what they do, and discuss the needs the baby has and how much love and care he or she needs.
Allow them to stroke the baby's hand or foot, taking care not to allow them too much access... and encourage them to be kind to the baby. If the baby cries, chat about what could be wrong and how we can stop the crying.
This teaches children to empathise with others and gives those without this experience of babies, a little more confidence around new babies. This kind of empathy at a young age may deter those who are inclined to bully others, because often the bully has no empathy with the child they tease or taunt. This begins to sow the seeds of thinking about others.
Looking at and watching a mother with her child, is also a very calming thing for the children to witness. They have someone to look up to who is not part of their normal surroundings and sees how adults act with children.
If possible, see if the parent and child will come in to visit on a regular basis to see the child's developments and how they grow over a year. Get the children drawing pictures of the baby or making the baby a picture or a rattle to hold when they get to that stage in their development. Handing over a home made gift is a great way to make the children feel very happy about their new little friend.
There has been so much press over the years about children who are let down by adults, 'Baby P' and little Shannon Matthews for example - both these children were so sadly ignored by those who should have been protecting them.
Many local authorities do so much good work with children, especially those who are the most vulnerable and in need. However, we never hear about these good, kind people who make such a difference to so many children's lives. In the most part, those in authority aim to keep children together with their families, siblings and parents. However, sometimes this is not possible and those caught up in neglect or in danger are removed from the threat of harm.
All sorts of people get involved in these cases. The police, social workers, health visitors, doctors and eventually the courts do what they have to do to support the children and do the best for them. Some go into care. Some live with foster families who provide them with the safety and security they need and cherish. The foster carers go some way to repairing the damage that has been done and try to provide the children with a normal, happy environment in which to live.
There is always a great need to families to offer foster care. It's not like providing a hotel room or just meals and a fresh bed to sleep in. Carers need to try and maintain any routine the children have: school clubs, visits to friends, school run, and contact with the original families. They also need to be able to do the school run to get the children to their original school and maintain links with health professionals, doctor's appointments etc. Foster children become an integral part of your own family.
You don't need a huge house and rambling ground to offer foster care. You don't need to be a fine chef or a pre-school teacher. You simply need to offer a shelter, a home and a loving, caring environment for the most vulnerable little people in our communities. You will get all the training you need and plenty of advise and support.
If you think you can manage this, then it's worth contacting your local authority. They will be delighted to hear from you and you may find it becomes the best and most rewarding job you have ever done!
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