Foster parenting can be difficult enough bringing in a new child, then adding extra appointments, extra meetings, and transporting children to vi
sits. On top of all that, you’re expected to supervise a phone call between a biological parent and a 2-year-old? These phone calls can be the straw that break your camel’s back. These phone calls can quickly become extra work, triggers for emotional meltdowns, and a series of empty promises. BUT they can and should be a source to maintain a connection between parents and children, a positive experience, and an extra avenue for shared parenting.
So, how do you make the phone calls more exciting? How do you make these phone calls last longer than 2 minutes? How do you make it to where this phone call is more exciting than the legos or barbies nearby?
First: Prepare yourself for phone calls.
- If you are uncomfortable with giving out your personal phone number, that’s fine! In today’s era of increasing technology and smart phones your options are endless.
- Google voice will allow you to register a new local number to ring to your phone. It will also allow text messages to be sent to an email account or to your phone. Caution: Calling back or texting from your phone and not the app will leak your number to others.
- Purchase a cheap prepaid phone and minutes that will be used only for biological families and can be turned off when needed
- Set up a time or time frame for your parents to call. This will prevent you fielding phone calls during difficult transition times.
- If the child is too young to talk and the parents just desire a way to communicate, look into setting up an extra email address to send pictures and short messages.
- Look into video chat options like Skype.
- What other options have you used?
Second: Prepare the child and the parents for the phone calls.
Successful phone calls take attention and creative thinking.
Options for a “different” phone call, age dependent.
- Have the parent read a book, preferably setting things up ahead of time and allowing both parties to have a book. Utilize the library, consignment book stores, and what you already have.
- Sing songs together. Twinkle twinkle, Wheels on the Bus, ABCs, Baa Baa Black Sheep
- Play a game. Battleship and Guess Who can be easily adapted to be played long distance
- Help with homework, easier with video chat but can still be adapted with voice only. Does your little one need to read a book aloud or practice sight words?
- Create a story together. Parents and children can alternate sentences and story lines.
- Have the parents share stories about family members, stories of the child’s younger years, and interesting events that the child may not remember.
- Draw together. The child and parent take turns describing something in a picture while both are drawing their own pictures. They can compare at t
he next visit.
- What else!?!
These are just a few ways to liven up the phone calls, and aid to the success of the call. When the phone call is successful then the relationship is maintained, and even restored little by little.
If you are still on the fence about shared parenting and easing the communication gap between foster parent and biological parent remember why we do what we do.