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Five Strategies to Help Your Foster Child Grieve

Updated: Dec 27, 2022

While you have probably heard of the grieving process [], do you know that foster children also grieve each time they are moved to a new home? Here are ways that you can assist in that process. It is not a cut-and-dry process, so if you try one thing and it doesn't work, try something different. Here are some ways to help your foster child grieve their losses.

Five Strategies to Help Your Foster Child Grieve

It is essential to allow your foster child to grieve their biological parents. Even if their rights are not terminated, the small child may not understand what has happened to their family and why they are now with you. They may need time to grieve the loss of their situation, home, etc. They may have a great relationship with the former foster family where they lived. In all honesty, children of all ages may grieve foster siblings from their “old home”. Hence, here are five ways to practically help your foster child grieve.

0ne Way to Help Your Foster Child Grieve

First, a fabulous way to allow a foster child to grieve is to let them draw or write. If the child is young, they may want to write a letter to their former family (foster or bio), foster siblings, or even pets. Anyone with whom the child has bonded may need to be grieved for more extended periods of time. Let them draw a picture to send to the family or write a letter telling them their feelings. I've given items like this to the social worker to send to the former family or bio family, and they cooperate.

A Second and Third Way to Help Your Foster Child Grieve

The second way to help your foster child grieve is with art. Art is a great therapeutic outlet for children. Allowing a child to create art would be an excellent way to grieve the loss of someone or a home. The child could do a painting on canvas. These are inexpensive and often found with basic paints at the local Dollar Tree or online here: []. The child could also do a sculpture with airdry clay. They can do some play-doh sculpting each day. Art is a great way to express thoughts and feelings about anything. Have plenty of supplies on hand to help your child express and grieve.

Thirdly, talk with the child about their former family (or families) and other children in that home. You can also mention missing certain people in a very informal way. “Who do you miss the most?” or “Why do you miss _____?” Talking with the child will validate their own feelings. They have big feelings and need to know you are safe to speak with about these sensations and emotions.

When I started foster care, as I stated in my book, I was jealous of ‘the other family’. I wanted to win the love and loyalty of the child. I wanted to bond and be a safe person too. Mention the people to the child in regular conversations. This specific talking is a great way to help your foster child grieve.

Pretending like it doesn't manner is not the way

Don’t act like their past has disappeared when they arrived at your house. Of course, they had a life, a family, a school, a community, friends, and pets where they were before your home. Do not pretend like they never existed. Talk with them about them in regular conversations. Don’t bring up difficult events that may trigger them, but have conversations with them about their favorite people. Let them lead the conversations.

Additional Ways to Help Your Child Grieve

The fourth way to help your child grieve Is to create a memory book. The child can get things like they are in a scavenger hunt that reminds them of the former family. If they have pictures, make copies to place in the memory book. This book should be separate from their life book and for him to review it at will. When they are sad or troubled, the memory book can be a tool the child can use to remember the people in their life. Create a memory book like a picture album. You can purchase a picture album at a dollar store. Ask them leading questions that would help decide what would represent which person.

For example, if a grandmother had a dress that she wore a lot, find a similar fabric to that at the store. Let the child pick that out. A coloring sheet could be used to represent the child’s mother. If the dad likes a certain cookie, choose that cookie at the store, but don’t throw the wrapping away. Cut out the label's cookie picture or more of the packaging and place it in the memory book.

Obviously, grieving is not an easy process. Some adults take months to grieve; it is normal for children to take as long or longer.

Additionally, there are good days and bad days. Allow the child to grieve. If, after a matter of months, you sense that the child is really depressed, you may want to employ a therapist. Always talk to the caseworker or social worker before making the appointment, but you could suggest it with your reasoning.


There is a grieving process; therefore, I like to show it in a circular, jumbled-up manner because it is not a list to check off or a clear-cut cycle. Grief can come and go, so the process can be scrambled and reentered many times. Something can trigger him or her to go back into despair.

For the purpose of grieving, utilize the various ideas repeatedly in your child's life. That being the case, you should revisit strategies if they do not appear to help them in the first place. Remind them of the memory book that you made together. Finally, remind them they can write or draw a picture of that person whenever they feel sad, and you will do your best to get it to the foster child's person.

Ambiguous Loss

Ambiguous loss is when the child feels loss and does not know where the family member is or what they are doing. Foster children will often worry about their parents, grandparents, pets, or other significant persons. Ambiguous means they are unclear or inexact about what is going on in the 'other family'.

Ways to help your foster child grieve and what are the stages of grieving?

Lastly, let me know in the comments if you have assisted a child in grieving and what worked well. In what ways do you allow for grief at your home? Have you ever had a child come to you grieving? What did you do? Let's create a list of helpful information for other foster parents.

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Impressing Minds is about creating value in the mind of a child through the foster parents. Imagine the mind of a child being made of play-doh, and you are about to make a permanent impression. What type of impression will you make? I will encourage you to make a soft, lasting, affirmative impression in their mind by giving tools to get started fostering, accomplishing a great foster care home, and serving the children in your care. I offer support to you and others fostering. An important element of Impressing Minds is the support that others have given to those in need.


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