We have five senses – sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. Each one of them is really important in our everyday life. Your senses work together to let your brain know what is going on around you. When children are matched with their forever family, it is an exciting time! But this can also be a scary endeavor with all of the unknowns and changes. There will be different smells, different tastes, different surroundings, different schedules, different family, a different bed, a different pillow, different everything! We can help our children transition into their forever families by trying to maintain the same senses they have experienced. How can you make this transition easier for your children? I’m glad you asked!
Smell: Have you ever come across a scent that reminds you of someone? You could use the same kind of laundry detergent your child’s previous foster family used to help your child feel more comfortable. If your child is young and has not transitioned into your home yet, perhaps you can sleep with a blanket or a pillow case for a week to get your ‘scent’ on it, and then give it to your child to sleep with to help them get accustomed to your scent. I once told my dad that he smells like home and safety. He thought I was strange, but regardless, his smell still comforts me. (He will be so embarrassed when he reads this)
Taste: Ask your child what their favorite foods are and how the food is prepared (or ask the previous foster family). Their favorite food might be hamburgers, but how well done is the meat? Were the hamburger buns homemade or a certain brand from the store? Does your child like to squirt the ketchup in the style of a happy face on their hamburger before they eat it? This may seem trivial to us, but this could mean a lot to your child. My niece Emma is a great example as she dislikes everybody’s mashed potatoes, except she LOVES my mom’s mashed potatoes. Therefore my mom prepares mashed potatoes for Emma every time she is at their house and Emma feels special that grandma made it specifically for her. (My mom’s secret? She adds milk :))
Sight: Does your child like a nightlight in their bedroom? Simple accommodations could help your child feel more safe and secure. Does your child have a past that involves food not being accessible to them? Perhaps your child is worried about not having enough food or worried about their next meal? I expect adoptive families to work closely with their adoption worker and your child’s therapist about these fears, but perhaps it could be a simple solution such as showing your child where the granola bars are stored and ensure they are easily accessible to your child. Maybe have a bowl of different fruit options on the kitchen counter that your child can take from at any time. Giving your child the visual reassurance that food is always available to them may help calm their mind. Again, please consult with your child’s therapist and adoption worker if this is a concern.
Sound: Does your child like to have a fan on at night? Does it help your child fall sleep if they listen to the radio or do they like complete silence while they sleep? Ask your kiddo or ask their previous foster parents. Does your child like to listen to music when they are upset or when they need time to be alone? Ensure they have access to their favorite music when they need it.
Touch: Does your child have a favorite blanket or a favorite stuffed animal? Make sure these items are with your child when they transition into their adoptive home. Does your child like to get their back rubbed while they are falling asleep? Does your child feel uncomfortable with hugs? Wonderful questions to ask your child.
There are countless more options that we can do to help our children with the transition into their forever home. Please talk to your adoption worker for more ideas!