Boosting the self-esteem of foster children

Self-esteem is difficult for foster children to understand, let alone see in themselves. Even adults struggle with it from time to time. But that doesn’t mean self-esteem is impossible to find, even in bleak situations.

It starts with you
As a mentor, your own self-esteem is an example for your charge. How do you feel about yourself? How do you see yourself? Are you proud of your achievements and how you live your life? Because it’s absolutely fine if you are. There’s nothing wrong with having a healthy level of confidence and pride within yourself.

Ask them what they’re good at, and do it
Foster kids might say they aren’t good at anything and that simply isn’t true. Use this tactic instead;

What are you good at? turns into What do you enjoy?

If someone enjoys writing, they create great stories. If a person enjoys drawing or painting, they create nice artwork. Now a creative area, like art or writing, might not be your charge’s idea of enjoyment. But they could enjoy reading, playing games or sports. These can be implemented in one way or another during your time with them.

Give praise – within reason
Excessive praise does more harm than good. Children at the receiving end of constant praise from parents or other mature figures will crumble at criticism for others. This knocks down their self-esteem and can be hard to recover.

There is one way to give realistic praise, and we go further into that with the next point.

Help them set goals
Realistic ones where they will earn praise. You’ll work out goals within the first few visits. The Love of Learning Program emphasizes education; set up goals by term or by year. An easy one is reading; read X amount of books by the end of the year, for example.

Boosting the self-esteem of foster kids isn’t an uphill battle. That mindset makes things harder. It’s a matter of finding out what they enjoy, using it during your visits and watching them make progress. Their self-confidence and happiness will grow, slowly and surely.

How Pyjama Angels Help Develop Foster Kids’ Life Skills

Pyjama Angels create positive relationships with children in care; empowering them with learning, life skills and confidence. By becoming an Angel you have the potential to build many skills in these kids, ultimately changing the direction of their lives. Here a few of the many ways your commitment can do this:

Language

Language plays a significant role in a child’s development. Whether it’s communication through speaking, writing, expressions and gestures. It enables a child to effectively communicate throughout life. In certain upbringings and circumstances, the development of language can be impacted upon a child.

Children in foster care, often acquire low or delayed language and communication skills, compared to their peers at school. Statistics show from June 2016, 46,448 children Australia wide are in out-of-home care per day. Language and communication delays can lead to long-term negative effects on their social competence, mental health and academic achievements. Valuable time spent with a Pyjama Angel can improve the language development of child in foster care.

Attention span

Concentration in school can be challenging for children in general. An unstable upbringing and background can have greater impact a foster child’s concentration amongst their peers. The Pyjama Foundation has trained 949 Pyjama Angels in the last year. Trained to assist and mentor foster children in improving the development of their attention span. Guided by a Pyjama Angel, positive techniques and methods are implemented to suit each child’s own level of development.

Co-operation

Children need positive guidance to learn and achieve positive co-operation skills in life. School is the perfect environment for children to obtain this skill; playing together, reading together and teamwork within the classroom is an important factor. An interrupted home can impact the development of co-operation and teamwork skills amongst foster children. A Pyjama Angel can help improve these skills by encouraging positive teamwork techniques to read and play as a team.

 

Read a page each

Self-esteem

A child’s self-esteem is dependent upon their home environment. Emotional abuse and neglect are sadly often experienced by children in care, with statistics showing that 45% of boys and 44% of girls have experienced emotional abuse and neglect in from 2015 to 2016. This impacts a child’s self-esteem, which can have further negative effects on their language, attention span and cooperation skills as they develop. Pyjama Angels are trained to mentor, boost and encourage a foster child’s self-esteem through the Love of Learning program – building positive life skills; confidence building, making friends and setting them up to foresee a positive outlook on life.

 

See them smile more often like this

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Great books you can read in the Love of Learning Program

6 Things About Foster Kids You May Not Have Known

Great books you can read in the Love of Learning Program

The Love of Learning program is the only one of its kind. It provides children with the opportunity to strengthen their literacy and numeracy skills outside of school. But as a Pyjama Angel, you aren’t a tutor. You’re a mentor. Someone who can guide the children in the program and be a positive influence. You show them that reading isn’t really so bad. If you’re scratching your head about what to bring along, we have a few suggestions the could help:

2-3 years

The Empowerment series by Stephen Krensky celebrates the milestones children achieve at this age. This series has of four books: Now I am Big! I Can Do It Myself! I Know a Lot! I Am So Brave!

Another crowd favourite is the Clifford the Big Red Dog series by Norman Bridwell.

4-5 years

The works of Dr Seuss are perfect for this age group!

Other favourite reads of ours include What’s Cooking by Joshua David Stein and Pass it On by Sophy Henn.

6-7 years

The Pyjama Foundation firmly believes in cultivating the aspirations of foster children.

Goodnight stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo is a compilation of the stories of courageous women who challenged the status quo and changed the course of history. It is a great read for both girls and boys.

Another similar series is the Ordinary People Change the World Series by Brad Meltzer. Each book focuses on different key historical figures such as I am Neil Armstrong, I am Jane Goodall and I am Albert Einstein.

Read the book before the movie

8-9 years

This age is an excellent time to introduce the books by Roald Dahl. This is the man who quoted ‘Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it’. His books are great to include in the Love of Learning Program for that reason; to help children believe in magic. You don’t need to look much further than Willy Wonka for an excellent read. Other titles worth bringing include The Fantastic Mr Fox, George’s Marvellous Medicine and Matilda.

10-11 years

The books by Enid Blyton ignite the imaginations of children at this age. Blyton wrote her books early last century but they have endured the test of time. The books are large, but because the stories are written for children, they’re easy to understand. Some of the timeless and most popular series include The Magic Faraway Tree, The Wishing Chair and The Secret Seven

As a Pyjama Angel, you have full access to our dedicated resource library where you can pick up many of these books. We want our kids to use their imaginations, be engaged and love reading just as much as we do. We hope these examples can help your inspire kids to do just that.

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The double-edged sword of volunteering

Love of learning program

The double-edged sword of volunteering

Volunteering is undoubtedly a worthwhile way to spend your time; there’s often not a more worthwhile feeling than bettering yourself through acts of charity and helping those in need. But when we help others, we often forget to take care of ourselves, resulting in burnout and other nasties. We have some important strategies to make sure you can still do you and continue being an awesome volunteer.

 

  • Ask for help

If your friends were asked to describe you, what would they say? You’re generous, would drop everything to help them, support them during a rough time? Helping when asked is admirable, but don’t forget to ask someone to help you.

We are lucky to live in a time where there are many options available should you need some extra assistance. Even if you don’t volunteer, being on the front foot with your mental health shouldn’t be unusual. You have the opportunity to speak with a qualified professional in a safe space, and therefore have a healthy outlet where you can speak without fear.

 

  • Voice your concerns

Once in a while, you might hear or see something that concerns you about the health and/or wellbeing of the child in your placement. What do you do? Don’t place the responsibility onto yourself – we’re here to help!. During your induction process, you’ll be walked through on what to do if you see or hear something that leaves you feeling slightly unsettled.

 

  • Indulge yourself

Or, in today’s lingo, treat yo’self! Do something you love for yourself because you definitely earned it. Think about the last time you had a weekend away or had someone else cook for you. What is something you enjoy but haven’t had the time for lately?

 

  • Say no

You’re not obliged to accept every invitation or do every chore people ask of you. Saying NO is the best way to take care of yourself, and your prioritise. You have people in your life who won’t take you saying ‘no’ personally. Sometimes invitations might clash with your volunteering, and that’s okay!

 

Study up here

6 Things About Foster Kids You May Not Have Known

Volunteer

6 Things About Foster Kids You May Not Have Known

Foster kids are usually thought of as ‘having it rough’. They come from broken homes, move around frequently and this series of events will follow them into adulthood. This stereotype is glaring, leaving little room for facts. We’ll tell you some of the truths about foster kids, good and bad, and hope you go away feeling slightly enlightened (or more sobered) about the subject.

 

  • Success stories do exist

Not all foster children are at a disadvantage when they grow up, despite the stereotype. Some are adopted into their foster families and have a stable, healthy lifestyle. Some foster children have gone on to become carers and caseworkers. Others work in a range of jobs, from baristas and warehouse workers to 9-to-5 office jobs.

 

  • Foster kids do it tough

This is unfortunately true in most circumstances. The Australian government and non-for-profit CREATE, estimate over 70% of foster children were ‘repeat clients’ of the system. The cycle of abuse in families, whether it be physical or otherwise, is hard to break. Hence children reappear in the system after they go back home.

Another disadvantage is not having other basic life skills they need to live comfortably. One example of this is Hayden Frost*. In a report by the ABC, he is considered a success story of the system in the fact he has a stable job and a good home. But he doesn’t have a driver’s license because he had nobody to help him.

 

  • There aren’t enough families to go around

In New South Wales, as reported in 2016, there’s an urgent need for at least 660 new carers for the overwhelmed foster system. An increase in carers would mean 300 children could instantly be moved to new homes and therefore to safety.

 

  • They want to be heard

 

CREATE conducted a survey, known as a ‘report card’, that was distributed to 10,000 children in the foster system across Australia. They were encouraged to make comments, and the children spoke their mind. Some of the comments included:

  • Wanting the freedom to choose their placement home
  • Dissatisfaction with the disruptions that came with moving frequently e.g. settling into home, changing schools etc.
  • Wanting contact with siblings, or to be moved into a placement together
  • To be treated the same as the biological children in their foster families
  • Warm, supportive and caring homes provided the bulk of ‘good’ placements

 

  • Some are very young

Pregnant women in unfortunate circumstances are tagged by the child protection system during their pregnancies and can be separated from their babies in the hospital. This can occur to mothers with a history of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as women who have no place to live and often sleep on the street. Infants are brought into care straight from the hospital, at only a few days old.

 

  • They can go home

Though not often reported, this can happen if the home is deemed safe for the foster child to return to. Sometimes removal is a wake-up call for parents to turn their life around.

 

There’s more to read here;

Love of learning program

Pyjama Angels; how you help kids in foster care

Pyjama Angels; how you help kids in foster care

There’s talk of guardian angels that watch over and protect us during the difficult times in our lives. They aren’t seen or heard but we trust they exist. Pyjama Angels are much like guardians, but they’re definitely seen, heard and appreciated.

 

Qualities of Pyjama Angels

 

Empathetic: Children in care have experienced little kindness or compassion in their short lives. As a Pyjama Angel, it’s your job to be empathetic and understanding. You’re one of few positive presences in your charge’s life who can make a difference. Simply showing up with a smile does wonders.

 

Patient: Kids in care have lower literacy skills. It’s common for them not to feel confident in reading or writing, and they might shut down when it gets difficult. Pyjama Angels don’t force children to read or berate them when they make a mistake. They’re patient and guide their mentee right.

 

Generous: Pyjama Angels are generous with their time. One hour a week might not seem like much, but it makes a world of difference in the long run.

 

Encouraging: Each step forward, no matter how small, is a success. One day you’re encouraging your charge to read along with you. A year later they could be reading books on their own accord, not just because it’s their ‘Angel visit day’.

 

Unfortunately, children in foster care have missed out on their right to a stable, happy family home and a decent start to their education. 92% of young children in care, around 7 years old, have below-average reading skills. 35% of foster children commit crimes and are sentenced to juvenile detention. As a Pyjama Angel, you have the opportunity to stop your charge from becoming one of those statistics. One encouraging statistic is that 84% of children mentored by Angels have a brighter, more positive mood since starting the Love of Learning Program.

A Pyjama Angel helps kids in care by simply showing up. They make reading enjoyable. Education is fun again thanks to games. The children in the program are more likely to read, complete homework and have a more positive outlook on life because their mentor comes once a week. One hour is small. But it makes a big difference.

4 Reasons You Should Invest Your Time in The Love of Learning Program

People are raised with the common belief that there is good to be found in everyone. This goodwill is often expressed through charitable acts, from caring for your children to donating time, money, or goods to different causes. One of the causes that might appeal to you is youth mentoring and children’s education. So, why […]

How one-on-one mentoring helps youth combat life obstacles

Mentoring is nothing new. Arthur had Merlin, Cinderella had a fairy godmother, and Mark Zuckerberg had Steve Jobs. One-on-one mentoring helped all these characters achieve great things, both in fiction and real life. Pyjama Angels are unsung heroes in daily life, but the impact from their one-on-one mentoring has helped young people rise to the challenge life throws at them.

 

So how does one-on-one mentoring help little kids and young people?

 

Children in foster care have a hard time at school thanks to their circumstances; they can’t pay attention, refuse to interact, or start fights with classmates to name a few problems. This comes from past trauma and generally low self-esteem. Pyjama Angels mentor a young person to help them with their education. This can be something as simple as reading a book.

It’s never too soon to start

Pyjama Angels are a positive influence in their mentee’s life. That one hour a week helps the children cope with school. Thanks to their Pyjama Angel, they’re finishing homework, reading books without being asked, and getting better report cards each term.

 

One-on-one mentoring with a child in foster care sets them up for success in their young adult life. They’re more likely to seek out a good circle of friends over a crowd that is likely to break the rules. Young people who get mentoring early in life are more likely to graduate high school and might even become a mentor themselves as an adult. Their outlook on life is also more positive, mentees grow up to realise that despite their past, they are worthy of a good job, a happy home, and being safe.

 

One-on-one mentoring is challenging for both mentors and their child in the beginning. An important trait in Pyjama Angels is their resilience. They’re empathic, kind, supportive, and also push their mentee, but within reason. Pyjama Angels are screened, trained, and matched with a child in the Love of Learning Program. The first few weeks, if not months, will be challenging because you’re getting to know each other; trust and rapport need to be built. But relationships need time to grow. And who knows? Within a year, mentees might go from hating books to reading three a week!