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7 Ways to Boost Foster Children’s Communication Skills

In this blog, we'll explore the importance of communication skills, the unique challenges faced by foster children, and practical strategies you can implement to help boost your foster child's communication abilities

November 1 2023 - 4 min read

Providing support for children in care means not only giving foster children a loving, nurturing, and secure home but teaching them life skills to help give them a happy and positive future.

Communication is one of these skills.

Effective communication is one of the key elements responsible for building relationships, connections, self-expression, and self-confidence - throughout all stages of life.

Having good communication skills is also crucial for a child’s overall development. But for foster children, who may have faced disruptions, challenges, and trauma in their lives, having strong communication skills and abilities can be truly transformative.

In this blog, we'll explore the importance of communication skills, the unique challenges faced by foster children, and practical strategies you can implement to help boost your foster child's communication abilities

The Importance of Communication Skills

Communication with children, no matter their age, is essential to their development and relationships, as it enables us to convey our thoughts, emotions, and needs effectively.

For foster children who might have experienced disruptions in their lives, strong communication skills are especially vital, as they not only help them express themselves, but also assist in building self-esteem, empathy, and connections with others.

As a foster parent, your support in harnessing these skills can have a lasting, positive impact on your foster child’s future relationships and overall well-being.

So, what are some of the challenges faced by children in care when it comes to communication skills?

The children in our care often come from diverse backgrounds, some of which may have involved traumatic experiences, abuse, neglect, disrupted attachments, or inconsistent caregiving. These experiences can influence communication abilities in several ways:

  • Limited vocabulary - disruptions in education and life experiences can sometimes result in a limited vocabulary. This may impact a child’s ability to speak their mind or find the right words to describe how they are feeling.
  • Trust issues - children in care might struggle to open up and talk due to past traumas, disappointments, or betrayals.
  • Emotional regulation - trauma can affect a child’s ability to manage their emotions, which can lead to issues such as dissociation and difficulty expressing themselves clearly or effectively.
  • Fear of rejection - it’s not uncommon for children in foster care to be fearful of rejection or abandonment, especially if they have had negative experiences in the past. This can cause them to be hesitant to share their feelings or thoughts.

Your supportive approach can play a pivotal role in helping your foster child overcome communication challenges. It just takes a little time and patience.

Whether you are looking to boost the communication skills of a toddler or you want to know how to connect with a teenager in your care, read on. These strategies can help enhance the communication skills of your foster child, enabling them to express themselves confidently and connect with others. And remember our PACE therapuetic fostering model underpins all of our communication with children and in turn helps them to communication their emotions effectively.

7 Effective strategies to enhancing communication skills in foster children

Create a Safe and Supportive Environment

Foster an environment where your child feels safe to express themselves without fear of judgment or repercussions. When children feel safe and supported, it can give them the strength they need to open up more.

This works well with children of all ages. For younger children, you can use play to get them involved and gently encourage them to join in, and for older children and teenagers, chatting in a safe space, such as their bedroom or neutral ground like going for a walk together, might help them feel more secure.

You should also practice active listening, by keeping eye contact, giving them time to get their words out, staying focused, and trying not to impose your opinions or solutions. Actively listening shows that their words are valued and valid, which can help boost their confidence when it comes to communicating.

Engage in Conversations

If your foster child struggles to communicate on their own, engaging them in regular conversations can encourage them to voice their opinions. The conversations don’t even need to be anything particularly groundbreaking. Depending on their age, just try regular, simple chats about anything and everything to encourage comfort and familiarity with verbal interactions.

Open-ended questions are also great for getting children and young people to open up. So instead of “Did you have a good day at school?” or “Are you hungry?” try something that doesn’t require a yes or no answer; “What was your favourite thing that happened at school today?” “If you could have anything for dinner tonight, what would it be?” “If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?”

Open-ended questions have the ability to stimulate deeper conversations, which can help improve communication skills.

Read and Tell Stories

75% of brain development occurs in the first two years of life and reading aloud to children from birth has an enormous benefit. It introduces babies to the structure and rhythm of language, forming the building blocks for reading and writing. This early experience will shape their future social, communication, and learning skills. As they move to the toddler years and beyond, reading helps to develop vocabulary, listening skills, and concentration, stimulates their imagination, exposes them to new situations, and supports their emotional development.

From around the age of seven upwards, reading plays a vital role in children's social and intellectual development, teaching compassion, sensitivity, and empathy.

Reading together with your foster child can reinforce these positive impacts. It’s also a lovely way to wind down at the end of the day, enjoy some quality time together, and share your experiences. You can also try encouraging storytelling as it’s a powerful way for children to process their experiences and emotions. Gently urge your foster child to share stories and listen attentively when they do.

Active Vocabulary Building

For younger children, try introducing new words through reading, conversations, and educational activities. If they are very young, or they find it hard to express themselves through words, visual aids can help. Things such as drawings, photos, or illustrations can help build their vocabulary, as well as give a visual indication of how they are feeling.

A ‘word of the day’ game can be a fun idea to implement for children of all ages. Grab a dictionary or use an online ‘word of the day’ game to find one new word every day. Discuss the meaning of the word together and then incorporate it into your conversations. This can help your foster child develop a richer vocabulary over time.

Play-Based Communication

Never underestimate the power of play. Playing with your foster child is a brilliant way to encourage them to get involved, have a cosy chat, and open up.

For babies, toddlers, and younger children, role-playing is a brilliant way to practice different communication styles, problem-solve, and express empathy and kindness. Use toys or dress-up clothes and have fun with your child letting your imaginations run wild.

If you’re fostering an older child or a teen, try engaging them with regular game nights using board or word games or even computer games. Playing games together can enhance key skills such as communication, collaboration, teamwork, and even a little healthy competition. Involve your child further by discussing with them which games they would like to play and why, which is another example of an open-ended question.


Sometimes speaking words out loud is just too difficult. And that’s OK. While it’s important to gently encourage your foster child to communicate with you, if they are struggling, why not suggest journaling or drawing as an alternative?

Activities such as drawing and writing can be therapeutic and provide alternative means of expression, allowing them to express their thoughts privately, as well as improving their writing and vocabulary skills.

If your foster child is struggling to talk about a certain subject with you, you can suggest they write it down in their journal and if they choose to share it with you then you would love to read it. Otherwise, let them know their thoughts are private but you are there to chat whenever they want.


Like it or not, technology is only getting more advanced. While you might not like the idea of your foster child glued to a screen, using technology the right way can help improve communication skills.

Have a look at educational apps and online resources that can engage your child with some fun language-building activities. From virtual reality to AI, there are lots of cutting-edge apps available that can help your child become a more confident and effective communicator. And if it involves a screen, it might even tempt teens to try it out!

Apps like FaceTime and Whatsapp video calls can also be used to enhance verbal communication skills with others. Have a chat with your foster child and see if there is anyone they would like to speak with to boost their speaking skills.

Make a Positive Difference to Children in Care

By creating a safe, secure, and nurturing environment, understanding the challenges they face, and implementing thoughtful strategies, you can empower your foster child to express themselves, build relationships, and thrive in their journey toward healing and growth.

At Fostering People, we’re here to support you as you support your child, giving you everything you need to be an incredible foster carer.

If you’d like to know more about fostering with us, including our amazing benefits, allowances, training, and support, get in touch about transferring foster care agencies. We would love to answer any questions you might have.