My husband and I jumped into the world of foster care almost a year ago, filling out stacks of paperwork and trusting perfect strangers with every intimate detail of our personal lives. Since that time, we have had the extreme privilege of opening our home to children in need. It has been humbling on our worst day to see how inadequate we really are in whatever devastating circumstance brings a child into care and rewarding on our best day as we see the growth and progress that happens as a heart begins to heal.

Foster care has filled our home with the ugly scars of trauma. Whether that trauma was inflicted at the hands of birth parents, by years spent bouncing around the system, or simply by the act of being removed quickly from the care of their biological parents, it leaves an angry wound that festers. To say that our home sometimes feels filled to the brim with grief and brokenness would be an understatement.

In our best attempts to combat the tragedy and fight back the tidal wave of anxiety and mourning, we have turned to essential oils to help the children in our care. While our personal experiences come from helping children from hard places, I’m sure that you’ll find a trick or two to calm your own fussy child, anxious preschooler, or rough and tumble adolescent. Our story is unique to our family, but the essential oils we use don’t have to be.

Take a look at these five tips and tricks for using essential oils to help your kiddos who struggle with high emotion:

Lavender Aromatherapy and Massage

Kids coming into care may have a hard time drifting off to sleep in an unfamiliar bed in a home they aren’t comfortable in with a family they’ve never met before. All of the unknowns get their minds to racing when left alone in the dark with their thoughts. Everyone has heard that lavender is a very calming, soothing scent so why not allow the oil to do its job to put them straight to sleep?

Especially until we know what behaviors to expect, we don’t add high end or heavy diffusers to a child’s room. We keep a very lightweight, inexpensive diffuser in our son’s room that also doubles as a nightlight. We fill it together and add the essential oils as part of a bedtime routine. Just a few drops mixed with the water in the reservoir will start pumping that lovely lavender scent throughout the room for ultimate relaxation. Sleeping through the night allows parents to sleep through the night also, so everyone wakes up feeling refreshed and ready for a new day.

Peppermint for Stress Headaches and Upset Stomachs

When going through a period of intense stress, it’s not uncommon for any of us to experience an upset stomach or tension headache. Children who have high levels of anxiety are even more prone to these symptoms. Mix a little bit of peppermint oil in your favorite carrier oil (almond oil and fractionated coconut oil are my personal favorites) and add to a small roller bottle. Rub right on your stomach for an upset stomach or along the sensitive parts of the back of your neck for quick relief. Please note, do not use peppermint on children younger then 6 years of age.

Lavender and Tea Tree Oil for Cuts and Bruises

Children coming into foster care from a background of abuse may come with an unsightly array of wounds that need to be tended to. Help to erase the daily reminder of the abuse by promoting the healing process. Wounds that aren’t currently open can benefit from a dab of lavender or tea tree oil mixed in a carrier oil. Lavender will help to decrease the redness but both oils will help to keep the wound clean and promote speedy healing.

This is a great trick even for kids who don’t come from a hard place. If your little one is on the clumsy side or plays a little bit rougher than you would like sometimes, a little bit of lavender oil or tea tree oil might be a good idea to keep handy in a small roller bottle.

Sanitize Laundry

There isn’t always a lot of time for children to gather clothing before leaving for a foster care placement. Sometimes, what little clothing they do show up with is dirty beyond what you and I could bear to imagine. While we might imagine simply throwing it all away, we have to bear in mind that these few precious items are the only connection left to a home and family they may not see again for quite some time.

Salvaging those items begins by sanitizing them. Slip them into the washing machine with hot water, unscented detergent, and two or three drops of tea tree oil. Tea tree oil’s antimicrobial and antifungal properties make it a natural antiseptic that will help to kill off whatever might be lingering in their laundry.

This is also helpful for dirty gym laundry, sports uniforms, and just regular summer play clothes that have seen their fair share of grime.

Orange Aromatherapy

Orange oil is a wonderful antidote for feelings of depression or anxiety because it provides an instant mood-lift. Once you can move past a place of needing a spirit of calm, help a child perk up by spreading a little citrus. Diffusing it throughout your home works best so that everyone in the family can benefit from higher spirits.

Once the oils have permeated the space, I do recommend placing your diffuser somewhere not so easily accessible to children, especially those who have little familiarity with the dangers of essential oils. It is possible to have too much of a good thing – especially if you are ingesting it!

Opening ourselves up to become foster parents wasn’t an easy decision for our family, but we can no longer imagine our lives any differently. Each day brings a new and occasionally unpredictable struggle that we must face together to bring healing into the lives around us. Stress and anxiety run high in our home, for the parents and the children, so we’ve found a few tricks along the way to make it just a little bit easier.

We have seen firsthand how beneficial essential oils are in our home from helping to give everyone in the family a peaceful night’s rest to curing the common ailments and household dilemmas we encounter. The situations we face may not be exactly the same as your family’s unique circumstances, but I bet you’ll find a few practical ways to put these tips into practice in your own home.