So you’re starting out on the foster parenting journey. Or perhaps you’re stepping back into it. In any case, there are some important steps to take in order to be as prepared as you can be.
Mike and I practically stumbled into foster care. Long story short, a friend of ours needed help, and to step in, we had to become licensed foster parents. We had no idea what we were getting into. We just blindly moved forward. Still, if I could go back and make the decision differently, I honestly wouldn’t change a thing. We did what was right in the moment, and it has forever changed our lives for the better.
In this world, our children will struggle, oftentimes more than typically developing children. How do we help them, or empower them, to face these difficult situations? Here are some tips…
Foster care and adoption are difficult. There will be hard parts to our child’s story. It is inevitable. Our children will see some things in their past as normal and others as difficult. It isn’t for us to decide which parts are difficult for our children. This is why it is so important that our children feel empowered to deal with the hard parts. Here are some things we can do to help:
Foster and adoptive families are far from the traditional family unit in many ways. The biggest difference is that our children come from two families. How do we help them embrace their own identity as they grow into adulthood?
We are a multiracial, multigenerational, multicultural family. We have our own identity as a family, and it is unique to us. It includes the things we laugh at, the movies we watch, our traditions, and our inside jokes. It includes a set of values and expectations we live by. This is a very important part of our identity, but it is not our entire identity.
We’re a multi-racial family of 10. The events of these past few weeks have shaken us to the core. They’ve prompted fear in our children and left us broken and on edge as their parents. This is what #BlackLivesMatter means to me…
I want to go back.
This picture was taken on a trip to Disney World in. Our youngest daughter was just about to turn 3. The only thing she loved more than Cinderella’s castle was her daddy. He had just raced through the streets of the theme park toward the castle with his little girls clasped in each arm. “The princesses are arriving!” He shouted. They giggled with glee and I trailed behind with our son in the stroller. I rolled my eyes at the absurdity of it but I couldn’t stop laughing. His happiness was in his daughters’ delight. He would bring them the world to make them smile. His joy poured from him and reflected in their faces.
Celebration seems like a normal part of our humanity, but for children who have experienced great loss, the ability to celebrate isn’t a given. How can we empower our children to process the good parts of their story?
Have you ever met a person who seems to sabotage every good thing? Do you know someone who avoids family gatherings, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas? How about someone who always seems to see the glass half empty? The child who cannot seem to relax and have a good time may simply not know how.
Following a safety plan in your home is fairly cut and dry. You establish the plan, you follow the plan, and often the plan is discussed openly amongst you and your children. But that changes when you’re in public. How do you continue to follow your plan and not embarrass your children?
This may seem like a moot subject during this current landscape of life. At some point, however, we’re going to return to normal and begin interacting with others outside of our home. When that time comes, you will have to hold up the safety plan you created to keep your children, and other children safe. But how do we do that and not face embarrassment?
Once we discover therapeutic parenting strategies, we go all-in. It’s a lightbulb moment. But is it possible to overdo it, or apply the strategies so much that they become enabling? Here’s some perspective…
“Don’t you understand how to work with kids from trauma?” my nine-year-old screamed at the bus driver as he exited the doors of the school bus and stepped onto our long driveway. He turned around and continued, “You have to talk to us in a calm voice! My brain has flipped right now, and I’m freaking out!” I scurried to the end of the driveway and stood at the open door of the bus, staring directly into the bus driver’s red face. He was not amused. “Go inside now,” I firmly told our son, and then I apologized to the driver.
Helping family and close friendships understand you and how you parent can be tricky. They mean well, but may not fully understand how to support you. But there are ways you can encourage them and help them gain a healthy understanding.
Once we know the importance attachment and bonding play in a healthy upbringing, we tend to parent differently. Children from traumatic pasts have had their initial attachment disrupted, so we must parent intentionally to teach our children healthy skills to build trust. We can’t stay isolated, and neither can our children, so we must form a sturdy support system around our them. Most people will get on board with our parenting style, but sometimes even our close family and friends don’t understand why do what we do. Some will intentionally sabotage our efforts; others will unintentionally disrupt the bond we are building with our child. Whatever the motivation behind the behavior of the adults surrounding our family, we must remain firm.