No matter your spiritual beliefs, the Christmas Story provides a beautiful parallel for foster and adoptive parents, or really any of us who seek to love someone challenging.
Tag: foster parenting
My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. It’s a time when all across America, people stop to reflect on the things that they are grateful for. I am grateful for many of the same things as most people, however, as a foster parent, my gratitude also often comes in varied, unconventional ways. Some of the things I have been grateful for over the years might be, to some people, kind of strange. Like the time one of our boys fell asleep on the living room couch.
The more a human being has been hurt, the more natural it is to be self-protecting and to believe that the only person you can count on is yourself. But many great philosophers, spiritual leaders, artists, therapists and social scientist have come to the same conclusion: relationships are what heal.
There are parents, and then there are Parents. There are plenty of folks who do an outstanding job of nurturing, protecting and guiding their children to become healthy, successful adults. For these people, excellent parenting is a high priority in their constellation of life consuming activities. But, then there are those unique individuals where parenting is not just an important responsibility, but rather, it is their Vocation.
As a Mom, when I heard that April is officially “The Month of the Child”, my first thought was, “’The Month of the Child’??? Isn’t every month, even every day for the child?! How come Moms and Dads get only one day out of the whole year?”
Wow, I guess I was feeling a little sensitive about this subject!
March is Social Worker Appreciation month and as a long time foster parent I wanted to weigh in on my experience with these intrepid, hardworking souls. Let’s be honest, no one becomes a Social Worker to make big bucks or to become famous. They do it because they want to make a difference in the lives of children and families. Most of the Social Workers I have worked with over the past 25 years have had 25 to 30 children on their caseloads and yet they make sure to see each child at least once a month—no matter where s/he might be.
First, a few years into working with children with behavior problems stemming from trauma, I began to notice how some kids developed a sense of hopelessness in very rigid homes/group homes. The more difficult a child’s behaviors were, the more restrictive the consequences would become; and eventually, the child would have no privileges and no areas of success. Once this happened, they had nothing left to lose and their behaviors would often escalate.
When my daughter first moved in with me as my then foster daughter, I was her 17th home. After just a few weeks, the testing began. It felt like a 24-hour a day attack; she was very determined to push me away. Even though I had every reason to be emotional, angry, frustrated, doubtful and full of fear, I quickly realized that my “rights” to these feelings were not doing me any good. I would imagine my girl getting on a daily roller coaster ride and I knew that I had to refuse to get on it with her.
The classic Christmas song, “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” may be bring up sentimental images of Bing Crosby and falling snow, but for a foster child, the longing for “home” is very real. As foster parents, we often feel a lot of pressure to try to make the holidays as “normal” as possible for our families while also considering the needs of the traumatized child who is living with us. Here are a few practical ideas for foster families during the holidays:
Are the holidays worth it? With all we hear about the increase in depression and stress, would we, as people, be better off doing the bare minimum for the holidays or maybe skipping them all together? It’s so difficult to manage complexities in our families during the holidays, including different expectations, religions, values, personalities and lifestyles. Does getting together to celebrate create more conflict than warm fuzzies?