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!
Once my inner child calmed down and I started thinking about the significance of “The Month of the Child”, I realized that, in my life as a Resource (Foster) Parent, the children I serve absolutely deserve honoring—every day. Just the fact that they are in my care means that they have survived some significant trauma. No matter what, they are survivors and it is my job to help them become thrive-ers.
Over the years, I have learned many ways to honor the children that have been entrusted into my care. Here are a few:
- Lean in to their pain, don’t be afraid to hear their story, but don’t take it on as your own. I can’t tell you how many shocking things the kids in my care have shared with me. Sometimes they are said with tears and sadness, and other times it could be a casual statement said as if what had occurred was totally normal. It’s so important to be able to hear them and not judge or become traumatized yourself. We honor our kids by being a safe person for them to process their life stories.
- Don’t take it personally. Most kids in foster care don’t want to be in foster care. Almost every bit of control that they may have had in the past has been taken over by “the system.” No matter how much dysfunction they experienced in their previous home, kids yearn to be with their family, especially their parents. We honor our kids by understanding this and honoring their love for their families.
- Love, love, love. When I think back on all the training I have received to become a Resource (Foster) Parent, the one training that really made an impact was about trauma-informed care. In this training, we learned that trauma that is caused in a relationship can be healed in a relationship. It was also they also suggested that we should always try to come from a place of love and not fear. Yes, they used the word LOVE. We honor our kids by giving them love in many ways. Many of “our” kids can’t hear the words, “I love you” but they can feel loved by the things we do to demonstrate love. For some kids it might be hugs and words of affection, while for others it might be making their favorite food for dinner or saving their favorite stuffed animal with a needle and thread.
- Find the good and point it out. I can truly say that I have seen the good in every child that has ever been placed in my home. Sometimes it took a lot of searching, but the good is always there. Most kids don’t see the good in themselves and we honor them by finding it and pointing it out to them. When you see a child do an act of kindness, point it out. When you see them step-up and contribute—like offering to help with the dishes—point it out. Point out the good qualities you see in them. You might be the only person who has ever done this for them, and you are creating the possibility for them to see their own good.
- Take good care of yourself so that you can be the rock they can count on. We honor our kids by taking care of ourselves. Remember, “You can’t give what you don’t have”; meaning, tired, overworked, stressed-out parents don’t have much left over to give to others. By planning ahead to take care of ourselves—whether it be a vacation or a massage or maybe even an afternoon with a good book—we are making sure that our kids get the very best of us. They are counting on it!