What was I thinking?! I must have been crazy!
If you’re a foster parent, chances are you’ve asked yourself those questions on more than one occasion.
Let’s face it. Foster parenting is hard. Sometimes, it’s really hard.
But it can also be one of the most fulfilling experiences of your life, because, at the end of the day, you’re making the world a better place for a child whose life is in turmoil.
So, in those moments when you’re questioning your sanity, here are a few things to remember.
- Change takes time: Kids don’t get better quickly and kids who have experienced trauma need time to feel secure and safe before they can begin to heal. Your foster child, who seems just to be treading water in your home, is actually putting a lot of energy into staying afloat.
- Day-to-day life can be amazingly therapeutic: Providing your foster child with the basics of good food, clean clothes and a warm and safe place to sleep helps them feel more secure. Physical safety and comfort are the basis on which good relationships can be built. The good meals you make and the endless laundry you do really does matter.
- Progress happens on a winding road: Sometimes you’ll feel that things are getting worse. When it seems your foster child may be losing ground, it may actually mean that he’s feeling safe enough to show you the parts of himself that others have rejected. His acting out can be a test to see if you will want him out of your home. When that doesn’t happen he learns that you will stick with him even when he pushes you away.
- Listening matters: Being a witness to the pain your foster child has suffered may be enormously helpful to her, even though you can’t make things better. If you can tolerate hearing about the difficult experiences she’s had, you’re letting her know that you care enough about her to accept her sadness and anger about the past. Through this, you lend her your strength.
- Naming the good stuff helps: Find time to notice and then name the things she’s doing right. This can help her self-esteem while also shifting your perspective. Be specific: “I really appreciate it when you help me clear the table” or “You were so kind to your friend from school when I picked you all up from school” or “You really have a good sense of color.” These positive comments add up, and help you both see that some things are going well. This is especially important when things are rough.
Foster parenting is hard work. And yes, at times you’ll question your sanity. Some of these ideas may help you through the more challenging moments. They may make the hardest and best thing you ever do just a bit easier.