In these worrying and uncertain times, I was thinking of how we foster carers and our kids are coping. The more I thought about it, the world might be a very different place for most folk, but it struck me that life doesn’t really look that different for many of us, than it did before. So it got me thinking that we have so many skills and coping strategies already in our toolbox, that we use day in & day out, that put us in a really good place for what is happening just now. So, I’ve put together a few things that we should remember that we already know.
#1 We know how to live with uncertainty. Living with the kids we live with is “uncertain”, we live with uncertainty every day. Our kids can be very unpredictable and not knowing what is coming next is a huge part of what we do every day. Uncertainty is also a fact of life for our kids, even if we can have a certain amount of certainty about their future with us, for example being with us long term or permanently, it often doesn’t feel “certain” for them, so they generally live every day with uncertainty.
#2 We know how to manage anxiety. We live with kids who have a high degree of anxiety every single day, not just in times that generate high anxiety for the whole country / world. We know that anxiety can come in waves and can “wash” over our kids and that we need to take each moment as it comes, balancing the level of anxiety at any given moment. We also know that our kids pick up on our anxiety. Chaos is contagious…but so is Calm.
#3 We know how to manage in a crisis. Crisis is part of our lives as a foster carer. Crisis is our bread & butter. We deal with them day in and day out and we know about staying calm, taking a step back, breathing, and responding to the situation in front of us. We also know how to think on our feet, in the moment, in the spur of the moment. And most importantly we know that we sometimes get it wrong. And when we get it wrong, we know the importance of not giving ourselves a hard time and also about the importance of the apology see #4
#4 We know the importance of an apology. We sometimes feel stressed and anxious too, and we get it wrong. Apologising to our kids when we get it wrong is one of the most attachment building and emotionally connecting lessons we can share with our kids. It shows that that we adults get things wrong and more importantly it shows that our relationship can survive making mistakes. That we can move on without it affecting the relationship.
#5 We know about feeling isolated. Isolation is real for most foster carers. Remember the many names that were on our Eco-map when we completed it during our assessments haha…. When we sat optimistically listing the people who would be there to help us once our young person came to us. That list gradually (or not so gradually) got smaller and smaller as our fostering journey commenced. We are already used to our tribe being a virtual one and that social media / messages/ telephone is an important, and often the only way to keep connected.
#6 We know that we are part of a wider team, we are an important link in a chain of support that includes others. Others we might not see them much but they are still there. We know about keeping folk updated and linking in when we need to share information. We know we are not alone (although it might sometimes feel like it).
#7 We know the value of being child centred, empathic and listening to our kids. We know that hearing them with more than our ears, and playing detective to work out what is going on, explains far more that the words that they actually say.
#8 We know the importance of relationships. And how important relationships are to kids who have attachment disorders, and that connecting with them is more important than having them “do what we tell them”. We know that timing is everything and that “biding oor time” is an actual strategy.
#9 We don’t worry about the need to home school oor kids when they are not at school. We tend to use the phrase “home’s home & school’s school. We know that stressed kids cant learn and we know that stressed adults cant teach stressed kids, so we don’t stress it. We know that not all learning is about Maths & English & sometimes “making pancakes” ticks the “learning” box for the entire day.
#10 We know that sometimes “anything for a quiet life” actually means “anything to survive”. And we know that there are times that we will be using You Tube, PS4, TV, and Computers more than we would usually like because we “need” some head space to keep our own self care topped up as much as possible.
And ultimately, we know that we have got this. We will get through this…… and that the world will get back to “normal” at some point.