Thursday, 21 November 2013

Liar liar

Our foster child has been lying to us and it has disappointed us very much. It has been happening for a while but the lies were caught out incidentally. We've had to talk to our child and so far no harm has been done, but who knows how far it could go? It hasn't been personal, but it feels personal. It's disappointing, it's been trust-breaking and it's something we really should have expected.

Sadly there are patterns of behaviour that seem to affect quite a lot of looked after children and lying is one of them. For our foster child they learnt to lie to survive before they came into care. Ok, now they are happy, safe and secure - they have no reason to lie, but how do you switch off a behaviour that has been established over years, just like that? 

We had to think carefully how we dealt with the situation - for their own well being it couldn't be ignored, and we needed to teach them that their behaviour affects us, that we felt hurt and betrayed, but we also needed to show forgiveness, compassion and love too. The things that had been lacking from their previous existence. 

So a fresh start has been set, the air has been cleared, sorrys have been said and so off we go again.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Carry on as 'normal'

So it's been a while since our new housemate arrived, I feel I can start reflecting back on what it's actually like being a foster carer. I've become a pretty good juggler of time (but what parent isn't?) but I suppose the biggest challenge has been establishing 'normality'

Our foster child has moved in with completely different ideas about eating, sleeping, education, communication, celebration, boundaries etc etc. Their whole identity has been formed and moulded by their previous existence - not all of which has been bad or negative, but it has been their 'normal.'  

At first I tried really hard to make sure that we did things all together, so it felt normal for everyone,  I cooked things from their limited diet that I knew the rest of the family liked, but everyone got bored of having chicken and rice 7 days a week. I've now gone back to my normal cooking repertoire but have back up frozen favourites for our foster child when needed - everyone is more than happy. 

We also have started being a lot more flexible about family trips and visits. To begin with I felt awkward about accepting  invitations from friends and family, not wanting to put our foster child through uncomfortable situations - meeting new people, answering difficult questions and possibly having to eat food they don't like (that is the biggest issue.) Our new, 'relaxed' approach is to not turn people down but to invite them to our house, this way our foster child always has their room to retreat to (definitely their safe place) or when hosting isn't appropriate (parties etc) we try and be super organised and schedule things alongside them like their contact with family, play dates or activities/clubs that they are already doing. No one misses out, no one feels uncomfortable - win win!

There have also been things that as a family we have had to embrace for the sake of our foster child. We have celebrated with our foster child traditions not normal to us, but so important to them. This has been an eye opening and enriching experience (exhausting at times too I've had a lot to learn!) The whole family have benefited from it and our foster child has felt loved, cared for, important and listened to. That's got to be worth the effort. 

So normality - does it exist in a foster family? Probably not, but who wants normal anyway?