There are times that I get so tired and wonder why in the world I am investing so much of myself and my family into children that are ‘not mine.’ It seems that a large portion of my days are spent picking up the pieces of shattered lives that I did not shatter. Do you ever feel that way?
One of the hardest parts of being a foster care parent is the constant need and emotional issues. This can reek havoc on even the strongest of person. Emotional battles are so often fought within and take a lot of work to pinpoint. Then when they are pinpointed, an attempt can be made to deal with them. I use the word attempt because emotional issues are not dealt with in one sitting- they are a lifetime battle.
How is a foster parent supposed to cope with the issues that come as baggage into their homes? I do not think that there is one right answer for that. I know that it is difficult for some to separate themselves from the issues. This might be the first order of business. Deal with the issue but do not internalize it. This is not easy to do because the child in front of you is often blaming you. You are their scape goat for the pain that they are feeling. It is important for every foster parent that is dealing with children who struggle emotionally, to step back from the situation long enough to get a realistic look. This look gives the parent much needed breathing room but also allows them to figure out what their role should be.
Another necessary thing for a foster parent to do is deal in truth. Do not let the child lie to you and in return, do not lie to them. This may seem like common sense but it is difficult to do. Many foster parents do not want to hurt the child anymore than they have been so they skirt around issues. That will not work. Both the parent and child know that the skirting is occurring and one (if not both) resent it. It is better to deal in full factual mode. This might seem more difficult in the beginning but levels out and allows both parties to bring the desired respect back to the table.
Finally, I do not think that a child should be allowed to disrespect any authority. I see a lot of foster children being allowed to do that because they are mad or upset. Teaching control and stability are very hard but worth every second. No matter if that child will only be with your family for a week or a lifetime, any ounce of control taught is a lifelong benefit. If you are in a situation that requires a lot from you, do not let it drain you. Find other outlets so that you are healthy and emotionally strong yourself to fight this battle on behalf of the child.