The most frequently heard question around these parts is, “How do you do it? How can you let them go?”
I realize most people are “wondering aloud.” They don’t really want to know how I do it, they are wondering if they could do it. However, if you get asked a question frequently enough, you start thinking through the answer.
Just as we have plans in place to ease a child’s entry into our home, we have plans for “letting go.” Sometimes the kids leave abruptly and without a lot (or any) notice, in that case, we all just have to do the best we can. When we do have advance notice, though, we can go about it in a way that makes it easier for all of us.
- From the time a child enters the home, refer to them as “a new friend.” Since this child will eventually leave, don’t refer to them as a “sister” or “brother.”
- Store their belongings separately. This matters to older foster kids because they want to know that what’s theirs is theirs and won’t be disappearing. But it helps our kids too; these things are theirs and will one day leave with them.
- Take a lot of pictures. This helps when they are gone to remember them.
- When you find out a child will be leaving on a certain date, tell the older kids. It helps them to have time to “complete” with the foster child in a way that is appropriate for them.
- Do not tell the little ones until the day of departure. They do not have a good grasp of time so waiting until that day works best for them. However, in the days before, do step up the reminders that the child will be leaving to return to his family or live in his “forever family’s” home.
- When you know they will be leaving, start packing up their belongings and checking each room for their possessions. Point out to them that we are putting all their things in one place so they know right where they are. Washing and folding their clothes to prepare for their departure is therapeutic.
- If possible, have a going away party, it makes a hard day easier. Have a cake or cupcakes and consider a simple gift; all the kids can help with the baking. Tell the kids from the start that after the party, our friend will be going home with his parents or “forever family.”
- Take time afterward to grieve. Talk about the child and share photos. If yours is a praying family, remember the child in family prayers. Share any news of the child with the whole family; speak of them often. This helps everyone remember the child is alive and well, hopefully thriving in a new environment.
Let me know how your family copes with the big “good-byes.”
Photo credit: Dreena T