Blue Sky put on lots of training sessions, you always get some nuggets of practical use. The one we were all most looking forward to was on "Resilience". Most of us, myself included, hoped it was going to be about how to help us Carers maintain our resilience. Actually it turned out to be about how to help the child's resilience, which is an interesting feature of looked-after children. Take yesterday.
I'm fingers crossed all day, for a phone call from school.
Last week the child had "Transition Day". Each year they move them around. She spent a whole day in next year's new classroom, with a mostly new set of classmates, and a new teacher.
Had to fill in a Violent Incident report form after she'd gone to bed (finally) that night.
Nothing serious, just threats. When she spits, she doesn't actually spit, just collects a teaspoon of saliva on the lips and allows it to dribble. She'll throw things, but only cushions and soft toys, and only ever across the room, never at us or breakables. These shows of anger don't peter out, they gradually escalate until we have to intervene for everyone's sake. We've talked to Blue Sky's psychotherapist and our social worker aplenty, and all agreed; she's testing our loyalty plus she needs the comfort and security of being under a loving, controlling authority she can trust not to hurt her.
So I had to hold her by her upper arms, gently, approaching from behind, after trying all the de-escalation techniques we get trained in. I only do this with my partner present for support. Distraction is best. Logical argument the worst, in fact it's not even recommended.
I saw a woman in the street recently with a four year old standing at her side crying his eyes out. The woman was using logic to stop the tears; "I explained earlier that we are not having anything more to eat until we get home, and you agreed, we have to walk back to the car there is no alternative, so what is your issue?" All the babe needed was a lolly and a carry, something had frightened him - possibly living with a mum who treats childhood emotions like a boardroom negotiation. And yes, she actually asked the infant "What is your issue?"
I take the child's arms in a gentle grip and she immediately starts to calm down. I say "Would you like to walk upstairs or a carry?" (Giving her a choice let's her feel in control, but I get the outcome I need). She always, always chooses the carry, and when I pick her up she folds, exhausted, into me. Exhausted with all her troubles and memories.
She is always placid after being angry, provided I don't lose my concentration, or give in and get short with her.
Anyway, it seems this episode was triggered by "Transition Day". She finds her new teacher looks a bit like someone who abused her.
I went to school and asked the Head if she could be switched to a different class. He said he'd try, but couldn't promise. Fair enough.
He also explained they structured the child's progress through the school to develop resilience. Protect them against the shock of moving on to another school.
I saw a documentary recently about a British woman from Hertfordshire who gave it all up to become a Tibetan Buddhist monk. She spent 8 years up a freezing mountain, living in a cave alone, with only a wooden crate which she stood in to pray for 12 hours every day. To build up her resilience.
I nodded politely when the Head explained the need for resilience.
This little girl has enough resilience already to put the Dalai Lama in the shade.
Unfortunately she doesn't have the enlightenment.
The Secret Foster Carer