Wednesday, March 09, 2016

WHY A FOSTER PARENT MUST NEVER BE COOL

One of the things that's most interesting about fostering, and at the same time most rewarding, is building the right relationship - that is,  the one to help each looked-after child.

Most relationships that  young people have with adults are well defined, historic. You have parent-child, teacher-pupil, nurse-patient. The exact relationship varies, of course, but everyone is pretty much agreed on the basics.

Grandparent-grandchild, older brother-younger-brother, sister-sister. I could go on.

The fact is that in fostering you start fishing for the right relationship with your foster child the minute they arrive. 

People who've never fostered usually assume you go for one of the parent-child relationships, and for sure that's the foundation of it, usually.

But because the children usually have real parents elsewhere, for whom they have feelings (one way or another), we can't simply take the reins and parent them the way we parented our own children.

In a nutshell; we foster parents have to work out what each child wants and needs their foster parent to be.

And, just as important, what they don't want us to be.

By way of example...

As foster parents there is something we must avoid, in my view, at all times.

Being COOL.

Most children are embarrassed by some aspects of their parents. It might be something that can't be helped; the fact that there's no dad on the scene, or mum drives a knackered car or has a piercing laugh, or dad has an uncool tattoo, or even worse, wears a tie on the school run.

We are unwittingly uncool.

But those things are innocent, it's when we try to show we were young once, or that we watch MTV or that we know how to use a smartphone that we are crossing a clear line.

We must be very careful trying to be their elder sister/brother. 

For one thing we are trying to muscle into one of their most treasured private possessions; their youth culture. We want to keep certain corners of our home private, they want ownership of kidz stuff.

Like when a song comes on the radio and they know the words; I never sing along.

I still act naively I don't know what twerking is, except I'm supposed to disapprove.

I wear slippers in the house where before fostering I wore comfy trainers. I've let the highlights grow out. I dress like I remember my old mum bless her used to dress to pick me up from school, even though I can do better.

I know there are foster parents who can get down, and that's great, but for most of us I think we are somewhere between parents and grandparents. Even a bit uncle/auntie. Sometimes a completely neutral semi-official trained and dependable robot/butler.

Anything but a foster parent trying to be a contemporary or a mate.

A bruvva o a sista, man. A gangsta o a diesel mo. 

I'll shut up.

11 comments:

  1. Oh this made me giggle. We were in our late 30s when we started a few years ago we are a bit younger than many foster parents we met and kids usually like that we know who their bands are, have converse trainers, go to concerts etc. However we are happy to do be "embarrasing" parents, helps ensure we aren't too cool.

    A while back was walking in the same direction as Bright One on her way to school, when our paths parted she didn't want a hug, so I waited until she was a few meters away and called "Have a good day at school, I love you Snuck-Um!" she yelled back that I should shut up as I'm an embarrasment, but she did it with a giggle. And we both went on our way with a smile. xx

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  2. Lovely story. Sounds like Bright One is on track.
    We can tell you're a bit younger than many of us; you use metric!

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  3. She is, and flying along at school too. Its Dramaqueen who is worrying us at the moment. If you have any advice on coping with teens who won't do homework I'd love to hear it!

    I don't think age matters much, as long as you are healthy enough to do it. We might have the ability to run round the park more than some others, but we're learning on the job without the benefit of our own kids or grandkids to call on. x

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    1. It's clear you are doing a fantastic job, there's no limit to how much great work you can do as you build on what you learn.
      As far as homework for looked-afters goes; I personally (my views and no-one else's) think it's a waste of time, achieves nothing and brings massive stress into lots of homes.
      Every time I've gone to the school and explained this the child has been exempted from homework and quite right too.

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  4. My partner and I are in our 20s, and actually younger than the children's mother. Haven't had any age related problems as yet, think the eldest enjoys me singing along with him to the radio! Though I do think we've been clear from the start that we are the 'parent' rather than friend, so that might have helped.
    Enjoyed the 'dependable butler' remark - I do feel like that a lot! Eldest had left half his cereal the other day and it turned out he'd wanted more milk (I'd been out in the garden). When I mentioned he could have helped himself he said he doesn't like helping himself, so a fresh bowl of cereal with extra milk it was then! Must taste better when someone else brings it πŸ˜‰
    Maria

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  5. I can picture myself dealing with the cereal situation exactly the same way, so I'm bound to say well done. So well done! It does taste better when someone else brings it. Mind, foster children sometimes have such low self-esteem and a powerful sense of what's called the imposter syndrome that they haven't got what it takes to open the fridge door. I get round this by asking them to get things I need out of the fridge and the behaviour becomes normal.

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    1. Thanks, yeah they don't tend to spend much time in the kitchen so I might try that. We are having major issues with food, especially with the eldest, so anything he eats is a bonus!
      He has the appetite of a sparrow and is unreal how little variety he eats. I think it's a lot to do with control but really struggling to get anything substantial into him, and little one is starting to copy the behaviour πŸ˜•. Have asked him to be referred for help as he's losing weight πŸ˜•.
      Maria

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  6. Oh dear, that's hard for them, and for you too. I tend to give them whatever they crave to begin with regardless of what the diet sheets say. I had one boy wouldn't eat so I came up with a crazy strategy which was to leave small bowls of snack food lying around close to the ground; a handful of crisps, some halved cherry toms, a quartered slice of buttered bread. He'd find them, like he was a hunter-gatherer and scoff them out of sight, delighted by his triumphant discovery.
    I'm no way suggesting you do that, just saying we foster carers have to think outside the box.

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  7. SFC - That is a brilliant tactic and one I highly recommend. We used the same method on a friend who was dealing with an eating disorder and didn't like people to see her eat. When we'd get together we'd dot lots and lots of little bowls of dried fruit, nuts, sweets etc all over the place, including odd places like on the landing and hall tables, places she might pass by and grab a handful. It worked as she could pick at them without fear of people noticing she was eating.

    I don't know if this would help you Maria, but whenever we did respite we'd put a snackbox in the child's bedroom, telling them it was all for them during their stay. It would have juice cartons, little packets of nuts and raisins, crisps, treat size chocolates etc. It meant they had a source of food and drinks without having to ask or come downstairs. The box was usually empty when the child left a few days later.

    Are the kids old enough to get involved with the cooking Maria? Where control is an issue getting them helping to cook and dish up can be a big help. I have found kids will eat things they have made so we’ve used this to expand variety of foods we can have in our house. I tell them they are making cheesecake, cauliflower cheese etc, sweet potato mash for ME, and of course they can have a bit if they want to. Have you tried DIY milkshakes? High calorie, nutritious and you might even be able to sneak a bit of protein powder or a banana in there - kids LOVE using a blender!!

    Also, and this is a long term one, I found that if they grow it, they will eat it - potatoes are dead easy if you have a spare bit of ground and we were never able to harvest any quantity of berries or peas as Bright One will eat them right off the plant before they got into the house! Rhubarb is pretty good too - sour stems and a bowl of sugar to dip them into! I’m sure you’re doing a great job and making progress even if you don’t see it. Keep us informed about how it goes x

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    1. Thanks for the ideas, will give it a go leaving the bowls of food scattered around. And the idea of a snack box, bet he'd love that. We've tried cooking with him but he's not bothered - will walk away and not want to try it. Had a meeting with school and they've said at lunch time he'll just play with the food and only eat the pudding, and leaves the canteen asap even leaving his friends behind, it seems like a real aversion!
      Thanks for the great ideas, will deffo use some of them!
      Maria

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  8. Sounds like you're on top with good ideas and determination, surely you'll start to get results soon.
    Has anybody helped you with possible specific reasons for his aversion (it almost seems like a phobia)?
    Has he any powerful associations with food and eating that are the barrier? Maybe he was made to sit and stare at a plate of food that had him feel sick until he ate it, that can happen, and isn't going to make a child feel anything but fear about a plate.

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