Sunday, January 27, 2013

What do your foster children call you?

Yes, I know they call you all the names under the sun sometimes, but I'm talking about the familial name they use for you. 

And while on the subject of names, what do you call them, and how do you say it?

Interestingly, research shows that "Daddy" is the most common first word spoken by British children followed closely by "Mummy", those two words being the first words for 25% of all children.The word they must hear most often is their own name, yet that appears never to be a first word. Babies don't know they exist, have no concept of themselves.

Girls learn to speak earlier than boys. A worrying 4% of children get to the age of three without uttering a word.

One in six children have problems talking.

Understandably, fostered children, like all other children, yourself and myself included come to that, have only one mummy, only one daddy. Doesn't matter how good or bad your mum and dad are, they are the only people we can call mum and dad. To call anybody else mum and dad would be a crime against the universe.

But, as one carer was saying at a Blue Sky team meeting recently, children usually don't want their school friends to know they are in care. So they are careful not to call you "Sue" or "Mike", which they do around the house.

The first time you find yourself called "Mummy" or "Daddy" is often at the school railings or outside the dance class or on the touchline. And you have to act as if nothing had happened.

Whenever it's happened to me, I confess I always get a good feeling. Partly because it's a lovely sound, but also because it can be a sign they are becoming more comfortable with their difficult situation.

From that point it's interesting to listen out for the use of "Mum" and "Dad" popping up in the home.

As to the other question; what do you call your fostered children, I think it's very important to treat their name with utmost respect. Their name was chosen for them by their real mum and dad, and during their baby days and infancy, it was their mum and dad who used the name all the time. 

They probably had other names for the child too. "YOU!" is a very common one. So is a sarcastic use of their surname with the words "MISTER" or "MISS" tacked on the front.

"TROUBLE" and "PRINCESS" are others. "PICKLE" and "SLEEPYHEAD" sound like charming little phrases, but would you want to be called "CRUMBLY" or "WOBBLY-CHINS", even with affection?

If we drop our guard, we can accidentally use a name their real mum or dad used, maybe in anger, maybe during a nasty scene, and if that ain't a trigger for a wobbly I don't know what is.

I try to use their full first name, or their preferred version of it, pronounced correctly, and never to shout it.

Like I said, that's what I try to do.

The Secret Foster Carer


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