Wednesday, February 14, 2018

FORGIVENESS IN FOSTERING

Forgiveness is one of the cornerstones of a functioning family.

My family are so forgiving of me they keep the things they forgive me for to themselves.

Either that or I'm perfect...

I forgive my other half almost every day for standing his used mug in the sink for me to either wash up or put in the dishwasher. I'm past commenting on it, I just forgive.  

Forgiveness is unconditional love.

Family forgiveness and family unconditional love are inextricably entwined, and because unconditional love is a given with your own flesh and blood, forgiveness of your own family members is a done deal. Well, it should be...

Forgiveness plays a big part in fostering, but it needs one's best attention, because;

Unconditional love is not a basic instinct that we have for young people who until recently were total strangers, ie our foster children.

So we foster carers have to go to work consciously to give them the forgiveness they need.

Children coming into foster care have suffered emotional injuries the like of which our own children (hopefully) have been spared. We carers have to be constantly on our guard to avoid expecting the same behaviours from foster children we expect from our own children who have been spared what they have not.

I've just been to see a counsellor, Blue Sky arrange this if you want, and pay for it too, at least they did in my case.

I wanted to known more about  how to help young people who have distress. She advised;

People can't regulate their emotions when they are in distress. So there's no point in trying logic or any sort of confrontation to get them out of distress.

Distress is caused when a person's core beliefs are challenged. For example we know now that if you are caring for a person with dementia and they announce their (long deceased) auntie is coming to visit, the best response is to put the kettle on and put out some cake. What doesn't work is to say 'No! Auntie Bess died ten years ago!' It'll only upset them more.

A foster child's core belief might be that life's unfair, that they will always be defeated, that they have been unfairly treated, and if they are denied a chocolate biscuit because tea is going to be served in half an hour they have all their unfairnesses brought back.  In which case we must 'validate' that emotion (but not any behaviour that is unacceptable).  'Validate'? Whassat? It means they are right to feel what they feel, although it's tricky getting that across.

And we forgive any behaviour which resulted, but do not approve it.

We forgive them, and make sure they know they are forgiven, but without making a big deal of it.

****

Oh dear...I have explained the above really badly. The counsellor explained it to me  a lot better. I made notes but now can hardly read my own scrawl. 

Driving home from the session I tried to keep one thing that I'd learned alive and clear in my mind, and although the rest is hazy and muddled, I remember thinking this;

I must always forgive a child in care in proportion to the damage that they have suffered.

I try to carry a picture in my mind of a moment from each foster child's life when their unhappiness was at its worst. In some cases it's a chilling picture.

I had one child stay with us whose mother had fitted a lock onto the outside of his bedroom door so she could go to the pub and not worry he  might be wandering around. The child told me he used to stand at the window and cry as loudly as he could in the hope that someone, anyone, would come and rescue him. He once said to me; 'Why didn't you come and help...?'

When he used to get upset, after the dust settled and he was calm again, I would remember my picture of him crying his lungs out for someone, anyone, to help. And whatever the fallout from his upset, I forgave him.  How could you not?

In moments when foster children are carrying on, or challenging me, or otherwise being a pain, I try to go to their picture. And instantly forgive. Genuinely forgive.

Understanding distress and remembering forgiveness took up the first half-hour of the session. 

Another time I'll confuse you further by trying to explain what I learned about how to praise children by finding out what is REALLY important to them. That took up the second half of the hour.












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