Thursday, December 19, 2019

LOVING HAVING YOUR KIDS HOME

School holidays are a big thing in fostering. One of many joys is that for a week or several you don't have to battle to get children up and off to school.

Getting your child, any child - not just a foster child - to school is always an issue.

One afternoon just before one Christmas I was sat on a gym bench watching a primary school carol concert. The slightly out-of-date teacher who'd organised the show closed it by getting up on the stage and announcing;

"The staff are looking forward to three weeks of peace and quiet, and wish you parents good luck you're going to need it what with…"

I won't go on. The teacher's message, delivered in front of the children, was that they found the kids hard work and were relieved to be handing them back to the parents to have to deal with them.

A  number of parents in the audience chuckled along with the notion - that children are hard work and it's better if someone else is looking after them.

Oh dear.

We should love our children and always make them know that we enjoy them and love their company.

I had a foster child under my wings who had real problems with rejection. The child's father had made it clear he wanted nothing to do with his offspring. The mother felt likewise and spent as much time as possible away from them. The siblings were at each other's throats out of fear, confusion and anger - and the child who came to me, being the youngest, got the worst of it.

When the child's favourite teacher left teaching (couldn't hack the workload, the targets, the stress) the child felt even more rejected.

He became despairing, distressed, depressed.

It took us a long time to understand his reason why he hated going to school. 

Every child has their own set of reasons. Sometimes it's because they feel bullied. Sometimes they are sad that school seems to be showing them they are not very bright and therefore haven't much of a future.

This foster child's story was this;

The child felt that the reason we tried every morning to get him off to school was because WE DIDN'T WANT HIM IN THE HOUSE.

This discovery was a bombshell, and it had to be acted on. But how?

We went out on a limb. No parent should do what we did unless the chips are down - which they were. The child was doing okay academically, but was fraying at the edges, and the worry was the child would go off the edge.

When I say 'We" I mean my other half and myself. We took a decision that was awkward, and which would necessarily put us at loggerheads with the school, the local authority and maybe even Blue Sky (though it turned out not to be the case; they are great backer-uppers).

But the child was going downhill. Nobody loved or wanted this child, that is how he saw it.

So. 

After much thought we decided to try something radical. I don't recommend it but it happened.

The child came down in the morning, tearful, tremulous and sour. We'd talked about what we were going to do. So when the child said;

"I don't want to go to school." (Expressed more colourfully than that).

We said…

"We don't want you to go either."

Stunned silence, then;

"Seriously I don't want to go to school."

Me: "Seriously, we don't want you to go."

"What?"

"We like this house most when you're here."

There followed a discussion, heated at first, in which we tried to make clear that we…didn't want him to go to school. Actually, it was true. This child got so worked up and angry at school things were  so much better for the child every Saturday and Sunday, I began to wonder if it was so important they learn Pythagoras compared to finding some peace.

Child stayed home. For four schooldays. Eeek!

During that time child grew upwards and inwards more than ever before or since. Child experienced the feeling that people wanted him, liked him, loved him.

The following Monday morning the child CHOSE to go to school. Yes chose. I'm, not making this up or exaggerating a jot.

The child carried on testing us, like foster chidren do, to see if they can trust us. So the next day, the Tuesday, the child said he didn't want to go to school.

"Great!" we said, "we love it when you're HERE, at HOME, with US." Child stayed at home.

The child never missed a schoolday again, except for real illness. Moaned a bit, yeah, from time to time, but nothing anywhere near like before.

Our Blue Sky people were concerned with getting the details of this particular treatment (if that's the right term), but they backed it as a trial thing, then when it worked everyone nodded. The Local Authority got it too, as did the school once the new attendance figures started to come in.

I guess the point is that we must make sure our children know for sure that we want them.

As for the occasional teacher that appears not to, I think those teachers say things like that lady did by way of a joke. After all she'd been in teaching for several decades, surely you can't muster that if you aren't fond of kids.




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