Monday, July 13, 2020

HOW TO COMMUNICATE WITH A FOSTER CHILD

Middle foster child is supposed to be moving up to secondary school in about six weeks, whether he does or not depends on the pandemic.

Maybe I've been lucky, but foster children seem to cope with the transition better than most, maybe upheaval comes naturally to them.

I've made a discovery worth sharing; it's this; today's generation of teens, the ones my generation tends to think are irresponsible on social media, communicate better with parents and teachers on Whats App/text/Twitter et al than face to face.

When I say 'better' I mean they are more open and more polite. More 'open' to a proper conversation, more 'polite'... speaks for itself.

I noticed it first way back when mobile phones were little more than phones plus texting.

We had a foster daughter who was big and blunt, the best you could get out of her by way of chat was a grimace and a grunt. She hated school and it was a struggle to get her there. One day she had an important exam, I got her there in time for it but when I got home found myself frantic that she'd a) stay there b) do the exam c) avoid causing an incident.

The conversation between us in the car to school had been;

Me: "I'm sure you'll do fine."
Her: silence
Me: "I said, I'm sure you'll.."
Her: "I 'eard! FFssake.."

The exam was set for 9.00am. I was going spare wondering; so when it was morning break at her school I texted her:

Me: "All ok?"
She replied immediately; 
Her: "Yeah. It wasn't so bad actually. I answered about three quarters really well, there was one question I didn't have a clue about but you expect that."

It took me a moment to conquer my suspicion that she had paid someone to write her texts, like pop stars and footballers do. I went;

Me: "Oh good. Are you staying for the day or do you need a lift now?"
Her: "Actually I've got a free until lunch then Art which I like. I might skip Science but Greg's in that class and he's like, y'know, fit."
Me: "OK"

More than "OK" of course, I was totally made up! 

And it's the same only more so with middle foster child. His phone enables him to communicate with me in ways his mouth simply does not. 

Here's one from last week; he's upstairs on his PC. I texted;;

Me: "Tea about five. Do you want Mascarpone and penne or a Cornish pasty and chips?"
Him: "I'm not hungry yet, I can wait until dad gets home and we can eat watching the end of The Winter Soldier."
Me; "Fine. We're having baked potato, you're not keen on them."
Him: "Cover it in beans and yeah."
Me: "Want an apple to hold you?"
Him; "Nah, I'm not religious."

Put simply, that exchange simply WOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED AT ALL FACE-TO-FACE.

Not at all. So. How come?

Maybe it's to do with not seeing my face, hearing my voice, not being able to notice anything judgemental coming off me? I don't know.

Maybe it has to do with them seeing in black-and-white what they are about to say written down on a phone screen and know that they might have to stand by it. Once they press 'send' their words are set in stone for ever, a stray bit of bad language or snide remark doesn't disappear into thin air.

I still use speech and all it's add-ons with him. But I get the best off his phone.

And come secondary school I'll get more text chats; he's going to be travelling to and from  school by himself and he'll welcome me pinging messages at break times and lunchtime because a pinging phone makes the owner look in demand. His peers don't have to know it's his mum.

Or even more embarrassing, his foster mum.









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