Wednesday, September 22, 2021

DE-ESCALATION AND ICE CREAM

 Middle foster child came downstairs in a strop or as my nan used to put it 'with a right cob on'.

He used to be eldest foster child but since the arrival of short-term 17 year old Ged, he's now the middle one.

I heard that PG Wodehouse started a short story with the sentence;

"It is not difficult to discern the difference between a ray of sunshine and a Scotsman with a grievance."

For 'Scotsman" read "Foster Child".

Some of them, they bring a special skill set to the important matter of appearing p****d off, it's practically an art form. Or more like a stage act, in fact.

An episode is often first flagged up by a louder than usual slamming of their bedroom door followed by unusually heavy footsteps coming down the stairs.

You say to yourself; "Here we go…"

You are supposed to look concerned and say;

"Everything alright?" or "What's up? You OK?"

And so you do. They don't just WANT you to inquire, they NEED you to. It's the beginning of the dance which will probably end in them getting ice cream, or a nod that they can stay up late and watch Netflix on Friday night. Or both.

Nobody knows the trouble they've seen, and their lifelong experiences in their bio home has taught them a wealth of survival techniques. They will have watched parents, older household members and family members playing the problem hierachy game and learned the benefits that can be squeezed from things being all wrong.

The problem hierarchy game is where people compete to be the one most under duress.

Of course; many things in foster children's lives ARE all wrong; they had a tough time, their parents parenting was questionable at best, their education chequered. Now they live in a strange house full of of strangers.. and however much we foster parents try, it's wrong.

But they don't present us with these very real wrongs.

When they want a bit of TLC or a metaphorical cuddle it goes a bit like it did with middle child.

He came stomping into the kitchen and made for the larder.

"Oh Jeez! No Salt and Vinegar!"

Then he's off;

"Why are we always out of Salt and Vinegar? It's not that hard is it? To buy crisps? I mean, you guys act like you're all so clever and you've got two cars and wooo you're foster parents, but even a Zombie hamster could get crisps right."

I try to say nothing.

"I mean…crisps! How hard is that?"

I shrug as if to say 'Yeah we're pretty useless…' He goes on;

"I mean, it's like the other day when Jason came round and you gave us chips with the burgers and everyone knows it's fries with burgers, chips go with fish! I was like SO embarrassed. Is that why you get the food all wrong round here. One minute you're trying to make me obese the next you're starving me!"

Jason is his friend who sometimes comes round and they chill. It's uplifting hearing their laughter and mock gee-up banter.

Me;

"How was Jason today?"

"Jeez how should I know? He's an idiot. I don't care how he is. If he wants to hang out with Ben Willis' bunch of wallies that's his doom sorted and so what? He was the embarrasment. Not me.""

So we gradually got to the nitty gritty; he and his friend had had a bit of a tizz. 

Apparently over politics. Well, to be precise over whether Boris Johnson is a ****** or not.

They'd fallen out digitally (messages).

It hurts rotten when you're young and finding your way with friendships. We all made plenty of mistakes and thought it was the end of the world.

Children and young people in care are sometimes more clumsy socially than their peers and a bit more desperate to build relationships. 

There's not much we can do there, they are usually best off sorting these spats out themselves, all part of life.

But it's one reason why there's usually a tub of emergency ice-cream in the fridge.

I remember a Blue Sky training session on de-escalation. The trainer said that offering a pleasant distraction, such as going on a bike ride could help the child's anger. One carer was against the idea saying;

"I'm not going to reward bad behaviour by giving them something nice!"

He had missed the point on this one, de-escalation is about distraction, and anyway; kindness is not a 'reward', it should be ever-present. Is sticking a sticking plaster on a wound a 'reward'? 

Bottom line, ice cream works. 

Monday, September 06, 2021

BONDING BETWEEN FOSTER CHILDREN

 It's always an upheaval when a foster child leaves. The house is quieter, there's less work to be done and those that are left behind in the home have to re-configure.

Ged is gearing up to fly the nest; he'll be 18 soon and is hungry to put his childhood behind him and stretch his wings. There are so many positives, but you still have to keep an eye out for impending difficulties.

And there is a big one. See, our youngest foster child adores Ged. 

Ged, to him, is everything that I and my other half aren't. Ged is cool, he's a geezer. He knows what today's music is about, he can talk for ever about gaming.

Youngest wants Ged to be his dad - he doesn't say so but it's written all over him. He wants to go with Ged, but hasn't said so. When Ged goes it'll leave a big hole in his heart, and that's in part a healthy, normal and profound thing.

But. 

Youngest has experienced endless abandonment in his short life before care. His real father came and went, other 'fathers' came and went. Then his mother overdosed and has never fully recovered. He was fostered initially alongside his sibs (4) but it all got too much for the foster parents and the little mite who came to us was deemed the main fly in the ointment. And boy was he a handful at first.

We set square on keeping him with us partly because of the fear that if we abandoned him back into the system it could be the last straw. Anyway, we haven't yet given up on a child and one gets possesive about a 100% record in anything - mind this is a good obsession.

Blue Sky worked with us shoulder-to-shoulder to help him find a bit of peace; Oppositional Defiance Disorder is a gruelling house guest. But you get what you pay for in fostering, and though the emotional cost to us was steep to begin with, it began paying for itself within a couple of months.

I'm not claiming he's a saint, but he's come on in leaps and bounds, and Ged's arrival gave him the role model he's always craved.

My job in the next few weeks before Ged goes is to talk to my BS social worker about how to play it. Do I ask Ged if he can stay in touch for the sake of the youngest? Do I talk to youngest about it, try to get as much understanding of the coming event as I can? Do I make plans such as a farewell dinner for Ged or play it like it's no big deal?

The probability is that it's going to be tricky - sticky even - and we'll all have to react to however it impacts youngest. 

Oh, and remember to enjoy all the enjoyables such as helping a fine young man enter the world, and appreciating that youngest has learned to attach to a parent figure. Maybe he'll transfer that bonding to us? That would be nice…

But in fostering you never hold your breath..