I do not even know where to begin I just know I need to. I know there have to be better days ahead but right now I am just tired. Don’t get me wrong I am so thankful for these two precious kids, our home is filled with laughter and family-esque things but we are not yet a family.For us having kids in our home is a long awaited dream but nothing about our family is normal. I do not mean we are out there or that anything is wrong, its just all different. I know you may be thinking ‘Ryann all families are different, heck even kids from the same family are different’, yes you are right (my brothers and I are in my opinion starkly different people).
Nothing about this journey of family in its forming or its parenting is the norm. Everything about how to love, show affection, teach, discipline, parent and talk MUST be trauma informed. Trauma and especially prolonged and frequent trauma. These kids have had the onset of the initial trauma that brought them into care but they’ve also have secondary trauma. These kids call us mom and dad but they also tell stories of their other mommies and daddies. These kids have had no constant thats been constant. They have failed to learn who to trust. I am sure at some point they trusted perhaps bio mom or dad if old enough to, it may of been a trust based on simple things like mom will give me a kiss goodnight or dad will see me Saturday. I am sure that at some point in care they probably had again a simple shallow trust, probably when they first came into the care. The first family or parent who listened attentively, worked their plan to best benefit the kids and just did an overall GREAT JOB.
However at some point in care you just go into autopilot. I don’t know if it was at 2 placements, 3 homes, 4 families or 5 cities later but at some-point connection/trust and love just become pawns of survival. That’s not to say I don’t believe in healing and reconciliation of healthy boundaries and connections but whereas for most kids its learned behavior from birth on, our kids are now being plunged into this lesson having no prior foundation set. Bonding, trust, connection, love and family are concepts that begin in utero no matter how shallow, they continue during midnight cuddles, afternoon bottle feeding, consistent meals, time spent laughing (with the same family) and so much more.
Right now our kids must learn they don’t earn love and affection but that its just a part of a healthy family connection. Right now our kids seek out affection, some of its regular (if regular affection even exists) but nonetheless its not from a healthy place. They seek out affirmation and frequent affection, and we have to find balance in meeting their needs but also teaching it in healthy ways and in healthy amounts. Because of that we have had to sit down (Matthew and I) and discuss some bendable but structured boundaries until we know more about what we are dealing with. Examples of what we have done are as follows.
- We do not just give hugs freely. We give hugs in 3 circumstances
- 1). when we say goodbye as its a normally action for most (but never without asking if they’d like one)
- 2). At bedtime and again only after asking them first to encourage respect of their bodies but also good boundaries in addition to healthy & unhealthy touch.
- 3). If the kids are upset in their room (as they often go there when upset) or anywhere in house I will or Matthew will approach them and say, “would you like a hug now?” But this something we are doing as their caregivers in order to teach within our family first. As such we do not want others doing this. I want them to connect, love and trust our family (theirs hopefully one day), Their bond, trust and connection with us will enrich their connections with outside family & friends but they have to learn with us first.
- We are asking family, friends, church members really anyone not to hug or tickle or pickup kids. We are okay with words of affirmation or high fives but it can’t be in excess. They have to want that with us and seek it with us. There should be no closeness right now with anyone except with us and we are taking that slow. We are only 16 days in.
- We are not kissing them obviously and not really having any closeness physically right now other than the hugs and high fives. We are even careful not to let them sit in our laps. I have let the girl a few times (in room when she was crying and I felt she needed to be held) and a few times like braiding her hair (superficial but still bonding moments).
If the above is confusing to you or if I haven’t adequately explained please let us know (either of us). This is crucial to our fragile family and process in bonding. I know everything about the above is completely against the grain of what you desire, it is for all of us. We see kids, we are excited and want to lavish them with love and although thats not a good idea anyway, even for a a child from a biological family (bad trust connection made if the person lavishing love and affection is not known well by parents or if child doesn’t know person well through parents). Even more so when you are talking about foster kids who desperately need and desire connection but need to re-learn it within their family unit first and foremost.
This is all new to us. Although I work in the field and although I thought I new a lot, its a whole different ball game in the trenches. Matthew and I made the bad mistake not fully preparing those around us. Family and church and for that we are sorely sorry. We didn’t realize we weren’t clear enough and we 100% take full responsibility. Help us, help you.
This is not a sappy blog or heart wrenching one in the normal way I write but it is a equally necessary topic. A topic I believe is not discussed openly enough among family, friends and for us church since we are people of faith. This is only one of many things we need to work on, but it is a vital topic and an important notch in our journey towards success.
<He needs a Daddy more
< She needs control
<He needs to learn to control his anger healthily
<Separate but together (family bonding)
<Communication in parents for (continuity)
<Boundaries with others and each other
<Whats therapy got to do with it? And why is in-home sometimes a better option?