31 August 2015

Talking to Kids About Foster Care, pt. 2

While writing the last post (Talking to Kids About Foster Care) I realized there was a lot more I wanted to cover about the topic. I covered how we explain difficult things in an age appropriate way to our four-year-old. There is more we talk to her about regarding our Bonus Kiddo's case but I don't feel I can share specifics of all that we tell her without sharing more than we should about his case. Here are the things we tell her but in a very general way.

She knows (at a four-year-old level)...

  • Why Bonus Kiddo couldn't stay with his mom and dad.
  • Why Bonus Kiddo is with us: "We're a foster family. That means we can help other families when they need someone to take care of their kids."
  • Why Daniel, Bonus Kiddo and I go to court.
  • What happens at court: "The judge said [Bonus Kiddo] is staying for at least two more months!"
  • How Bonus Kiddo's parents are doing

The other part I wanted to elaborate on is how we talk about our Bonus Kiddo's biological family. This applies to so much more than just foster care. The underlying point we try to apply is that everything that is said about Bonus Kiddo's bio family is essentially being said about him. This is part of the same reason divorced parents should never bad mouth the other parent to their kids, one angry parent shouldn't say bad things to their kids about an absent biological parent, etc. Biology matters. Regardless of what those people may do they are a part of that child, they created them. 

Watch out for little ears
We try to not say anything negative about Bonus Kiddo's parents around Aurelia. That goes well beyond just not saying things like, "can you believe they did this?!" Not saying anything negative about them includes not having a bad attitude when talking about them, not making sarcastic comments about them, nothing. That isn't to say, "when Aurelia is around we're nice but as soon as she's gone let the trash talking begin!" We try to have this extend to even when she isn't around. 

This is the same thing I try to do with Aurelia and negative self-speak. If I think something negative about myself I don't want Aurelia to hear it because I don't want her to criticize herself in the same way. We don't want her saying negative things about bio family so we don't let her hear us do it. 

Actions speak too
If I take the kids to a visit with Bonus Kiddo's bio family and I'm scowling, being short, and generally showing I'm not happy about it, even if I'm not saying it I'm showing Aurelia that they are an inconvenience, they're something I don't want to deal with (which isn't true). Aurelia is at an age where she really isn't fully able to understand "I'm frustrated with this situation, not the people in it", so I need her to see us putting in the effort for Bonus Kiddo and his bio family.

Talk about the hard stuff (kid version)
Sometimes sucky and aggravating things happen and there is no way to shield Aurelia from it. If I bring her with me to take Bonus Kiddo for a visit and no one shows up I can't just blow her off with a wave of the hand when she asks where they are and why they didn't come. When it's time to talk to her about hard things we try to explain in a simple way what happened and how we feel about it. "I'm disappointed this happened. I feel sad. I wanted it to go differently. I don't like it when this happens." Sometimes we'll suggest possible reasons why but most of the time we just say, "I don't know." I don't know why they did this, I don't know why they didn't do that. We won't attempt to talk about it with smiles on our faces but there are ways to talk about hard things without fueling a fire, without vilifying, and while still encouraging patience and compassion.

Talk about the hard stuff (grownup version)
Sometimes things are said or done that hurt, whether they hurt us directly or hurt because they negatively affect our Bonus Kiddo. Sometimes when we talk about what has happened there is no way to say it or see it in a positive light, but there is a big difference between talking out something that was upsetting and just outright cruel speaking. I hope that makes sense. Sometimes I need to wait until the kids go to bed and rhetorically ask Daniel the hard questions like "How could this happen??" and then list out all the emotions I feel about the situation, "I feel angry, upset, frustrated, confused."

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