This is another one of those topics that sounds somewhat simple, however when you look at it threw the lens of trauma, fostering, and the adopted child it takes on an entirely new meaning and an entirely more complex process!
As any foster/adopt parent can attest it is very difficult to ask a child to completely give up their culture to adapt to our families views and cultures. We are trained from early on to learn about the child’s culture and then find ways to adopt it into our family culture (even if for a temporary time). This can be a very touchy task especially in our family, which is a blend of 5 families at the moment. Often I find myself searching for ways to “tweak” the holiday to incorporate many families and leave room for new traditions to be made, all without stepping on individual toes!
An example of this is last years decision to move away from tradition Christmas tree by 100%! Our Christmas tree was super hero themed and was on a patriotic tree!
A very different tree for our overly different family! The kids loved the red, white, and blue with all the super hero toys we could get to put on the tree, super hero masks and all.
So I hate to break it to you, but the holidays are not the only challenging behavior changes that we will face with this calling! We have kids that have learned to live in a constant state of fight or flight. What does that mean for us?
During one of earlier traings on behaviors we were given a great image of our roles in these children’s lives! Draw a picture of the human brain and add several pieces of tape that runs over itself several times pilling up. Now we mark a different section of the brain that represents the positive behaviors the child needs to exhibit. We work on teaching skills to the child and each time you review a skill, the child attempts to use the skill, and the first few times the skill is actually used you take a piece of tape off your pile and keeping the starting point the same, we end at the new point in the brain.
This visual and kinetic action of the process we are working on helps not only the children but ourselves focus on the goal. We have used this process with our oldest autistic son who struggles to make the dots connect. This task allowed our son to see and actively mark the attempts he is making to meet his goal!
It is said that it takes 66 days to make a new habit, although this isn’t a super speedy process it is lightening speed compared to how agonizingly long it takes for a trauma victim to break the old habit holds and create a new habit! The child needs to feel safe and you have to earn there trust before you can even begin to acknowledge the poor behaviors and then be willing to look at new skills! It can take days, months, and years before they finally feel safe enough to get past their trauma. I don’t know about you all, but I would gladly trade for 66 days!
I guess the big point is that you need to stay the course! Research shows that a child will interact with you more quickly if your body posture remains relaxed during every interaction with the child. This is extremely challenging! The first rule of Therapeutic Fostering is “don’t respond! No matter how frustrated, angry, hurt, or emotional you are!” Yeah let me tell you from this Irish mother don’t respond is not something I naturally do and I fail at this task each and every day!
I can’t say I am perfect or even some what proficient in this task, however I continue to work hard at this goal. I am very happy to report I am doing this more and more, working through as many situations as possible without responding!😏