Parenting kids from hard places is incredibly rewarding. The children who have been in our home are forever a part of the fabric of our family, whether they’ve stayed or moved on. My husband and I have grown as a couple by working through the daily-ness of this lifestyle. And my experience as a foster and adoptive mom has also been a catalyst for maturity in my life like no other.
But growth comes at a cost. We don’t get stronger by tackling things that are comfortable or easy for us. We gain strength by stretching ourselves beyond where we are today.
This is my blog, and since you are here, you are getting my honest and unbridled opinion. And today, I want to share with you that …
… is the character trait I believe to be most essential for parenting **kids from hard places.
** NOTE: Originally, I envisioned this post as being most apropos for foster parents. However, adoptive parenting is equally challenging in different ways. (Or, at least, we have not found it to be any easier. 🙂 ) So, while this post is especially relevant to foster parents, it may be applicable to many folks.
I know, you might have expected me to say that something like a compassionate heart, lots of training, the desire to make a difference, a lot of patience, or great time management skills are essential. And they totally are. But while all of those things are very important, I still believe that resilience trumps them all. Why?
YOU’RE GONNA HAVE TO PICK YOURSELF UP AND KEEP GOING A LOT
I have yet to meet a foster parent who has had an experience that went as planned. They might be out there, but of all the friends I have made over the years, and the placements they have had, everyone I know has been broadsided by unforeseen outcomes at one time or another.
This dynamic (and brutal reality) is one that is hard to explain to prospective foster parents. And when people ask me “how things work,” honestly, I just laugh anymore! NOT because I’m trivializing the question or blowing them off, though … I laugh because who. ever. knows?!?
No two cases are ever alike, and even if I could tell you “it will go X way,” … the likelihood that it will go sideways or do a U-turn is incredibly high.
These are just a few examples (from our experiences, and those of my friends) …
- One placement was only going to be a week to week-and-a-half, but wound up lasting almost five months.
- One child had a really great county worker. We got comfortable. and then the child got two more new workers in the next six months, … neither of whom ever read the child’s case file.
- Biological family surfaces after many months (or years) of radio silence, asking for visits, and placement.
- Unexpected goodbyes, on hours’ notice, to kiddos you have grown to love for many months, … leaving you all with little time and no preparation for their departure.
- Your car gets stolen from your driveway on a random Saturday morning. Oh wait. No, I guess that’s probably just me. True story. And here’s a picture of my actual empty driveway. LOL
These things just happen. So, … resilience. But how do you get there?
I’m not the expert on this. But here are a few things that have helped me along the way.
- Keep your team strong. By team, I mean those people under your roof. Namely, your significant other and your kids. But don’t forget about your significant other (sometimes easier said than done when things are hard). It can be so easy, when you are struggling, to hunker down and just focus on taking care of yourself. (Which is obviously very important!) But I find that when I push myself outside of my self-absorbed mindset and focus on doing things for my husband, to take care of him, too, … I get a lot back. It keeps the energy of us going. Like a boomerang, it comes right back to me. So its really not like I’m taking care of him, so much as it is taking care of us. We all win. It could be as simple as going out of my way to make his favorite dinner or sending him a love note (text 🙂 ) that he’s not expecting.
- Get interested in knowing what you need to do to keep yourself feeling your best, physically. When we feel good in our bodies, we can roll with the punches. Are you getting enough sleep? What about water? Could your diet use a couple of tweaks? What about exercise? Regular consumption of probiotics and magnesium (I use Natural Calm and this <– is an affiliate link) help me a lot. When I miss a day or a couple of days, I really feel it. Sometimes, just a few little changes can make a big difference in your feels, … and then your outlook.
- Don’t isolate yourself. This one can be easier said than done for foster and adoptive parents, because it is sooooo easy to feel like you don’t fit in. But community is super important. So find those friends who really get you, … and cherish them.
How resilient are you feeling at the moment? Would any of these strategies help you? Or can you chime in with some other ways you have found to keep yourself afloat in the midst of the crazy? Please comment! I love hearing from you!