March 22, 2017 | Morgan Nerat, LSW
When parenting children who have been traumatized, or parenting a child who grew up in hard places, it’s often hard to communicate with them or know what they need from us. We are not mind readers, but maybe some of these hints will help you parent your children.
A Set Schedule
Some of the children in the AASK program were raised in a birth home that was not consistent, where things could change in a matter of minutes, and no one knew what the schedule was. Some of the children in the AASK program have moved to foster home to foster home or treatment facility to foster home too many times. Children need predictability due to their past experiences. Many of our children do not do well with sudden change, because it may bring back old memories or cause unnecessary anxiety. For example, when there is an activity coming up, have a talk with your kiddo and prepare them for this upcoming change or about expectations.
Figure Out What They Are Hinting at
Some children don’t know what they want and if they don’t know what they want, how are they going to tell you what they want? Have you ever had your child follow you around the house or maybe stare at you? You ask if they need something, ask if they need to tell you about their day, or you ask if they’re hungry, and their answer is ‘no’. You play a guessing game, but you are losing because you don’t know what they want. Try asking if they would like to play a board game. Try asking if they need a hug. Maybe they need reassurance that you want to spend time with them. Maybe they want a positive physical touch but do not know how to ask for it.
Have any of your adoptive kiddos repeatedly said your name over and over again? When you finally ask what they need, they might pause and attempt to come up with a clever question, because they did not know what to ask you when they started calling for you. Try saying, “if you are asking if I love you, the answer is yes”.
You adopted your child/sibling group and you want them to feel part of the family, because they are now part of your family. Therefore, please do not tell everyone about your child’s birth history, how they entered foster care, or why their birth parent’s parental rights were terminated. Don’t be that person who overshares! If your child wants to tell other’s about their story, that is their decision and you can be there to support your child; however, also teach your child about privacy. We all know those people who want to be a bit nosy. Stop them in their tracks and instead, brag about all of your child’s victories and their accomplishments.
Claim Your Child
Oftentimes, I work with children who are looking for someone to claim them. You can make little comments such as, “I’m so glad our family is complete”, “Our family is blessed to have each other”, “I am so happy to be your dad”, “I’m so glad I can call you my son”. A family I recently worked with told me a student at their daughter’s school asked if he was her dad. He said, “Yes I am her dad”, and the look on their daughter’s face was pure joy!