When I entered the world of Fostering, I knew it would impact my bio kids, I wasn’t naive. But they were. I tried to prepare them the best I could, but they still had fantasies of new friends sleeping over every night; they thought it was going to be fun.
Now, they don’t think it’s fun.
It has been two months since our first placements — a 7 year old boy and a now 6 year old girl — came into our home. My children have realized it wasn’t what they thought it would be. Here is a list of some of the things we have learned through our first placements. I will admit, most of it is negative. That is their current view and we are still working on the adjustment to our “new life” as my son calls it. We are a work in progress as a foster family. It may be the ages of the children, or just personality mixes. I’m not sure, and I know this won’t be true for all foster families with bio kids. I am sure some adjust much better than my kiddos are!
It isn’t like a sleepover
I think my two bio kids honestly thought it would be like having a sleepover with friends. A fun get together with playing and staying up late talking to each other from their bunk beds. The ‘not sleeping well’ part of a sleepover scenario may be true… but that is about it.
One of the children has been diagnosed with a few things that make getting to sleep hard, and sometimes loud. After a month of battles and everyone not being able to sleep, our placement was prescribed medication to help.
However, my son is a light sleeper, so it has been a bit rough with how this affects his sleep. I am now looking into renovating my basement to add more bedrooms and a playroom (In our area bio kids can have basement bedrooms as long as it is to code, but the foster children have to be on the same floor as me).
Sharing with a foster sibling is different than sharing with a friend
I was surprised at this one, but when I think about it, really should not have been. The kids that came into care did not bring much more than a bag of clothes. They didn’t have toys or books from their house. They came with a pack that all the kids in Care receive which included some markers, a colouring book, toothbrushes, etc. Similar to the package I made up for them.
We had discussed this as a family before taking placements, this was an easy one to talk about (or so I thought). They understood the kids were coming with nothing and that they would need to share and we would purchase more toys along the way, but I wasn’t going to buy “separate” toys for the foster children to play with. All the toys were for everyone in the house.
That lasted a couple weeks until a toy accidentally got broken (total fluke, wasn’t on purpose). Then the fights began about who could play with what. My son became very protective of his toys, creating a “do not play with” section on his shelf of toys that were “so special” to him that he didn’t want to be touched. His space was being invaded and he needed to take control… that is what I take out of it. Things have quieted down in this area and it is getting better over time. Also, the kids have picked up some of their toys from home when they went for visits, so that helped as well.
You’re not going to be friends with everyone
My two bio kids get a long very well. They aren’t the typical siblings who fight. They just click and play really well together and are friends. So, it was easy for them to assume it would be like that for other kids that came into the house. It isn’t. It isn’t ANYTHING like that. The boys don’t get a long and the girls have nothing in common. It has been a challenge to try to find common ground to help them form bonds. I continue to look for new ways to have them create things, or play together in a way that doesn’t result in a breakdown or tears. It’s definitely been interesting… and challenging.
You’re going to want to give up
Hard days are really hard. Exhausting, want to quit, hard. For me and for the kids. My bio kids have vented to me and broken down and admitted they are not enjoying fostering. I try to take that as an opportunity to teach them there are going to be things in life that make you want to quit; make you want to go the easy route, but we can’t just give up because of a hard day. Not every day it hard and there is a reason behind what we are doing. There have been many late night talks (well, late for them… around 8pm after the foster kiddos are asleep) about what they are feeling, and what we can do to make things better. Sometimes there isn’t something that is easily fixed, sometimes it is just showing them I am there to support them and they can vent to me whenever they want about how they are feeling. That is how the idea of finishing my basement came about. One night my son was telling me the house was too small and he couldn’t get away for quiet time because everyone followed him. I am lucky to work for a great company that is in the construction industry, so I have many people to help me plan renovations and find the best (and cheapest) solutions on that end. I am looking into adding 1 or 2 bedrooms and a playroom down there, so hopefully that will work out and be ready by the time our next placements come.
You never know what is going to happen next
Our first week was interesting. It was a constant “what next” feeling in our house. From me having the flu our first day with placements, to head lice (my children have never had lice, so it was a brand new experience for me!), to one of the children eating an ice pack, we just didn’t know what to expect next. Luckily it has calmed down a bit, but we are now in the “what next” phase of wondering what is next for these children. Will they go home as predicted in the 6-8 month period (probably not), or will they be placed with kin (up in the air right now), or will they stay here much longer than originally thought (a chance). Who knows.
For the other foster families with older bio kids, what have you found to help them adjust to the “new life”?