All of us desire connection. We don’t always recognize that connection is what we are looking for, but we seek it none the less.
For some it is a connection with their history or ancestry. An opportunity to be rooted in the past. For most, it is the desire to be seen and known in the present through a relationship. For still others it is the desire to be a part of something that is bigger than the sum of it’s parts, something that is building a future that they will be remembered for.
One of the mandates within Foster Care is to build healthy connections. The children who come into care have experienced trauma and broken relationships. They are often reluctant to form attachments with people and can seem aloof and distant, or needy and self-destructive. We have seen both of these responses in trying to help people form connections. Their actions often aren’t intentional, just rooted in self-protection.
The last few weeks have been a kaleidoscope of experiences that reflect back to the human desire for connection. The desire to be known and understood motivates all of us as we navigate the relationships we are a part of. When trust is broken and we no longer feel safe in a relationship our responses are rarely helpful. We tend to go into our fight or flight response and the carnage that follows makes restoring that connection even more difficult.
When we see so much struggle to form and maintain healthy relationships in the adult world, we should be even more motivated to help our kids build a healthy foundation of connection!
One of the things the Other Mother’s children have told us is that their lives usually changed with no warning. The Other Mother was often in survival mode and did not feel she could trust people to be on her side. Abrupt decisions on her part left her children reeling. People disappeared from their lives without goodbye or explanation. Homes were left and never returned to. Relationships suddenly terminated.
We wanted that to be different when they came to us. We thought we could provide a stable consistent home. When our foster daughter first arrived she told us she didn’t have friends or need them. She entered school and conceded that she might have a few allies… but not friends. Fast forward a year and she was easily talking about friends and planning a birthday party with them.
Then Covid-19 swept in and once again there was disruption. In spite of our best intentions she was caught in a situation where everything changed without warning. School friends and teachers were no longer a part of her life on a daily basis, and the familiar routine was broken. In the midst of the lock down we discovered her best friend was moving away on July 1st and my heart broke that she would experience a loss of connection again.
How is this fair for a child who has already experienced so much abandonment and betrayal. I thought the progress we had made to help her have connections would be lost. But the reality is that we can not protect people from the pain that happens in relationships. We can help people learn to deal with it in healthy ways. So how do we make this transition healthier than all the other times friends vanished?
So we encouraged her to connect online with this friend and even managed to have them hang out together at a park one day.
When we had planned her birthday party I had bought materials to make keepsake bracelets with her friends. Since we never got to have the party, I pulled out the stuff and encouraged her to make a bracelet to give to this friend. She did. With enthusiasm! Then, the day before the friend left the province, they were able to hang out together for a time and the bracelet was given.
It’s not much, but it’s a small step in the right direction. She got to say goodbye.
We’ve planned our summer vacation to go to the area where her friend moved to. We’re hoping to see her there. Maybe in a small way it will bring healing to all the times people just disappeared. This friend never intended to abandon her. She just moved on with her family to another part of the country. Hopefully seeing her there will help.
Who do you have healthy connections with? Your parents? Your siblings? Your spouse? Your children? Your friends?
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.Ephesians 4:2 NLT
Who knows you, and loves you even when you’re not at your best? Who forgives your mistakes with grace and chooses to believe the best in you? Who sees your talents and gifts and encourages you to be all you were meant to be? Who does your heart feel safe with?
All of us want this. None of us does it perfectly for others. They say that all it takes is one person who believes in a child and refuses to give up on them to change their life forever. That is what Foster Care is about.
Be that person for someone!
In the midst of the mess