Wednesday, December 3, 2014

5 Things I Learned During Foster Parent Training

How you look at things determines what you see
I just want to say thank you to all the people who have supported us through prayer, babysitting, listening and training during these last 10 weeks.  We survived, we thrived, we whined (maybe just a little), we learned.  Now granted we learned much more than five things during all this and really this class would be good for all parents especially those parenting kids from hard places.  I will go on record to say that the training required for an international adoption is inadequate at the very least and insufficient at preparing parents for bringing a child home.  This does not mean to say that what we received these last 3 months was perfect or exhaustive, but very certainly a good start in preparing someone for the arduous yet significant task ahead.  So in no specific order here are at least 5 things I have learned:

Kids Need Compassion  My kids, your kids, the kids down the street, the brat you hear screaming at the toy store, the relentless 3 year old rolling on the floor having a fit.  They all need compassion.  Sometimes it is the last thing you want to offer.  Bad behavior or choices maybe has led to some  uncomfortable consequence or emotions and yet the kids God has given us need to know there is grace for them and that despite the situation we love them.  When we fall to our knees before God do we want to hear a scolding or do we want the arms of grace to surround us with compassion?  The gentle instruction will be much more warmly received after that and probably better delivered too.  With what measure of compassion does God give to us?  And what of that do we as a parents offer to our kids?  I think of the servant forgiven of his debt by his master who then was unwilling to forgive the very small debt owed him in Matthew Chapter 18: 21-35.  View that in light of us and our kids.  We often see that parable in regards to others outside our family or more for adults, but what about parents and kids?  It's a perfect fit.

Good/Right Behavior is NOT the Primary Goal in Parenting  This has been my goal for 10 years worth of parenting.  It may not have been a conscious one, though through my words and actions it has made it's way to the top of the list.  I get embarrassed when my kids misbehave in public because I take it as a direct reflection of my ability to parent.  When my children disobey at home I take it as a direct assault on my authority in the house.  The chaos of unruly boys and fighting brothers is too much to bear some days and I just want them to be good.  At first glance these all seem like nice, reasonable thoughts yet they fall short of the real task at hand in raising children.  It is to nurture and grow the seed of faith God has planted in the hearts of our children.  We want them to know the love of a Savior and the love of a family.  In time they learn to read, write, create and maybe obey, but not because they are made to, but because they learn right and wrong by your patient words and diligent teaching of truth.  A child will begin to trust your guiding when he has learned that he is safe, valued and heard.  If you are only an authoritarian you are only obeyed because you are feared.  I want my children to trust me because I am the first connection they have to God.

I'm Not Ready  About 4 weeks into our classes I realized I was in over my head.  And even now I am completely overwhelmed.  The subject of why kids end up in care is deep and it is real.  The burdens they carry are great and the needs they have are huge.  What I did not realize was how much these scenarios we covered were going to bring up hurts from my own past.  I wish that I could say I have moved on and that I've overcome them, but I have not.  That pain is still real and deep in my heart and unless I have come to a place of healing I cannot help a child walk that path of healing.  One other weighty thing that has come up is that I probably have ADD and that at least one of our boys does too.  Many children in the foster care system have been diagnosed with it and so therefore we learned a lot about it in our training.  As we were going down the list of symptoms Chris and I turned to each other and said, "oh my gosh!  That's ****!"  Then as I dug a little deeper on my own I began to put the pieces together for myself.  I don't really know where to go from this place, but I know that God wanted us to take this training for several reasons and hopefully one of those in the right time will be to welcome more children into our home.

Kids Are People Too  Have you noticed that kids have ideas, thoughts and feelings that are entirely their own?  Sometimes as if they are totally different little persons from you altogether!  My kids feelings matter.  Your kids ideas matter.  Their thoughts and opinions matter.  Now granted they will rarely display these at a convenient time or place during your already hectic day or in a fashion most pleasing.  But they will want to be heard.  In time a child can either learn that they matter or worse yet think they don't.  It may come in a small package, but all the things that come together by the hand of God to make you unique also comes together by the very same God to dwell in the heart of your child.

It Takes a Village  I can't do this alone.  Even with an awesome husband, which I am blessed to have we cannot expect that this monumental task of parenting can be done in a bubble.  I pray you have a church that stands beside you.  Seek out a friend who will partner with you in prayer.  Meet regularly with other people to pour over God's word.  Pick up the phone and call someone in that moment of utter chaos who can speak words of life and peace to you.  We were made for community.  I think I have said that before and I'll say it again.  We need each other.  Maybe your that other person.  See someone downcast or someone who could use a hand or encouraging word?  Be that for them when they don't have the courage to ask or even know where to turn.  In the Foster care system it takes a village of social workers, foster families, school teachers, judges, birth families and many more.  Be part of the village somehow.

With love,