Recently, we had a foster teen that lied about his mother on a daily basis. According to him, she had a great paying job as a manager of a major restaurant chain, had never been in trouble with the law, was a loving parent, and the greatest mother of all time. If you were to listen to him, his mother was a pillar of the community. In reality, she had been in jail, and had been there numerous times. She neglected her children, was addicted to Meth, and was both jobless and homeless. Yet, despite our knowledge of the truth, we did not criticize him for lying, nor criticize his mother. We simply reminded him the importance of telling the truth, at all times, and reassured him that his mother was an important person. If your foster child wants to, allow him to speak about his family. He may wish to brag about them to you. He might even lie about them, hoping to impress you and your family.
At the same time, he may not wish to acknowledge the truth about his family, if it is in a negative fashion. Do not judge or criticize his biological parents, as this will only seek to create distance between yourself and your child, as he struggles with loyalty issues between you and his biological parents. No matter how long he has been with you and formed a deep relationship with, and no matter how much abuse he may have received from his own biological family, he will still love them, and wish to defend them. After all, they are his family. Instead, listen with an open ear and open heart, allowing him to see this, as it will encourage trust in you. Encourage him to put up pictures of his biological parents, birth family members, previous foster parents, and other important people in his life. Let him know that you understand how important these people are in his life.
All families have some sort of routine and patterns of behavior that exist within their home. If your family is like my own, your own family has a routine that you follow on a daily or regular basis. This type of routine is important to the well being of your family, and to the functioning of your household. Depending upon the type of household your foster child came from, he may not be familiar with your day to day routine. Indeed, he may come from a home that had no set routine or schedule. Many of my own foster children have come from such a household. Even more, your foster child may have lived in a home where there were no expectations of him, and no rules for him to follow. It is important that you include your foster child into your family, and into your routine. When you do, you will help to give him a sense of belonging, of importance, and of accomplishment.
When including him into your routine, start off slow. If you give him too much to do, it can quickly become overwhelming to him, and even turn him off to your family. Indeed, it is important that you are patient with him, and allow him time to adjust to the fact that he is not with his biological family. Before expecting too much from him, give him some time alone to become comfortable with his new home, family, and surroundings.
Allow him time to observe your family's routine before expecting him to actively participate. In other words, just let him watch you and your family operate together, as a family unit. Some of your routines might be informal, such as dinner time habits, shoes in the house, respect for others when speaking, etc. If he has questions about your family's routine, and he likely will, answer them honestly, and at a level he can understand. Let him know why you do such activities in your house, and why his involvement is important to the well being of your entire family. All the while, it is necessary that you praise him along the way, offering him words of encouragement and gratitude from you. Remember, he may never have had any words of praise or thanks from his previous home, or from his biological family members. The words "Thank you so very much" and "You have really done a great job" can be both uplifting and encouraging to a child in foster care, and may help him on his road to healing.
Now, I need your help in helping other children in need. Please join me. Together we can provide a home for more children. I need your help. They need your help. It is Never Too Late for a happy childhood. It is never too late for a child to start healing and find love. Help me protect more children, and provide a loving place where they can find healing. You can learn more HERE.
Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 13 years, now, and he and his wife have had over 45 children come through their home. Dr. DeGarmo is the author of several foster care books, including the brand new book Love and Mayhem: One Big Happy Family's Story of Fostering and Adoption. Dr. DeGarmo is the host of the weekly radio program Foster Talk with Dr. John, He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@gmail, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at his website.