When I first got my boys I was utterly overwhelmed. So many people were asking how to help, but at the time I didn’t even know what would be helpful because it all felt like so much. Over time these are things that I have realized has helped me the most:
Sit with us. Literally and figuratively. Most of the time we aren’t looking for advice, we just want someone else to acknowledge how difficult things can be. Raising kids is hard. Raising kids with extensive trauma is really hard. We want to throw our hands up and quit countless times, but our supports can help us to keep going. Our supports can remind us that we are changing lives and making a huge difference, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Even when the challenges seem insurmountable. I will never forget a few weeks in to having my boys I was at the end of a very challenging day and could not stop crying. I felt done. I had nothing left in me and felt like I was a complete failure. I did what can sometimes feel impossible, I picked up the phone. I called a dear friend and she immediately said, ‘I’m coming over.’ At 10pm she drove over in her jammies and we just sat. I can’t express how comforting that was in that moment. I needed someone to just sit with me. Tell me that yes it’s hard, but it’s so worth it.
Celebrate the little victories with us. This one is huge. I laugh some times when I see those bumper stickers that say ‘my kid made honor roll.’ I love that those parents are so proud of their kiddos. Our celebrations are a little different. In my family we celebrate making it through a week with more smiley faces than frowny faces on our behavior chart. We celebrate not hurting other kiddos. We celebrate using our words to express our feelings rather than behaviors. Those things are big for us. So, celebrate with us. Point out the progress that you see (no matter how small) because sometimes we need reminders too!
Be curious. I think sometimes foster care can be a bit off putting because not a lot of people are familiar with it or know the ins and outs. So ask. The majority of the foster parents that I have come to trust and lean on love sharing their knowledge and experiences. We want people to have a better understanding of the system that our kids are in because it helps us all to care for them better. With that said, it is our job as foster parents to protect our kids and part of that means protecting their story. Is it helpful for everyone to know about the trauma that they have been through, no, but is it helpful for those people close to us to know bits and pieces of their story, absolutely. Knowing things such as trauma reminders for our kids can be incredibly helpful to better understand a kiddos reaction to certain situation.
What are some ways that you gain support as a mama?