I was struck today by the different ways in which our foster children cope with stress, shame and fear. It made me question how I cope with those difficult feelings, and it made me aware, as is often the case, of how lucky I am.
For me, I might blush, get tongue tied, or dig deep and find the adrenaline to deal with a confrontation or danger. it would be awkward, embarrassing and physically demanding for a short while, but I’d get through it.
Our foster children don’t have the emotional foundation that my husband and I, as foster carers do. I have always known that I am loved and I have always been able to trust in people and their goodness. We were given the tools as children to cope with stress and fear, to know that however bad a stuation felt, there would be an end to it, a way out, a safe haven.
Our foster children face stressful experiences with a gaping chasm beneath their feet rather than a strong emotional foundation.
One child responds by pulling her hair across her face and shutting the world out. She can stay like that for thirty minutes. Her brother dissociates at the drop of a hat, freezes on the spot and literally drifts away, his eyes glazed over, his head somewhere safe. Another child simply picks up his feet and runs.
We have the massive task of starting to build those missing foundations. To enable these children to thrive, we have to get them to rethink their responses to stress, and most of all, to trust that things will be OK in the end.