When my daughter moved in with us last year school was already started. Not only did she have to get used to being with her new family, she also had to get used to being at a new school. She had quite a few clothes she could still wear, so we didn’t have to purchase many things for her. She grew like a weed right before our eyes during the summer and soon, of course, it was time for new clothes. She struggled with the idea of giving up her old clothes. She knew they were too small for her, but they were hers and no one else’s. I had taken a class before she moved in and was cautioned that it can be hard for kids from foster care to let go of their things. Because I knew how she was feeling I was better able to help her deal with the situation.
I told her that if she couldn’t wear the clothes wouldn’t it be wonderful if, instead of keeping the clothes, we gave them to someone who could use them? “After all,” I said, “they’re just going to sit in your closet and not be used.” She said, “I know, but they’re mine.” Then I asked her, “Don’t you remember a time when someone gave something to you?” She said yes. I then asked her, “How did you feel when you received the item?” “Happy.” “Well,” I asked,” wouldn’t you like to make someone else happy?” “Yes.” “Well, how about we donate those clothes to someone who needs them and would be happy to have them? Then we will go shopping and get you some new clothes of your very own- ones that you pick out!”
She agreed, so we started going through her clothes. This was a challenge for her. Every time she pulled out an outfit she told me where she had lived and how old she was when she wore it. Sometimes she looked at the outfits in her hand and smiled, but other times she looked at an outfit and appeared sad. The clothes didn’t mean as much to her as the memories. She had moved from place to place with some of her clothes, and that was the only way she could remember her life. Once realizing this, I told her she could keep some of the clothes that meant the most to her. I didn’t want her to feel as though she had to get rid of her memories and become a whole new person because she was in a new home. So she kept some things and we donated some things. Since then I have purchased several articles of clothing that I thought she would like, and I have let her choose her own style.
After shopping, my daughter went upstairs and began to put away her new clothes. I came up to help her and noticed that she had an empty bag. I asked, “What’s the bag for?” and she said, “Mommy, I’m going to give away these old clothes that I can’t wear anymore.” I told her she didn’t have to; she could still keep them because I knew they meant a lot to her. She said to me, “I don’t need them anymore. I want to give them to someone that can use them.” That let me know she had settled into her new life and was ready to move forward. I am glad the choice was hers and that I did not push her to give her things away. We must always remember that items we think of as just “things” may be meaningful to these precious children from foster care. So if your older child wants to hold on to something that they are clearly too old for, let them, and they will move on when they are ready!