I was speaking to a friend about her recent legal risk placement. Transitions can be so tough, both on the child and the new family. No matter how much empathy you have for that grieving child, it also hurts our mommy heart. When you have prayed for and waited for a child, it hurts a little to see them pining for their last mama. Speaking to my friend reminded me of when our group of three arrived.
Our oldest, then almost 3, cried and cried for the mama and same-age “sister” (foster friend) that he left behind. At night, he would lie awake in bed, wiggling and turning his hands over and over. He was so bereft. I did not know what to do.
Finally, I decided any attempt to draw him closer was better than doing nothing. I decided to make his life slightly more difficult so he would need to depend more on me. I put him in shirts that buttoned and shoes that tied. I put the child lock on the fridge so he had to ask for water. I told him caring for his younger sister was my job, and I was quick to jump in when she needed something. It sounds mean in retrospect, but it really worked. He realized he needed me and, in depending on me, drew closer. I also was honest with him when he asked for “mama” and the little girl. I told him I was his mommy now. I would give him what he needed.
We made phone calls to the previous family and he cherished those. Though mostly pre-verbal, he would nod his head emphatically and say their names over and over. My case worker was mixed on whether we should try the phone calls, but I think they worked. It helped him to realize that “away” is not necessarily “gone forever.” We looked at photos. We remembered them in our prayers.
In my opinion, as mothers, we often know what we need to do. Sometimes the opposite of what makes “sense” is what they need. Even big kids need hugging and cuddling. Independent preschoolers need to depend on someone. Recently weaned babies may need bottles for a time. All ages need rocking. Just love them like they’re little and remember, this too shall pass.