As a foster parent, my family and friends are constantly expressing concerns over how I’m coping with the uncertainty of the future.
This comes after they realize that I usually don’t know how long my foster children are going to stay with me or if I’ll even be able to adopt them. Once I finally get through to someone that I have no idea about anything, their face usually turns from quizzical to sorrowful, followed by the “I could never do that” statements and “how can you possibly handle it?” questions.
Up until now, my answer has usually been “not well,” and then we all have an awkward chuckle. But after a bit more soul-searching, I’ve realized that there are a couple of ways that I’ve learned to cope with it all.
1. I try not to think about the future too much
Sure, I think about the future all. the. time. but at some point I have to tell my anxiety to hush-up so that I can go do the laundry.
2. I frequently plan activities to look forward to in the short-term
Gone are the days that I spend an entire year thinking and planning for next summer’s vacation or even purchasing an annual YMCA pass. These days I create weekend excursions that both my foster kids and I can look forward to — and that we know we’ll still be together for. The time spent choosing a museum, festival, or dance class helps to keep me in the here and now.
3. I remind myself that it’s harder on the kids than it is on me
Friends and family usually focus on how difficult fostering and then losing a child will be on me — however, I know I can handle it. Past experience with personal loss has given me the confidence that with support and time, I can bounce back. The children, on the other hand, are in a much more fragile position. Focusing on them keeps me going.
4. When I do think about the future, I tend to have a plan to fill up my time after my child leaves
For some foster parents, this means an opportunity to move to another town, or perhaps switch jobs or go back to school. A few foster parents find that fostering another child right away helps in the healing. In the past, my go-to plan was to catch up with friends and rejoin the after-work drinks and dinners-out routine that makes living in New York City so enjoyable to me.
5. I try to build supportive relationships with my foster child’s parents with the hopes of staying in touch
A lot has changed in foster care over the past 20 years. Foster parents used to be seen as simple babysitters who are cut off once a child goes home, but now we’re seen as integral partners for families that can provide sustainable community support to struggling parents throughout their children’s lifetime.More On