Foster Care, Teenagers, Uncategorized

Life’s a Dumpster

I’ve been in my feelings this last week for a few reasons, but everyone in our household is still healing from the events of last week. S is still struggling with the things that are out of her control. Her parents choices, the idea of not going home this time and overall how it all seems to fall on her shoulders. For once, this evening I ran out of things to say when I tried to console her. I just want you to be okay, but I don’t know what else to say.

Our biggest struggle right now is trust.

Without revealing the personal details of what happened, S told me some information which I felt inclined to relay to her caseworker and by doing so destroyed the trust that was slowly being built up between her and I. As soon as I said the words out loud to her caseworker, I knew that I was hurting our relationship. That gut feeling was confirmed when I saw the look on S’s face when we discussed the information as a group. It was over this weekend that S bitched me out for the first time, to be frank.

Recently I read something on childhood trauma that compared how it feels to get into a warm bath when you are cold (how it feels hot even though it isn’t) to how a foster child feels when someone is trying to give them love that they aren’t used to. The overwhelming sensation hurts and you aren’t ready for it, so you lower yourself inch by inch while you get used to it but most importantly it takes time. I can’t for the life of me find this quote again, but the way it was originally written made a lot of sense in my head.

In the timeline of S’s life, 6 months is nothing. The number of time’s she has spent 6 months somewhere far exceeds the amount of times that she has stayed in the same place for an extended period of time. When S first arrived we were told that the first two weeks to a month is the “honeymoon phase”, but I think it’s much longer. S was on her absolute best possible behavior for her first month living with us. As the weeks went on and more things happened, she got more comfortable. Though our house was not “home” to her yet, she got to know us better and therefore was able to show us more of her true self.

It was an adjustment for everyone. S finally showing us her “dark side” and us learning how to properly approach that dark side. I learned some unique approaches in order to help S through hard times and it gave me the opportunity to think outside the box.

One of the most important tactics is distraction. How can I get S outside of her own head? First, we limit her alone time. There’s nothing worse than isolating yourself when your brain is attacking your every move. Sitting in your bedroom, thinking of everything you’ve done wrong and everyone who has ever wronged you- it’s the first step towards a downward spiral. The second thing we was take advantage of every possible thing that could provide a nice distraction- that’s where the dumpster comes in!

Our neighbor’s daughters have been cleaning out his home recently and parked a large dumpster in the driveway. While we watched them take things from inside the house that were in perfectly fine condition and throw them into this dumpster, we decided to dive in when night fell. S was so excited when she got into the dumpster, she found all sorts of gears, nuts and bolts and other things that she instantly made plans for. “I used to make robots when I was younger, look at all this stuff I can make more robots with” she told us. She was so excited about the possibilities for all this “junk” that she stayed an extra 45 minutes in the dumpster after everyone left.

I started a new routine where I send S an “inspirational quote” every night before I say goodnight. The quote for that day depends on what happened, but that night I made my quote about the dumpster. I took advantage of her enthusiasm about her discoveries and told her to use that enthusiasm about her real life. “Take that dumpster as a metaphor. You are capable of making any trash situation useful. You are smart and creative and beautiful and someday you will realize that you are worthy of a smart, creative and beautiful life.”

I apologize that this post is all over the place. I’ve been writing it on and off for a few days, but I needed to get it finished because it was really bothering me that it took this long!

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