“Don’t take it personal.” It’s a phrase I’ve heard more than a dozen times in the last few months. I hear it when I call my agency for advice. I hear it when I cry about the recent attitude my foster kiddo got with me. It’s a phrase I grew to hate. How could I NOT take it personal?
To me, fostering and raising kids is one of the most personal things I will ever do. I pour my heart into these kids daily. I wake up and immediately hit the ground running. I go to bed after everyone else. I make the meals, clean the home, haul kids where they need to go. I sacrifice my own wants and needs for others. How could I NOT take it personal?
Foster parents, this job is personal. Loving these kids is personal. But there is a difference between taking the attitudes to heart and the job to heart. This is something that has taken me several months to realize. The actions of these kids have nothing to do with us. They’re just being kids. But it doesn’t mean it won’t hurt along the way.
I finally see that the outbursts and yelling has nothing to do with me. Like any family or close friend, foster kids will let out their frustrations towards you. Why? Because we are the closest people to them. It also means that they are comfortable enough to be vulnerable. They may not scream their actual struggles but they are telling you in their own way that they are hurting. Consider it an honor that these kids feel like they can say what they feel.
Now I’m not saying yelling and cussing is tolerated. You do need to let them know they need to be respectful. But remember it has nothing to do with you. I wish I had understood that sooner.
In those tough moments I want you to remember that you are probably one of the few people fighting for them. Even if they feel like you’re against them. Remember, on top of all of that trauma — they’re just kids. It’s normal to get eye rolls and whining. I know I did it when I was young.
Most importantly, be kind to yourselves. If your foster kid calls you names or says you suck as a parent — know that it doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job. The fact that you opened your home to love someone else’s child is reason enough to know that’s not true.
Don’t take the behavior issues personally. Instead, take the job personally. Keeping loving them. Show them you’re not giving up.