Monday, May 25, 2020

From the Heart of a 10-year-old

So, I learned something last week.
I learned that even though grown-ups have good intentions, sometimes their words may be empty, meaningless, and even hurtful.
The fuller story is this: Foster was having a really rough day. He is missing his parents, he is frustrated with a broken system, and the delays and shut-downs caused by the Corona virus are making it worse. So, on this particular day he was angry. And he was being very vocal about it.
At first I was just listening. Trying simply to be attentive and to let him express his feelings. But then he said something which made a light bulb go off within me, and I was taken aback by the profundity of what he communicated.

Foster complained, "DHHS tells me to be a happy kid. Just enjoy being a kid. Don't worry about things. Just be happy. How am I supposed to be happy when I'm the only kid who isn't with their parents?????"
This young boy, though he was unaware of what he said, nailed every well-meaning adult who has ever told him not to worry about all the adult-things which need to take place in order for him to be reunited with his parents. It is so easy for us as adults - who have tons more maturity and life experience than a 10-year-old foster child - to encourage said child to leave the concerns to the adults; to keep living as a care-free child, doing only the things a child needs to do.
I mean, it makes sense!
Leave the details to the adults. They'll handle everything.
Just be happy, and enjoy being a kid.
We, as adults, probably all wish we would have followed that advice as children.
The problem is, a child who isn't with his parents - who can't even visit them face-to-face because of a stupid virus (his words) - isn't happy. He isn't carefree. Even though he is surrounded by many adults who love him and are trying to care for him, he is not content.
And I realized as I listened to Foster repeat this refrain several times, when we tell a child like him not to worry - rather just be happy, we are completely invalidating their feelings. We're basically telling them, "There is no need for you to be sad about your situation. Stop feeling that way. Instead, pretend that your life is good. Live as though we have worked through the issues and you're back where your heart wants to be. Just act like everything is OK, even though it isn't."
Oh, I know, we would never think of saying those words outright.
How insensitive is that???
But it's what we imply when we tell a child to assume our level of experience and maturity, and to look at the circumstance through our eyes.
It may be true that a foster-child cannot affect his situation by worrying about it. That the adults are truly the ones with the responsibility, ability, and obligation to fulfill the duties. But a child doesn't have that understanding, and asking him to operate as though he does is simply not fair.

Yeah. So that's what I learned through my foster son's expression of anger and frustration. People (adults and children, alike) need to have their feelings validated, because they're real. Not saying we should live based on our feelings, mind you, but we need to be allowed to feel and express them - and we need to know somebody cares. I pray God will give me the grace to remember this reality whenever I am about to tell Foster (and all future children He brings into my home) not to worry.
Ahhhh, LORD, please make my heart sensitive to the hurts and needs and feelings of these precious children who You love so much. Please make me an instrument of love and peace for them!



Unknown said...

It is so hard for kids..I have guardianship of my grand daughter and she can't see her mom but not because of the virus. I can't say why but she hurts deeply and her whole life has tried to get the love that she wants so deeply and the anger comes out at me and I just pray that God gives me the right words..these children have so much to deal with and no one else can fill that void..i pray for Foster that God fills that emptiness that only He can truly fill. Agreeing with you in prayer!

Karen Hossink said...

Unknown - And I pray for you and your granddaughter. May God - who sees and knows - fill her with love and peace, and you with grace and wisdom.