As Foster Parents, When Do We Need A Break?
As parents, we want to believe we can do it all. Now if you are a parent, you have come to realize that this is impossible and we need help. As foster parents, we have some added challenges with our little ones that make asking for a break a bit trickier. There are many reasons you may convince yourself that you don’t want to utilize outside supports, such as: they have already been bounced around from home to home, you are the only family they have lived with besides their biological parents, and/or they have very challenging behaviors that feel unfair to put on someone else. This is not an exhaustive list, but these are definitely some of the reasons my husband and I have considered when asking for help.
Let’s back up for a second. When do we know we need help? This may sound easy, but maybe we are missing the signs and this can be a bit of a refresher. Again, most of what I share comes from my experience in working in the foster care system and being a current foster parent myself. So here are some warning signs for me that trigger a signal that a break may be needed in the very near future. As a co-parent, being connected and having space to talk about something other than the children is very important. When my husband and I realize that we have not talked in a while or have not done anything that did not involve the children, we know we need a break to focus on us. There are times when I notice that my fuse is a bit shorter and the challenging things our kids do feels more frustrating. When this happens, I know that some space and a break from our little ones is needed to reset. I know a break is required when I cannot remember the last time I did something just for me alone! The list can go on and on and may look different for each family, but my point here is to determine what your warning signs are so you can be ready to ask for help before things become more challenging.
What is a break exactly? A break can be different for everyone. A break may mean that someone, whether your spouse, family member, friend, or babysitter, watches your little one so you can have some “me” time; this may be a small break for 2-3 hours. A date night with your significant other may require a bit more planning and may be a longer experience, but is important for your relationship. There are also times when a mini vacation weekend is needed without your little ones and you may have to ask your agency for respite care because of the length of time. All of these breaks are good and necessary to thrive as foster parents.
Now, the trickiest part of this is believing that taking a break and asking for help is okay. I have often felt guilty when I could not do it on my own or having to leave our little ones with other people. I thought that our kids would think that we left them and would never return, I thought they would be angry that they could not come with us, I was nervous that all the hard work we put in to bond with our children would be broken, and I also thought that people would think that we were not good foster parents. As much as all of these thoughts and feelings are valid, they are stemming from my own sense of insecurity. I NEED help, you NEED help, we all NEED help! This work is hard and we cannot do it alone.
Parenting with others who you can gain support from, who will encourage you, and lift you up is key! We cannot walk this journey alone and neither can our children. If you take anything from this post, let it be that asking for help is okay and even good! So, do it!!
Please schedule a free consultation if you have further questions or want to schedule an individual session to create space for you to be filled back up. Also, please reach out if you are interested in engaging in a foster parent group to connect with other foster parents and process the obstacles and celebrate the joys together.
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