How to stay calm in the chaos

Five tips from foster carers for holding on in the midst of the chaotic and unplanned moments.

'Foster care is so easy! Plans never change, I know exactly what I'm doing at every given moment and I never get frustrated...' SAID NO FOSTER CARER EVER!

It would be so lovely to be able to present to you the tried and tested, ‘Six steps on how to cope with everything that the world of fostering will have to throw at you’. Sadly, this is not that. (Because if I knew that I would be a millionaire and would be off sipping cocktails on one of my many yachts.)

This is simply a reflection from a collection of foster carers (Including myself) who have found helpful tools to navigate their way through some of the more turbulent and chaotic waves of the fostering experience. Here's what helped....

1) In the chaos, have thick skin and don’t hold things too tightly

You haven't put the right bow in her hair. Contact has been changed last minute. Your advice is asked for and then the complete opposite done. Does any of this resonate?

All the niggling details can take up so much of our time and energy and totally derail our emotions, especially if it is a consistent prodding. Like a stone in your shoe when going for a run. And in the throes of it all, we often begin to question ourselves. Was it my fault? Where there something I missed? Did I get that wrong?

The chaos is inevitable so we will often get drawn into the whirlwind of events. No matter how planned we are, something will come along to knock that Daily Organiser 2018 off the wall.

Life is fluid, emotions move quickly and so must we. We need that bounce back ability. There will be bumps and bruises to endure but it’s a necessary part of our role as protector. So here's to being consistently flexible, whilst not allowing those bruises to shove us off the path of loving God's children.

2) In the chaos, look at the big picture

One foster carer reflected how, in a week, there were missed homeworks, detentions, forgotten PE kits and overlooked outings. Whilst full effort is made to juggle these daily demands, sometimes, things can drop.

As these small things mount upon our shoulders, becoming very big things and whispering in our ear that we have failed, the effort to lift our heads can seem overwhelming. But by shifting the focus we change the perspective to see the big picture.

The forgotten PE kit becomes a speck in the fuller image and magnitude of loving a vulnerable child. This draws us in and invites us to remember our 'why' – the individual story of 'why' we wandered down the path of fostering in the first place. What was it that caught our attention and hearts?

At times this can be buried deeply beneath the bountiful and it can take effort to dig up this treasure. Yet the 'why' is the easel that holds the big picture, and we must remember it often.

'The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything up close' - Charles Palahniuk

3) In the chaos, keep laughing

I love this one. I think it is overlooked and yet such a valuable quality.

Laughter is a key element in building relationships – think of baby unable to speak who communicates with a giggle, which helps form a bond. The same can be true in adults.

One foster carer reflected that after many conversations she couldn't get her teenage foster son to stop using inappropriate language in front of her younger birth son, so what did she do? She sent her son into his room with sun glasses, a Toy Story hat and a water pistol. Unorthodox but it worked. It helped bond the brothers and let them know that being part of a family is working out how to live together. It defused the tension and became an all-out water fight rather than a screaming match! (I know which one I'd rather be involved in.)

4) In the chaos, find time for you. Yes, YOU!

As you so selflessly give your time and energy, you are the most important resource in the lives of these children. Therefore, to look after yourself isn't just a luxury but a necessity.

Games night to bring that fun competitive edge, dinner with friends to talk about absolute rubbish, walk with the dog that gives you time to breathe. It's too important not to have time for these things.

This is also why we need our village to help carry us through. Those messages of encouragement and coffees can help give you the head space you need. When you're feeling on the edge of exhaustion or even right in the middle, allow your body and mind a chance to catch up. It may seem counter-intuitive when what you're facing in that moment is demanding all of your attention, but prioritising self-care may be the thing that brings the peace and clarity you need.

'You can't pour from an empty cup, fill yourself up first.'

5) In the chaos, remember our God is in control.

'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways declares the Lord. For as high as the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.'
(Isaiah 55:8)

What a promise.

When our understanding falls short of His omniscience.When our warranted questions haven't found an answer.When decisions lay outside our control and we have to sit tight and wait.When our thoughts are tangled in worry and doubt.

To you we say, our focus is on Jesus. The maker of heaven and earth. He will fight for His children and cannot do anything but love.

What life giving promises we have to hold onto - and at times, I need to wrap this around me like a blanket and take comfort in that fact that when things happen that I don't understand, He is with me.

'Especially when I feel despairing with the teenagers and feel they're going nowhere, I remember that God has their future in his hands and when I feel I've done all I physically can for them I have to leave them in His hands praying that He will help them find their way in life.' Alison, foster carer.

Julie from Village Faith



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