I've never been a kid person. That sounds crazy coming from a foster parent, but it's true. I'm not a "run up and smother your kid with kisses" kind of gal. I'm more a "have a mini-conversation with your child about their life" person. There have been very few children outside of my own family and extended family with whom I've developed close relationships. In fostering, I understand how vital it is to connect with our kids, but that doesn't automatically make me an overly animated, love-out-loud mamma. My approach to trust building and heart sharing is more a sneak attack.
When kids come into our home, I take them shopping for healthy snacks as soon as possible. We browse the produce section where they choose whatever fruits or veggies they want. And they choose easy, on-the-go, snacks to take when we're running errands.
When a kid comes into our home, I make it a point to ask open ended questions. Then I get down on their level, make eye contact if possible, and listen actively to what they have to say. I restate their thoughts. I ask clarifying questions. I try my best not to offer any of my own stories until they are finished with everything they have to share.
When a kid comes into our home, I observe what they find interesting. Then I go do that activity. I usually play alone at first, and then the kids will get brave enough to join me. With our girls, that meant doctoring baby dolls by myself for a good five minutes. But now they bring the babies out and invite me to join them.
When a kid comes into our home, I ensure that they have a creative space that is size appropriate. It might be a high chair, a bar stool or a preschool card table. Whatever the arrangement, I find it important to have a space where our children can create. And where we can create something together.
When kids come into our home, they get new blankets. These are not extravagant quilts or expensive. They are 1 yard or half-yard cuts of soft fleece that have edges snipped into fringe. The girls watched me fringe the edges of their blankets. I think there's something extra special about watching someone make something just for you.
When a kid comes into our home, I let her determine the pace we move. I give unlimited hugs and snuggles, but I do not take them. I follow the lead of the child. Some children need and crave all the snuggles they can get. Others are slow to trust, and that is ok.
When kids come into our home, I pray for them, with them, and over them (with their permission). I thank God, out loud, for the opportunity to know and share life with these little people. I choose specific things about each child to be thankful for- gentle nature, helpful heart, joyful laugh... whatever it is I've been blessed by that day.
And when kids come into our home, we celebrate their families. We talk about their parents and siblings, we remind our kids that they are loved and missed by their parents. We send pictures and videos if we can. We support the parents FOR the kids for as long as we can.