Last night we ran into Helper (13 year old boy) and Excited (7 year old brother). They stayed with us over the winter holidays (read about it here) and they’ll be staying with us again next month.
Besides just saying hello, I purposely said a few things to help make their upcoming visit easier. First, I commented on the things I remembered about them from their last stay. I pointed out the mango to Excited and said, “I bet you’re going to choose the mango, because I remember that you loooove it.” For Helper, I laughed when looking at his very full plate and said “I’m not surprised to see all that food piled on your plate. You always were a bottomless pit last time.” This is a way to let them know you still care enough to know the little things that make them who they are. It also gave them a chance to share what they remembered. Excited said “I remember somebody. Silent One (our adopted son).” And then I went on to describe what Silent One’s been up to lately and then transitioned to Sassy (our bio daughter).
I also painted a picture of some of the fun things we plan to do next month. I asked them if they like to hunt for Easter eggs, because my neighborhood does one. Then I described how it works, telling them about the giant Easter bunny, that there’s lots of kids, that it’s divided by age, that there’s a special golden egg with a special prize, etc. Yes, they like to hunt for eggs, and oh they really hope they’ll find the golden egg. We chatted about whether they’d like to bring their own baskets or use ones that we have. They said maybe they’d bring their Halloween bags – great idea. I talked about decorating Easter eggs.
This was all very deliberate. It will help them look forward to coming and seeing us, and focus less on the separation from their foster parents. It erases some of the scary unknowns of living temporarily with people they don’t know very well. It gives a chance to plan for the visit (bring basket? want to participate or not?), which helps them to feel more in control of their lives.
If you have any tips for making respite care easier, please share!