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The Power of Choices

When you are caring for a child from foster care, unexpected challenges can arise.

Step into a day in the life of a foster family with Chosen Care Manager Bethany Hall to learn about their challenges and how to support them.

This is not the story of one foster parent, but rather a combination of thoughts and stories shared with her by many foster families over the years. Their lives share a common thread of selfless love and persistence through the hardest moments..

When choices are taken away, we feel out of control.

Children and teens who have spent time in foster or residential care, an international orphanage, or moving between relatives’ homes have had no say in the matter. They didn’t choose to leave their birth parents. It wasn’t their decision to move into the home of a stranger. They didn’t ask for abuse or neglect. Just like adults during the shelter-in-place quarantine of 2020, children feel out of control when all choices are made for them.

Kids who have been harmed by abuse and neglect live in a state of fear.  This can look like “bad” behavior when it is just survival instinct.

Is there anything that can help?

Yes! Choices help children and teens feel like they are in control. Giving kids choices also builds trust and connection with parents. When children feel in control, their behaviors will seem more manageable.

Ironically, telling parents to give choices often makes them feel out of control. It seems permissive. Adults may have a deep-seated belief that sharing control removes their authority as parents. Instead, simple choices can empower children and help to reduce anxiety and fear.

What giving choices look like:

  • One Chosen family struggled to get their ten-year old foster son to shower. A hard history with showers made him feel afraid. He attempted to “take back control” by throwing a fit every night before his shower. His parents decided to give him two choices: 1) He could race his foster dad to the bathroom, or 2) He could get a piggyback ride to the bathroom. A simple choice helped the boy feel in control and the meltdowns finally stopped.

  • A teenager was failing chemistry and was at risk of not graduating from high school. Her parents gave her two choices: 1) Get tutoring from a college student, or 2) Get tutoring from her teacher. She chose the college student and passed the class.

  • In our family, unloading the dishwasher felt extremely overwhelming to our daughter, who struggles with sensory issues. The banging of plates caused her to react in a way that appeared defiant. But we knew it was her way of saying, “This is hard for me. I need help.” So, we told her she could unload the dishwasher: 1) with her earplugs in or, 2) with music playing through her headphones.

The key with giving choices

It can be helpful to write out a list of appropriate choices for the children in your home. Use the image at the top of this blog to inspire some ideas! Learn more about giving children choices by watching Coffee with Chosen: Choices – Letting your Little Ones Feel in Control.

NEED MORE PARENTING TIPS?

If you want more parenting tips geared towards families impacted by foster care, adoption, and kinship care, please visit our resource library. If you need personalized trauma-responsive care for your family, we would love to help! Contact us to learn more about the ways Chosen Care can support your family.
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Payton Barksdale | Intake Specialist
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