Building a support network

If you care for vulnerable children, you need a support network. You cannot do this alone.

Sometimes support can come from unexpected quarters. It’s not unusual to find that when you adopt or foster, some friends who you thought would be there for you, might drift away. They may not really understand what you’re going through, or perhaps just can’t relate to your experience. But others may come to the fore, who you were never particularly close to before.

It can be a useful exercise to take a pen and paper, and consider what your support network looks like. Don’t think too narrowly. As well as close friends and family, you may find support from people in your church, work colleagues, other parents and carers, even online forum members. Some people have found it helpful to actually make a list of who you can turn to, to meet different needs.

A few may not be able to do much for you practically but they are desperately keen to pray for you. Why not set up a WhatsApp group where you can post prayer requests? One friend may be great at providing a listening ear for you to offload how you’re feeling occasionally. Another may not want to do that, but can step in with a car lift or wants to help you run errands.

Categorise your list into people who could offer practical help, people who can pray, people you can phone in an emergency, potential babysitters, etc.

It’s natural to wish that people would rally around and offer help if we’re struggling. We think they should notice what’s happening, and we feel let down if they don’t provide support. Realistically we are often all rather absorbed in our own lives – or we assume someone else will do it! So you’ll probably need to find the courage to be specific about your needs, and ask people to help you.

Asking for help

It can feel like a sign of weakness to ask for help. And what if they say 'no'? What if they ignore me? What if they see my request as a waste of time?

While these are all possibilities, they're quite unlikely. A lot of people would love to help where they can. Some may indeed say no, but many others probably want to help, but simply don’t know how – and you won’t know until you ask!

You may have friends or family who say, 'Do let me know if there’s anything I can do to help!'. It can be hard, but the onus is on you to follow up on that, rather than assuming they will come back to you. The best way is to give them something particular to do – the more specific the better. You might ask, 'Could you walk the dog once a week for us?' or, 'Can you pop round on a Saturday afternoon once a fortnight when the children are out, so that I can share how I’m feeling and we can pray together?'

Remember, parenting vulnerable children is a marathon, not a sprint. Marshal your resources and seek out whatever help is available, so that you can conserve your strength for the journey. In the long run, you’ll be helping your children as well as yourself.

Helping others to understand

It can be discouraging if those around you seem to have little understanding of your needs, or the challenges you may be facing. Inevitably there will be family or friends who have never really thought much about adoption or fostering, or maybe their understanding of what it involves bears little relation to reality!

They may wonder why you didn’t choose to adopt a baby instead of an older child, or be critical of you for not being ‘firmer’ and disciplining your child in the way they think best, or not understand why you can’t share confidential information, or simply not believe you that your child's behaviour could be so different at home when they are perfectly behaved in public.

Remember that while you may have been living and breathing this subject for some time now, those around you may have some ‘catching up’ to do. If your family or friends are interested or willing to learn more, why not share some Home for Good blogs and articles with them so they can better understand trauma, attachment, parenting or your child's invisible needs.

Whatever your current circumstance, if you would like someone to talk and pray with, call our team on 0300 001 0995. We are always happy to listen and will signpost you to further support where we can.

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