Christmas is a special time with family and friends for most people. It means great food, gift giving, parties, and seeing family. There are many children sitting in institutions not knowing if they will see family, have a special dinner, or receive a gift. I was one of those children for most of my childhood. I remember looking out the window wondering if I would ever have a family and what it would be like. I wondered how long the pain was going to last. This is the hardest time of year for these kids. Although it does get better, I’m now 39 and it’s still the hardest time.
Many kids in the system have supportive families that want them back home. They work the system and know that a day is coming when they will leave and go home. And then there's kids that don't have family to visit and they may never get out until they age out of the system. I know what that feels like.
So you’ve probably asked yourself many times, “How can I reach this child? How do I deal with their anger?” First of all, listen to them. Don’t lecture or scold if you’re trying to make a connection. Really listen to them and try to hear what they’re saying underneath the words they are using. And never say you understand their pain unless you’ve walked in their shoes and you know firsthand what they are experiencing. Kids read this as patronizing and will turn you off.
I’m often asked, “How can I get kids that have been abused or abandoned to open up and trust me?” First of all, let me say thank you for wanting to do so. I spent twelve of my first nineteen years as a ward of the state and I know how desperate a child in that position wants and needs a trusted friend.