Summertime rituals… Now this might be a little bit trickier, and open to a lot more interpretation, especially if you have a newer placement. But if you are attuned to what your child enjoys, and you try, to the best of your ability of course, to tap into that over summer break it can give opportunity to bolster courage, confidence, as well as increase the connection and bond between members of your family.
Of course there are camps and trips and all the things that are obviously ways to hone in on your child’s passions and I’m definitely not minimizing those by any stretch! I’m here, though, to help you think through some possibly non-obvious ways to make connections when you might not have the structure of the school year to fall back on. So here it goes, in no particular order:
Maybe your child enjoys sleeping in so in the summer, if it can’t be done every day, allow the child the ritual of doing that every Saturday morning or Sunday morning. Let them know you are designating that time each week, as best you can, to allowing them that luxury. Maybe it’s not a luxury in your home, but it definitely would be in mine. I slept in until 7 recently and almost had a heart-attack when I saw the clock!
Maybe there is some kind of treat that your child enjoys, so make it something you get once a month in the summer…although summer seems to be getting shorter and shorter with a longer school calendar, so maybe once a week if possible. Maybe there’s a local ice cream shop that they like so maybe only in the summer do you visit it.
Or maybe there’s some activity that your child has always done historically with their birth family and so, even if they can’t do that with their birth family, maybe you could still provide the opportunity…this could be going to a nearby park for a picnic on the Fourth of July. Or going to a certain pool. Or the State Fair. Or a certain local theme park. Or a drive-in movie. The list is practically endless.
There is also the possibility that there is a specific summer activity the child has always WANTED to do but has never had the opportunity. Now…to reach way back in a previous post, I am NOT talking about making this a Disneyland-type of event. The intent with this is NOT to overstep or show the child, ‘Hey look at what I can provide that your birth family cannot!” The goal is absolutely not to create divisiveness between your family and the biological family; the point is the make a connection with the child.
Something like this could be framed as “Every summer we try a new activity that no one in the household has ever done before.” And with that, you provide the chance to help a child see that there’s always opportunity for growth and learning and having new experiences. And it pushes the foster family as well…maybe you’ve all had a variety of experiences in your lifetimes, but this might get everyone out of their comfort zones and experience a tiny taste of what the foster child might be experiencing.
Clearly, I’m not meaning that this has to be a big deal. Maybe it’s going hiking in a state park no one has ever visited. Or taking an art class together. Or going ziplining. Again…there are many opportunities on this; it might simply take a few minutes to sit down and consider what those might be, especially for this specific placement.
Another opportunity, especially, if it’s a long-term placement, stretching over years, might be to allow the child to pick a one-week camp that he’d like to attend… maybe it’s in the vein of an interest he has, or relates to a particular strength of his. Maybe it’s an area he wants to study when he gets older. Or maybe it’s just a “for-fun” camp where their best friend is going, and they would like to go too. It doesn’t have to be an overnight, sleep-away camp. A day-camp close to home is a great way to begin.
But whatever it is, and whatever idea you land on, it shows the child that you see them…you care about them, what their interested in and how they’ve been knit together in a specific way with certain interests which may (or may not) be varied from the foster family.
They may not see it at the time, but you will deeply understand that you’re connecting with them in a way that shows you understand them…even though you’re not necessarily participating in the camp alongside them. So this is just some food for thought to consider, as summer is rapidly approaching. It’s absolutely not too late to get some of this opportunities for connection on your calendar before the summer flies by and kids are back in school next fall!