This post kind of dove-tails into the previous one in which I talked about our grief and loss journey. And I personally don’t think this is something talked about often enough in the foster world…and that is the idea of foster (and adoptive) parents seeking therapy for themselves.
I don’t have a whole lot to say on this other than there is no reason to feel ashamed for needing therapy. When you are parenting, caring for, and managing the medical, the emotional and the behavioral needs of a child from hard places (a child who more than likely is receiving therapy themself), you probably will have some sort of secondary trauma.
Most, if not all, foster parents struggle with secondary trauma. I’ve personally never met a foster parent who didn’t; I have, however, met foster parents who are in denial about it…but that’s a “them” issue and not necessarily what I’m talking about today.
So, some of you might be asking what is secondary trauma? It’s trauma that happens when you’re in close proximity to someone who has had a traumatic past. And as a foster (or adoptive) parent, it is just one of those things that happens and there’s no real way to avoid it.
And so I just want to encourage parents to reach out for help.
At the very least, have a close support group or support system in place who can listen to your struggles without judgment, and offer encouraging words, advice and support.
The next step, obviously, might be to seek out an effective and helpful therapist.
I’ve been to therapy in the past, and I’m looking to go again. It took me a long time to realize that there is no shame in it. For a long time I thought that there was something wrong with me if I couldn’t carry this weight on my own…and I suspect that’s why many others don’t seek out help as well.
But fortunately, I’ve had other foster parents in my life who have shared about their need for help…and they were people that I admire and look up to within the foster care world.
And so through their experience, and encouragement, I realized if THEY (people I thought, mistakenly, had it all together on their own) were willing to reach out and get the professional help they need, then who am I to judge them for that?
Judgement never helped anyone, especially the person doing the judging.
I realized that foster and adopted kids need their parents to be healthy. Foster parents have to be healthy in order to help kids heal from their traumas. And often that means reaching out for help.
I’ll break it down in simple terms for you (which goes beyond needing therapy):
- If your child needs therapy, chances are good that you do too.
- If your child needs extra support, chances are good that you do too.
- If your child needs more sleep or a healthier diet or more water, chances are good that you do too.
You aren’t doing your family any favors by not taking care of yourself.
So that’s really all I have to say…just a little “Rah-Rah” cheerleading speech to encourage you that you can do this, and you’re doing a great job, and you don’t have to do it on your own because help is readily available if you’ll be willing to reach out toward it.