Vol. 16, No. 1 • November 2011

Books on the Nightstand

by Becky Burmester

The theme for this issue is overcoming parenting challenges. (Note to editor: please don’t choose a topic quite so personal to us for the May issue!)

Joe and I try very hard to be good enough parents. We are at least experienced enough to know that there are no perfect parents.

All foster parents are exposed to some examples of horrific parenting—things we would NEVER do. One of the keys to successful fostering is remembering that no one intends to be a bad parent. People parent as they were parented or as differently from the way they were parented as they can manage with the resources they have.

We must also remember that no matter what happens, these are the children’s parents. The children will worry about their well-being, about turning out “bad” like them, and about how to be happy in foster care even though it hurts their parents. All this adds to the baggage the children carry.

So what’s “on the nightstand” that might help us as we struggle to parent other people’s children?

Rise Magazine
Rise, a magazine written by and for parents affected by the child welfare system, really helps Joe and me walk in the birth parents’ shoes. I believe that regularly reading Rise will help you to do this, too.

One of the frequently shared horror stories about foster parenting involves THE VISITS. Regular readers of Rise gain a better understanding of why the parents do and say the things they do during visits. This information will not improve the behavior of the child prior to or following visits. But, it could arm us with information that will allow us to reframe our reactions.

Twelve step programs have as one of their foundational principles the concept that the only person that we can change is ourself. Reading Rise helps foster parents see a different perspective, one in which parents’ anger can be seen as hurt or self defense, promises as a desperate desire for things to be different, and unneeded gifts of toys or clothes as acts of nurture and expressions of love.

With a better understanding of the birth parents’ perspectives, foster parents will be better equipped to talk with children about what visitation is like for their parents. Providing words to describe feelings can help children and foster parents get a handle on what it all means.

Foster parent support groups may wish to use Rise as the basis for monthly meetings several times a year. Shared parenting needs to be a two-way street. Children’s parents have been there, done that, and overcome: they have much to teach us.

Rise is published three times a year. Issues are available free at www.risemagazine.org. If you do not have Internet access at home, the public library is a reliable Internet source and provides printing services at a low cost.

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On a personal note, our family has hit a stretch of very difficult parenting, a time when Joe and I question our ability to keep on keeping on. It shouldn’t have hit us like a sharp blow to the gut, but it has.

School has started again for our son on the autism spectrum. He has made tremendous gains in the last year. But why did we expect things to be different, better, easier for him and for us?

We know progress is not a straight line. We have two grown children. Over 80 children have shared our home for periods of time ranging from a few days to years. We have had ample opportunity to learn that there are good times and bad and that during the bad times it can be hard to see that this particular bad patch will lead to more good times.

Please share books, articles, magazines that should be “on the nightstand.” Contact me at [email protected] or 919/870-9968. Please: leave your contact information twice on my voice mail. If I can’t understand your number I cannot return your call.
And keep reading!

Copyright 2011 Jordan Institute for Families