As a Foster parents, my wife and I have learnt so much. It’s hard work at times, but also incredibly rewarding. These kids haven’t had the best start in life and have the emotional and sometimes physical scars to prove it. Yet despite that, with the right support, we see them flourishing with boundless energy. So I wrote down the key things I’ve observed that I feel gives them the energy they need. Of course, when they first arrive, they are not displaying all these characteristics, but within a month or two, they usually start to appear. Once they join up the dots, they get really energised!
Whilst I am writing specifically about foster children or Looked After Children as they are called, if you have kids or remember when you were one, you’ll probably recognise some or all of these points.
I’d also like to point out I am being very general here and drawing from our experiences and the experiences of other carers, and at no time am I referring specifically to one child or another who has been in our care.
- They are always active, and love being outside
Most kids love being outside, despite the lure of electronic devices, once you get them outside, they love it. Looked After Children, especially in the early days, struggle to turn off, so have boundless physical energy. They love kicking a ball, helping you in the garden, or going for a bike ride. They don’t need to join the gym, they just do exercise, period. I think we’ve all forgotten the value of play in our lives.
2. They Sleep!
I mentioned in point 1, about them not switching off, this is because their amygdala is still in flight, fight, freeze mode. But once we’ve demonstrated that they are in a safe family environment, they sleep for England! Their little brains are still dealing with a lot, but they sleep really well.
3. They are courageous
They’ve had to be really brave to deal with what life has thrown at them. These kids have experienced things that we would never want to, and yes they have the scars that need healing, but they get back up every day and take it on, and with the right support, start to win at school and at home.
4. They live in the moment
OK so sometimes their attention span is short, and there are reasons for that, but if you help them find something they love, they will completely immerse themselves in it. We’ve all seen that kid deeply immersed in what they are doing, they’ve literally switched off to the outside world. Imagine if we could foster that again when we are immersed in a task?
5. They eat when they are hungry
All kids tend to do this. Of course, sometimes they end up getting “hangry”, because they have immersed themselves in something for so long, they have forgotten to eat, but kids generally want to eat when they are hungry and not when they are not. We could all learn from this when we’ve piled that plate up and feel the need to finish it all. Of course, they do often take some encouragement to eat the right things, but don’t we all!
6. They just do it
Looked after kids hardly ever procrastinate. To be fair, most kids don’t. So when you’re there avoiding that task you really know you should do, think of these kids, knocking it out the park, tackling things head on.
7. They would rather spend time with you than money
Yes sometimes they do ask for the latest trainers or phone, but what they most want is to be with you and do things together. Playing Uno, watching a TV programme together, cleaning the car together, if they are with you, they feel safe and happy. So in your own life try to think of less online shopping and more offline connecting. We are social beings after all!
8. They love unconditionally
This is the one that bowls me over every time, whatever life has thrown at them, they really love the people around them, whether that’s the parent that has not been able to keep them safe, the Social Worker, the Teacher or indeed us. They really do have a deep propensity to love, unconditionally. Loving us is really difficult for them, as they often feel like they are betraying their parents by allowing themselves to feel safe, loved and have fun with us. But when you hear those three little words come out of their mouths, it’s quite simply breathtaking. We ought to bring this basis of compassion into our lives with our teams, friends, and dare I say neighbours!
9. They can still dream
Despite what life’s thrown at them, with a little nurturing again, they have big dreams, sometimes they are the usual “want to be famous” dreams that most kids have at some point, but sometimes they are more rooted in their past experiences. Many talk of caring for others as being important to them. And it rubs off too, I’ll finish this point by talking about my own 14 year old daughter, who’s an active founder member of the Birth Family Group, when birth children get together to talk about their experience of fostering, but also the experience has helped define her career aspirations as a Child Therapist. That’s given her renewed focus at school, as she knows she’ll need the grades to achieve that.
If these kids can manage to get so much right to optimise their energy, reduce their stress and increase their performance, what’s holding you back? What could you learn from them and apply to your own life?
Ian Hacon, 🔋 Chief Energy Officer 🔋 and Foster Parent 😊