The Importance for Foster Children to Know Their Life Story

Every time I meet a new family, I thoroughly enjoy getting to know each family member.  I delight in hearing their stories: how the parents met, circumstances that led to their foster care involvement, the child’s life story.  I am continually amazed at the strength and resilience that both the parents and children have shown facing challenging and trying situations.

Just like we find joy and excitement in sharing these stories, so our Foster Children long to learn about their own.  Having a life story grounds them, and gives them their own unique story to share with others when they are asked to do so.

  1. Children need to be aware of their life story in order to grasp why certain situations, sounds, smells, sights, and people trigger them.  When a child is triggered, they are faced with unexpected feelings, and it can be frightening.  It’s a parent’s job to aid the children in making a connection from the past to the present.
  2. Our history builds the foundation for our identity.  Children need to know their story to make sense of who they are, and this is especially true during adolescence.  Information grounds and places a child in their home, their community, and their world.  Try the following exercise to experience the significance of historical information for your child: Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.  Imagine that you do not possess any or minimal facts about your early life ~your birth parent’s faces and voice, the home where you were raised, your birth siblings or extended family members.  What would it be like to meet someone new who shares their early life history but you don’t have information to share in return.  What thoughts and feelings would you hold about yourself or others if this were true?
  3. When children are informed of their life story they feel more confident and settled, and they gain a greater sense of self.
  4. When a child is familiar with their history, it keeps them in the truth and out of fantasy.  If a child is not privy to details of their early life or family, they will create a false story in their mind.  Keeping a child in the truth becomes even more important if there are unpleasant facts about their early life or members of their birth family.
The easiest way to relay your child’s life story to him or her is through a Life book/Journal or memory book.   You can buy a book written for this purpose or you can create a personalized life book for your child.  Make time for you and your foster child, to page through his/her life book as often as possible, even when they are still very young.  This will foster bonding, create shared experiences, and help healing to take place.

About Helouise Steenkamp

I'm a 45 plus, Devoted Wife and Mother. Adonai has blessed us with two Amazingly Wonderful Sons. We have had the privilege of being Place of Safety parents for 1 1/2 years and there after foster parents to a Darling Princess for 5 years. She was reconciled with her biological parents in Dec'14. Our hearts are still aching from the loss, but we know that as we trust Adonai with our salvation, so we can trust Him with her future. We welcomed our new 4 year old foster child on 05JUN'15.
This entry was posted in Creating Lasting Memories, Foster Care Advice, Helping to bring Healing, Knitting Your Family, Parenting with Love, Words of Advice. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Importance for Foster Children to Know Their Life Story

  1. Nalene says:

    What should I tell my two and a half year old foster child about her background at this stage? She hasn’t had contact with her parents since she came to us almost a year ago so I don’t even know what she remembers. And when should I start telling her of the precise reasons why she was taken away from her parents….abuse, neglect etc?

    • It should be an ongoing process throughout the child’s life, starting from when they are placed with you – Regardless if they have frequent contact with their biological parents or not. The child should be told that they have “Birth Parents” – being their biological parents, and “Heart Parent’s” – being you as foster parents. Explain to her that her birth parents gave birth to her from under their hearts (the mommy’s tummy) and you as foster parents gave birth to her from in your hearts. It is extremely important to not raise her under the impression that she is your biological child. One day she will find the truth out, and then not just resent you for lying to her all these years but also question everything you’ve ever told her. Destroying your trust relationship completely. The process is difficult for us as foster parents to do, but we have to focus on what will be in the best long-term interest of the child, and set our own feelings aside. The younger your start, the easier it will be for her to understand and accept that she has two sets of parents.
      Good luck.

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