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Family Feature Articles

Most recent posting below. See other articles in the column to the right.

Children With Problems

There are children who no one wants. They could fall into the following categories:

  • children with brain damage as a result of their parent's drug use
  • an unhealthy child who needs to be fed through a tube or has seizures
  • children who have caused significant damage to people and/or property. Robberies or committing crimes could be common behavior for these children. They may have seriously hurt animals, be a runaway, be uncontrollable at home or school or have been abused.

As you can see, these children could have quite a range of issues when they arrive at your home. They are children who can have very serious social problems. Each one is unique. Each one needs a caring and supportive home. Some will exhibit baby-like behavior. Imagine being asked to take in a child that just burned down his home! Would you take that child into your home? What if you were asked to take in a child that is so unruly that he has been expelled from school and you will be responsible to make sure he gets his schooling at home until he graduates? Can you do it?

In this section we discuss children with severe problems. Do not confuse these children with foster children who are not this way. Children with special problems need to be treated by setting expectations and limitations from the beginning. As I have said before, they need to know that YOU are indeed in charge. That you have more resources than they have. You are a person that they can depend upon for help.

OK, how do I safely care for Difficult foster children? Your first responsibility is to "keep safe." The Safety Guidelines article outlined the steps to get your home in "safe shape!"

Now, let's consider some issues that could arise. Let's start with a hypothetical problem: your child sneaks out of their room in the middle of the night and makes 900# calls that cost hundreds of dollars. You may have no idea that this is going on. When you are aware of this problem, you need to come up with a creative solution. One idea could be to either remove the phones or lock them up or lock those rooms. That should solve the phone calls. Handling the wandering around at night will be a bit more complicated. You can't lock their door it is illegal, so first lock up anything that is important to you (valuables, pictures, etc.) Now is the wandering at night in your home unsafe? You decide. If you decide that it is, then you need to solve it. An idea could be to catch them wandering and talk it out with them, reminding them that it isn't allowed (you might put this rule in the "house rules"). This might work, and it might not. So keep trying. Maybe put a bell on the door to remind them not to wander or the bell can wake you if it's loud enough. You could make it cost them something, not money, but something that is important to them e.g. no normal phone calls to or from friends for a week each time you catch them. You cannot restrict calls to family except under special circumstances. At first you will have a lot of problems to solve. The good news is that one by one most of them will be corrected or minimized. After a period of time your child will learn and grow. Don't become frustrated if it doesn't happen fast, it could take a few years. You must direct them when needed. They want your guidance, even if they act like they don't want your help. You may be happily surprised when they come to you and say, "Thank you."

Do you need some ideas to stop bad behavior? Have used up every idea? E-mail me a note with the details and I will give you ideas that help you to think of your own new ideas. There are no perfect or easy solutions just hard work and effort.

Remember, you can only correct poor behavior when you see it. In other words, a child may have stolen something (it's missing) but you did not see him, so you can't correct him. There will be plenty of times that you will catch him and at that point you should correct him. Do not worry about the times he wins (he thinks he is winning at this game he plays). Over time, in this game of "can you catch me?" you will hone your skills of awareness so that you will be in control! Also remember, do not ignore bad or unwanted behavior. These children (most, not all) have been ignored for a long time and seek honest correction. As you both become better acquainted, you will start to form a closer rapport that will encourage cooperation and trust. This relationship is what makes helping these children rewarding.


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