Children who have been taken into the care of the state and separated from their family often find it difficult to see the bright side of things. If they aren't guided carefully, it is ever so easy for them to define themselves as victims of their beginnings. We foster parents must really work to teach them how to notice the good things: the good people in their lives, and the good events that happen. They need to lear to see these good things and put them next to all their pain so that eventually they can find happiness on their own. Try this experiment for the month of November... or even just from now until Thanksgiving if it seems to tough to start a longer tradition.
Start a 2010 Thanksgiving book. A simple spiral notebook is fine, but a fancier one is also an option. Either way, try making time as part of the bedtime ritual to help them think of something or someone that was a bright spot in their day. Put the day, the date, and what was happy that day. Little ones are fine... catching the bus even though you got up late, a rainbow, the first snow, a new flower, a loose tooth... anything that brought a smile. Maybe you can help them to add in some of their successes, some progress made. Guide them when they need help coming up with something. Help them to find something good in each and every day. If they can't think of someTHING that has been a good thing, have them write down the name of someone who cares about them that day. Remind them to celebrate that someone cares. Make a separate section in the book that lists all the different people that care about them... family, friends, teachers, support people, neighbors, people from their faith community, and more.
If things are tough, bring out the happy book and look over the things that have gone well. Go over the list of people who care again. Be sure to teach them that those people who care are the people they can go to for help when they feel discouraged, when things are tough.
Keep adding to the book each day between now and Thanksgiving Day. If the kids get really into it, have them add photos, or drawings, or anything they like. They can add a section of clippings of things or sights that make them happy. Build their happiness book page by page, moment by moment, person by person. By Thanksgiving you and they will have a book that shows the things and people that made that child happy in November 2010. You will also have a child who comes to Thanksgiving Day with a greater idea of what they have to be thankful for this year.
I am a lifelong educator, writer and author, a foster, bio, and adoptive parent, happy mom of five daughters, Grandma to six, Nana to four, and church and theater musician. Oh yes, and all-round optimistic, crazy lady.