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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Focus on Fostering: Prepare the Unexpected... pt 1

[Running late this morning.. sorry 7 am readers.]

Surprises can be really tough for foster children for whom safety is only found in the predictable.  But surprises are a part of life and helping them learn to be comfortable with surprises is the first step to being able to enjoy them.

Today- Step One: Do something unexpected but that allows THEM control.

My kids favorite for this is our "Random Ride."  Remember the fun of driving your own amusement car? Take the fun out of the park. When we get in the car for a "Random Ride" the kids are in charge of two things: length and location.

Length: First we set a limit for the maximum time we can be gone, but they can control it by making it shorter anytime they want. That way if it becomes to much anxiety for them they can call Time and I immefiately have to drive home by the shortest route. [I explain ahead that how long that takes will depend on where we have driven and at any point along the ride they can ask me how long it would take to get home from there.]

Location:  The kids are in charge of where we go... not in destination [unless they are really good at the game!].  We decide ahead whether it is a LOOP drive [no stopping and getting out, just eventually home] or a STOP AND GO drive [each child has one "stop here" card good for a 5 minute stop anyplace they think looks interesting].  On really special occasions each child may also be given a "money card" good for $1-2 they can spend at a place they or a sibling choses to stop.  Money cards are NOT given on every Random Ride.

After we get in the car each child [in rotation between children] gets to choose which way the driver goes at each intersection..right, let, straight [within traffic restrictions of course].  Sometimes they try to make me drive in circles just for fun, sometimes they have a route in mind, and sometimes they begin to get adventurous and try to see if they can find someplace new... or even get me lost! [P.S. It's great pre-training for later driving!]

You can do this as simply as you choose.  These are just modifications that we develooped over the years to add a sense of safety and a sense of fun.  We've also modified it for family walks. Notice the balance of planning ahead for predictability and room for serendipity.  As your kids get more comfortable they will become more adventurous and you can do less and less preplanning and more and more surprises.  Try it!

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