Last year, we got the call to take in a 7-year-old girl. She was our first placement and would be dropped off within the hour. I will never forget seeing her face when she arrived at our door. She was so young, so little and all by herself. That afternoon we went out to Culver’s and then to Kmart to pick up pajamas and clothes for school the next day.
As the months went on, we worked to help her cope with the trauma she experienced. It was hard on her and us. As sweet as she looked and could be, her behaviors were tough to manage. I did what I thought was the best for her… I parented her with empathy. I couldn’t feel sorry for her because that would only increase the negative behaviors. I had to show empathy and teach her what positive behaviors looked like. I was stern but fair, because I believed this amazing girl could follow house rules despite what she had gone through.
Parenting with empathy is extremely important for children who have experienced trauma and every night I reflected and hoped I was making the right decision. In the end, she became a new person. She will always deal with the trauma she went through but she is now a polite, caring, well-behaved young girl. This past year, we all went through a lot of ups and downs. She has been easily the most challenging of all the foster children to come into my home, but when she is reunited with her family I feel she is ready to spread her wings and fly away as a happy, well-adjusted girl.
Though her I learned that I needed to use empathy and not sympathy. Empathy is knowing, expecting, believing, teaching and guiding children so they can become great people despite the negative things that have happened in their lives.
Thank you “S.” I grew from you and became a stronger person in many ways. I will always love you.
~Tricia Ward, licensed foster parent