In September my young person started comprehensive school.
She looked so grown up. I felt emotional, proud, lucky and worried all at the same time about what was going to happen next.
When the young person first came to live with us, she was a ‘pleaser’. Homework wasn’t an issue. One year on, she had settled, and her healing had begun. This little girl was starting to find her voice and her confidence was growing. Homework had started to become a battle. With my own daughter, it was a case of “you’re not moving until it is done.”
When working with foster children we are governed by a different set of parenting rules. Through the help of my supervising social worker, Calon Cymru support groups and the young person’s therapist, I was advised and given strategies to put in place.
The first thing I had to remember and keep telling myself was that it wasn’t my battle. As parents we want our children to thrive and become the best. But is homework so important you would risk the breakdown of a placement?
I would prefer a lower-achieving young person who has good relationships than an overachiever who doesn’t know how to make good relationships.
We need to work closely with the school and educate each other on what is expected. I think the reason my young person found homework so frustrating was that she had never had to do it before. She was considerably underachieving compared to her peers and she felt embarrassed and ashamed. It was easier to feign illness, fidget, cause arguments then stomp to her room slamming the door. Stress for both of us.
So what do we do? We stopped doing it! Instead, we went out walking, cycling or just in the car. She was in charge of reading directions to me and getting us to the ice cream parlour or pub, where we would have a ‘reward’.
We bought ‘colour me in’ charts and looked for wildlife, again reading the whole time and counting. We went and bought comic books, much more fun than boring school books. The whole time she was progressing and our relationship wasn’t compromised. Obviously she is older now. During the CLAR meetings, we have already build up a good relationship with her new teachers. They have agreed to complete homework at school. They are prepared to put on an after school club especially for this. They understand the impact and understand the difference between school and home life.
Although strategies are in place I cannot guarantee homework will be done every time. The school have warned me that if this does happen she will face detention. I have been trained to use phrases such as “It’s a shame you had detention because you didn’t do your homework, but let’s have your favourite dinner tonight” It will stop any pending battles and is dealt with maturely.
Calon Cymru organises support groups, as foster carers, it’s important to attend these groups. There is a wealth of knowledge in these rooms from carers and social workers. It’s a way of gaining advice but also allows you to have a moan and cuddle from people in similar situations – and there is always cake.
*Foster Carer’s name has been changed for privacy reasons.