Using Birth Parents as an Example - Don’t!
By Mike Hyde, The Webmaster
Just about the time you think you are doing everything right, you will do something that the children will quickly let you know is wrong.
My wife was talking to one of the girls in our cottage about the dental hygiene habits she has. She has lived at the home since she was 18 months old and is now 9. You would think that basically growing up in a stable environment which emphasizes these skills she would not be having issues with it 7 years later, but she does. Her breath usually stinks and she has had 3 cavities in the last two years. We have spent time watching her brush and showed her the proper way numerous times, but it continues to be an issue.
Back to the conversation. My wife was explaining to her that she doesn’t have to have cavities and used our birth children as an illustration (they are 12 & 15 and have never had a cavity), she wasn’t real interested in that so my wife took a different approach. The girl’s mom has lived a very rough life using drugs, abusing alcohol and has not taken very good care of her teeth. I believe she is in her mid thirties and has lost most of her teeth. My wife made the mistake of telling the young lady that her mom does not take very good care of her teeth and that is the reason she lost so many of them.
The discussion instantly went from being a discussion to being an argument, because the young lady went into defense mode and started defending her moms honor. She gave several reasons why her moms teeth have fallen out, none of which were her mom’s fault.
After becoming very frustrated my wife realized the best thing to do was end the discussion with plans to continue it at another time and with another approach.
I am no psychologist, so I can’t give the medical or social explanation for this, but 15 years of working directly with the kids has taught me that regardless of what reality is or how the rest of the world perceives their birth parents to be, the children will almost always perceive them in a much better light (regardless of how the parents treated or neglected the child.) They could be convicted thieves and the child will perceive them as borrowers. They could have neglected the child and used all of their money for drugs and the child will perceive them as just being poor. I also know that the greater the time that the child spends in placement, the higher the pedestal that they place their birth parents on.
Be honest with the children about their birth parents, but I think it is best when looking for examples and illustrations to leave them out.