Step 10 - Taking the Professional Parenting Class
There are many differences between preparing for a child that is coming into your world through biology versus coming into your world through the foster care system. A mandatory parenting class is one of those differences. The class runs 8 sessions long, 3 hours each session. Mine are on Wednesday nights.
I’m not sure what I thought I was getting into when I signed up for the class, but so far it has been nothing like I expected. The class focuses primarily around different types of trauma and the responses you can expect to see develop in children who have experienced these various types of trauma. We have many conversations around case studies and have had many hard conversations with each other in class. This is intended to prepare us for the conversations we may have with our children in the future. After all, there really is no way to enter the foster care system without some traumatic event happening, even if you cannot recall the event itself.
The parenting class also comes with an intense amount of homework to complete. There are mandatory videos to watch on your own at home. For us there were videos on psychotropic medicines and on water safety. At the end of the videos we had to record what we learned from them and admittedly I learned a great deal. I learned that many people expect a drowning instance to be a loud, splashing affair, but that in many cases drownings are completely silent. I also learned that the risk of drowning can go up with more adults around, as everyone assumes that someone else is watching the water. The best advice I got in the video is to always designate someone to watch the water children are playing in. It is their job not to take their eyes off the water. If they need to step away, they need to assign someone else to watch the water.
Another aspect of the homework is reflection journaling. After each class, you are asked to reflect on what you learned in that class and how you think you could handle a child in some of the situations described. You are constantly asked to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, often discussing how you will overcome those weaknesses. Deal breakers are another thing mentioned often in class and in the reflection journals. Thinking about the types of situations/children you do not think you can handle in your home. For most people in class, their list of deal breakers actually shrinks over time, as you discuss more situations and how to work through them and also discuss how to handle them effectively.
A main component of the homework is called a scavenger hunt. In this scavenger hunt, you are forced to find resources and learn information about things you will need to know when the children come in to your home. In the beginning, it seemed really odd to call doctor’s offices and schools to inquire about resources for a child you don’t even have yet, but as I’ve been going through the exercises, it has been extremely helpful. I am so grateful to be taking the time to find all of these things now, so that I am prepared when the child comes, as opposed to learning how to register for the school systems online portal while also trying to make a child comfortable in their first few days in a new home.
Last week, we discussed rules. It started as an entertaining conversation in small groups as the weirdest rule you had growing up. As people from around the room shared their weird rules, it became increasingly apparent that everyone has different rules they grew up with and some are even contradictory. It was an eye-opening testimonial to the fact that when children come into a new home, they have no idea what the rules will be and that it is important to be understanding as they adjust to new rules and to realize that they may have no idea some of the rules exist until they are told about them the first time they break them. Things that may seem completely normal to you are not necessary normal to everyone. One homework assignment included listing out all of the rules you have in your home. I didn’t realize how many things I consider unspoken that have become rules that make my home run. I also did some thinking about what rules I have that are steadfast and which rules can be discussed and compromised on. With teenagers, it is important that they feel included in decisions as much as possible and get to exercise their critical thinking skills. One of the ways they can do this is to help set up rules.
This week, we discussed transitions. Each time a new child comes into your home, they will be experiencing a transition and transitions are often challenging. We talked about all of the ways a child may end up leaving your home and all of the ways you can help them prepare for that transition as well. Mainly, the class focuses on challenges unique to parenting children in the foster care system.
While there are times the class is challenging and the homework daunting, I am extremely thankful for a class that has prepared me in more ways than one for this exciting and challenging journey ahead. While you can never be 100% prepared to bring children into your home, I definitely feel 100% more prepared than I did before class began.