The girls have been with us for almost three months. But if you ask them, they might say they’ve been here for 3 weeks. Or 9 months. They aren’t sure. They have a lot of trouble keeping track of time – days, minutes, hours.
They’re constantly asking us what day it is and what happens today. And it makes sense, if you look at kids in foster care as a generalized, non-specific group. Kids who have been abused or neglected (and as a reminder: that’s why kids are in foster care. Not because of something they did.) have probably not had a super organized life. They don’t know when they’re getting their next meal, let alone which days the family does what activities. Regular snack time? Routines they can depend upon? Forget it.
Kids in care don’t change overnight and it takes time to trust that what you say is what you mean. It takes longer than a few weeks to overcome symptoms of PTSD and make sense out of disorganized chaos.
That being said, the constant forgetfulness was starting to become problematic. They were forgetting things daily, not understanding what day it was. Everyone else would be dressed for church and they’re still sitting on the couch wearing their PJs 10 minutes before departing. We tried adding a calendar to their room, but as expected, remembering to mark off days was too much to handle and they would mark off days too far in advance.
Finally I had an epiphany, one that only cost $1.00 and approximately 2 minutes of time each evening.
I started thinking about all the things that I tell the girls right before bed that they inevitably forget before morning and decided I would write them down on a $1.00 dry erase board from Dollar Tree. Um…duh! So simple, and it could change my life.
Here’s an example of what I might write down:
The first day using the dry erase board the girls were all set for school and I noticed one of them dutifully putting the items in her backpack that I had specified on the board. Later I asked if they had seen the board and they said “YES, it was SO HELPFUL Miss Krista! Can you do that every day?” Why yes, yes I can.
Today, Saturday, it’s obviously a little different. They don’t tend to sleep in, and it’s probably just because they don’t know if they need to get ready for school or church. So today here’s what it said:
All four kids slept in (some of them up just after 7 and some slept until closer to 8) and happily sat down to watch TV together (other than 20 minutes before school they don’t watch much TV).
I don’t know if this will be as earth shattering for you and your home as it has been (so far) for ours, but I hope it helps! Obviously not all kids in foster care will struggle with this and it’s certainly not an issue limited to kids in the system. This is a useful tool for any child who has difficulty with organization and forgetfulness.