It is always a difficult task to raise a family. However, when it is a blended family with a variety of backgrounds this task becomes both more daunting and more rewarding. Anger and hurt are two emotions that should be expected and prepared for in advance. One of the challenges of raising foster kids is teaching them to work through the hurt and anger that they feel in ways that don’t inflict harm on themselves or others. I think all of us have a metaphorical storage container inside of us. When children fill that container with hurt and anger, which are so closely related that most people can scarcely tell the difference, then they feel as if they are about to burst. The hurt and anger so envelop them, that they can sense energy rise up inside of them. They feel as if they must do something to release that energy and the fastest way seems to involve hurting themselves or someone or something else. Foster kids and many adults have had more hurt and anger than they know how to manage, so their storage container is always half-full to begin with. Therefore, they just don’t know quite how to process their pain when something sets them off, and they can feel the anger and hurt entwined and welling up inside of them as if they will explode. As parents, we must teach kids to not only cope with but begin to process this anger and hurt in a way that doesn’t inflict additional pain on themselves or others. This is no simple task. Kids who cut themselves don’t do so for the reasons that many foster parents might believe. Often, they simply hurt so much emotionally that they want to do something to distract their mind from the far worse pain they feel internally. My best advice is not to negate the pain they feel or minimize it by saying that they’re always upset or just emotional. That only makes them feel worse. Instead, validate what they are feeling, assure them of how much you love them, and help them find something to get rid of the extra energy inside of them released by the pain they feel. One idea I have found helpful is take a new roll of toilet paper or paper towels and just rip it to shreds. Then throw away the pieces and simply move on. This will temporarily release the anger and stress they feel at the moment. In addition, work with a trusted counselor to develop strategies for long term improvement and constantly encourage them to share what they ware feeling with you or another trusted adult. Assure them that with time they will see improvements. Another approach to try is called Theophostic Prayer Ministry. It comes highly recommended by a gentlemen who worked successfully with many of the most troubled youth at the Texas Boy's Ranch. He presented his findings at the 2012 Texas Foster Family Association Conference and I can vouch for him a a person of great integrity who truly does have the best interest of youth at heart. This ministry is offered through many churches around the nation.
In addition, as parents we should prepare for the reality that there will be times when everyone seems to be fussing with one another and tensions are heightened. Sometimes, it is best to call a family meeting and allow everyone to politely tell what is bothering them. Then try to work through the problems and move forward. If the children are interrupting each other, have them hold an object such as a small block. Tell them that they must have the object to be able to speak. Don't let these meeting go on for hours or become grounds to insult one another. But every now and then, especially in the beginning. It may be needed to clear the air and help individuals have their feelings heard.
Whatever the approach or combination of strategies, do not take lightly your responsibility to help kids process emotions in a healthy manor. This is a skill that will not only carry them far in their adult lives but will begin to bring peace to what most certainly begins as a troubled and chaotic environment.