20 June 2016
I write this with rich memories of the Easter long weekend and what I did with my children.
When it comes to holidays, my family has traditions. We have family gatherings, we share meals and we celebrate. Life with my children revolves around sport. We play it. We watch it. So, over the Easter weekend I took my children to Melbourne to a first round game of the AFL season. We did an Easter egg hunt and ate hot cross buns. That’s what I did at Easter when I was growing up.
Holiday’s may mean time spent with significant people, faith, customs and traditions and activities.
Children and young people may come into out-of-home care with some good memories of holidays or a certain sadness when they to do have such memories. Does an adult with a child in care at Easter know how that child might have experienced holidays before? Did they celebrate? What was their favourite part? What made Easter special for them? Are they surprised about what holidays mean to their carer family and what the carer family does at those times of the year?
It is easy and understandable to get caught up in the functional aspects, in the case planning and in managing the domains of a child’s life and to lose sight of what it means to be a child and to be that child in those circumstances.
We know that caring relationships are central to all aspects of a child’s development. In the words of Urie Bronfenbrenner:
Somebody’s got to be crazy about that kid. That’s number one. First, last and always.
So we must at some times, set aside the practical; we must take the time to connect with children, to ask and listen to what they tell us about their previous experiences and their views on what’s happening now for them. At least some of the many adults that come into a child in care’s life and have a caring role, must really get to know the child. Someone needs to be crazy about them, to know their views on holidays, what they think is fun, who is important to them, their favourite books, games, TV shows and music. To find out what they dream for themselves and how they see the world around them.
I want to know all of that and more about my children. My boys’ answers to some of these questions change as they get older and have new experiences. So I know I have to keep asking, keep listening and keep learning about who they are.
Basically, I’ll keep being crazy about them.
This item originally appeared in the May 2016 edition of the Guardian’s Newsletter.