Now, think about a child coming to your home, where there is food available at all times, clean clothes to wear, a working vehicle, all utilities operating, electronics, no yelling or hitting, etc. You probably have more material things in a nicer overall physical and emotional environment than what they are used to at home. Because of this, and through no fault of your own, these children can experience loyalty issues, meaning they may be thinking things like, “Boy, I’m supposed to want to be home, but this place has nice stuff and I have my own room,” or, “I wish my parents acted more like my foster parents, and I wish our house was as clean as this one.” Can you see where thoughts like this may cause emotional and even physical upset in a child? Here they are, longing for their home, and feeling somehow disloyal for liking their foster home so much as well. The havoc this can wreak with their emotions is phenomenal. Often times, the children can’t even really tell you what’s bothering them, especially if they haven’t recognized what it is they feel so discombobulated about.
I encourage you to speak kindly, or at least neutrally, about a child’s parents and his/her home. Home is often all these children have to look forward to, their entire motivation for nearly all their behaviors. Your kind words and accepting attitude can go a long way toward helping the child understand events in his/her life. Perhaps you will recognize loyalty issues in a child before the child does, so you can be prepared for the emotional rollercoaster he/she may be riding. Perhaps you can help the child put feelings into words, and tell him/her what he/she is feeling is completely normal, and it doesn’t mean he/she loves his/her family any less.
Perhaps you can help the child know that it’s okay to enjoy and appreciate nice things or a different home AND to love and miss their own home and family at the same time. Their enjoyment and appreciation doesn’t take away from how they feel about their own home and family, not one bit. Sometimes kids just need to know that what they are feeling is okay and that it doesn’t make them a bad person. I challenge you, as foster parents, to be the ones to let them know this. It will benefit you and the children in your home.