The one question that comes up with nearly every child is: What should I call you?
The concept of new parents, no matter how temporary, can be really hard for children. Kids have many emotions about being in foster care. Some are embarrassed, some are sad, and sometimes they are even relieved. This myriad of emotions can cause the kids to have some serious confusion about where they fit in their new family.
My advice is to let the kids decide what they want to call you. So long as it is appropriate, allow them to decide how they want to fit in. I have had kids begin calling me mom within hours of meeting me and I have had some that prefer to call me by my first name. Some call me Aunty because that makes them part of the family without calling me mom. But it all depends on the child and their case.
My one child has lived with us for two years but only started calling us mom and dad a few months ago when she switched to being an adoptive placement. She is a preteen and was on her way to reunification before so she wasn’t ready. Now she is. The younger ones tend to just slip into calling you mom and dad, especially if you have other kids calling you that. In general, ages 1 to 3 mom and dad is more of a role in their minds than a person. What I have noticed is that they see all moms and dads as moms and dads but their bioparents or primary caregivers are Moms and Dads with a capital letter. The older children tend to vary based on where they are in life. Some will call you mom and dad based on their desire to fit in and not let people know they are foster children. Others have a genuine interest in becoming a part of your family. And some may have a condition called Reactive Attachment Disorder or RAD. Other children will only call you by your name.
The biggest thing is to not be offended on whatever the children choose to call you by. It is not a reflection on your parenting, more a reflection on the children’s personal lives. And for those of us who are not parents before becoming foster parents it can be awkward to be called mom and dad but you do get used to it. I don’t have any bio-children or adopted children so when I first started getting called mom it was definitely an adjustment.
When the children ask you what they should call you, just let them know that they have options and it is up to them.
- Foster children seek ‘semi-normal life’ (dispatch.com)
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- ‘Proud of you’: How parents, kids interact on Facebook (cnn.com)
- Adopted children are one family’s Christmas blessings (jacksonville.com)