5 reasons why Friendships are hard for poorly attached children
Friendships can be particularly hard for those who are living in foster care. A looked after child with healthy friendships with their peers is not so common. Why?
The parent-child relationship becomes the unconscious template for all future relationships. Children who have not had a positive attachment to their caregivers will find all other relationships tricky. Foster Carers can support this by offering themselves as a safe adult to whom the child can attach but this is often a long process and does not meet the immediate demands the child has for wanting friendships now.
Fostered children often say how they feel different to their peers and the typical adult response is to tell them that everyone is different or to point out their similarities. I get this, in the past I’ve done it myself. It’s horrible to see your child so upset and we all can empathise with the desire to feel included. Consider restraining from this approach. Traumatised children usually are different and they know it. Tell them this isn’t the case in their eyes makes you either a liar or someone who doesn’t really understand them.
Whilst we would all hope that young people don’t have quite so many placement moves it must be recognised that it is unusual for a young person to come in to the care system and find permanency with a family straight away – and even if this does happen they still have experienced the loss of the familiarity of their birth family. So why would these young people invest in friendships they expect to lose? Isn’t it understandable that they guard their heart from further hurt?
There is a strong unconscious pull for them to be in relationship with other young people with similar experiences to them. So great, they have a friend. The problem is that now instead of one child who doesn’t understand how to do friendships you have two and that needs a heck of a lot of support.
Play is something we learn. Fostered children often haven’t had this experience in their early years. They need to understand issues like turn-taking, sharing, imaginative play, winning and losing. Your 14 year old might need you to teach them to play in the same way a 2yr old does.
I wonder if any of these points might be true for your child? How do you support their social skills? .