It’s easy to get caught up in the details of foster parenting. A child fails to perform at a particular task that you know he’s capable of doing well. Or a child fails to control a nasty habit that hurts himself and others. When behaviors are annoying or especially difficult to deal with, it can be hard as a foster parent to see the big picture. Foster parents get focused on targeting specific things that their foster children need to change for the benefit of themselves and others. This is normal and to be expected, but when you keep your eye on the prize and refuse to get fixated on a particular problem, it is much easier to deal with whatever life throws at you as a foster parent.
What is the big picture? It’s a state of mind really. Most people who know how to drive know that when you get reallly focused on the car ahead of you or on something on the side of the road that it’s easy to miss other things that can help you prevent an accident. Most driver’s manuals counsel you to use your peripheral vision when you drive and try not to get too focused on one point in the road. Using your peripheral vision and softening your gaze allows you to take in everything that’s going on around your care and be aware and responsive, but not reactive and prone to panic. Foster parenting is very similar. By keeping your focus from becoming too narrow, you can respond more effectively to what’s happened, what’s happening, and what’s going to happen in the future.
In order to really be effective at keeping your gaze on the big picture you have to stay somewhat relaxed. Getting your feathers all in a bunch won’t help you solve problems. When you get angry or perturbed, you become much less capable of finding solutions to the issues when they present themselves. Being annoyed has a similar effect on the way that you respond to the environment. Staying calm and relaxed and having a little faith in yourself to know what to do when the time comes is important and very healthy when you’re foster parenting. You need to chill out and take in all of the data in your surroundings, not just information about what irritates you or makes you angry.
It is natural for humans to focus on what irritates, annoys, or angers them. There is a bit of a survival instinct that goes into an individual’s innate need to focus on things that drum up negative emotions. But as with any sort of ache or pain, if you focus intently on it, it can definitely feel worse than when you let your attention wander. As you work with your foster children and the various people on your foster parenting team, take the opportunity to work with yourself as well and cultivate the skill of softening your focus and looking at the big picture. Keeping your focus instead on the big picture and your ultimate foster parenting destination can help you work through the difficulties and the challenges.