How To Fight Hopelessness In Your Foster Child
“Why bother? Nothing will work out anyway. No one cares and it doesn’t make a difference.” These are sentiments shared by those plagued by the feeling of hopelessness. It’s not an uncommon emotion, and for many, it can be fleeting. However, for some foster children who have experienced unimaginable trauma and pain, hopelessness can linger.
Hopelessness is a “black hole” that, according to medical professionals, is related to depression and can strike anyone regardless of age, race or socioeconomic standing. As a foster parent, if you believe your foster child might be exhibiting signs of depression or hopelessness, it’s vital that you contact a medical professional.
According to “Hope in the Age of Anxiety,” written by psychology professors Anthony Scioli and Henry Biller, there are nine distinct types of hopelessness.
- Alienation – The belief that you are different, have been cut loose and are not worthy of love or support.
- Forsakenness – The belief that you have been abandoned at your time of greatest need. A foster teen could feel abandoned by his biological parents and left alone to the care of strangers.
- Uninspired – The belief that you cannot grow, create or transform. This is, according to Scioli and Biller, often difficult for members of underprivileged minorities who lack “opportunities for growth and positive role models.”
- Powerlessness – The belief that you are powerless to change or impact anything for the better.
- Oppression – The belief that you are being put down as a person or as part of a group. For a foster child who may feel different than his peers because he doesn’t live at home with his parents, he could believe he is being put down behind his back.
- Limitedness – The belief that you are deficient and lacking in the skills, personality and intelligence to be successful in the world.
- Doom – The belief that your life is over and that death is imminent.
- Captivity – The belief that you cannot escape an abusive relationship.
- Helplessness – The belief that you can no longer safely live in the world because of trauma you previously have experienced.
Each type of hopelessness, according to Scioli and Biller, can be overcome by “restructuring of thoughts” and “accessing the right kind of hope-sustaining relationship.” However, in order to help him do this, it’s important to know what type of hopelessness your child might be suffering from.
As a foster parent, it’s extremely important that you be aware of the symptoms of hopelessness which include, but are not limited to, sadness, indecisiveness, extreme fatigue, irritability and a whole litany of other signs. If you believe your foster child may be exhibiting one or more of these symptoms, it’s crucial you involve a medical professional.
A medical professional is necessary to diagnose as well as determine the appropriate treatment for your foster child, but you, as a foster parent, can help through understanding and encouragement.
Is he feeling powerless because he’s been moved from home to home without any say? If that’s the case, as a foster parent you can empower him. Give him control of something – let him choose dinner for the week or give him the opportunity to set his schedule.
The ability to make decisions, even small ones, can make a person feel like they are in control of their own destiny.
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all cure for hopelessness. Each situation is different and requires a deft understanding of the complex issues at play. That’s why it’s vital if you or someone in your family –even a sibling—suspects your foster child may be suffering from hopelessness, you contact a medical professional. It’s equally important to let your children know that they should come to you if your foster child confides in them that he’s feeling hopeless. It takes a family to keep a family safe, and you should make sure all the children in your home understand they play a crucial part in that.
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