I have had a few foster families reach out recently asking for tips on adjusting to being a big family. I used to think that our four kids qualified as a big family, but then we had six, and I realized that was a LIE. We are temporarily back to four kids (for the second time in about two weeks), and I am at the point in my grief process where I am enjoying the “break” and not intentionally creating chaos to fill that foster-sized hole. Yesterday I found one of Monkey’s socks behind the dryer, and a wave of sadness came over me…but I am noticing the waves to be the gentle(r) kind these days. A little unexpected, but it washes over me and then leaves again. The waves these days are less of a tidal wave that makes me feel like I am drowning, and more a brief sense of sadness accompanied by bursts of memories. The wave subsides faster, and I carry on.
So, here I am, with boat loads of time on my hands. Thinking of becoming a circus? Here are some tips on surviving becoming a big family overnight:
- Meal planning! Ain’t nobody got time for frequent grocery trips. The crock pot is your best friend. Make double portions and freeze them. Brown burger and cook chicken and freeze them. Buy a cow. Have ridiculous amounts of eggs in your fridge at all times. More bananas than any home should ever have.
- Get creative with one on one time. Remember that one time a week grocery trip I just mentioned? Bring a kid along. Chat. Tell them to load your cart up with eggs while you engage in deep conversation.
- Maintain “forever family time.” This might look like 5 minutes at the end of the night, or it might look like respite. Nurture your forever family so that all of you have the energy to foster.
- Put effort into your marriage. Seriously. A zillion kids is generally not a helpful thing for a marriage. Put kids to bed…talk. Drink a beer on the deck. String party lights up and pretend you are not at home. Play music…do something that’s not about kids!
- EARLY BED TIMES, people. See above. Kids need sleep, especially trauma kids. Parents need sanity. Bed time starts at 7pm at our house, regardless of your age. If you are an older kid, you can read or color or listen to music in your room, but all kids are in their rooms.
- Have some activities/games/toys put away that are only pulled out in a crisis. Play dough, k’nex, special crafts, etc. Have an emergency storage of cool stuff that can quickly and effectively engage kids when chaos strikes.
- Teach age-appropriate chores, and teach them to be done correctly. Game changer! Once you hit 8 years old in our house, you can do your own laundry. When we only had a couple kids, chores were something we did to teach responsibility. When we have a zillion kids, chores = survival. We started teaching more practical chores that are actually helpful.
- 10 minute power clean up at the end of the day. Crank some music up, set a timer, and make it fun! High fives are welcome.
- Color coded calendar! Organization is possibly not my greatest strength. But – we have two giant dry-erase calendars on our wall. Two allows us to go two months out, and each human gets their own colored marker. If it’s not on the calendar, it’s not happening.
- Find your village. Surround yourself with people who “get it.” Let people help you!
- Find time to breathe. Read a book. Go for a walk. Maybe you literally have 30 seconds…but step outside and center yourself as often as humanly possible. You’ve got this!
- Say “no” when you need to. Does it fill you up? Do it. Drain you? Opt out!
- Don’t. Forget. Humor.
Other ideas? Send them!