A big risk for children from a children’s home is their lack of experience in how to arrange important, but quite everyday, matters. The children are not anchored in their environment, so how can they make a start in life? It is a situation for which the expression ‘learned helplessness’ applies. If something gets spoiled, the sponsor just provides a replacement. If we fancy a day trip, we just get on the bus.
How much does it cost to stay at the seaside? How much does electricity cost? How much does it cost to heat an apartment for a year? How much should I put aside for Christmas presents? All this is unknown to a child from a home. In a host family a child can discover how the family organizes various activities; what is necessary to make something actually happen; how to live on a budget. What are the financial limits that the family can afford monthly, annually, or for the next five years?
We all know the pros and cons of family life. We have learned from the successes and failures of a family members. Most of us have found someone with similar traits and interests as ourselves who became an example for us to follow or who supported us in times of uncertainty. Children from a home grow up with pretty much all their material needs catered for, but at the moment when they need to decide on a particular vocation or job and leave the safe world of the children’s home, they find themselves on thin ice. They lack any knowledge of the town or village from which they were separated when they left their families. They haven’t built up any natural contacts with their extended family members or with their parents’ friends. They lack a family role model to help them in their decisions. Granddad the carpenter, Uncle the car mechanic, Mum the nurse, the gardener who lives down the road…You can show the children the way, show them how to communicate successfully, show them the skills and professions present in your own family.
Why is it that children without good family support fail to do well in school? Often, they do not like school and try to be there as short time as possible – to leave school as early as they can. Many do not make the best of their natural talents by a long way.
Why is that?
Because it is difficult for them to find make sense of the stresses of a collective education environment. Motivation – that which drives us to action – is born from example, from the response we get, from being cheered on by an interested grown up who has long term ties to the child. That means having a person who asks what the child is doing, what is he good at, what worries him, what does he find difficult. So that he is not alone at the critical moments in his life. So that he recognizes that his future is important to someone in particular and that that person wants to share that future with him: not only the future, but also the laborious road to achieving those results and goals. You can help the children choose their vocation; choose where to direct their energies. You can show them that it makes sense to work at something long term, because eventually they will see results.
Helping a child who is approaching adulthood is a commitment that has certain conditions attached. Children must not be made unrealistic promises; they must not be lied to as their parents did to them so often. They must not be disappointed, or encouraged to build up false hopes, or just abandoned.
You can provide an anchor point, a guide, an island of certainty in an uncertain world, a springboard. You provide a reliable relationship that convinces them that there are people they can trust, that they don’t have to be angry at the whole world. They get the feedback that is important for them to get to know themselves. You can help the children overcome their helplessness.
Mgr. Bohumila Vokáčová