3 ways to talk about Mother's Day with Children in Care
Jenny Flannagan shares her thoughts on Mother's Day and how we can best talk to Children in Care about this day.
It was good to have a hug, and good for them to say, ‘I love you, we’re proud of you’ ... It was good to be told that you were loved, cause obviously being in foster care, at times, it’s quite lonely ... It was good to feel the love in different ways.
(Young person in care, quoted in ‘Children and Young People’s Views on Being in Care’ by Coram Voice and the Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies)
Mothers’ Day, as we know it in the UK, grew out of unlikely roots before it became the commercial, sentimental occasion we know now. First, it was a 16th century tradition of visiting one’s mother church on the 4th Sunday in Lent – and hence being reunited with parents and family. In the 1940s and 1950s it came to be fused with the American celebration, when it became a more commercially minded event (although the American traditions themselves grew out of a date that first united mothers in favour of disarmament).
Whatever its history, today we know it as a time to buy a card and some flowers for our mums. A little gratitude is all that’s expected of us. As a teenager, I once made the mistake of doing nothing (heeding my mother’s insistence that it was all a big waste of money), and lived to regret it.
But of course, in reality our relationships with our mothers and our families are rarely straightforward. Even leaving aside much of the regular conflict between teenagers and their parents, there are contexts fraught with complications and pain. What about the kids whose mother has died? Or isn’t present in their lives? What about the tens of thousands of young people who pass through the UK care system each year, often because their mothers aren’t able to take care of them? What if social services have decided that your mum isn’t good enough?
The report I quoted above makes it clear that young people in care themselves identify a strong felt need for trustworthy, loving, consistent adults to be more present in their lives; and, for the most part, to be in touch with their birth family, even if they don’t want to live with them.
But it’s not just young people in care who feel that, of course. We can all identify with this need for connection and for meaningfully relationships with parental figures, even when they are complicated. We all understand our need for mothers, but there are probably a number of different adults in our lives who have stepped into that role – provided us with a safe space, looked after us, listened to us, loved us.
- Can you think of someone other than your birth mother who has been, or is, a mother to you in some ways?
- Could you use this experience as a way to get students to recognise the adults who have provided them with safe and space and been a force for good in their lives? Can they think of school staff who have supported and cared for them?
- Three of the ways we show and receive love are
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Quality time
Ask the students to reflect again on who has acted as a mother, carer or someone who has given them support. How can they show appreciation to them through the acts above?
Jenny Flannagan, Fostering Hope and NYMW Co-ordinator, Youthscape.