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When Your Kinship Child Isn't a Child Anymore

Empty Nester

When Your Kinship Child Isn't a Child Anymore

You’ve spent days, months, weeks, and even years devoting yourself to taking care of your kinship child. You didn’t necessarily plan to, and you never expected what would come from this experience, but here you are, and they are nearing their 18th birthday. There is a sense of relief but also a whirlwind of a thousand other emotions. So, what do you do now? You figured out how to live with your kinship child and for the most part, help them thrive, but now they are entering the “real world”. Will their trauma from their birth parents impact them differently now? Will everything you’ve worked to protect them from eventually find a way in?

We are here to tell you that you are not alone. This is normal and, in a way, beautiful. That four-year-old who could barely sleep through the night because of night terrors is now walking across the stage at graduation or getting a job. You helped get him there and without your care and nurturing he may not have gotten here. Caregivers of all kinds struggle to transition into this phase. We hope you know that whatever you are feeling is okay to feel. Take some time to process and evaluate the last number of years you’ve been caring for your kinship child(ren). Hopefully, through that process, you’ve found some amazing self-care practices, but if you haven’t, you still can.  You may notice that after all the chaos and commotion, you start to feel all the emotions you didn’t let yourself feel before. Feel them. Process them and find a way to move on. It may feel like the end of a chapter and it is, but it's also the beginning of a brand new one. There are some very scary statistics related to children who age out of the foster care system. In two to four years after turning 18, 4% were homeless, on public benefits, and experience drug or alcohol abuse. You probably already know this, but we are here to tell you that your kinship child has you! They didn’t have to stay or enter foster care; they were able to remain with their family. That is a beautiful thing, you and your family should be proud of. Remember all of the coping mechanisms and strategies you’ve taught your kinship child; they will carry that with them. You get to continue to be a mentor and a safe haven for your kinship child and that is the difference between those that succeed and those who do not.

You have poured endless amounts of care and love into your kinship child(ren) and now it is time to let them fly. Have faith in the work you are your family has done and then find new ways to connect to yourself.  Now is the time to take care of YOU. Take up a new hobby or resume an old one. Spend time in nature or at bingo. Now, is your time to shine and move forward knowing how much you have accomplished. We are so proud of you, and you should be too.

Learn more about understanding empty nester syndrome and find out what you can do to cope.
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