Dear Savvy Auntie,

My sister and I are very close, but she lives in CA and I live in WI. She is my only sibling and I am not married, so I have been (not-so) patiently waiting for nieces and nephews. Thankfully, I have eight lovely local children that so sweetly call me Auntie.

My sister and her husband were just approved to become foster parents and plan to adopt out of foster care. I am incredibly excited, but nervous about trying to establish a bond with the children they adopt...especially since there is such a distance. It is incredibly important to me that I have a strong relationship with these children and that I can be a good support to my sister, too. Any suggestions on how I can build that relationship with school-aged children at a distance?

They didn't start their lives growing up knowing there was an Auntie Dana, so I'm sure this may be a bit awkward/forced for them...especially since we don't know what these children will have been through. At my sister's suggestion, I have written a letter to them (even though we don't know who they are yet), letting them know they are already cherished, loved, and wanted. I've also helped with prepping the bedroom and buying books, toys, games, etc...and while I do plan to spoil them, I want to be more to them than just a gift-giver. I don't want to scare them into an awkward Skype session with some random person.

Due to some changes with my job, and since I not sure the exact timing as to when they will have kids in their home, I'm not sure how often I will be able to visit either over their first year in their new home. Any suggestions?

Fostering Love

Dear Fostering Love,

The most important thing to keep in mind is that children and puppies have a "radar"  system that tells them who likes/loves them and who doesn't. So, don't worry!

Since you will not know in advance their dominant sense mode -  kinesthetic; auditory; tactile; olfactory/ taste; or visual -  I suggest you communicate in each one. Take a look at TheSenseConnection, the website for my book, which will expand on this concept.

The first thing you can do is talk to your sister and brother-in-law to ascertain their wishes in your initial involvement. Offer to send photos and ask for ones in return - as well as an auditory introduction. Then offer a plan for a routine of communication, using e.g. FaceTime, email, snail mail, and/or telephone.

Once you know the ages, get a book on developmental stages so you are informed about what to expect, to some degree. 

Keep in mind that the arrival is a sensitive time for everyone and that it takes time to build relationships. And remember to be understanding of your sister's situation and allow her and her husband to take the lead.

The best of luck,

Natalie Robinson Garfield

Homepage photo: Ocus Focus


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