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Don’t Leave Them Lost to Figure it Out for Themselves: Give Clear Directions

2011 December 28


After drying off from the shower I flipped the towels over the shower curtain rod and went to comb my hair.

“I keep meaning to tell you, I’m putting the towels here now,” Jennifer said, as she put the towels back on the hooks under the rack in the bathroom. “They dry better and the shower curtain won’t get mildewed.”

Now, I had been taking the towels off those hooks and flipping them over the curtain rod for weeks! Before you say, “Men!” let me tell you Jennifer and I pick up after each other all the time.

But it got me thinking back to our parenting classes last summer. We know where all the light switches in the house are; how to turn the shower on and, importantly, which is hot and which is cold; the idiosyncrasies of the toilet; where we keep the dog leashes; what we do with our shoes when our feet aren’t in them; and any number of things unique to our house.

When a child comes into your home they will need the cook’s tour. The first night the basics are about all someone who’s been taken from their home is going to absorb. “Here’s your room, this is the bathroom, this is our room if you need anything” should suffice. But after that they will need to know where things are and how they work.

Heidi, our facilitator, shared a story from a foster parent that speaks directly to this. She had told the kid to go up and take a shower. He went upstairs to the bathroom and spent some time up there, and then came back down. After some conversation the foster mom determined the child, about ten years old, hadn’t taken a shower because he didn’t know how to work it. Imagine how frustrating this must have been for him! He didn’t know what to do and was probably too embarrassed to tell her!

We can avoid all of this.

You may find it helpful to make out a check list. You can go over this the next day with the child after a good night’s sleep and nice sit down breakfast.


Photo: “Lost 1” by Sanja Gjenero

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