When Holly came to us she was always a bit worried when our two birth kids would clear off on their scooters or bikes and wait for us to catch up. The anxiety was real for her. The distance could mean calamity. They might fall, lose sight or somehow become unsafe and in her mind it would take too long to make them safe. This similarly happened with another of our foster kids. For her it was actually far more pronounced and involved her staying very close to us for ages during walks and excursions.
We explained to Holly that it was ok that the kids were a few hundred feet in front of us. We told her that we knew that they would stay on the well ridden track we had walked so many times. We reassured and said that they would always come back if they needed us and that actually they would only go as far as they felt safe from us. She assessed this explanation and accepted it. She rode within twenty feet the first few times and little by little she expanded the gap.
On Christmas day she was presented with a brand new bike from us. It was lovely and fitted her a dream. On boxing day we got some exercise before gorging ourselves again and went down the cycle track which we frequent. This time all the children whipped off as soon as we got on the straight and before we knew it Holly was a speck in the distance. That distance felt so allegorical of how kids we look after feel safe. The more time she has spent with us she safer she feels. The safer she feels the greater the orbit of adventure she has.
I can remember leaving home when I was 20. I packed up my car in London and headed for the west country. I had never lived anywhere else but I wasn’t too worried. Why? Because I knew I could come home. It was the greatest distance of adventure I had ever done but I felt safe doing it because I knew my mum and dad were there.
Maybe this is a helpful image for you. How far do the kids you care for orbit? Can they play in the street or go out feeling safe? Are you even their point of safety yet? I remember being taught that children who are traumatised can need literally one to one structured close activity with their carer during the early stages of placement. Such is their ‘distance of safety’. Maybe this is your story too? My hope is that you will notice their field of trust and adventure widening as they feel safe with you and that one day you will have the joy of hearing about their adventures when they return back to you as they explore the world knowing that you are there.