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My Best Life: Studying for a degree and fostering teens in a pandemic lockdown

By Norma Collin

Foster parenting is a demanding job at the best of times. But showing children love, understanding, compassion and empathy despite the difficulties they present makes it the most rewarding job ever.

It can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining, but lockdown was something else.

So, when the government announced that schools were closing for three weeks, I thought that I could manage home schooling around the kitchen table.

I had two teens and an almost, aged 15, 13 and 12, and three laptops. On top of that I was studying for a degree – what could possibly go wrong?

A plan was needed to keep me and them sane. We agreed school work 9am – 1pm and free time in the afternoon. That meant I could support them in the morning and then devote the afternoon to my learning. How wrong was I. Every excuse was employed to complete as little work possible.

  • My laptop won’t connect to the internet
  • I can’t log onto my school account
  • I’ve completed all my work
  • The chair is too uncomfortable
  • I need to print a 40-page booklet
  • The pdf won’t let me write on it
  • Computer cramp in my fingers

Then there were the gazillion trips to the toilet, bedroom for a pencil, rubber, tissue, hunger pangs 40 mins after breakfast and, my favourite, having a page of work open and then switching to watch YouTube or playing games, all in the name of ‘research’.

Foster parent Norma Collin

Then there were the ‘he/she’s kicking me under the table, that’s my pen, pencil, stop humming, sniffing, breathing’. Numerous cups of tea and a biscuit were just not cutting it for me.

However, I pasted on a smile, produced pens, pencils, rubbers, tried to look as if I knew how to work out the answers in maths and dazzled them with my knowledge of history and English. And when one had to plan a road trip across America, thoughts of holidays to places of warm sunshine, sandy beaches, clear blue seas and fantastic food allowed me to drift away for just a little while.

But Covid-19 was here to stay and three weeks turned to months of staying home. That’s when it got serious, not going out unless to shop, no trips to the caravan, and not seeing friends and family.

Life changed dramatically and we had to find a new way to move forward. Hats off to the brilliant dedicated teachers who ensured work was available and checked in each week to make sure we were OK.

The fostering agency sent out weekly newsletters for the children, as did the Young Commissioners for Wales who we are involved with. There were articles about Covid written in a child-friendly format, competitions, which they entered and won some vouchers. The children sent in stories about life in lockdown, poems and photos of items they had made and baked.

Life carried on with a new ‘normal’ spending more quality time together as a ‘family’. We cooked, baked, drew, painted, created. We planted lots of vegetables, had a sunflower growing competition with our neighbours and enjoyed being outdoors in the garden. We had movie nights and duvet days, Xbox days and doing nothing days. We did what we needed to keep us healthy, not just in body, but in mind too.

It has brought us all closer, more accepting of each other and our foibles, and to appreciate the little things in life. School work was completed sometimes, as was my final assignment for university. We managed to spend the whole of the summer at the caravan where they spent their days with their friends.

School has resumed although differently than before. I gained my BA Hons in Therapeutic Child Care. But most importantly, we survived. It has taught the children about family relationships, their own strength and resilience in uncertain times. I have a few more grey hairs but it was worth it to show the children that they are incredible and can achieve what ever they aspire to.

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