Fang Fang (6) was a guarded child who behaved aloofly in her foster family, and seldom showed pleasure, excitement or distress.
When she hurt herself or got upset, she made no demands on her foster parents, preferring instead to sit under the table, rocking to and fro, making whimpering sounds. When her foster parents tried to comfort her, she looked about in a confused, distressed fashion, making neither eye contact nor physical responses.
In contrast, Fang Fang’s foster mother is a very open and demonstrative person. She made herself unobtrusively available by taking Fang Fang’s lead, tuning-in as a mother does, to establish synchrony with her child.
When I recognized that Fang Fang was going to her bedroom, I would go there and put her clothes away, not to entice a conversation, but to give her an opportunity to talk. She would sense that I had time to listen.
Fang Fang has warmed up to her foster mother and now displays considerable excitement and enthusiasm, and is able to use coping strategies. She seeks out her foster mother when in distress. When the family rabbit died, Fang Fang spontaneously rushed to her foster mother for comfort. This was a very significant turning point in their relationship.
With the help of her foster care mother, Fang Fang’s inner world is shifting toward adaptive ways of managing feelings and behaviors, which enable her to communicate openly, learn from experience, and be more resilient in times of stress.