Monthly Archives

January 2021

5 Parenting Tips When You Have a Challenging Child

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When you have a challenging child, sometimes it feels like you are slogging through mud in the trenches of life. It’s hard to see your way out of the struggle or to remember that there are days that you feel like you are succeeding at this thing called parenting.

However, we all have those days when success in parenting feels like an impossible goal. Maybe you are parenting an adopted, guardianship or foster child who has experienced trauma or abuse. Perhaps they have brain damage caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs. Maybe they are not sleeping most nights because they still don’t feel entirely safe enough just yet – no matter how gentle and predictable you’ve crafted your nighttime routine to be. Whatever the reason, some kids are simply more challenging to parent.

When you are in the trenches of parenting a challenging child, it’s hard to see a way out of the struggle. In those hard times, you need some “quick” tips and tricks to help you cope. Read over these tips every week until you start to climb your way out of the parenting depths.

  1. Practice self-care.

Our number one recommendation before you do anything else is to take care of yourself. You’ve heard the airplane analogy, but it’s true. “You have to put on your air mask before you can help someone else.” Your sanity and energy are the most important thing you bring your family and to your challenging child, so you must find a way regularly to recharge.

Take an afternoon to walk in a local park. Go window shopping (or actual shopping) at the mall by yourself. Spend a Saturday morning at Starbucks. Schedule a monthly massage, plan for a regular exercise class. Sing in the church choir. Block out your calendar for a daily run. Whatever feeds your soul and brings you joy qualifies as self-care, and should be a priority in your calendar.

Your sanity and energy are the most important thing you bring to your family and your challenging child, therefore you must find a way regularly to recharge.

  1. Find your person.

Finding your person is similar to self-care, with a similar analogy: When your battery is dead, you need to connect with a live cell to recharge. Who is your live battery? Who can you connect with when you are in the trenches? Who will understand and support you? It would help if you had an online or in-person friend who’s been where you’re at, a therapist, your spouse, or all three. Find your person and let them know that you are struggling and will need to lean on them to help you through the hard days.

  1. Educate yourself about the impacts of trauma.

The more you learn about the forces that shaped this child, the better equipped you can be to cope and parent this child. Read or listen to interviews about the impact of trauma on a child. Learn about how alcohol and drug exposure during pregnancy can leave their mark. Begin to understand how your temperament, personality, and attachment style influence how you respond to this child.

  1. Cut your challenging child — and yourself — some slack.

Cultivate empathy for your child. When you are in the thick of the struggles, that might feel like a tall order, once they are asleep (and looking angelic), remind yourself of what happened to them that brought them to this place. Focus on the fact that your child is not purposely trying to drive you crazy and make you feel like a failure.

While you are thinking compassionately about your child, direct some empathetic thoughts inward. What issues from your past are you bringing to this interaction? Do you hate conflict because of your own family of origin? Do you crave order and structure in your life to feel secure? Does your love language conflict with your child’s? For example, do you want physical affection, but this child expresses love through being helpful? Be kind to yourself while teaching yourself to be compassionate for your child’s path.

  1. Play together!

Never underestimate the power of having fun as a person and family to help you through the dark times. Allison Douglas, Family Advocate with the Harmony Center, said it well in a Creating a Family AdoptionEd.org course:

“The more difficult the child, the more fun you should be having with them.”

Find one thing that you and your challenging child enjoy and make a point of doing it together frequently. Once you find one thing, look for something else. Please keep it simple, easily accessible, and inexpensive: bike riding, playing catch, making silly TikToks together, reading books aloud, or baking cookies.

Make the Changes

These five tips can help you parent your challenging child. These are not one and done tips that you can check off a list and then move forward. Instead, they will help you focus on healthy routines and planning for YOU if you are like most parents juggling real life. These tips might need to be tweaked and re-calibrated as the current pandemic-living evolves. It’s worth it because these lifestyle changes can open up opportunities to grow and succeed as a parent by any definition of the word!

Reference: Credits: by Tracy Whitney  

 

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Kim Waswick, LBSW

Identifying Parental Stress and The Circle of Support

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It is undeniable North Dakota adoption agencies have made so many progressions when preparing all prospective adoptive parents.  Ten years ago, there was very little training for parents to understand the unique task of parenting adopted youth.  It’s common for newly adoptive parents to say things like, “we want to adopt because it’s the right thing to do” or “adoption is our calling.”  Although this perspective is well-intentioned, adoptive parents need understand love just isn’t enough, especially when adopting special need children or adolescents.

According to Jayne Schooler, new adoptive parents and well-versed adoptive parents need to recognize and understand their expectations for their adoptive kiddos.  Here are 10 common unrealistic parental expectations parents hold that need to be acknowledged at adoptive placement and addressed on-going after adoption finalization.

  1. Your ability to love this child is or should be enough.
  2. You will feel the love from this child easily and immediately
  3. Your child will or should have become a part of your family and learned how to function within your rules, goals, and ambitions.
  4. Your child’s needs will be just like those of non-adoptive children in the family.
  5. Your child will fit in well with extended family; the family will welcome or are welcoming them into the family.
  6. Your family and friends will respect your role as a parent and support you through the journey of raising an adoptive child.
  7. Your child sees or will see you as family and forget their birth family and the past.
  8. You can do for this child what was not done for you.
  9. You will not do or are not doing for this child what was done to you.
  10. You will never feel any regrets or resentment about adopting your child from a traumatic past.

Do you find yourself identifying very strongly with one or more of these expectations?  As much as any parent would hold the desire to feel very strongly about all of these statements and also be validated well after finalization, the reality is these expectations are unrealistic and may set the family up for failure.

The repercussions of holding unrealistic expectations can put parents at risk of stress or depression.  It’s essential to continue to check-in with yourself and/or your significant other regularly.  Signs of stress may include headaches, stomach problems, procrastination, overly critical, isolation, irritability, forgetfulness, and anxious thoughts.  If you have concerns of being stressed and depressed, don’t be afraid to reach out to a mental health professional.

One of the most essential things for adoptive parents is having a strong support system.  Heather Bench, an adoptive mom, created the Circle of Support.  This circle includes: The Rock: A person(s) who will remain in your life during the difficult times and continue to love you unconditionally, The Wise:  A person(s) who will always tell the truth even when it is not what you want to hear, The Learner:  A person(s) who will learn alongside you, The Helping Hand: A person(s) who understands and is aware when you may need a break and steps in to assist, and The Advocate: A person(s) who will always stand up for you and continue to support you.  If you feel burnout, unsupported, or lack supports, please contact your local Post Adopt Coordinator for support and assistance.  We’re here for you!

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Brittney Engelhard, LBSW

https://traumafreeworld.org/

The Importance of Respite Care

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Do you feel that you are in need of a break or time alone? While some families have the support of extended family and friends to provide respite care, not every family has a support system in place. Respite care is when families are able to have their children spend time with outside care providers, while parents take a break and the provider can get paid. Respite care can be very beneficial for a variety of reasons. Respite care can help caregivers recharge, rest, attend vacations or different activities that may be difficult for children to attend, or just spend time relaxing by yourself. Families and caregivers should not feel guilty for utilizing respite care. Respite can be utilized for preplanned activities or used in an emergency situation. Respite is not used for ongoing daycare services.

Did you know ND Post Adopt Network now offers a respite program for adoptive and guardianship families? Here is some background information on the respite program. Once you have decided you want to move forward and partake in the respite program that ND Post Adopt Network offers, it is the caregiver’s responsibility to find a respite care provider. Once a respite care provider has been identified and has agreed to provide respite care, your ND Post Adopt coordinator will provide you and the care provider with forms that will need to be completed and returned to your coordinator. ND Post Adopt Network will directly pay the parent and the parent will pay the caregiver once respite has occurred.

If you feel your family would benefit from the ND Post Adopt Network respite grant, contact your Post Adopt coordinator today!

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Jaclyn Stroehl, LBSW

How to Encourage Growth Mindset in your Child

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  1. Talk about the brain.  
    Talk about how the brain can work like a muscle. The more you use it, just like exercise, the stronger it gets.
  2. Use mistakes as teaching opportunities. 
    Mistakes are okay. In fact, that’s where learning really happens. That mindset is one to model and to speak out loud. When you make a mistake, talk about it and share what you learned. When your child makes a mistake, don’t criticize.  Steer the conversation to what was learned and remind your child that mistakes are opportunities to learn.
  3. Teach your child the power of “yet”.
    Adding one little word on the end of a sentence sends a powerful message. “I don’t know how to do that” is very different than “I don’t know how to do that yet.” “Yet” sends the message that I will be able to do that or that I can learn how to do that.
  4. Praise.
    Instead of praising a general statement such as “you are smart” or “you did a good job”, be specific. “You studied hard for your test.” “You were persistent and kept trying even when it was challenging.”  Specific praise shows that the effort was noticed, not just the result.
  5. Be a role model
    Use growth mindset concepts and language in what you do and say. Our children are watching and listening, and often that can be the easiest way for them to learn these concepts. An added benefit is that a growth mindset is good for you too!
  6. Have your child set S.M.A.R.T. Goals             
  • S = Specific: Think of the who, what, when, where, why
  • M = Measurable: How will I know if I reach my goal?
  • A = Achievable: Is it realistic? Can I accomplish it?
  • R = Relevant: How will it help? What is the benefit?
  • T = Timely: When do I want to be able to do this?
  1. Journaling
    Journaling can be a great tool for growth mindset. Journaling, along with positive affirmations, give a place for learning and practicing growth mindset in children.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Brittney Engelhard, LBSW

www.hopeconnections.com

Interesting Facts about Adoption

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I have been a social worker for over 22 years, but I’m no stranger to adoption! I have gained most of my social work experience from long term care, the hospital setting, and hospice. My parents made an adoption plan for one of my older sisters. I also have an older sister that made an adoption plan for two of her own children. As many of you know, there is a wealth of information in books, in articles and on social media around adoption. I thought it would be great to share some fun facts about, adoption, too. Here are just a few:

  • Earliest Known Adoption: The Pharaoh’s daughter adopted baby Moses in the Bible
  • First Modern Adoption Law in the U.S. was enacted by Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1851
  • Prior to the development of infant formula in the 1920s, most adoptees were older children
  • In 2019, around 135,000 children were adopted in the United States. More than half of these children are over the age of six, and there are more boys in the Child Welfare System waiting to be adopted or fostered than girls. (Adoption Network)
  • Only around 2% of people in the United States have actually adopted a child, adoption statistics show. However, one-third of Americans have thought about the possibility of adopting and considered it an option. (Adoption Network)
  • There are around 437,000 children in the United States who are in foster care on any given day. More than 125,000 children in these circumstances are looking to be adopted. The average child in foster care will wait around four years until they are placed into a family that wishes to adopt them. (Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute)
  • In 2015, there were 12,000 international adoptions, with 5,500 children being adopted in the United States. This number is drastically lower than in 2005, when 46,000 children were adopted internationally. Around half of those international adoptions resulted in the child being brought to the United States. This is largely due to certain countries banning international adoption or increasing the difficulty of adopting children from their country, according to international adoption stats. The countries that have banned or cut down on international adoption include China, Ethiopia, South Korea, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia, and Guatemala. (The Conversation)
  • Nearly 100 million Americans have adoption in their immediate family, whether this includes adopting, placing, or being adopted. (Adoption Research)
  • There are around 2 million LGBTQ people in the United States who want to adopt. That’s a lot of homes and many loving parents for children who desperately deserve them. Current adoption statistics show that around 4% of all adopted children in the United States are living with LGBTQ parents. (Lifelong Adoptions)
  • And at least one fun fact: Famous people who were adopted include Jamie Foxx, Jack Nicholson (by his grandparents), Ray Liotta, Steve Jobs, Frances McDormand, Nancy Reagan, Lance Armstrong, Babe Ruth, Dr. Ruth, Nicole Richie, Dave Thomas (Wendy’s Founder), Eric Clapton, Gary Coleman, Faith Hill, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, Melissa Gilbert, and Scott Hamilton. (Huffington Post)

Hundreds of thousands of children are adopted around the world each year. And with that, new loving and happy families are created. The above adoption statistics show, with some insight, how adoption in the United States and international adoption work, as well as how prominent adoption is within the LGBTQ community.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Kim Waswick, LBSW

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