Monthly Archives

April 2021

Why Use Scripts?

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Sometimes it is hard to find the right words; everything takes time and practice. Speaking from personal experience, finding the right words to write in a blog or the right words to say during a webinar can be difficult. Using key phrases, terms, and scripts with your adoptive and guardianship children will build trust and familiarity.  Scripts are short, verbal cues that parents use to remind a child of the desired behavior. Scripts help to communicate a sense of safety and connectedness in moments of distress or dysregulation.

Why use scripts?

When our kids are upset, it is hard to talk with them. If our child’s brain is overloaded with a perceived threat or big feelings during a meltdown, they cannot process much of anything. Even our attempts to help them calm down go unnoticed. Those big feelings are scary for our kids. Therefore, our task in their moment of dysregulation is to help them re-regulate. They need to trust us to help them adjust their behavior and emotions to a more appropriate state.

Using scripts acts as mental muscle memory to help get our kids back on track without requiring a lot of mental processing power. Suppose you’ve ever witnessed a teacher quiet an entire class with a simple call-and-response. In that case, you are already familiar with the idea. A short, frequently-used phrase like “Use your words” or “Ask, don’t tell” reminds your kids of how they’re supposed to behave without being disciplinary. People continually follow scripts that are acquired through habit, practice, and simple routine.

Dr. Karen Purvis’ book with Lisa Qualls and Emmelie Pickett – offered a few practical examples of scripts.

5 Tips for Creating Scripts

  1. Keep it simple.

Use as few words as possible, no more than five or six. Only address one behavior per script. Make sure you offer a specific and direct behavioral response to challenging behavior. Telling a child in the middle of a tantrum to “Behave!” is useless but telling her, “Use your words” is concrete action. Or you can say, “We need to use our inside voice.”

  1. Practice scripts when everyone is calm.

Remember, when your child is dysregulated, it is not time to start using a new script they’ve not heard before. Identify problem behaviors you want to target, develop your scripts, and introduce them when everyone is calm.

You could try role-playing to practice the scripts, especially if you have a younger kid who likes to engage in imaginary play. Building familiarity with the scripts and the desired behavior can increase everyone’s ease of using the scripts together. If he has heard the script before, he will be better able to remember and process what it means when dysregulated.

  1. Praise good behavior.

When your child behaves correctly, use those positive “cheerleader” type-scripts to acknowledge their good behavior and praise them for it. “Great listening!” or “Thank you for the kind words” are examples of positive reinforcement that helps your child associate the script with the desired behavior. It also builds your child’s confidence that she can act in praise-worthy ways. Dr. Purvis called this “marking the task.”

  1. Watch your tone.

Scripts are designed to remind your child of desired behavior without fussing or nagging. They will be ineffective if you say them through clenched teeth. Make sure you deliver the script in a gentle, non-threatening tone of voice. Remember, use the script as a reminder of positive behavior, not a punishment for negative behavior.

Children read our nonverbal communication, so we need to pay attention to our facial expressions and posture, and our tone of voice is critical when teaching the behaviors we want to see.

  1. Make your scripts age-appropriate.

A script that works great for your five-year-old might feel condescending when said to your tween or teen. You can still expect the same behavior. But as They get older, you should modify the language you use.

Your tone in age-appropriate ways is key with tweens and teens. It would be best to strive for light-hearted reminders early in the interactions that don’t feel like commands. His natural need for independence might feel triggered if he feels that you are talking to him like he is a child.  When you are talking about using a tone, you can use the example, “Do you want to try that again with respect.” which initiates a redo.

Set your child up for success.

The repetition of scripts will create comfort for both the child and those around them. Scripts allow us to predict how others will behave and fulfill our need for a sense of control. When things would get chaotic in our house, my mom would make a “T” with her arms, and we all knew it was time to calm down. My son will use the phrase, “Real talk,” when he needs the conversation to be serious and not goofy. The starting points for script points will take time and practice to develop.  However, to be truly useful, you need to develop your unique scripts for your family.

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

Lisa Qualls | One Thankful Mom

Setting Teens Up for Success

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Children who experience trauma can learn at different rates than children who haven’t experienced trauma.  It may be beneficial to start teaching adult skills early to teens to set them up for success in their adult years.  Parenting your Adopted Teenager, from the Child Welfare Information Gateway, gives practical ideas on preparing youth with the future in mind.

Teaching successful skills to teens can be a vital part of transitioning into adulthood.  These skills may include laundry, money management, making appointments, filling prescriptions, and meal prepping/cooking.  The skill can be part of the youth’s weekly routine, so it may easily be carried over as your teen transitions to live independently.  If deemed that there are some tasks your child may not be able to do, look into assistance available in your community.  Your child may be eligible to receive services that include having someone help with independent living skills.  If you don’t know of an agency in your area that provides this type of service, contact your Post Adopt Coordinator near you to help locate this service.

Parents can also promote healthy relationships and activities.  Conversing about who good role models in the community are can make a difference as well.  While in high school, these folks may include a youth’s drama club leader, basketball coach, or youth leader.  Some of these important people may remain mentors, playing a different role in your growing teen’s life.  In contrast, teens may need encouragement for other healthy relationships.  Parents may notice that as their child ages, the relationship between parent and youth changes.  Parents may fill the role of a friend, mentor, or advocate as their child enters adulthood.  Mentors can be a supportive as your child continues to gain more independence, whether it be with moving and setting up a new apartment, dropping by to say hello, or simply being an encouragement to your kiddo.   Promoting healthy activities can be beneficial for teens.  Activities might include football Sundays, baking, physical exercise, or finding a play to attend.

Like mentioned earlier, look into available services.  Suppose your child does receive special education services when they’re 16.  In this case, the school provides a plan for the teen’s future, whether with furthering their education, obtaining employment, or living independently.  Also, look into community resources that may support your teen’s needs, whether it be with helping meet educational, employment, or extracurricular needs.  Vocational Rehab and Freedom Resource Center maybe resources to look into to assist your teen transitioning towards independence.

 

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Darcy Solem, LBSW

Creating Healthy Interactions with Your Children

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Let’s face it, sometimes life gets busy, and we can forget to slow down and be in the moment.  Being present with your children and set aside quality time as a family is essential for healthy growth and development.  Children learn and thrive when they have strong, loving, positive relationships with their parents. Have a fun family activity planned; spending quality time together can create lasting memories while building your relationship.

There are many activities you can do with your children to promote healthy interactions.  Cooking a meal together, reading a book, doing a craft, playing board games, or outdoor activities are great ways to implement quality time, while also having fun.  Growing up, I always cherished time in the kitchen helping out with dinner or baking a delicious treat with my parents.  It was a time to talk about our day, what’s going on in life, and have a good laugh or two.

Since the pandemic hit a little over a year ago, it may be challenging to find new and fun ways to include family time while being at home.  Being stuck at home may have brought more screen time for your children, such as watching TV, being on the computer, or playing on IPad’s with friends.  You may be feeling it’s challenging to interact and engage with your child.  Try Theraplay!  Theraplay is structured play therapy for children that involves parents.  The main goal is to boost attachment, self-esteem, trust in others, and provide positive enjoyment.  Theraplay interactions focus on four essential qualities found in parent-child relationships: Structure, Engagement, Nurture, and Challenge.  Theraplay can help children who have experienced trauma begin to heal.  Theraplay can also help children with developmental disorders feel more comfortable with social interaction and help families experience happiness and connection. The activities are designed to be simple, fun and interactive, and better yet, can be done at home!

Here are a few activities you can do with your children at home that meet the essential qualities of Theraplay, which fun and relatively easy:

  • Balloon Balance:  Blow up a balloon.  Spread out in an open space and see who can keep their balloon in the air the longest.  Make it more challenging by just using one hand or no hands at all!  This activity can help children focus and work on patience.
  • Hand Stack: Take a seat on the ground or in a chair facing each other.  One partner starts by placing their hand palm side down.  The other partner places one of their hands on top and continues doing this repeatedly, essentially creating a tower.  Go until you cannot reach anymore.  This activity helps children learn to take turns and wait.
  • Up We Go: Partners sit back to back, with their elbows linked, and try to stand up.  Once standing, try to sit back down while elbows are still linked.  This activity helps children practice teamwork as well as communication skills.
  • Balloon Tennis:   Blow up a balloon and use ping pong paddles or racquets made out of paint stir sticks and paper plates. Volley back and forth as long as you can without the balloon touching the ground. This activity enhances the development of motor skills.

During your next family night, try out one of the activities and pay attention to how your children react and how you interact as a whole.  Supporting your children and having healthy interactions through quality time creates healthy relationships.  As they say, children grow up in the blink of an eye, make the time you have a memorable one.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Intern, Greta Stanton

Transforming Challenging Behaviors

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I recently attended a conference session discussing how to manage and change/transform challenging behaviors. The presenter utilized the FLIP technique at a high-needs preschool center.

It is important to note that behaviors will not change right away. With consistency in utilizing the FLIP system, you can begin to see a positive difference. Before beginning with the FLIP technique, it is essential to ensure you have established these three prerequisites: relationship, empathy, and an understanding of ICK, which is negativity or risk factors in a person’s life. Below is the meaning of FLIP and an example statement.

F – Feelings: It is important to acknowledge the child’s behavior and get to the root of the behavior, aka the feelings. Feelings are the root of the behavior.

L – Limits: Limits involve positive limits and expectations for behaviors. Limits are primarily the rules. An example of a limit can be, “we use gentle hands.”

I – Inquires: Inquires help children learn solutions to their problems. Ask the child a question such as, “how can we fix this?”

P – Prompts: Prompts can include helping children with their problem-solving while struggling.

Example Statement: A child is throwing their toys around the room. Here is an example of a FLIP statement: “I see you are throwing your toys. I wonder if you are angry.” (Feelings statement). “Remember that we need to keep our things, ourselves, and others safe” (Limits statement). “What can we do to help you calm down?” (Inquiry statement). “How about we pick up and color?”

The FLIP technique can be completed from start to finish within 1-10 minutes, depending on your experience utilizing FLIP. The more comfortable you are with FLIP, the faster you can complete it.

If you are interested in learning further on the FLIP technique, please see www.MoreFLIPIT.org, where you can find additional resources, tips, and tricks. Listed below is also a handout further explaining the FLIP technique.

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

Resources/References:
https://ndfbsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/FLIP-IT-Handout.pdf

The Nurtured Heart Approach

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The Nurtured Heart Approach (NHA) is geared toward emotionally intense, sensitive, highly unattached children. It presumes that these children, more than others, really need a lot of input from others in their interactions and structure. It also presumes that conventional discipline techniques have taught these kids that it is really easy to get a lot of intense feedback from the people around them by acting up. The NHA seeks to break the kids of the habit of acting up to get energy from adults. Nurtured Heart founder, Howard Glass, provides a helpful analogy that captures the approach. Most of these difficult children strive hard to be successful at video games due to the high level of interaction, feedback, and energy. These games offer predictable rewards for positive behavior and penalize negative behavior.  These games are highly structured and focus on positive incentives more than negative consequences.  The NHA recreates a video game’s basic environment with lots of positive reinforcement and quick, consistent, low-intensity consequences for rule-breaking.  The foundation and core of the NHA is built on the three stands.

  1. Absolutely no means not engaging or focusing on negative behaviors. Parents often take a step back in parenting when there is not a need to interject.  Why interrupt a good thing, right?  When there is an issue, we as parents step in and resolve the issue.  By doing this, we may unintentionally reinforce the negative behaviors as our children have learned, “when I do A, I get B.” At the core of the negative behavior, they may want our attention and have learned how to get it.
  2. Absolutely yes means intentionally focusing on the positive behaviors we observe. Even praising the simplest of things like them putting their plate in the sink when they are finished eating sends them a reward message and gives them the attention they may need.  Bonus!  These positive praise interactions feel a lot better for parents than getting involved when there are negative behaviors, and it’s easy!  Our children do 100 positive things a day compared to 1 negative.  Let’s put our energy into those!
  3. Absolutely clear means we will set clear, simple expectations for our children and respond consistently when these expectations are not met with low energy. The concept of a “reset” can be all you need!  A reset is simply a pause in adults’ engagement following a rule being broken and can be as brief as a few seconds.

By incorporating NHA we are now modeling the reward and consequence system of the videogames our children love.  My final note for parents is don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake.  This parenting shift takes time and practice, so be kind to yourself.  Your children will not judge you.  For more information on the NHA, go to https://childrenssuccessfoundation.com/

 

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

Helping Your Child Own Their Story

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I want to encourage families to consider what they’re sharing about their youth’s adoption or guardianship journey.  What is the point of what they’re sharing?  While sharing may seem innocent, the end results could really be detrimental to the child; the child may feel embarrassed, even horrified, that others know their story.  I want to encourage parents who are raising adoptive or guardianship children to fully allow their child to own their story.

Allow your child to determine who, what, when, where, why, and how their story is shared. Continue to have conversations encouraging your child to have this control over sharing, but also teaching that there are times and places to share, and how to share, such as at a doctor’s appointment.  Teach that it is ok to keep some information private, information on birth family or what lead to being in foster care/being adopted.  Help come up with questions they might be asked and help your child come up with answers they’re comfortable with sharing.

This may be confusing for children to understand, and it’s to be expected.  Provide opportunities for ongoing conversation and help youth to become more aware of their story, confident in understanding that they have the control of sharing their story, and the skill in sharing appropriately.

 

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Darcy Solem, LBSW

Managing Emotions and Feelings

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Think back to a time when you were experiencing challenging behaviors from your children and how you responded to those behaviors. What was your reaction? Did you get upset and angry, ignore, or avoid the situation? Managing your feelings and emotions can be tough when handling challenging behaviors. Understanding self-awareness and self-regulation is important for helping your children manage emotions and feelings as well.

All parents have been to a point in their parenting journey where their emotions and feelings may get the best of them and maybe don’t respond in the way they had hoped for. If you reacted with anger, you might feel guilty after the fact about your response. If you answered with avoidance, you might feel guilty that you didn’t address the behavior. Depending on your type of reaction, that response may escalate an already challenging behavior.

Managing emotions and feelings in front of your children is essential. How you respond to a particular situation, models to your children how to react when they are upset. Adults and caregivers need to be aware of their emotions and feelings to help children learn how to manage their own feelings and emotions in a healthy and appropriate manner.

Here are some strategies that may help parents and caregivers handle situations noted in the article Managing Your Own Emotions: The Key to Positive, Effective Parenting:

  • Tune into your feelings:
    • Understanding and knowing how you feel regarding a specific behavior, situation, or issue can help you to respond more appropriately and positively to a problem.
  • Do the unexpected:
    • Instead of becoming frustrated or angry with a situation, Claire Lerner, recommends doing something unexpected, such as giving your child a big bear hug or doing something silly. Doing something unexpected can be a distraction to the negative or unwanted feeling/behavior. (Managing your own emotions: The Key to Positive, Effective Parenting).
  • Give yourself a time-out:
    • Giving yourself a time-out can help you keep calm and be able to help manage emotions more appropriately. Stepping away from the situation for a few minutes to calm down and gather your thoughts and then returning to the behavior or issue will be helpful.

 

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

References:

https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/521-managing-your-own-emotions-the-key-to-positive-effective-parenting

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