Monthly Archives

December 2021

Strengthening Relationships Through Communication

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Can you hear me?  Are you even listening?  These are questions we may ask ourselves while communicating with our children, significant others, friends, and even the cashier at the grocery store. Communication refers to the process in which one person conveys information to another person.  Information can be shared through verbal dialogue or non-verbal communication. While we know our words are important, non-verbal communication is responsible for up to 93% of conversation messages. This statistic indicates self-awareness of your own communication style and skills are vital in establishing and, ultimately, strengthening your relationships.

Communication self-awareness is essential in all relationships; however, establishing and maintaining a positive relationship with children through communication can be particularly challenging. Relationships between parents and their children can benefit greatly by emphasizing effective communication daily. Here are some tips on how to implement effective communication for you and your child(ren):

  • Be genuine and speak from your heart. Communication is a two way street!  It is important that parents show vulnerability regarding their own feelings and needs.  This gives children the opportunity to learn from their parents and create an open and honest dialogue in their relationship.
  • Pay attention to non-verbal messages.
    • Be aware of your tone of voice. How something is said is often more important than what is said.
    • Make and maintain eye contact as much as possible while respecting the child’s comfort level. Our eyes really can be the window to our souls.  By focusing on your child’s eyes, you will be more likely to interpret their feelings or emotions accurately and effectively show you are paying attention to your child and their needs.
    • Start conversations at eye-level with your child. For instance, if they are sitting on the floor, sit down with them.  Your posture and gestures can send strong messages to children.  For instance, if a parent is standing above a child when speaking their statements may seem threatening or uninviting to the child.
    • Listen with a closed mouth. This will limit interruptions when your child is talking.  You can offer non-verbal encouragement through smiling and other facial expressions to show you are actively engaged in communication.
  • Let your child know they have been heard.
    • Summarize what you hear back to your child in order to ensure you heard what they intended to say.
    • Feel free to ask questions about their story or statements. These questions offer children an opportunity to see you are engaged and care about what they are saying.
  • Keep conversations brief.
    • Have shorter conversations more often with your child.
    • If addressing an issue, have an initial conversation and schedule a time for you and your child to come back to the issue after calming down and preparing for the follow-up conversation.
  • Use communication builders/boosters like the ones below to open lines of communication:
    • “I’d like to hear more about that!”
    • “What did you think about…?”
    • “That’s really interesting. Will you say more?”
    • “I’m confused. Will you explain that to me?”

Effective and open communication takes time to establish, especially with children!  However, by increasing your self-awareness and focusing on your verbal and non-verbal communication daily, you will create a habit of being active in your conversations.  The result will be a closer and positive relationship between you and your child.

This blog was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Katie Davis, LBSW.

References/Resources:

Elsevier B.V. (2021) Nonverbal Communication. Science Direct.  Retrieved from https://sciencedirect.com/topics/social-services/nonverbal-communication

Sheafor, B.W., & Horejsi, C.R. (2008) Techniques and Guidelines for Social Work Practice (Eighth Edition), Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Zolten, K. & Long, N. (2006) Parent/Child Communication.  Center for Effective Parenting.  Retrieved from https://parenting-ed.org/wp-content/themes/parenting-ed/files/handouts/communication-parent-to-child.pdf

Binge Eating Disorder and Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

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Throughout this blog post, I will be discussing the diagnostic criteria, symptoms and warning signs, and ways to help someone who may be struggling with Binge Eating Disorder and Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, or AFRID

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder occurs when large amounts of food are consumed and an individual feels unable to stop. According to National Eating Disorders Association (2018), binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States. Binge eating disorder can be severe but is treatable. After an individual engages in a binge, they typically do not try to get rid of the extra calories by vomiting, using laxatives, or exercising like someone who struggles with Bulimia might. To help with the extra calories, they may try different diets or eat typical meals.

Diagnostic Criteria: According to National Eating Disorders Association (2018), to be diagnosed with binge eating disorder you need to meet the following criteria:

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating are present. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both items below:
    • Eating an amount of food that is more than what most people would eat
    • Lack of control over eating during the episode
  • Binge eating episodes are associated with at least three of the following:
    • Eating more rapidly than normal
    • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
    • Eating large amounts of food when not feeling hungry
    • Eating alone due to feeling embarrassed by how much is being consumed
    • Feeling disgusted with self, depressed, or guilty afterward
  • Binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for three months
  • Distress regarding binge eating is present

Symptoms and Warning Signs: Below are a few emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms and warning signs. For a full list, please visit: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bed

  • Emotional and Behavioral: appearing uncomfortable eating around others, steal or hoard food in strange places, disrupt normal eating behaviors, creating lifestyle schedules or rituals to make time for binge sessions, and eating when feeling full or not hungry
  • Physical: noticeable fluctuations in weight, both up and down

How to help: Engaging in an open and honest conversation regarding concerns can be helpful. You do not want to display feelings or emotions that may be conveyed as shameful or blaming. It is also important to normalize and reinforce a healthy body image. As always, it is essential to seek professional medical treatment for further assistance and guidance. It is important to research and educate yourself on binge eating disorder and recognize the warning signs and symptoms

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

According to National Eating Disorders Association (2018) ARFID is new to the DSM-5 and was previously referred to as “Selective Eating Disorder.” AFRID is similar to Anorexia as they both involve the inability to meet nutritional needs. However, ARFID does not involve any distress about body shape or size. ARFID involves not getting a sufficient amount of calories to grow and develop appropriately. It is noted that those with autism spectrum conditions, ADHD, and intellectual disabilities are more likely to develop ARFID (National Eating Disorders Association, 2018).

Diagnostic Criteria: According to National Eating Disorders Association (2018), to be diagnosed with ARFID, you need to meet the following criteria:

  • An eating disturbance associated with one or more of the following:
    • Significant weight loss and nutritional deficiency
    • Needing to take oral nutritional supplements
    • Lack of psychosocial functioning
  • Avoidant behavior is not explained by lack of available food or associated with cultural practices
  • It does not occur during the course of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and no evidence in the way the body weight or shape is experienced
  • Not associated with a medical condition or mental health disorder

Symptoms and Warning Signs: Below are a few emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms and warning signs. For a full list, please visit: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/arfid

  • Emotional and Behavioral: reporting consistent gastrointestinal issues around mealtimes that have no known cause, lack of appetite, fear of weight gain, and restricting certain types or amounts of food.
  • Physical: abnormal laboratory results, frequently feeling cold, poor immune functioning, fainting, thinning of hair, and dry and brittle nails

How to help: It is important to research and educate yourself on ARFID and recognize the warning signs and symptoms. Being supportive and encouraging professional help can also be beneficial.

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

References:

National Eating Disorders Association. (2018, February 22). Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/arfid

National Eating Disorders Association. (2018b, February 22). Binge Eating Disorder. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/bed

Binge-eating disorder – Symptoms and causes. (2018, May 5). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/binge-eating-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353627

The Three R’s

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You may see your youth go from 0 to 100 in what seems like a second flat, with really no indication to why you see an exculpated behavior.  You may be asking yourself and your child, ‘what is going on?!’ as you’re trying to make sense of behavior(s) in front of you!  How many times do you hear your youth respond with, ‘I don’t know?’  The truth is, youth most likely don’t know what is going on.  And they might not be able to express the why behind their behavior for awhile!  Using Dr. Perry’s Three R’s may help you and your family bring down the escalated moment a bit quicker.

The first step in the Three R’s is to Regulate.  When youth are in their behavior, they’re utilizing their basement brain, known as the brainstem.  The brainstem is where primitive actions occur, and youth need their basic need of safety met.  The goal is to help youth come back down to their baseline.  Starting off, youth might not know how to regulate themselves, so a parent must walk beside the youth in order to help them regulate.  Helpful tools to use include: providing a quiet area, sensory items, music, or breathing in/out techniques (breathe in to smell the cocoa and breathe out to cool the cocoa off).  Just as it is important to allow the youth to regulate, it is important for the parent to regulate, as dysregulated parents can trigger youth.  So, as a parent, take a few moments and cool off!

When the youth is regulated, they’re able to move from functioning from their brainstem to utilizing the limbic part of their brain.  This is when the second R, Relating, can be worked through.  When working within the realm of relating, parents are to have a sensitive conversation with their youth.  During this time, parents need to be attuned with their youth and connect with them to validate their youth’s emotion.  An example parents may use includes, ‘I can see how that situation was very frustrating.  Remember parents, you don’t have to agree with the youth, but it’s more important to validate the youth’s feelings than to tell the youth their wrong in how they’re feeling!

The final step is to Reason.  This step is final because youth are now out of their primal minds, away from using their basic level of thinking.  This is where youth can think from the higher level of their brain, known as their cortex, where logical thought occurs.  Parents and youth can now talk about the behavior that happened and better ways to handle future situations.

It may take time for you to become comfortable in putting each piece of this into play.  It may take time for your child to respond to each part, and that’s okay!  Give yourself and your child some grace.  It may be a new technique for both of you to learn and implement.

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

Holiday Traditions

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The holidays are the perfect time to express our love for our family. This year, how about starting to incorporate adoption into your annual holiday traditions with these simple practices:

Light a candle

Say a prayer, express your gratitude, or reflect on the reasons why you love the people in your life who are there because of adoption. Create a quiet tradition that allows you to gather with your loved ones and reflect on birth family, adoptive family and adopted children.

Send something in the mail

Gifts don’t have to cost much! Sometimes the best way to let someone in your adoption triad know that you’re thinking of them is to collect photos, write a letter, have the kids draw a picture, and send it out in the mail. Talk about the year, update them on your life, or tell them that you love them and are thinking of them.

Make space for sad feelings

The holidays can bring a mix of emotions. Remember that it’s okay if not all of those feelings are happy ones. Adoptees may feel sad around this time of year when thinking about their birth family. Birth parents may feel the loss of their birth child more deeply. As well as the adoptive parents may grieve the losses the birth parents and their child have felt. The best way to honor these feelings is to talk about them together and acknowledge that it’s okay to feel both happy and sad about adoption.

Pick up the phone

A phone call on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day can mean the world to the members of your adoption triad. Even sending a text with a photo is an easy way to let someone know you’re thinking of them.

Schedule a visit

If your adoption includes visits, the holidays are the perfect time of year to get together. Try to book your visit in advance. Everyone gets busy during this season! Grabbing lunch, seeing Santa together, or taking a walk to see the lights are all simple ways to catch up in person.

Make an ornament

Every year, you could get crafty and make an ornament. It can be painted, feature a photo of your child from that year, or even a theme! Send it to the members in your adoption triad, or hang it on your own “memory tree,” then watch them add up throughout the years. I think this one is my favorite!

 Re-tell your adoption story

Adoption isn’t a one-time conversation. It should be a common theme and celebrated topic in your home. This season is often a time to reflect on the past, and look toward the future. So, this is the perfect time to re-tell your child’s adoption story. If possible, birth and adoptive parents can join together (even if it’s just virtually) to tell the story and express the love they continue to feel. The holiday season is all about expressing love and gratitude for families of all kinds!

*What are your family’s favorite holiday traditions? How do you find ways to honor adoption during the holiday season? Let us know in the comments

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, NaTasha Sawicki, LBSW

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