You Are Not Alone

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This post has been submitted by guest blogger, Randy Haaland, a rockstar foster and adoptive dad in North Dakota.

Image result for bear trap ranch

We learned about Road Trip for Dad’s at Camp Connect 2017, which was a summer camp for adoptive parents that was put on by the ND Post Adopt Network.  Mike Berry was the speaker at the camp and he mentioned it during one of his sessions.  When he described it, a few dad’s seemed interested in making the trip, but after the camp was over everyone parted ways.  A month before road trip was to start I was contacted by one of the other dad’s that attended the summer camp to see if I would be interested in road tripping to Colorado to attend Road Trip for Dad’s.  I was a bit hesitant, but was encouraged to go by my wife, which we later found out was a very common occurrence.  After giving it a lot of thought, I decided to go along and give it a try.

We met in Casselton on a Saturday morning and then headed to Bismarck to pick up another dad after that we were on our way to Bear Trap Ranch by Colorado Springs.  One of the dads had planned out our trip because he had experience traveling the route that we were taking.  We shared a lot of experiences on our drive.  We also made some pit stops to sightsee and hit up a couple microbreweries in Deadwood, SD.  He had made reservations at a neat little cook shack called High Plains Homestead in Nebraska.  We ended up spending the night at a small bed and breakfast just down the road.  A couple of the rooms were in a barn, which was comical when we told our wives and kids, but they were actually really nice rooms.  After a good night’s rest, we woke up to a great homemade breakfast from the very interesting and down to earth owner of the bed and breakfast and then we were on our way.  The conversations we had on our road trip were well worth the 14 hour car ride.  I would highly recommend taking the time to actually road trip to Road Trip for Dad’s for anyone looking to attend it.

Arriving at Bear Trap Ranch on Sunday, no one really knew what to expect.  We checked in and claimed our beds in rooms that had two to three bunk beds each.  That night at supper there was a speaker that talked about his experience with adoption, which was really eye-opening to the amount of trauma our kids can come from.  It definitely helped me realize that instead of trying to fix our kid’s problems, sometimes we have to change ourselves and the way we discipline and teach our kids.  That night there was a campfire where we all got to introduce ourselves and learn about each other’s stories.  That night by the campfire really opened my eyes to realize that we are not alone in the parenting of our kids.

The next two days we really had to ourselves to do whatever we wanted.  We did some hiking around the area.   A few dads did some fly fishing one day, another group went up to Pike’s Peak, and of course we went down the mountain to a couple microbreweries.  I would say the most rewarding experience was going on a hike with a large group of dads through a couple old train tunnels.  Just walking through the mountains and seeing all the beauty in the mountains was breathtaking.  It really allowed me to reflect on my past with the kids we have had as foster kids and our kids that we have adopted.  I was able to just sit and think of things I could do differently from the conversations I had with other dads.  I was also able to think about all the ways I could improve on my relationship with my kids and wife.  Over those two days, it really helped me realize that we are not alone in our fight for our kids to be able to have as normal of a life as we can provide them.

The last morning we walked up the mountain to have a cowboy wrangler’s breakfast.  It was an amazing breakfast and it was great to be able to reflect on the past couple days with everyone one last time.  After breakfast we packed up and left.  Leaving was one of the hardest things to do, because it was such an amazing experience, but I was definitely ready to get home and share my experience with the wife and kids.  It is hard to put into words how the trip changed me, but I feel like attending Road Trip for Dads helped me become a better dad.  I have realized over the years of doing foster care that no amount of classes and training can help you deal with some of the issues that our kids come from.  The best training is learning from other families and hearing their stories.  When you listen to someone tell their story and everything starts clicking and you realize that they are talking about exactly what you are going through, it really helps knowing that you are not alone in the battle of raising our kids who came from trauma.

Randy Haaland

 

Click here for more information on Road Trip for Dads!

The Heat of the Moment

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Parents,

You’re in an argument with your child. Their behavior was out of control, they wouldn’t listen, you lost your cool, and the situation intensified. By the time you realize what has happened, it’s done.  How do you save face? How do you handle the next disagreement?

This is a common topic, one that leave parents feeling shame, regret, thinking the “I should haves”, and coming up with the “next times”.  You are not alone in this!  Remember:

  1. You cannot fix what is already done. Whatever happened, big or small, the words have been said, the actions have been completed. The past is the past and no amount of rehashing or self-punishment is going to change it or make you feel better about the situation.
  2. An apology can go a long way. You are human and no human is perfect. Own up to your mistakes! Often, kids can be taken by surprise by an adult saying “I’m sorry for losing my temper. Today has been really tough for all of us, hasn’t it?” Kids are often expected to apologize for things they have done, but do we adults always follow through on that expectation? Offering an apology is not only a great teachable moment for your kids, but it also shows your kids it is safe to make yourself vulnerable within your family.
  3. Move on. Give yourself permission to move on. As human beings, we all do things we aren’t always proud of.  Ruminating on these situations does nothing but makes our brains stay in those negative, gunky feelings.  Give yourself some grace.

So, how do you handle the next behavior issue?

First of all, DO NOT take things personally!  Kids are not in control of their behavior when they are mad. If you personalize this situation, kids then lose their stability in the moment and may feel that you are not a safe place to bring their problems to.  It’s not about you. In the heat of the moment, their brains are firing from a different place- a place full of body memories from their past. As parents, you have to help them bear their storm.  They need you to help them get back into control.

I’m sure we’ve all had situations where we know reprimanding during the behavior is not going to go well.  Sit with them at their level. Breathe. Demonstrate what you want their body language to be. Wait until it is done, then ask “what do we need to do to make this better?” or “how can we help you fix this?” Maybe it’s an apology or replacing a broken item. Have your kid help identity an appropriate consequence for the behavior.

Feel free to share your insight on this. What has worked for you? What hasn’t gone so well? Remember, go easy on yourself.  You aren’t alone in this!

 

 

 

What Do Our Children Need From Us?

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March 22, 2017 | Morgan Nerat, LSW

When parenting children who have been traumatized, or parenting a child who grew up in hard places, it’s often hard to communicate with them or know what they need from us. We are not mind readers, but maybe some of these hints will help you parent your children.

A Set Schedule
Some of the children in the AASK program were raised in a birth home that was not consistent, where things could change in a matter of minutes, and no one knew what the schedule was. Some of the children in the AASK program have moved to foster home to foster home or treatment facility to foster home too many times. Children need predictability due to their past experiences. Many of our children do not do well with sudden change, because it may bring back old memories or cause unnecessary anxiety. For example, when there is an activity coming up, have a talk with your kiddo and prepare them for this upcoming change or about expectations.

Figure Out What They Are Hinting at
Some children don’t know what they want and if they don’t know what they want, how are they going to tell you what they want? Have you ever had your child follow you around the house or maybe stare at you? You ask if they need something, ask if they need to tell you about their day, or you ask if they’re hungry, and their answer is ‘no’. You play a guessing game, but you are losing because you don’t know what they want. Try asking if they would like to play a board game. Try asking if they need a hug. Maybe they need reassurance that you want to spend time with them. Maybe they want a positive physical touch but do not know how to ask for it.

Reassurance
Have any of your adoptive kiddos repeatedly said your name over and over again? When you finally ask what they need, they might pause and attempt to come up with a clever question, because they did not know what to ask you when they started calling for you. Try saying, “if you are asking if I love you, the answer is yes”.

Privacy
You adopted your child/sibling group and you want them to feel part of the family, because they are now part of your family. Therefore, please do not tell everyone about your child’s birth history, how they entered foster care, or why their birth parent’s parental rights were terminated. Don’t be that person who overshares! If your child wants to tell other’s about their story, that is their decision and you can be there to support your child; however, also teach your child about privacy. We all know those people who want to be a bit nosy. Stop them in their tracks and instead, brag about all of your child’s victories and their accomplishments.

Claim Your Child
Oftentimes, I work with children who are looking for someone to claim them. You can make  little comments such as, “I’m so glad our family is complete”, “Our family is blessed to have each other”, “I am so happy to be your dad”, “I’m so glad I can call you my son”.  A family I recently worked with told me a student at their daughter’s school asked if he was her dad. He said, “Yes I am her dad”, and the look on their daughter’s face was pure joy!

 

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Social Media Safety

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February 23, 2017 | Sonja McLean, LCSW

 Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. All examples of social media outlets, with the potential to be harmless or incredibly destructive, especially to our unassuming youth. Protecting your youth from the harmful side of social media is becoming more and more difficult and proper education is becoming the one safeguard against this.

When we think of negative social media use by our teens, often times sexting is the first concern that comes to mind.  When talking to your youth about safety risks of using social media in this way, keeping an open dialogue and setting strict limits is imperative.  In her book, “There’s No Place Like Home for Sex Education: A Guidebook for Parents”, Mary Gossart notes these basic tips:

  • Ask questions: Find out what your youth thinks about sexting. Have any of their friends experienced this? And how did your youth respond?

  • Help your youth brainstorm ways to overcome peer pressure and remind them that your door is always open!

  • Remind them that when they send something, those words and images are now “out of their control”. 

  • Encourage your youth to count to 10 before hitting send and to consider the ways their message could be used.

  • Help your youth realize that impulsivity can “come back to haunt them” and then they have no control of what can happen.

  • Be honest with them when you talk about risks and consequences.

  • Set appropriate expectations for social media use.

  • Ask your youth what impressions they want to give to people and how that impression can change based on what they send. 

  • Keep listening!

If you want to learn more about how to talk with your kids about social media, sexuality, or healthy decisions, ND Post Adopt Network has these books available for check out:

  • There’s No Place Like Home for Sex Education: A Guidebook for Parents by Mary Gossart
  • Breaking the Hush Factor: Ten Rules for Talking with Teenagers about Sex by Karen Rayne

Want more information on social media safety? Check out our webinar, facilitated by Jessica Schindeldecker of the Fargo Police Department!

 

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