Trauma and Control

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

As a previous foster care case manager, I have supported and worked with families and youth who have experienced trauma and have seen firsthand the difficulties that come along with parenting these children and youth. There is no doubt that the aggressive outbursts, hour plus long emotional tantrums, and stress of everyday life can start to take a toll on your patience and understanding. One piece of advice I have is to try your hardest to not engage in a “power struggle” with your children. What is a power struggle? A power struggle occurs when someone competes for control in a certain situation. Although it is easy to do, engaging in a power struggle is not helpful when it comes to parenting children with trauma (and without trauma). Engaging in a power struggle can make the situation more escalated and prolong the disagreement or what initially caused the situation. Below are some ideas on how to decrease the frequency and timeframe of power struggles:

  1. Give choices: providing choices allows children to have some control of the decisions they are making. When a child is allowed to make a decision from provided choices, it makes it difficult to for them to come back and say they never have control or decisions over a certain topic or situation.
  2. Ignore what can be ignored: this can also include walking away from the situation if you feel that those involved are too upset or escalated to engage appropriately and safely. If everyone in the household is safe, it is OK to walk away from the situation and ignore the negative behaviors. Not giving into the negative behavior will show the child or youth that the situation is not up for debate. Explain to the child that you will engage when they are calm and ready to discuss their frustrations.
  3. Explain your reasoning for a certain answer: explaining your yes or no answer is important in helping children and youth understand why you gave the answer you did. Simply just saying yes or no does not provide the explanation needed and will not help them understand.
  4. Don’t take the behavior personally and actively listen to your child: typically a behavior occurs due to something that is bothering them or from something that happened in the past. You are their safe person, resulting in most behaviors being taken out on you when they feel safe.

 

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

 

Sources:

https://waldenfamily.org/avoiding-parent-child-power-struggles/

What do we do with these big emotions?!

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Have you had a moment where your child has what seems to be the grandest meltdown, right there, with your cart full of groceries, in the middle of the grocery store, and you take a moment to think, do I quickly check out because I need the groceries for dinner, or leave and help your child process what they’re?  Or maybe you have a child who seems to ‘flip out’ and throw a punch or a pillow at another sibling who greets them coming into the room?  Have you ever experienced the ultimate meltdown at what seems to be the most inopportune time?  Who has sent their child to their room or placed them in time-out to think about their behavior, but this never seems to work?  You’re not the only parent who has had this happen to you!  There’s also good news: you can help your children with expressing their emotions in a healthy way!

Recognize It
It’s important for parents to help their children to recognize their emotions.  Playing detective is the first step in helping your child to recognize their emotions.  You might have to figure out how your child is feeling and where these emotions are coming from.  Depending on where your child is at, you may be the one who is leading a conversation about their emotions.   It’s also important to help your child to put a name to how they’re feeling.  One of the ways to help with this is by using the wheel of emotion, which can help pinpoint where emotions may be.

Check out the following link to see the Wheel of Emotion: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/57b7400ebe65946ef828f100/t/59ef71adedaed8e9e8b04a04/1508864431690/Feelings-Wheel-Color.pdf

Model It
Children learn by watching others.  Because of this, it’s important for parents to recognize their own emotions, be conscientious of how they’re expressing their emotions, and model healthy ways to process and work through their emotions.  For example, if you’re feeling anxious, you might say, ‘My stomach and muscles feel funny…this happens when I am feeling anxious.  I will go for a walk because I know this helps me calm down and feel better.’

Teaching Tools
There are tools to help children learn about their emotions and how to express them.  Find developmentally appropriate books, such as The Way I Feel, Millie Fierce, Breathe like a Bear and Even Superheroes Have Bad Days, to help children acknowledge emotion.  Games can be useful, too, such as the Emotions Sorting Game.  Other games, even if it is playing a common games like Uno and Go Fish, can help address various emotions.  Movies and television shows can also be beneficial with helping children recognize emotions and how to work through those emotions in an effective way.  Younger children might like Inside Out or Thomas the Train, while older children might like Harry Potter and Boy Meets World.  The Wheel of Emotion and Emoji Cubes can be a great talking tool, as well, as it helps as a talking tool to pinpoint a word that correlates with a feeling.

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

Maintaining Birth Parent Contact Following Adoption

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Adoptive parents can often struggle with making the decision to maintain “openness” with birth families once adoption is finalized.  Openness means maintaining contact between birth family and adoptive family.  There are many things to consider when making this decision and no “black and white” answer in regards to if it makes sense for you and your family.  What makes sense for one family, might not make sense for another.  The most important thing to consider before moving forward is what is in the best interest of the youth and will contact be safe.

Adoptive parents often worry about maintaining the relationship between birth and adoptive families, especially if the child was removed from birth parents due to abuse or neglect.  In these circumstances, adoptive parents may feel anger or resentment towards the birth family (understandably so).  Parents can also be hesitant to maintain contact as they may still be establishing their role as the child’s parent and worry involving birth parents may skew parental roles.  Some parents may even worry about their children being manipulated or even kidnapped.  Looking into statics, these scenarios occur minimally and long-term benefits of contact for all involved far outweigh cons and risks.

Benefits of communication with birth family to youth may include minimizing their feelings of grief and loss, improve identity formation and sense of self, understand origins of their physical and personality traits, and increase communication about adoption and their story.  Adoptive parents who maintain contact with their birth family report an enhanced relationship with their child, increased confidence in their role as the parent, and an increased sense of empathy for their child, as well as birth parents.  Birth mothers show minimized feelings of grief and loss as well as an increased sense of content and comfort (Seigel, 2012).

Seigel (2012) conducted a longitudinal study where he interviewed adoptive parents who maintained contact with birth parents.  Parents report the key factor for ongoing contact to be successful is commitment and keeping focus on the child’s best interest.  These parents also report the importance of honesty, self-awareness, communication, flexibility, and a compassionate, nonjudgmental perspective.

If moving forward with birth family contact, here are a few things to consider:

  1. It can be difficult for birth parents to find a new role in their child’s life, so addressing this on the front end can be helpful for all parties in the long run.
  2. In this day and age there are many options for how to foster contact. Whether it is through letters, emails, or in-person visits, establishing this and frequency of contact in an informal written contract is best practice.  This contract can always be adjusted and changed, as needed.  Note the importance of gathering the desires and thoughts from all parties, especially the youth.  This doesn’t necessarily mean all parties will be satisfied with what is established, but there is value in making sure all parties are heard.
  3. Talk about social media. From Facebook to Snapchat, there are plenty of platforms that exist to find family members and communicate.  At times, birth family and youth are able to connect without parents even realizing this.  This can be great for fostering that relationship, however, parents are often left in the dark.  Address this with youth and talk about your expectations to attempt to avoid the misuse.
  4. If you have any concerns or would like to support facilitating contact, I encourage you to contact your local Post Adopt Coordinator. We can help with making a contract, forwarding gifts and letters to conceal your contact information, or even provide supervised visits.

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

Self-Care

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

As a parent, it is easy to put your child’s needs in front of your own. That is why self-care is so important for not only your well-being, but for also your family’s well-being.

Caring for children who have experienced trauma can be mentally, emotionally, and physically draining. On top of other daily life stressors surrounding work, family conflicts, and so on many families also have the stress of parenting through a pandemic, the stress surrounding school decisions, and the stress of changes with social interactions.

Self-care falls under 6 main categories. Many self-care activities can fall within multiple categories. Below are the 6 main categories and some self-care ideas:

  1. Physical self-care:

-Good sleep routine, healthy diet, regular exercise or physical activities

       2. Psychological self-care:

-Mind exercises, journaling, minimizing usage of social media, establishing a hobby such as meditation

       3. Emotional self-care:

-Positive affirmations, doing an activity that makes you happy, reading a book

       4. Spiritual self-care:

-Worship, yoga, self-reflection

       5. Social self-care:

-Alone time with friends and family, date nights

       6. Professional self-care:

-Leave work at work, use allotted PTO/vacation/sick leave as needed, take short breaks, or a mental health day

Below are some ways to help establish a self-care routine:

  1. Schedule self-care into your routine. This may include getting up earlier in the morning, scheduling time at the end of the day, or whenever works best in your schedule. Scheduling self-care into your daily routine can ensure there is time set aside for you.
  2. Don’t feel guilty for putting yourself first. This is so important! In order to care for others, you need to take care of yourself.
  3. Reach out for help when needed. This can include reaching out to extended family members or friends when you need some extra help. Reaching out to others who are experiencing the same problems you are can also be very beneficial. There are many great options available through ND Post-Adopt Network. Post-Adopt Network offers monthly support groups, monthly family activities, camps and retreats, as well as time with your Post-Adopt Coordinator to express emotions and feelings, ask questions, and bounce ideas off of.

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

 

Sources:

https://www.waterford.org/education/self-care-for-parents/

https://nami.org/Your-Journey/Family-Members-and-Caregivers/Taking-Care-of-Yourself

X