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Parenting

Summer Fun!

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With the kids out of school and the weather warming up fast, it’s time to start planning summer activities.  As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to alter daily life, many families will find themselves staying closer to home than they usually would during the active summer months. Fortunately, there’s lots of summer joy to be had right in your backyard—or on your balcony, in your living room, and around the neighborhood. Summer activities are fun to anticipate together as a family. Still the change from a structured school year to a less structured summer break may be overwhelming for some adopted or guardianship kids who may have been ill-treated or unloved.

To survive the summer, you will want to acknowledge that change may be hard for many kids.  Therefore, you will want to be intentional with setting up a new summer routine for them.  It may be a more laid-back schedule, but this will provide a sense of security and boundaries for your youth. Ask them to help you make the new schedule. Introduce them to your family’s current tradition, ask them about their traditions and create a few new summer traditions.  Here are a few creative suggestions for summer activities:

  • Backyard camping. Your kids may be too small to go camping at a campsite or park, but why not start in the backyard?
  • Plant flowers or vegetables. Use the summer to teach your kids how to plant! Plant flowers or vegetables in your flower bed or in a pot by your home. They can water it every day and watch them bloom!
  • Go to the farmer’s market. You don’t have to travel far to open up your kids’ worlds. Going to your local farmer’s market can be a fun outing as well as a way for showing them all of the different and colorful foods!
  • Berry picking. Now is the time to indulge in the season! From strawberries, blueberries, raspberries to blackberries, there are places in our state that will let you pick them for free or for a small entrance fee. Top of Form
  • Go to a flea market or garage sale. See if the kids are better negotiators than you!
  • Go to a local carnival or county fair. Eat cotton candy, elephant ears, or something unhealthy at least once this summer.
  • Collect rocks and paint them. Then, turn them into pet rocks, garden ornaments, or gifts for family members.
  • Make good use of nearby parks. Go to your local park’s website, and print the schedule of activities and hang it on your refrigerator.
  • Play croquet on the lawn, and try boccie too.
  • Play outside in the rain. Smell the rain on the pavement; splash in puddles; make mud pies.
  • Make fresh lemonade or sun tea. Enjoy it on the front porch with some homemade cookies, or sell it at a lemonade stand.
  • Make ice cream. Turn it into ice cream sandwiches or enjoy it on its own.

Whether you turn this list into your summer bucket list or pick a few of your favorites, you will make great memories. The key is to slow down and enjoy the summer months with your family. Having a plan will help you survive together and it can help you thrive together. Don’t let your kids have all the fun—many of these activities are fun for the whole family to share. So join in!

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

Allegations and Investigations

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Foster care and adoption can create many wonderful and happy times. Still, they can have unwanted outcomes, such as allegations and investigations. Many adoptive and guardianship families have experienced, to some degree, an allegation on their family, resulting in an investigation by your local Human Service Zone. Although most of the allegations are harmless, there can be serious allegations made against your family, such as poor discipline techniques, neglect, poor parenting, and so forth. Allegations can be made by multiple sources, such as foster/adopt/guardianship children, birth family, community members, school personnel, and so on. Many families say it is not if allegations/investigations occur, but when they occur.

Some recommendations to protect you and your family if you find yourselves in the middle of an investigation, or simply wanting to prepare for the instance that you may experience an investigation are below:

1) The most important recommendation is to document anything and everything. Documenting can be very beneficial in the instance that you experience an allegation, resulting in an investigation. Document any concerning behaviors such as aggression, inappropriate comments, and an increase in behaviors. Also, taking pictures of any new bruises, scratches, and cuts and documenting how the injury happened can be beneficial.

2) Another important recommendation is to discuss any concerns, changes, or updates with team members as soon as possible. Team members can include case managers, therapists, doctors, teachers, and any other provider significant to the child and family.

3) Engaging in safety planning so all household members know what to expect in regards to behaviors can also be beneficial. Having a safety plan in place can help prove to investigators that you are working on each possible crisis and have a plan in place when and if it is needed.

4) If you do find yourself in the middle of an investigation, being honest and open is the best route to go. Being cooperative with the investigative agency can help them to better trust you. Answering questions, following the rules, and providing documentation can help.

For more information and a webinar discussing allegations and investigations, please see our post adopt website at http://www.ndpostadopt.org/ under parent resources and webinars.

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

Mental Health

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May officially marks Mental Health Awareness month!  Did you know 1 in 5 adults experience mental health illness each year?  Or suicide is the second leading cause of death among people 10-34 years of age?  These are some staggering yet, important statics to consider.  In the helping profession, mental health is a common issue experienced by clients and coworkers.  I can especially confirm this working within the child welfare and adoption system.  Birth parents experience trauma and loss when their children are removed from their care.  Children experience abuse or neglect, which leads to the removal and grief and loss. Case workers who invest everything they have into the families they serve only to be disappointed and discouraged by the outcomes.  Adoptive and guardianship parents struggle with how to support their adopted children in addition to process their feelings about their family’s adoption or guardianship story.  All of these situations can increase the risk of mental health illness.  Don’t get me started on throwing 2020 and COVID 19 into the mix.  In February of 2021, one in four adults reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression in the past year based on data from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, which is a huge increase based on the previous statistic.

It’s hard to imagine only a few centuries ago, so little was understood about mental health.  Those who were unable to maintain in the community were institutionalized and often forgotten.  Others felt forced to suffer internally and alone and do their best to attempt to “maintain.”   We’ve made huge strides in awareness and understanding of mental health, but we still have a lot of work to do.  On April 30th, 2021, President Biden presented a proclamation of National Mental Health Awareness Month in which he states, “My Administration is committed to ensuring that people living with mental health conditions are treated with compassion, respect, and understanding.”  As I mentioned, we still have a lot of work to do but acts like this have me hopeful.  At this stage in my life, I feel if you are a person who has never experienced mental health issues, you are truly a “unicorn”.  People are people! We experience love, loss, and hardship.  With our community’s support and the right services in place and available, we can overcome.  If you or someone you know is in a mental health crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.  If you are an adoption or guardianship parent who needs a safe place to talk, reach out to your local coordinator.  We are here for you.  You are not alone.

Additional Resources:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/04/30/a-proclamation-on-national-mental-health-awareness-month-2021/

https://nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Mental-Health-Awareness-Month

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

The Need for Connection

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Often, I find myself thinking about connection.  I mostly contemplate various ways to explain the importance of the connection between parent and child and different ideas on how to promote healthy connections.  Recently, I stumbled across this interesting article, Connections: 4 Reasons It’s Important, 4 Reasons It’s Difficult, and 4 Ways to Cultivate It, by Alisa Jaffe Holleron.  If you have the chance to read this piece of work, I recommend that you do – the article is a quick read and great refresher on, you named it, connecting with your children.  I will always and forever promote a healthy connection between parent and child and enjoy working with families on finding practical ways to find a few ways to connect.

Parenting can be difficult.  Parenting children who have experienced trauma can add another component that can be especially difficult at times.  Connection for parents is very beneficial.

A connection with other parents who have parented children with a trauma history can have many benefits.  A connection with two (or more) parents who have experienced similarities in their journey can promote comfort and understanding.  A simple head nod or message of, ‘Yes, we’ve been there, too,’ can do wonders with feelings of comfort and being understood.  The connection can also be encouraging.  For example, hearing another’s story may create a hope to continue the tough work of parenting.  These connections can also be inspiring!  Different approaches to handling various scenarios in parenting can be gained when connected to another who has gone through similar situations.  Parents may also find a mentor to help along the way; or find themselves as a mentor to someone who is just starting out on their journey of parenting.

Brene Brown once said, ‘staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.’  Parents, I encourage you to reach out, become vulnerable, and experience connection.  This may help alleviate some of the stressors you’ve encountered within parenting.

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

Additional Resources:
https://alisajaffeholleron.com/inspiration-for-all-parents/connection-important-to-healthy-development-in-children/

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

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

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!

 

 

 

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