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Parenting

Trauma and Eating Disorders

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While researching eating disorders, I came across an article and website that discussed different eating disorders, and I didn’t realize how many different types there are! Aside from some of the more common and well-known eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating, some are less common and unheard of. Eating disorders can affect both men and women, and develop in early childhood through midlife, but most are reported in the teen and young adulthood years. Throughout this blog post, we will discuss how trauma can and may impact the development of eating disorders. While genetics and family history can play a role in developing eating disorders, it is also reported that trauma can contribute to the onset of an eating disorder. Those who have experienced emotional, physical, or sexual abuse are more likely to develop psychological issues. Eating disorders can create various health issues affecting the cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal system, neurological system, and endocrine system.

There are many different types of traumas that can play a role in developing an eating disorder. Those traumas can include neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and bullying. When an individual experiences trauma, they may manage their emotions through controlling their eating or engaging in addiction type behaviors. While many people who have an eating disorder have suffered some form of trauma, it does not mean that all people who have an eating disorder have suffered trauma. You can also develop an eating disorder if you have not suffered any trauma. According to (Ross, 2018), eating disorders are rarely about food. Eating disorders are more centered on control.

If trauma has been experienced and an individual develops an eating disorder, it is essential to seek treatment and professional help for both the trauma and the eating disorder. Treatment for just the eating disorder or treatment for just the trauma will not aid in the treatment process as a whole. Different forms of therapy can be help in treatment. Therapies such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) can be beneficial in the treatment of an eating disorder, as well as the trauma that may have affected the development of the eating disorder.

Throughout the next few blog posts we will be discussing different types of eating disorders. The eating disorders that will be discussed will include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Orthorexia, Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED), Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (AFRID), Pica, Rumination Disorder, Unspecified Feed or Eating Disorder, Laxative Abuse, and Compulsive Exercise.

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

References/Resources:

Ross, C. C., MD. (2018b, February 21). Eating Disorders, Trauma, and PTSD. National Eating Disorders    Association. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/eating-disorders-trauma-ptsd-recovery

National Eating Disorders Association. (2018, February 21). Information by Eating Disorder. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/information-eating-disorder

School Year Transition

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For many, the month of August marks the beginning of a new school year, whether that is public school or homeschooling. Due to the multiple changes with the education system last year during the pandemic, youth (and adults) may experience a variety of emotions preparing for the start of the school year. During the summer months, many youth get out of routine with different summer activities and events, family vacations, and summer nights.

Here are some different ways to help your child (and yourself) get ready for the transition back to school:

  • Practice your school routine a few weeks before school starts, including going to bed earlier each night and getting up earlier.
  • Establish a nighttime routine. Prepping lunches for the next day and picking and laying out clothes the night before can help create a more calm morning.
  • For youth going into Kindergarten, practice eating lunch and supper within the appropriate timespan they will be given at school. Lunchtime at school can be very short and new students can typically feel overwhelmed with the change.
  • For any youth who may be feeling anxious or nervous, you can take a school tour, meet the teacher(s), and practice any forms of transportation.
  • For families who choose to homeschool, it can be helpful to have all the necessary and needed supplies, and create a school/workspace for lessons.
  • It can be helpful to plan out after-school snacks and suppers to help with the nighttime routine and flexibility.
  • Planning out schedules (school, work, sports) for each family member can also be beneficial.

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

Acknowledging and Working Through Loss

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Darcy, Post Adopt Coordinator, shares tips on working through loss with your adoptive child:

Acknowledging and Working Through Loss

Adoption is a beautiful blessing, but with this blessing comes a tremendous amount of loss.  Youth experience loss of birth family, culture and first home environment.  Loss follows youth throughout their life, and a youth may be triggered by loss through various tasks, senses, and memories.  Youth may need to readdress their losses at different developmental milestones throughout their life.  It’s important to help youth acknowledge and grieve their losses, so they can begin to heal.  Below is a list of a few ways you as a parent can assist and support your youth with the losses in their life:

  • Give your child permission to grieve the loss of his birth family without guilt.
    • Suggest times and places where your child is welcome to express their grief, and ways in which they can grieve.
    • Talking, journaling, drawing, or venting feelings through exercise are just a few options.
  • Create a “loss box.”
    • The youth can put items in the box that represent the different losses they have
    • By creating this loss box and putting items in it, it allows the youth to create and partake in a ritual that acknowledges their loss.
    • The youth will have a tactile object that allows them to revisit their losses in the future when they wish to do so
  • Redefine what creates a family.
    • Families may continue to change over time
      • Families may grow larger, and in certain circumstances, the members of our family may leave and our family may become smaller
    • Continue to have conversations about what family is, what it means, as your child may need to address this throughout various stages, and as the family dynamics may change
    • Be open to what your child has to say, as the child may have a great, broader view of what family is
  • Include birth parents/birth family members in pictorial representations of the adoptive family tree.
    • One option would be to depict an orchard where trees grow side by side.
    • The birth family, former foster families, or other significant people in the child’s life can be other trees in the same family orchard.
  • Keep your expectations reasonable.
    • A child’s need to grieve over their losses will not be fully cured, fixed, or resolved in any predetermined time frame, if ever.
    • Let your child know that feelings related to these losses will come and go at different times in her life.
      • Help your child find a safe person to whom they can express the feelings associated with their loss (this may be a therapist, a teacher, a coach).
    • Model normal, healthy responses to loss.
      • If you or your partner suffers a loss, share your feelings openly.
      • Let your children see you mourn, so they can learn how you express sadness and anger about loss.
      • For male children, seeing an adult man cry can be especially instructive.

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

Guardianship Vs. Adoption

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Jackie, Post Adopt Coordinator tells us some differences you may not know about guardianship and adoption.

Guardianship Vs. Adoption

North Dakota Post Adopt Network serves both adoptive and guardianship families. What is the difference between adoption and guardianship? Throughout this blog post, I will discuss a few differences and similarities between adoption and guardianship.

Within the state of North Dakota, there is two different types of state-funded guardianship: State-Funded Guardianship and IV-E Guardianship. Both of these guardianships are for children who are currently in the North Dakota foster care system. Aside from the state- funded guardianships, there is also “private guardianship” that families can seek for a child, not in foster care.

The biggest difference between adoption and guardianship is there is typically no Termination of Parental Rights, or TPR, granted for a guardianship. Guardianships are considered a temporary arrangement, and the ultimate goal is reunification to a biological parent(s). Overall, a guardianship placement removes decision-making powers from birth parents while still allowing rights and responsibilities to their children. Another difference between guardianship and adoption is that guardianship cases are reviewed in court every 1-3 years, dependent on the judge in your county. This court review is held to review the status of the case to ensure children return to their biological parent(s) in a reasonable amount of time. The court review comes from a change of rules and regulations established within the state of North Dakota in early 2021 regarding guardianships. There is no court review for adoption as an adopted family is granted parental rights at the adoption finalization court hearing.

Some similarities of guardianship and adoption are that the majority of children in guardianship placements experience, to some degree, similar experiences to those who have been adopted, such as different traumas. The second similarity between guardianship and adoption is education. While parents who wish to adopt or foster are required to have a great deal of training and education, guardianship families also must complete training.

For more information on guardianship vs adoption, feel free to look at the Guardianship VS Adoption webinar on our post adopt website, http://www.ndpostadopt.org/, under the Parent Resources Tab and Webinars. At this link, https://guardianship.ndcourts.gov/trainings/minor-guardianship-training/#login, you can find the training course required for guardianship.

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

Tips for Creating Felt Safety

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We can’t form a relationship with our youth until they feel safe, Darcy, Post Adopt Coordinator shares some tips on creating felt safety.

Tips for Creating Felt Safety

You know your home is safe.  You have plenty of food in the fridge/cupboards and you keep some of your child’s favorites on hand.  You keep your home clean and decluttered.  You have plenty of seating for everyone and plenty of space to move around without any issues.  You have been meticulous about introducing your child to your family and friends.  All of these are great ways to ensure a physically safe environment.  As a parent, you know your child’s needs will be met, and you feel you’ve taken a great start at providing a safe environment for your child.

You’ve done well with providing a physically safe environment for your child.  However, it takes more than a physically safe environments for our youth from hard places to feel safe within our home.  This need for felt safety is because our youth from hard places has experienced tough situations.  They function more from the primitive part of their brain – the brainstem and amygdala.  Because children from difficult places function from these primitive places, they might not communicate their needs effectively.

Parents can promote felt safety for their children.  Parents can also learn as much as they can about the difficult histories their child has.  Parents might not have access to the entirety of the youth’s trauma history, so it’s important to be attuned to the child and notice behaviors that may seem obscure. This may help parents to understand where behaviors and triggers stem from.  Being attuned to a youth’s behaviors can assist parents in helping process tough emotions early to avoid a meltdown.  Parents can also help their youth to put a name to their emotions.  This can be done through a variety of ways, such as using a wheel of emotion or conversations about how the body feels when experiencing different emotions.  This can help youth in becoming better at expressing how they’re doing.  Parents can validate their youth’s emotions, even if the parent doesn’t fully understand.  This allows a youth to feel like they’re not alone.  Keep things concrete, such as routines.  Unknowns can be very scary, and when youth know what to expect, they can feel safer.

Ensuring felt safety in a home doesn’t happen overnight – it takes time and consistency.  Know that great strides can be made, as well as a few steps back.  Be consistent.  Be patient.  Know the work being put in is well worth it!

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

Adoption and Gift Giving

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Kim Waswick, Post Adopt Coordinator, shares some unique ideas on gifts for people in your life for special occasions around adoption and guardianship adoptive parents.

Adoption and gift giving

A gift or a present is an item that is given to someone without the expectation of payment or anything in return. For some people, gift giving is a sign of affection, or it could be a tradition. It could mark a milestone or an accomplishment in someone’s life. Whatever the reason or motive is behind gift-giving, it can be hard to think of a different or unique gift to give an adoptive parent, adoptive family, or guardianship family. Here are a few ideas that I ran across when I was doing some browsing and research.

Homemade candle – is a beautiful way to honor a birth mom and congratulate a new mom. One of the sayings I found was,

“When the world feels dark,
And hope so far away.
I’ll carry your faith to guide the way.
And until you are ready to let life shine bright,
I’ll be right here, the keeper of your light.”

Plant a tree – Plant a tree in the child’s name so that they can put down their roots. You can watch the tree grow as the child grows. Planting trees on someone’s behalf is a great way to honor someone – and since trees provide so many natural benefits, it is a gift that keeps on giving. Another saying I found was,

“Like branches in a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.”

Adoption related jewelry – Jewelry makes for a wonderful keepsake and a way to honor the adoptive parent’s decision to adopt. Popular picks include necklaces that symbolize the adoption triad, engraved bracelets, and rings that feature the child’s birthstone. One of the quotes I found, “Not flesh of flesh or bone of bone, but heart of heart and soul of soul.”

Clothing items – It is a very popular trend for people to choose to wear clothing that reflects their thoughts. Another popular trend is to have matching clothes which shows connection and their bond to their child. One of the memorable sayings I found, “I’m an adoptive dad, just like a regular dad, only much cooler.”

Other ideas – Some other suggestions I found in my adventures on the internet were journals, personalized ornaments, magazine subscriptions, an item that celebrates the child’s heritage, photo album/memory book, photo shoot and time. The suggestions that came along with the gift of time were getting together for a meal, a few hours of babysitting, or sending them a text that you are thinking of them.

When you are thinking about the best gift ideas for adoptive parents, birth families or the adopted child, remember that every adoption relationship is different, so go with your gut and knowledge of the family. Think about what would be the most meaningful and go that route. And your gift definitely doesn’t have to be about adoption or guardianship. If you know them pretty well, get them whatever you think they will love, or something based upon their interests. One last quote I found, “Every family has a story, welcome to ours.”

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

A Coordinator’s Book Recommendations

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Brittney, Post Adopt Coordinator shares some of her favorite books on adoption and guardianship.

As coordinators, we have learned the importance of self-care, not only for ourselves but the adoptive and guardianship parents we work with.  Parenting special needs children comes with its unique challenges and struggles.  It is vital you “put on your oxygen mask first,” as flight attendants say, to be the best parent you can be for your children.  How do you take care of yourself?  Personally, I enjoy binging mindless reality shows, and on more productive days, I love snuggling up with a good book.  Here are some of my favorite adoption, trauma-related, and parenting books I have read over the years.

  1. The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog – Dr. Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz

This book tells children’s stories of trauma and transformation through the lens of science, revealing the brain’s astonishing capacity for healing. Deftly combining unforgettable case histories with his own compassionate, insightful strategies for rehabilitation.  Perry explains what happens to the brain when a child is exposed to extreme stress and reveals the unexpected measures that can be taken to ease a child’s pain and help them grow into a healthy adult.

  1. The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity – Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

In this book Harris discusses the ACE study and is punctuated by stories from her work at a pediatric clinic in a low-income community of color. In that clinic, she found it striking that many of her young patients who suffered from conditions like asthma, obesity, and ADHD shared one commonality—they had all experienced some type of traumatic event or significant stressor in their young lives.

  1. The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships – Diane Poole Heller

Heller, a pioneer in attachment theory and trauma resolution, shows how overwhelming experiences can disrupt our most important connections― with the parts of ourselves within, with the physical world around us, and with others.

  1. Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain – Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.

Siegel busts a number of commonly held myths about adolescence—for example, that it is merely a stage of “immaturity” filled with often “crazy” behavior. According to Siegel, during adolescence we learn vital skills, such as how to leave home and enter the larger world, connect deeply with others, and safely experiment and take risks.

  1. The Connected Child – Dr. Karen Purvis and Dr. David Cross

This book specializes in adoption and attachment. Learn how to build bonds of affection and trust with your adopted child, effectively cope with any learning or behavioral disorders, and discipline with love without making him or her feel threatened.

  1. Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control: A Love Based Approach to Helping Children With Severe Behaviors – Heather Forbes, LCSW and Bryan Post

This book covers in detail the effects of trauma on the body-mind and how trauma alters children’s behavioral responses.  While scientifically based in research, it is written in an easy to understand and easy to grasp format for anyone working with or parenting children with severe behaviors.

  1. What Happened To You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing – Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey

This book provides powerful scientific and emotional insights into the behavioral patterns so many of us struggle to understand.  It’s a testament to the authors’ wish for readers to come to grips with, and let go of, the past and to move forward into ‘post-traumatic wisdom.’

  1. Building the Bonds of Attachment: Awakening Love in Deeply Traumatized Children – Daniel Hughes and Kirby Heyborne

This book is a composite case study of the developmental course of one child following years of abuse and neglect.  The text emphasizes both the specialized psychotherapy and parenting strategies often necessary in facilitating a child’s psychological development and attachment security.

  1. Honestly Adoption: Answers To 101 Questions About Adoption and Foster Care – Kristin and Mike Berry

If you are considering adoption or foster care or are already somewhere in this difficult and complicated process, you need trusted information from people who have been where you are.  Mike and Kristin will provide you with practical, down-to-earth advice to make good decisions in your own journey.

  1. More To Me – Saty Conrelius

After fourteen years of family dysfunction, Bri and her younger three siblings enter foster care, where she battles with depression and loneliness – the very things that caused her mother to slip deeply into her alcohol addictions years ago.  Follow Bri on her journey as she slowly discovers the truth about her past.

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

Food Insecurity

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Imagine going into your child’s bedroom and finding candy wrappers and scraps of food. Garbage is hidden under their bed, behind their dresser, in their closet, or any other hiding place. Or recently stocking up on groceries to later find snacks missing from the pantry. Your child may also struggle with eating too quickly or get easily upset surrounding food. You may start to feel frustration as this continues to happen.

Unfortunately, your child may have past trauma surrounding food. For example, in their early childhood food may have been withheld, or they may have lived in an environment where food was scarce. Knowing how to respond to food insecurity behaviors can be beneficial to help your child develop a healthy relationship with food.

I have provided some different ideas and suggestions on how to help your child with their food insecurity. I want to note that it is very important to not blame your child for their food insecurity behaviors, as it is their way of survival. It will take time to help your child feel safe with food.

  1. Put together a “yes basket” or a “food basket” filled with healthy snacks that children can grab whenever they may feel hungry, or just need to be able to see food. Providing your child with a food basket can help them understand that food will always be available. You can also create a food basket in the refrigerator for cold foods. It is essential to understand that the basket you create, you cannot say no to. Pick items that you feel good about giving your children at all hours of the day – morning, afternoon, night, or even right before supper.
  2. Eat meals together. Eating meals together can help children develop a better relationship and attachment with food. This can also help model appropriate eating skills, such as slowing down or using utensils. Another benefit of eating meals together is that it may strengthen their bond and attachment with you as their caregiver.
  3. Work with a trained therapist. Working with a therapist can help with addressing the underlying cause of the food insecurity, whether that may be trauma or a major life change.

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

Loss and Grief as a Parent

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I recently attended the Insight Conference, where I learned from a variety of parents and professionals on various topics relating to foster care and adoption.  Each of the speakers offered so much information, education, and encouragement.  The portion of this conference that stood out to me the most was Jeff Noble’s, “Navigating Grief & Loss as a Caregiver.”  This breakout session focused specifically on caregivers!  I wanted to share some of the items from this piece to help provide some awareness and encouragement.

When entering the world of fostering and adoption, parents may have a few hopes, dreams, and expectations of what is to come.  Some common themes include excitement, happiness, and joy.  Parents may have a strong desire to welcome a child into their home to share their favorite traditions from their childhood.  Parents may expect gratitude from their children and days filled with family fun activities and other days filled with quietness.  Some parents may have had a basic understanding that parenting could be hard at times, but would be easy overall.

Continuing in this journey, the reality of what can be experienced in parenting children from trauma sets in.  Some parents shared that parenting was more difficult than anticipated, not expecting the good and difficult times to be such a rollercoaster.  Parents have expressed they experience sadness that turns into anger, stress, resentment, and frustration.  Parents expressed there were feelings of rejection.  Parents also expressed humbling experiences intertwined with these tough situations involved in the daily life of parenting.  It’s important to recognize that there may be a plethora of emotion experienced in parenting, and that there may be grief that accompanies this journey.

This grief may stem from a sense of loss for things you might not have even noticed you had longed for when starting the journey.  Some parents have shared loss can include hopes and dreams they had for their family, their future, and the child’s future.  There may be a sense of loss from meeting milestones later than expected or even meeting these milestones differently compared to other families.  Parents may experience a loss of self-esteem or feel as though they are incompetent as a parent, and lose stability as a family unit.  Some parents expressed a loss of supports, including support from a spouse and/or immediate family members.

These emotions and desires parents hold for their family are normal.  So is the grief that may also accompany.  This journey can feel like a roller coaster and can seem lonely at times.  Find connection, whether through a support group or a friend who may on a similar journey.  Call your Post Adopt Coordinator for assistance, or a listening ear!  This journey doesn’t have to be walked alone!

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

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

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