The Importance of Respite Care

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Do you feel that you are in need of a break or time alone? While some families have the support of extended family and friends to provide respite care, not every family has a support system in place. Respite care is when families are able to have their children spend time with outside care providers, while parents take a break and the provider can get paid. Respite care can be very beneficial for a variety of reasons. Respite care can help caregivers recharge, rest, attend vacations or different activities that may be difficult for children to attend, or just spend time relaxing by yourself. Families and caregivers should not feel guilty for utilizing respite care. Respite can be utilized for preplanned activities or used in an emergency situation. Respite is not used for ongoing daycare services.

Did you know ND Post Adopt Network now offers a respite program for adoptive and guardianship families? Here is some background information on the respite program. Once you have decided you want to move forward and partake in the respite program that ND Post Adopt Network offers, it is the caregiver’s responsibility to find a respite care provider. Once a respite care provider has been identified and has agreed to provide respite care, your ND Post Adopt coordinator will provide you and the care provider with forms that will need to be completed and returned to your coordinator. ND Post Adopt Network will directly pay the parent and the parent will pay the caregiver once respite has occurred.

If you feel your family would benefit from the ND Post Adopt Network respite grant, contact your Post Adopt coordinator today!

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

How to Encourage Growth Mindset in your Child

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  1. Talk about the brain.  
    Talk about how the brain can work like a muscle. The more you use it, just like exercise, the stronger it gets.
  2. Use mistakes as teaching opportunities. 
    Mistakes are okay. In fact, that’s where learning really happens. That mindset is one to model and to speak out loud. When you make a mistake, talk about it and share what you learned. When your child makes a mistake, don’t criticize.  Steer the conversation to what was learned and remind your child that mistakes are opportunities to learn.
  3. Teach your child the power of “yet”.
    Adding one little word on the end of a sentence sends a powerful message. “I don’t know how to do that” is very different than “I don’t know how to do that yet.” “Yet” sends the message that I will be able to do that or that I can learn how to do that.
  4. Praise.
    Instead of praising a general statement such as “you are smart” or “you did a good job”, be specific. “You studied hard for your test.” “You were persistent and kept trying even when it was challenging.”  Specific praise shows that the effort was noticed, not just the result.
  5. Be a role model
    Use growth mindset concepts and language in what you do and say. Our children are watching and listening, and often that can be the easiest way for them to learn these concepts. An added benefit is that a growth mindset is good for you too!
  6. Have your child set S.M.A.R.T. Goals             
  • S = Specific: Think of the who, what, when, where, why
  • M = Measurable: How will I know if I reach my goal?
  • A = Achievable: Is it realistic? Can I accomplish it?
  • R = Relevant: How will it help? What is the benefit?
  • T = Timely: When do I want to be able to do this?
  1. Journaling
    Journaling can be a great tool for growth mindset. Journaling, along with positive affirmations, give a place for learning and practicing growth mindset in children.

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

Interesting Facts about Adoption

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I have been a social worker for over 22 years, but I’m no stranger to adoption! I have gained most of my social work experience from long term care, the hospital setting, and hospice. My parents made an adoption plan for one of my older sisters. I also have an older sister that made an adoption plan for two of her own children. As many of you know, there is a wealth of information in books, in articles and on social media around adoption. I thought it would be great to share some fun facts about, adoption, too. Here are just a few:

  • Earliest Known Adoption: The Pharaoh’s daughter adopted baby Moses in the Bible
  • First Modern Adoption Law in the U.S. was enacted by Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1851
  • Prior to the development of infant formula in the 1920s, most adoptees were older children
  • In 2019, around 135,000 children were adopted in the United States. More than half of these children are over the age of six, and there are more boys in the Child Welfare System waiting to be adopted or fostered than girls. (Adoption Network)
  • Only around 2% of people in the United States have actually adopted a child, adoption statistics show. However, one-third of Americans have thought about the possibility of adopting and considered it an option. (Adoption Network)
  • There are around 437,000 children in the United States who are in foster care on any given day. More than 125,000 children in these circumstances are looking to be adopted. The average child in foster care will wait around four years until they are placed into a family that wishes to adopt them. (Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute)
  • In 2015, there were 12,000 international adoptions, with 5,500 children being adopted in the United States. This number is drastically lower than in 2005, when 46,000 children were adopted internationally. Around half of those international adoptions resulted in the child being brought to the United States. This is largely due to certain countries banning international adoption or increasing the difficulty of adopting children from their country, according to international adoption stats. The countries that have banned or cut down on international adoption include China, Ethiopia, South Korea, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia, and Guatemala. (The Conversation)
  • Nearly 100 million Americans have adoption in their immediate family, whether this includes adopting, placing, or being adopted. (Adoption Research)
  • There are around 2 million LGBTQ people in the United States who want to adopt. That’s a lot of homes and many loving parents for children who desperately deserve them. Current adoption statistics show that around 4% of all adopted children in the United States are living with LGBTQ parents. (Lifelong Adoptions)
  • And at least one fun fact: Famous people who were adopted include Jamie Foxx, Jack Nicholson (by his grandparents), Ray Liotta, Steve Jobs, Frances McDormand, Nancy Reagan, Lance Armstrong, Babe Ruth, Dr. Ruth, Nicole Richie, Dave Thomas (Wendy’s Founder), Eric Clapton, Gary Coleman, Faith Hill, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, Melissa Gilbert, and Scott Hamilton. (Huffington Post)

Hundreds of thousands of children are adopted around the world each year. And with that, new loving and happy families are created. The above adoption statistics show, with some insight, how adoption in the United States and international adoption work, as well as how prominent adoption is within the LGBTQ community.

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

To Tell or Not to Tell?

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Let’s face it, trauma is difficult.  It’s difficult knowing our kiddos have a trauma history they had no control over.  It’s difficult knowing that you cannot take away the trauma they’ve experienced, and you cannot wish it away.  It can be difficult deciphering when to address these difficult pieces of your child’s history with them.  You may have wondered what to share and when to share your child’s history with them. You may have even found yourself contemplating whether it’s necessary to share all of the details of their trauma history with them.

These worries and concerns that you may struggle with are valid.  Parents, you may find yourself wanting to protect your child.  You may want to guard them and worry if bringing up their history may re-traumatize them.  This fear comes from the deep love you have for your child.  It’s no fault to you for wanting the absolute best for your child.  The truth is, your child needs to know their trauma history.  Talking with your child about the truths of their trauma history allows your child to grow in their identity of who they are. When determining when and how to have these conversations, consider the age and developmental stage of your child, ensure you’re familiar with your child’s trauma story, and plan what you are going to say.

It’s important to consider your child’s age and where they are developmentally and their readiness when deciding when to talk about their trauma history.   Natural instinct may be to talk with your child when they are a teen.  However, it may be more beneficial to share the difficult points of your child’s trauma history when they are younger, and here’s why.  Teens are trying to figure out what their identity is, which is based on what they know up to this point.  Teens are trying to decipher who they are in relation to what they know of their world up to this point and how they fit in.  Adding their trauma history at a point where there is already so much questioning and deciphering, which can be seen in adolescent years, can become problematic and adds an entirely new layer to sort through.  Because of the large amount of change that does happen during adolescent years, it may be beneficial to tell your child their history prior to adolescence.  You may have conversations throughout the early childhood years, which is great.  It’s never too early to share this information, as long as the information is developmentally appropriate.  Holly van Gulden, author of Real Parents, Real Children and an adoption counselor, has encouraged parents to share a child’s full trauma history between the ages of 9 – 12 years of age, so children can address issues, feelings, and concerns before the changes that occur during adolescence.  Children in this age group may be more open to receive support from their parents, as opposed to children in their adolescent years.  There is also more time to mull through this history with parents, instead of trying to make sense before transitioning to the next chapter of their life.  Evaluating your child’s readiness is necessary to also consider.  Decipher where your child’s sense of self image is and their ability to process information cognitively and emotionally.  Determining where your child may be and how they’re able to process information may help navigate what pieces you’re able to share, as well as the language you’re able to use while sharing their trauma history with your child.

Become familiar with your child’s trauma history and the language that surrounds it.  Read through the documents that were provided to you during the adoption process.  If you have any questions regarding what you’ve read, reach out to the adoption agency you worked through for more clarification.  Understand that you might not be able to gather all the pieces from your child’s history.

Plan what you’re going to share with your child and plan to use words and concepts that are developmentally appropriate.  Be open and honest, sharing information you know to be true. Reverting to an earlier point, you may not know all pieces of information regarding their history.  It’s better for your child to hear that you do not know the entirety of their history instead of filling in gaps that you’re unsure of.   Your child may have questions right away, or need time to process and may come with questions at a later time.  Explain they can ask questions at any time, even if it’s long into the future.  If you need assistance in planning what or how to share, reach out to your Post Adopt Coordinator – we are here to support you through this process!

Navigating through this tough subject can be difficult and filled with emotion.  Finding the best time, the best approach, and the right words to say can be difficult.  It’s ok for you as a parent and for your child to process through this with a therapist with specialized training in working through these tough situations.  Reach out to your Post Adopt Coordinator for assistance for this as well.  We are always happy and ready to help!

Resources that may be valuable in this subject matter include:

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


Crisis De-escalation and Intervention

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It is very likely that your adopted or guardianship child has experienced some degree of trauma before becoming a part of your family. Trauma can be due to many types of abuse, neglect, maltreatment, losses, and so forth. Any child who experiences trauma can display escalated behaviors, which can be physical, verbal, or through actions, such as stealing, lying, running away, etc. Those behaviors typically result from underlying trauma and emotional triggers. If you have a child that has displayed worrisome behaviors, you are not alone. It is important to understand and have a good understanding on how to handle escalated behaviors to ensure all parties involved are safe.

I will not be discussing physical intervention/de-escalation as physical intervention is to be used as a last resort. Due to the precise ways to engage in physical intervention/techniques, I recommend participating in a Crisis De-Escalation Intervention Class, or CPI, to learn about the safety precautions with physical interventions. These classes can help demonstrate techniques to utilize if needing to engage in physical intervention. These techniques not only help keep the child safe, but can also help keep the parent or adult safe in that situation as well. Physical de-escalation/interventions include some sort of physical restraint, or holdings, of the distressed individual. While physical de-escalation may be needed at some point, it is important to remember to always try to utilize verbal de-escalation techniques prior to engaging in physical interventions.

Here are some steps to take to help de-escalate an escalating situation WITHOUT engaging in physical intervention:

1. It is very important to be aware of both your verbal and non-verbals when communicating with an escalated person, child, or adult:

    • Verbal communication can look like:
      • Active listening, asking questions, validating feelings, providing choices, not arguing, and talking in a calm, but firm voice.
    • Non-verbal communication can look like:
      • Facial expressions and body language

2. Remove other peers/adults from the situation

    • This will ensure safety of others while trying to de-escalate the situation. It will also help to eliminate an audience and attention on the negative behavior that is being displayed.

3. Ensure there is personal space between the escalated individual/child and yourself.

    • This can help with protecting yourself if the situation should turn aggressive and physical.

4. Set limits and boundaries

5. Different techniques to try:

    • Distraction
    • Providing choices

6. Once the situation is diffused, discuss what they could do next time to prevent the escalation of the behavior.

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


Handling the Holidays

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It’s that time of year when it seems as though we are cleaning up from one holiday, only to prepare for the next.  It starts with Halloween, jumps into Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s!  If any of you have stepped into any store since August, you might have noticed the décor that changes just as quickly as it’s displayed, whether it be Halloween costumes and candies, to fall décor and Thanksgiving turkeys, to Christmas trees, ornaments, presents, and treats.  Let’s not forget the treats and silly glasses to wear for New Year’s Eve!

These displayed items may bring back many delightful memories of your fun filled holidays spent with friends, family, and other loved ones!  Some of your fondest memories may include gathering with extended relatives and catching up on each other’s lives.  You may remember the laughter, not only from catching up with one another, but also of the cousins playing together.  You may remember the comforting aroma of your favorite dinner that was always at these holiday dinners.   Common rituals may have taken place at these fantastic holiday memories, like your grandfather saying grace before dinner, your father always cuts the turkey, and don’t forget about the boot hockey game played between dinner and dessert!

For our adoptive youth, holidays may be filled with a variety of stress.  Youth may feel an assortment of emotions – loss, guilt, or anxiety.  Triggers of smell, taste, or sounds may surround the youth during holidays.  Youth may have traditions with birth and/or former foster families and these activities might not be done in your home.  These stressors may be displayed in a variety of behaviors and/or emotions that aren’t typical.

Support your child during this time.  Be observant of any changes your child may be exhibiting.  Create time and a safe place to discuss behavior changes or variations in moods and emotions.  This time can be allowed to explore triggers your child may have revolving holiday time.  Create conversations with your child about their favorite memories they have with their birth family/foster families and go over their Life Book with them.

Become creative with additional ways to support your child might through these busy times.  Create a calming space for your child to take a break from the hustle and bustle.  In this calming space, have accessible items that help your child to reregulate, such as a comfy chair, fidgets to play with, or access to music.  Construct a safety plan with your family incase overwhelming feelings take over.  This safety plan could include a place to sneak away for a few minutes to reregulate or a word/phrase to use in case it’s deemed to leave altogether.  Consider changing up what you typically do for the holidays to ensure your child feels safe during the holiday time.  If going over for a large family gathering creates too much overload, consider celebrating in a smaller and calmer way.  Keep daily routines as best as possible, such as meal times and bed times.  These routines can help your child remain regulated, as they’re able to know when to expect important parts of their day.  Most importantly, continue to embrace your child and create holiday memories together.

For more ideas, check out Mike and Kristen Berry’s podcast, How to Help Your Child Regulate During the Holidays, at

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

6 Tips to Prepare Children for the Holiday Season

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It’s hard to believe that the holiday season is right around the corner. The upcoming holidays will be a welcome change in pace. This will be a time to make wonderful family and childhood memories. I have fond memories of holiday decorations, delicious meals and happy socialization.

While the upcoming holidays can be an exciting and joyful time for families, they can also trigger feelings within adopted children or in guardianship and become a challenging time for families. Holidays may trigger feelings of despair over past missed holidays or memories of painful experiences around holiday time. Children may be missing a number of important people -birth parents, foster parents, siblings or others who were meaningful in their lives.

Here are some tips from Pat Convery- executive Director of Adoption Council of Ontario for adoptive families to help them navigate through the holiday season.

1. Give plenty of notice about upcoming events
Giving children plenty of notice of upcoming family gatherings and not overwhelming them with too many gifts or activities at once can be very helpful. When a parent is sensitive to a child’s anxiety or hesitation before an event, they can better prepare for issues that may arise.

2. Prepare for both children and hosts prior to outings
Let family members know in advance that you may not stay for a long time and give them ideas of how they can prepare for your child. Take toys, food and activities with you that may be helpful for your child. Sometimes a walk outside in the fresh air or quiet time away from guests to help a child regroup may be needed and helpful for your child.

Talk to your child before an outing so they know what the general plan is. Set up ways that they can communicate with you if they are worried or need you for anything. Assure them that you are not expecting them to be perfectly behaved and will be happy to change the exit plan if necessary. It is particularly difficult when children are not able to articulate their pain and parents are scurrying around trying to make the holidays a joyful and fun time only to have their child appear sad or act out inappropriately.

3. Meaningful Gifts
Avoid the trap of overwhelming children with too many gifts. Two or three gifts that are well thought out and celebrations that are low key can allow time for the child to adapt to current family traditions and may prevent acting out behaviors.

Prior to an event, check in with hosts or guests who might be bringing your child gifts. It is important to make sure the gifts are appropriate for your child’s developmental level and interest.

4. Make room for birth family
Acknowledge a child’s memories of birth and foster family – both happy and sad memories. It may be helpful to set up a special visit with the birth family, however, it is important to make sure the child has time to prepare emotionally for a visit and regroup after without rushing to new activities. Take time to talk directly with birth or foster family members prior to any connection (even if the connection is a phone call) to make sure that adults are clear on boundaries, plans and have a chance to talk through any concerns about the visit.

You can help the child with honoring memories of birth family members by creating cards and stories or possibly making simple gifts even if they are not able to be delivered during the holiday season.

Holiday time is often a good time to revisit their Lifebook and encourage a child to share thoughts and feelings that arise at this emotional time.

5. Hugs Go A Long Way
Many children adopted from foster care or in guardianship do not feel like they deserve the attention given at holiday time and may even push parents away. An extra hug and a statement that you care for them can go a long way.

At the same time, many children feel uncomfortable with ‘forced hugs’ from new family members at gatherings. Help adults understand that ‘hugs’ can be given in many ways – high fives, a smile, throwing kisses – and not to always expect acknowledgment or ‘thanks’ from a child. You can always work with your child after the holiday to create a ‘thank you’ for a gift at a later date.

6. New family, new traditions
Most importantly, parents need to understand that they are not responsible for the ghosts of their child’s past. There is no “making up” for what your child may have lost, however, moving forward with your child and showing respect for what they have been through in the past is of the utmost importance. Creating new traditions as a family will go a long way to helping a child feel like they belong and are an important and special person in their new family.

— It is that happiness and those memories that make life go on. Even in those times of tragedy, you will always have the memories. With these memories come the stories of our life. Make time to acknowledge joyful moments and celebrate successes and triumphs, no matter how small, be it your own or someone else’s.

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

Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Cycle of Rage

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When The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) was published in 2013, Asperger’s Syndrome was removed as a diagnosis and was placed as part of a larger category called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Then known Asperger’s Syndrome is now classified as ASD with specifications.  Out of this respect, I will be using the acronym ASD to describe the previously referred to Asperger’s Syndrome.  Some symptoms of ASD in children include, but are not limited to eye contact resistance, missing social cues (body language or facial expressions), minimal emotion expression, and may dislike change.  Only mental health experts can diagnose ASD.

It makes a lot of sense why children diagnosed with ASD experience more stress and anxiety that may lead to more behavioral problems compared to a child without the diagnosis.  I couldn’t image how frustrating and confusing it would be to be challenged daily with understanding social cues in an unpredictable world.  Following research from Albert (1989), Beck (1987), and Myles and Southwick (2005) The Cycle of Tantrums, Rage, and Meltdowns was developed to help parents, teachers, and professionals understand and prevent tantrums of children with ASD.  This cycle is broken down into three stages:

1. The Rumbling Stage:  This initial stage can often times be over-looked as signs of this stage may be as minor as the child clearing their throat or a seemly harmless grimace.  Other potential signs of the rumbling stage may include, but are not limited to tapping their foot, lowering their voice, a scowl, rapid movements, or fidgeting.   You know your child better than anyone, so with some intentional observing you’ll begin to see patterns in behavior changes leading up to a potential meltdown. Once you’ve been able to identify precipitating events prior to challenging behaviors, these interventions can be used:

    1. Antiseptic bouncing which simply means removing the child from the environment in a non-punitive manner.
    2. Proximity control meaning standing near the child, as this simple gesture can be calming.
    3. Signal interference is discretely getting the child’s attention, making eye contact, and letting them know they are rumbling with a pre-agreed upon “secret signal”.
    4. Support from routine is creating a visibly-displayed schedule of events that can help provide security and predictability for the child.
    5. Just walk don’t talk is that, simply stated, walking with your child while remaining silent. Again, be sure this removal is done in a non-punitive manner.  The child should be presented with a safe comfortable environment to share whatever they wish without fear or judgment.
    6. Redirection is refocusing the child’s attention on something else that is not what may be causing the rumbling stage.
    7. Home base is a safe room or area of the room for the child to access with only a couple of items or activities for the child to use. Be sure the items and activities are meant to be calming and relaxing.  Overstimulation can increase escalation of the child.

***It’s important to note these tips are meant for de-escalation purposes “in the moment” and are not self-regulating or reflecting techniques.

2. The Rage Stage:  At this point the child has escalated past the rumbling stage and is now exhibiting more noticeable and/or disruptive signs.  These are including but not limited to yelling, kicking, withdrawing, swearing, biting, self-harming, or destroying property.  In this stage the number one emphasis should be on safety of all involved including the child.  Safety plan development prior to getting to this stage is pertinent.  Most often this plan will include calling for assistance, removing others from the situation, assessing for safety risks and removing them, therapeutic restraint (only if certificated and confident in your ability to perform), and lastly contacting dispatch if the child continues to escalate and safety is a concern.

3. The Recovery Stage:  It is not unusual for children with ASD to not remember what occurred after a meltdown.  In this stage, children may feel physically and emotionally exhausted, withdrawn, or even reject the antecedents occurred.  It is important for parents to address what happened with the child and re-establish or adjust the safety plan with them, but during this stage children are typically not in a place to learn and contribute.  Addressing it at a later time is recommended as if addressed in this stage it could just lead to another escalation.  Parents can help kids adjust out of the recovery stage by proposing the child complete a simple, highly-motivating task, specifically related to something the child is interested in like walking the dog or helping mom with the grocery shopping.

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

For more information about the cycle and resources to help facilitate sensory awareness, reference the following:

How Does Your Engine Run:  The Alert Program for Self-Regulation (Williams & Shellenberger, 1996)

The Tool Chest for Teachers, Parents, and Students (Henry Occupational Therapy Service, Inc., 1998)

Asperger Syndrome and Sensory Issues: Practical Solutions for Making Sense of the World (Myles, Cook, Miller, Rinner, & Robbins, 2000)

Holidays and Celebrations

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Holidays are such a fun and memorable time for families to participate in different traditions, rituals, events, and/or activities. Going to a pumpkin patch, sleigh rides, baking, seeing Santa, Easter egg hunting, and overall spending time with family and friends. Who doesn’t love the holidays? As a prior case manager for youth in foster care, the time from October to January seemed to be some of the hardest for families and children navigating the foster care, guardianship, and adoption world. Children and youth would be thriving, then out of nowhere, would very much struggle with daily events that prior to this time frame were generally positive experiences. Through plenty of conversations with team members, it is noted that kids within foster care, guardianship, and adoption greatly struggle with time around the holidays.  Holidays can trigger unresolved grief, emotions, and memories the child may have  experienced with birth family. Even though they are happy where they are at with their guardianship or adoptive family, it also makes them wonder if their birth family is thinking of them on special days, celebrations, and occasions.  Not only are holidays difficult, but celebrations can also be triggering for some children and families. These celebrations can include birthdays, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day.

While holidays and celebrations can be more difficult for children and families, this holiday season may look even more different than due to COVID, which can create additional stress and lack of support. Families may be having to change normal holiday routines and traditions this year, which can create additional stressors in an already difficult season.

Below are some ways to help children through holidays and celebrations.

  • Ask your child what special traditions or rituals they participated in with their birth family throughout the holidays. Once you and your child have that conversation, you can begin implementing those traditions and rituals into your family holidays. A fun idea is to create a craft or bake a treat in remembrance of their birth family. This can occur on their birth parents birthdays or Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
  • Keep schedules and routines consistent, for the most part. For many children, having a routine and schedule helps them to know what to expect next. Schedules and routines can change during the holidays and different celebrations due to excitement, but for children who have been adopted or in guardianship, those schedules and routines can make them feel in control.
  • While it may be difficult to not take the behavior or reaction to a certain holiday or celebration personally, it is important to remember the negative behavior or reaction is generally stemming from their grief with their past. Validate their emotions and feelings leading up to a certain holiday or celebration and let them know it is normal to have the feelings they are experiencing.

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


Technology and E-Safety Tips for Parents

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I’ve had so many discussions with parents talking about how the internet and social media seems to have taken over the world.  If we take a stance and use technology blocking as a consequence for unacceptable behaviors, we watch our children transform in what can only be described as addicts going through withdrawal.  Parents are often astonished by this, thinking, “Back in my day, I would be outside being a kid and playing. What has internet done to this generation?!”  The generation referred to is called Gen Z, meaning born between the years of 1995-2009.  Gen Z-ers can be described as highly intuitive and confident, due to the ability to access a borderless world of information at all times with just a couple of clicks.  Gen Z-ers have no concept of what the world would be like without the internet, as they were too young to remember its arrival.  This lack of concept can create an unanticipated wedge between youth and their parents.  The reality is, the internet is here to stay so instead of fighting or denying this shift, parents need to educate themselves and learn how to educate and support their children to hold a healthy, positive relationship with the worldwide web.

According to Psychologist Jocelyn Brewer (2020) the term ‘Digital Nutrition’ as a way to push back against advertising technology as solely negative.  What this means is acknowledging positive aspects of technology if one is able to find a healthy balance.  This concept was borrowed from the idea of health foods and eating habits, for example chocolate addictions.  If we have a healthy balance with chocolate, we can treat ourselves on occasion, however, would not tend to have large amounts of Hershey bars readily available in our home.  The three Ms of ‘Digital Nutrition’ including being MINDFUL of what we use technology for and how it affects your well-being, being MEANINGFUL of what we post or read and assess if it provides purpose and clarity, and finally MODERATE the use of technology.  Moderation is crucial in finding a healthy balance.  Risk factors parents should keep in mind when assessing if your child’s relationship with technology is beginning to become unbalanced are being withdrawn, having nightmares, having a loss of interest in other things they used to enjoy, preferring online friends versus real friends, and expressing anger about not being able to access technology.  Here are some tips on how to encourage youth to understand internet safety:

  1. Discourage the use of personal information in usernames, including first and last name, birth date, phone number, or location and let them know how the information can allow people to track their location.
  2. Have them consider the potential impact of what they say online and how it is equally, if not more important than what is said offline. Remind them what they put online is out there forever, regardless of if it has been deleted.
  3. Download the apps your youth has to educate yourself on privacy restricts, age limits, and content that is accessible on them. It’s okay for parents to request to be “friends” with their children on social media accounts, as this can encourage accountability without completely restricting access.  Youth will be less likely to be secretive about what apps they have, if they feel like there is a level of trust between child and parent.
  4. Play with your children! This gives you an opportunity to learn about what the game and determine appropriateness.  It is also a way to have fun and connect with your child!  My children and I love playing Roblox together.
  5. Encourage youth to ignore negative messages and block abusive individuals. Talk with them about cyberbullying and let them know they can come to you if they feel like they’re being bullied.  Assuring them the internet will not be blocked if they tell you, as many youth may be hesitant to tell you fearful their internet access will be restricted.
  6. Seek professional help if you notice you child exhibiting risks factors listed above or if there are any concerns with your child being cyber-bullied or harassed and they are not opening up with you about it.

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