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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keep in mind when assessing if your child’s relationship with technology is beginning to become unbalanced are being withdrawn, having nightmares, having a loss of interest in other things they used to enjoy, preferring online friends versus real friends, and expressing anger about not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

Raising Grandchildren

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The number of grandparents raising their grandchildren continues to rise in the United States.  In fact, in 2018, there were over 2.7 million grandparents raising their grandchildren (United States Census Bureau).  Grandparents raise their grandchildren for a variety of reasons including a loss of job for the child’s parents or military deployment, removal from home due to safety reasons, mental illness, incarceration, or death.

Raising grandchildren can be an overwhelming task.  Grandparents may face a plethora of emotions when in this position.  Some of these emotions may include grief, embarrassment, resentment, anger, and sadness.  Grandparents may also experience health concerns, as such as higher rates of depression, sleeplessness, feelings of exhaustion, and health conditions like diabetes and hypertension.  These grandparents may also feel isolated, as they feel there isn’t enough time to spend with other family members, their friends, and even as a couple with their spouse.  Grandparents also may feel they’re not equipped with enough resources to raise their grandchildren.

It is normal to feel a multitude of emotion and uneasiness when taking on a new role.  Seek out resources that can help in this new role of raising grandchildren.   A therapist can help process the many emotions that may be experienced.  Continue doctoring to help catch any health conditions that may come about with the different stressors you’re experiencing.  Connect with support groups, such as a group geared for grandparents raising grandchildren.  Connect with other parents, both young and older, who might be of encouragement when moments are tough.  Reach out to the community in which you live in for child care so you can take a bit of time to recoup.  Reach out to your Post Adopt Coordinator, as your coordinator can help with connecting you to resources that may be beneficial to check out.  Most importantly, know that you’re not alone, and what you’re doing is so very valuable.

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

References:

United States Census Bureau. 2019. https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?q=grandparents%20raising%20grandchildren&tid=ACSDT1Y2019.B10002&hidePreview=false

Family Bonding

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Participating in bonding activities with your child can help develop a sense of trust. The type of bonding depends largely on the age of the child. Bonding with an older child can be more challenging, while bonding with a younger child may be an easier task. Bonding can create trust, increase positive classroom experience, and so forth. Bonding can also travel through generations, which means that “when a caregiver shows love and compassion towards their children, the child is more inclined to show the same amount of love towards their children,” according to Asoaka (2018). Some of my favorite family bonding activities when I was growing up included going to the lake with family and friends, going to Minneapolis for Labor Day weekend, family vacations, and Holiday traditions.

The suggestions below provide and discuss different ways that bonding can occur, with or without participating in a planned activity. Included are a variety of different activities to help meet the needs of different ages within your household.

  • Open communication: It is so important to have open communication with your children, especially your older children. Having open communication can help your child feel as though they are part of the family and have a say in different family decisions, if age appropriate.
  • Developing routines: Kids will thrive when they know what is happening next and what they can expect to happen. Knowing what to expect with routines can help give kids a sense of control. Routines can include a morning and night routine, work and/or school routine, and different family routines such as meal times, homework times, or family time.
  • Starting family traditions: Family traditions don’t need to occur just around the holidays. Different tradition ideas can include a family game night, movie night, family outing on a special day, participating in a fun family sporting event, and so forth.
  • Baking and/or cooking: Below is a baking and cooking recipe for you to try out!
  • Family movie night: Get out the blankets, pillows, popcorn, candy, or favorite family treat and enjoy a fun evening together.
  • Family trip or outing: Even if it is somewhere close by, getting away and out of the house as a family can create new experiences and memories.

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

References:

https://www.all4kids.org/news/blog/the-importance-of-bonding-with-an-adoptive-child/

https://adoption.org/can-bond-adopted-child

https://www.adoptionchoices.org/bonding-with-your-adopted-child/

Trauma and Control

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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?!

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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

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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

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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

Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome

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You have spent so much time preparing for adoption.  From the research you’ve done on figuring out the type of adoption you want, to attending classes/seminars to learn everything you can regarding adoption, to meeting with social workers in various aspects of adoption.  You’ve spent time making sure your home is safe and prepared for your child.   You’ve spent much time in meetings with your child’s team, ensuring their needs have been met, and you’ve prepared for the day to finally call this child your own!  It’s been a few months since the big day of adoption. You had a celebration with family and friends.  Since adoption finalization has occurred, your family has gotten into a routine of daily living.  The excitement of adopting your kiddo may have worn off and you begin to start feeling like you’re not yourself.  You may believe you should be happy, and you know there’s happiness in that you’ve expanded your family, thankful the journey of adoption has come to an end, but you feel different.  Maybe you’re experiencing guilt, anger, sadness, change in appetite and sleep, or even ambivalence.  Maybe you’re even wondering if it’s a case of the blues or if there is something more happening?

The term coined for these emotions is, Post Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS). Although it is more common in adoptive mothers, PADS can also affect adoptive dads.  PADS can be caused by varying reasons, including fears of not bonding the way in which parents hoped with their child, an underestimation in lifestyle changes that come from adoption, and fears of doubt and inadequacy as a parent.  Symptoms of PADS can be on a continuum for the time in which they arrive, as well as the severity of how PADS will affect a parent.  For example, symptoms of PADS may appear days to months to years after adoption and the severity of symptoms of PADS can range from minimal to severe.

Often times, parents suffer these symptoms alone, as many do not seek help for what they’re experiencing as they may not realize why they are feeling this way.  If you’re experiencing these differing symptoms, it’s important to speak with your doctor.  You may be treated similar to a parent that has postpartum depression, such as with antidepressants and therapy.  It may also be recommended for you to join a support group with adoptive parents who share similar experiences.  Self help tools can also be beneficial for parents who experience PADS.  Some of these tools include exercising, healthy eating, relaxation, and taking time for yourself to do something that is enjoyable.  Be sure to take care of yourself, so you can continue to be a rockstar of a parent!

 

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

Attachment

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Parenting children, especially with special needs, can be quite a challenge to say the least.  I’m sure all of us parents can share a story of their child having a meltdown and being completely dumbfounded as to where the emotional outburst came from.  Maybe there was a time when your own parenting response was so surprising, it left you wondering, “Where did that come from?”  Have you ever considered your child’s and your response may have been from your attachments made within the first year of life?

What exactly is attachment and the theory behind it?  According to Psychology Today, attachment is defined as the emotional bond that forms between infant and caregiver, and it is the means by which the helpless infant gets primary needs met. It then becomes an engine of subsequent social, emotional, and cognitive development.  When referencing Attachment Theory Bowlby believes our earliest bonds with our caregivers has tremendous impact throughout our life span.  He also suggests these attachment bonds with mother increases a child’s chance of survival from a primitive standpoint.  The four stages of the Attachment Theory include the following:

  1. Pre-attachment stage occurs from birth to 6 weeks of life, during this time the infant shows no specific attachment to a caregiver.
  2. Indiscriminate stage occurs from 6 weeks to 7 months, during this time the infant begins to show preference for primary and secondary caregivers.
  3. Discriminate stage occurs at 7 months and up, during this time the infant shows a strong attachment to one specific caregiver.
  4. Multiple stage occurs at 10 months and up, during this time the infant begins growing attachments with other caregivers.

Some adoptive parents hold the belief that if they adopt a child at a young age and take the role as primary caregiver, the child’s attachment would not be disrupted and the child will not be effected later in life.  Bowbly’s theory challenges this idea and states the most significant attachments occur in the first year of life.  Ainsworth expanded of this theory linking attachment to behaviors observed in children ages 12 months to 18 months.  Based on her research four types of attachment styles can occur.

  1. A secure attachment exists when the caregiver consistently meets the child’s needs allowing the child to feel safe and secure in their environment, which encourages growth and exploration. An individual with a developed secure attachment can trust fairly easy, is emotionally in tune, can communicate feelings directly, and can lead relationships in a cooperative and flexible manor.
  2. An anxious attachment can develop when if the caregiver responds to the child’s needs in an inconsistent way, leading the child to becoming confused and insecure as they are unsure if their needs will be met or not. An individual with an anxious attachment is constantly worrying about rejection and needs reassurance, often preoccupied with relationships and often insecure about those relationships.
  3. A dismissive-avoidant attachment can develop when the caregiver is unresponsive to the child’s needs most of the time. This leads to the child learning caregivers are unreliable and develop skills on how to self-sooth.  An individual with a dismissive-avoidant attachment will actively seek out relationships, however, if the relationship gets too close for comfort it will lead them to push away.  These individuals tend to be extremely independent and rather than resolving issues with loved-ones, they are able to switch focus on other goals.
  4. A fearful-avoidant attachment can develop when the caregiver is unable to comfort the child or responds in a threating way. An individual with a fearful-avoidant attachment are often fearful of close relationships and tend to have negative views of their selves and others.

I can imagine this is a lot of information and may be overwhelming to process, but understanding your child, yourself, and even your partner will give you a better, more empathetic understanding to who they are as a person.  The good news is attachment styles can change throughout a lifespan as new neural connections are made, regardless of age.  Just holding the understanding of a loved one’s attachment style can encourage you to shift the way you interact with that person, which can ultimately initiate change.  My final tip is to understand changing attachment is not an overnight process.  It takes time, understanding, and a securely attached individual’s love, support, and patience.

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

Supporting Transracial Youth

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Transracial adoptees can often struggle with their racial identity as they may align with – the race and ethnicity they were born into, as well as the race and ethnicity which they’re adopted into.  Often transracial adoptees are seen as too much of the other race.  For example, they may be viewed as more of the race or ethnicity they were born into, or more of the race or ethnicity they were adopted into.  This leads transracial adoptees to feel as though they don’t belong in either culture, as though they’re stuck in the middle.  One of the responsibilities for parents in raising a transracial adoptee is assisting them in positive self-identity.  For parents to assist their child in gaining a sense of positive self-identity, there are a few steps that can be taken.

It’s important for parents to become aware of discrimination that may be present if their child is of a minority culture.  After becoming aware, it’s important to understand how these affect their child through their daily lives.  Parents should learn about how their child has seen or experienced discrimination within their culture and how this is affecting their child.  Listen to what they have to say, and allow for open and free discussion.  It’s also important for parents to believe what their child is saying.

Another way parents can support a positive self-identity is by advocating for their child.  Advocate on behalf of positive educational, religious, and social opportunities.  These opportunities should be inclusive, respectful, and sensitive to cultural diversity.  Advocate for the safety and well-being in all aspects of life.  Parents can also teach their child how to be safe when they become an adult.  This ties back into learning about how people in minority groups are treated.   For example, when becoming of age to drive, parents might need to teach their child to do certain precautions if pulled over by a cop.  A parent might also need to teach their child how to be safe if being followed by employees while shopping.

Parents can also show their child leaders of their cultural community.  These leaders can be both current and historical.  Encourage children to learn about the accomplishments these leaders have done.  Find articles, documentaries/movies, and books about these leaders.  If possible, parents can create an opportunity for their child to meet and spend some time with these leaders.  Along with this, it’s also important for parents to spend time educating their child about their culture’s history and taking part in their cultural community.  Spend time enjoying food, art, music, and religion from the child’s minority culture.

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

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