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Mother’s Day

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Mother’s Day is a celebration to honor the mother of the family, motherhood, and maternal bonds. It doesn’t matter the adjective in front of the word “mother.” Whether you’re a birth mother, adoptive mother, foster mother, guardian mother, stepmother, godmother, kinship mother, you deserve to be celebrated on this day. Being a mother does not stop with DNA. A mother encompasses that and so much more.

Mother’s Day was held on May 9th, 2021 of this year, but any day is a great day to appreciate mothers and everything they have done for us.  It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, most commonly in March or May. The American incarnation of Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908. Jarvis campaigned to have Mother’s Day recognized by the federal government, and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill that designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. Jarvis would later denounce the holiday’s commercialization and spent the latter part of her life trying to remove it from the calendar. While dates and celebrations vary, Mother’s Day traditionally involves presenting moms with flowers, cards, and tokens of appreciation. Mothers deserve to be thanked, spoiled, and loved on in their own special way; however that looks to them and their family.

 “When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.” – Sophia Loren

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

Why Use Scripts?

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Sometimes it is hard to find the right words; everything takes time and practice. Speaking from personal experience, finding the right words to write in a blog or the right words to say during a webinar can be difficult. Using key phrases, terms, and scripts with your adoptive and guardianship children will build trust and familiarity.  Scripts are short, verbal cues that parents use to remind a child of the desired behavior. Scripts help to communicate a sense of safety and connectedness in moments of distress or dysregulation.

Why use scripts?

When our kids are upset, it is hard to talk with them. If our child’s brain is overloaded with a perceived threat or big feelings during a meltdown, they cannot process much of anything. Even our attempts to help them calm down go unnoticed. Those big feelings are scary for our kids. Therefore, our task in their moment of dysregulation is to help them re-regulate. They need to trust us to help them adjust their behavior and emotions to a more appropriate state.

Using scripts acts as mental muscle memory to help get our kids back on track without requiring a lot of mental processing power. Suppose you’ve ever witnessed a teacher quiet an entire class with a simple call-and-response. In that case, you are already familiar with the idea. A short, frequently-used phrase like “Use your words” or “Ask, don’t tell” reminds your kids of how they’re supposed to behave without being disciplinary. People continually follow scripts that are acquired through habit, practice, and simple routine.

Dr. Karen Purvis’ book with Lisa Qualls and Emmelie Pickett – offered a few practical examples of scripts.

5 Tips for Creating Scripts

  1. Keep it simple.

Use as few words as possible, no more than five or six. Only address one behavior per script. Make sure you offer a specific and direct behavioral response to challenging behavior. Telling a child in the middle of a tantrum to “Behave!” is useless but telling her, “Use your words” is concrete action. Or you can say, “We need to use our inside voice.”

  1. Practice scripts when everyone is calm.

Remember, when your child is dysregulated, it is not time to start using a new script they’ve not heard before. Identify problem behaviors you want to target, develop your scripts, and introduce them when everyone is calm.

You could try role-playing to practice the scripts, especially if you have a younger kid who likes to engage in imaginary play. Building familiarity with the scripts and the desired behavior can increase everyone’s ease of using the scripts together. If he has heard the script before, he will be better able to remember and process what it means when dysregulated.

  1. Praise good behavior.

When your child behaves correctly, use those positive “cheerleader” type-scripts to acknowledge their good behavior and praise them for it. “Great listening!” or “Thank you for the kind words” are examples of positive reinforcement that helps your child associate the script with the desired behavior. It also builds your child’s confidence that she can act in praise-worthy ways. Dr. Purvis called this “marking the task.”

  1. Watch your tone.

Scripts are designed to remind your child of desired behavior without fussing or nagging. They will be ineffective if you say them through clenched teeth. Make sure you deliver the script in a gentle, non-threatening tone of voice. Remember, use the script as a reminder of positive behavior, not a punishment for negative behavior.

Children read our nonverbal communication, so we need to pay attention to our facial expressions and posture, and our tone of voice is critical when teaching the behaviors we want to see.

  1. Make your scripts age-appropriate.

A script that works great for your five-year-old might feel condescending when said to your tween or teen. You can still expect the same behavior. But as They get older, you should modify the language you use.

Your tone in age-appropriate ways is key with tweens and teens. It would be best to strive for light-hearted reminders early in the interactions that don’t feel like commands. His natural need for independence might feel triggered if he feels that you are talking to him like he is a child.  When you are talking about using a tone, you can use the example, “Do you want to try that again with respect.” which initiates a redo.

Set your child up for success.

The repetition of scripts will create comfort for both the child and those around them. Scripts allow us to predict how others will behave and fulfill our need for a sense of control. When things would get chaotic in our house, my mom would make a “T” with her arms, and we all knew it was time to calm down. My son will use the phrase, “Real talk,” when he needs the conversation to be serious and not goofy. The starting points for script points will take time and practice to develop.  However, to be truly useful, you need to develop your unique scripts for your family.

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

Lisa Qualls | One Thankful Mom

Creating Healthy Interactions with Your Children

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Let’s face it, sometimes life gets busy, and we can forget to slow down and be in the moment.  Being present with your children and set aside quality time as a family is essential for healthy growth and development.  Children learn and thrive when they have strong, loving, positive relationships with their parents. Have a fun family activity planned; spending quality time together can create lasting memories while building your relationship.

There are many activities you can do with your children to promote healthy interactions.  Cooking a meal together, reading a book, doing a craft, playing board games, or outdoor activities are great ways to implement quality time, while also having fun.  Growing up, I always cherished time in the kitchen helping out with dinner or baking a delicious treat with my parents.  It was a time to talk about our day, what’s going on in life, and have a good laugh or two.

Since the pandemic hit a little over a year ago, it may be challenging to find new and fun ways to include family time while being at home.  Being stuck at home may have brought more screen time for your children, such as watching TV, being on the computer, or playing on IPad’s with friends.  You may be feeling it’s challenging to interact and engage with your child.  Try Theraplay!  Theraplay is structured play therapy for children that involves parents.  The main goal is to boost attachment, self-esteem, trust in others, and provide positive enjoyment.  Theraplay interactions focus on four essential qualities found in parent-child relationships: Structure, Engagement, Nurture, and Challenge.  Theraplay can help children who have experienced trauma begin to heal.  Theraplay can also help children with developmental disorders feel more comfortable with social interaction and help families experience happiness and connection. The activities are designed to be simple, fun and interactive, and better yet, can be done at home!

Here are a few activities you can do with your children at home that meet the essential qualities of Theraplay, which fun and relatively easy:

  • Balloon Balance:  Blow up a balloon.  Spread out in an open space and see who can keep their balloon in the air the longest.  Make it more challenging by just using one hand or no hands at all!  This activity can help children focus and work on patience.
  • Hand Stack: Take a seat on the ground or in a chair facing each other.  One partner starts by placing their hand palm side down.  The other partner places one of their hands on top and continues doing this repeatedly, essentially creating a tower.  Go until you cannot reach anymore.  This activity helps children learn to take turns and wait.
  • Up We Go: Partners sit back to back, with their elbows linked, and try to stand up.  Once standing, try to sit back down while elbows are still linked.  This activity helps children practice teamwork as well as communication skills.
  • Balloon Tennis:   Blow up a balloon and use ping pong paddles or racquets made out of paint stir sticks and paper plates. Volley back and forth as long as you can without the balloon touching the ground. This activity enhances the development of motor skills.

During your next family night, try out one of the activities and pay attention to how your children react and how you interact as a whole.  Supporting your children and having healthy interactions through quality time creates healthy relationships.  As they say, children grow up in the blink of an eye, make the time you have a memorable one.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Intern, Greta Stanton

Helping Your Child Own Their Story

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I want to encourage families to consider what they’re sharing about their youth’s adoption or guardianship journey.  What is the point of what they’re sharing?  While sharing may seem innocent, the end results could really be detrimental to the child; the child may feel embarrassed, even horrified, that others know their story.  I want to encourage parents who are raising adoptive or guardianship children to fully allow their child to own their story.

Allow your child to determine who, what, when, where, why, and how their story is shared. Continue to have conversations encouraging your child to have this control over sharing, but also teaching that there are times and places to share, and how to share, such as at a doctor’s appointment.  Teach that it is ok to keep some information private, information on birth family or what lead to being in foster care/being adopted.  Help come up with questions they might be asked and help your child come up with answers they’re comfortable with sharing.

This may be confusing for children to understand, and it’s to be expected.  Provide opportunities for ongoing conversation and help youth to become more aware of their story, confident in understanding that they have the control of sharing their story, and the skill in sharing appropriately.

 

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

Managing Emotions and Feelings

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Think back to a time when you were experiencing challenging behaviors from your children and how you responded to those behaviors. What was your reaction? Did you get upset and angry, ignore, or avoid the situation? Managing your feelings and emotions can be tough when handling challenging behaviors. Understanding self-awareness and self-regulation is important for helping your children manage emotions and feelings as well.

All parents have been to a point in their parenting journey where their emotions and feelings may get the best of them and maybe don’t respond in the way they had hoped for. If you reacted with anger, you might feel guilty after the fact about your response. If you answered with avoidance, you might feel guilty that you didn’t address the behavior. Depending on your type of reaction, that response may escalate an already challenging behavior.

Managing emotions and feelings in front of your children is essential. How you respond to a particular situation, models to your children how to react when they are upset. Adults and caregivers need to be aware of their emotions and feelings to help children learn how to manage their own feelings and emotions in a healthy and appropriate manner.

Here are some strategies that may help parents and caregivers handle situations noted in the article Managing Your Own Emotions: The Key to Positive, Effective Parenting:

  • Tune into your feelings:
    • Understanding and knowing how you feel regarding a specific behavior, situation, or issue can help you to respond more appropriately and positively to a problem.
  • Do the unexpected:
    • Instead of becoming frustrated or angry with a situation, Claire Lerner, recommends doing something unexpected, such as giving your child a big bear hug or doing something silly. Doing something unexpected can be a distraction to the negative or unwanted feeling/behavior. (Managing your own emotions: The Key to Positive, Effective Parenting).
  • Give yourself a time-out:
    • Giving yourself a time-out can help you keep calm and be able to help manage emotions more appropriately. Stepping away from the situation for a few minutes to calm down and gather your thoughts and then returning to the behavior or issue will be helpful.

 

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

References:

https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/521-managing-your-own-emotions-the-key-to-positive-effective-parenting

Dad’s Retreat from a Coordinator’s Perspective

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This weekend I was honored to be a fly on the wall during our first annual virtual Dad’s Retreat, led by the infamous Mike Berry with Honestly Adoption Co. I have to admit; it took me a minute to feel like I wasn’t invading this sacred safe space for Dads.  “Would my presence deter them from feeling comfortable enough to share openly?”  Despite my concerns, the dads didn’t seem to be phased by my presence.  Here are a few takeaways I gained from being a part of the retreat.

Men are not emotionless as society often encourages them to be.  Some may be more in tune with their emotions than some women if given a safe, supportive forum such as the retreat.  It was genuinely heartwarming watching the men “raising their glasses” to each other, relating to each other, exchanging contact information, and lifting each other up.

Men often feel the pressure to “fix” their family problems, which is an unrealistic role for them to take on.  This doesn’t mean their instincts are to be hard on their struggling or traumatized children or spouse, but more often hard on themselves.  Some may take on responsibility for their family as a whole, which is too much pressure to take on.  A very crucial point Mike would address throughout the retreat was the importance of not only self-care but self-compassion.

Mike connected this “fixer” mentality with a book he referenced called The Gardener and the Carpenter by Alison Gopnik.  A carpenter is representative of all parents who do all they can to maintain their family.  Although their heart is in the right place, “fixing” may not be what their family needs from them.  Rather than be a fixer, Mike encouraged the dads to be a gardener instead.  Nurture your spouse and children, and do your best to model morals and values.  Accept the fact that things aren’t always going to go your way, especially if you have traumatized children in your home.  Your spouse doesn’t need things fixed, sometimes all they want is for you to listen.

Dads, be kind to yourselves.  You are enough and just what your family needs.

Disclaimer:  These thoughts and ideas are not consistent across the board with all family units, simply observations based on retreat attendees.

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

5 Parenting Tips When You Have a Challenging Child

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When you have a challenging child, sometimes it feels like you are slogging through mud in the trenches of life. It’s hard to see your way out of the struggle or to remember that there are days that you feel like you are succeeding at this thing called parenting.

However, we all have those days when success in parenting feels like an impossible goal. Maybe you are parenting an adopted, guardianship or foster child who has experienced trauma or abuse. Perhaps they have brain damage caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs. Maybe they are not sleeping most nights because they still don’t feel entirely safe enough just yet – no matter how gentle and predictable you’ve crafted your nighttime routine to be. Whatever the reason, some kids are simply more challenging to parent.

When you are in the trenches of parenting a challenging child, it’s hard to see a way out of the struggle. In those hard times, you need some “quick” tips and tricks to help you cope. Read over these tips every week until you start to climb your way out of the parenting depths.

  1. Practice self-care.

Our number one recommendation before you do anything else is to take care of yourself. You’ve heard the airplane analogy, but it’s true. “You have to put on your air mask before you can help someone else.” Your sanity and energy are the most important thing you bring your family and to your challenging child, so you must find a way regularly to recharge.

Take an afternoon to walk in a local park. Go window shopping (or actual shopping) at the mall by yourself. Spend a Saturday morning at Starbucks. Schedule a monthly massage, plan for a regular exercise class. Sing in the church choir. Block out your calendar for a daily run. Whatever feeds your soul and brings you joy qualifies as self-care, and should be a priority in your calendar.

Your sanity and energy are the most important thing you bring to your family and your challenging child, therefore you must find a way regularly to recharge.

  1. Find your person.

Finding your person is similar to self-care, with a similar analogy: When your battery is dead, you need to connect with a live cell to recharge. Who is your live battery? Who can you connect with when you are in the trenches? Who will understand and support you? It would help if you had an online or in-person friend who’s been where you’re at, a therapist, your spouse, or all three. Find your person and let them know that you are struggling and will need to lean on them to help you through the hard days.

  1. Educate yourself about the impacts of trauma.

The more you learn about the forces that shaped this child, the better equipped you can be to cope and parent this child. Read or listen to interviews about the impact of trauma on a child. Learn about how alcohol and drug exposure during pregnancy can leave their mark. Begin to understand how your temperament, personality, and attachment style influence how you respond to this child.

  1. Cut your challenging child — and yourself — some slack.

Cultivate empathy for your child. When you are in the thick of the struggles, that might feel like a tall order, once they are asleep (and looking angelic), remind yourself of what happened to them that brought them to this place. Focus on the fact that your child is not purposely trying to drive you crazy and make you feel like a failure.

While you are thinking compassionately about your child, direct some empathetic thoughts inward. What issues from your past are you bringing to this interaction? Do you hate conflict because of your own family of origin? Do you crave order and structure in your life to feel secure? Does your love language conflict with your child’s? For example, do you want physical affection, but this child expresses love through being helpful? Be kind to yourself while teaching yourself to be compassionate for your child’s path.

  1. Play together!

Never underestimate the power of having fun as a person and family to help you through the dark times. Allison Douglas, Family Advocate with the Harmony Center, said it well in a Creating a Family AdoptionEd.org course:

“The more difficult the child, the more fun you should be having with them.”

Find one thing that you and your challenging child enjoy and make a point of doing it together frequently. Once you find one thing, look for something else. Please keep it simple, easily accessible, and inexpensive: bike riding, playing catch, making silly TikToks together, reading books aloud, or baking cookies.

Make the Changes

These five tips can help you parent your challenging child. These are not one and done tips that you can check off a list and then move forward. Instead, they will help you focus on healthy routines and planning for YOU if you are like most parents juggling real life. These tips might need to be tweaked and re-calibrated as the current pandemic-living evolves. It’s worth it because these lifestyle changes can open up opportunities to grow and succeed as a parent by any definition of the word!

Reference: Credits: by Tracy Whitney  

 

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

Identifying Parental Stress and The Circle of Support

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It is undeniable North Dakota adoption agencies have made so many progressions when preparing all prospective adoptive parents.  Ten years ago, there was very little training for parents to understand the unique task of parenting adopted youth.  It’s common for newly adoptive parents to say things like, “we want to adopt because it’s the right thing to do” or “adoption is our calling.”  Although this perspective is well-intentioned, adoptive parents need understand love just isn’t enough, especially when adopting special need children or adolescents.

According to Jayne Schooler, new adoptive parents and well-versed adoptive parents need to recognize and understand their expectations for their adoptive kiddos.  Here are 10 common unrealistic parental expectations parents hold that need to be acknowledged at adoptive placement and addressed on-going after adoption finalization.

  1. Your ability to love this child is or should be enough.
  2. You will feel the love from this child easily and immediately
  3. Your child will or should have become a part of your family and learned how to function within your rules, goals, and ambitions.
  4. Your child’s needs will be just like those of non-adoptive children in the family.
  5. Your child will fit in well with extended family; the family will welcome or are welcoming them into the family.
  6. Your family and friends will respect your role as a parent and support you through the journey of raising an adoptive child.
  7. Your child sees or will see you as family and forget their birth family and the past.
  8. You can do for this child what was not done for you.
  9. You will not do or are not doing for this child what was done to you.
  10. You will never feel any regrets or resentment about adopting your child from a traumatic past.

Do you find yourself identifying very strongly with one or more of these expectations?  As much as any parent would hold the desire to feel very strongly about all of these statements and also be validated well after finalization, the reality is these expectations are unrealistic and may set the family up for failure.

The repercussions of holding unrealistic expectations can put parents at risk of stress or depression.  It’s essential to continue to check-in with yourself and/or your significant other regularly.  Signs of stress may include headaches, stomach problems, procrastination, overly critical, isolation, irritability, forgetfulness, and anxious thoughts.  If you have concerns of being stressed and depressed, don’t be afraid to reach out to a mental health professional.

One of the most essential things for adoptive parents is having a strong support system.  Heather Bench, an adoptive mom, created the Circle of Support.  This circle includes: The Rock: A person(s) who will remain in your life during the difficult times and continue to love you unconditionally, The Wise:  A person(s) who will always tell the truth even when it is not what you want to hear, The Learner:  A person(s) who will learn alongside you, The Helping Hand: A person(s) who understands and is aware when you may need a break and steps in to assist, and The Advocate: A person(s) who will always stand up for you and continue to support you.  If you feel burnout, unsupported, or lack supports, please contact your local Post Adopt Coordinator for support and assistance.  We’re here for you!

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

https://traumafreeworld.org/

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

www.hopeconnections.com

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