Under the Umbrella: Back to School

Under the Umbrella: Back to School

The long summer months are now winding down, which means that the school year is about to begin. Hitting all the back to school sales to stock up on school supplies is the easy part, but preparing the children in your home for the new school year might require a little more planning. Here are some tips to make sure that first day is a success.

  • Reestablish school routines: A few weeks before the first day of school, parents can begin preparing children to get back into the swing of things. This can include having children wake up and get dressed the same time every morning or getting children used to leaving the house every morning by planning morning activities.
  • Talk to children about their feelings:For many children, returning to school can be a stressful time. New teachers, new classmates, and new routines can all cause children a great deal of anxiety. Take time to talk with your children about how they are feeling now that it’s time to go back to school. Talking together can help your kids work through their feelings and give them the confidence to face the new challenges each new school year brings.
  • Reduce the first day anxiety: If you think back on your childhood, you probably remember that the first day of school is the most stressful day of the year. Parents can help children navigate this stress. Start by having the children organize their school supplies and pack their backpacks and by letting children pick out their own outfits for the first day. Many parents even take the time to visit the bus stop, or walk children through the drop off and pickup routines. By eliminating as many unknowns as possible, parents can help their children feel great about their first day.

The tips above apply to all children, but if you are caring for children who have recently joined your family through foster care or adoption, you might have to put some extra time and thought into helping them adjust to the new school year. After all, these children may be in a new school, on a new bus route, or separated from their familiar school friends.  At the very least, they may be used to routines that were established by their birth parents or other caregivers, and they will need your support and guidance to make healthy and successful adjustments.

The Coalition for Children, Youth & Families is here to support you and your family as you gear up for the new school year. Check out some resources below, or reach out to a Resource Specialist today.

Featured Tip Sheets

World Wide Wednesday: August 26, 2015

iStock_000003621765_LargeIt’s World Wide Wednesday! Here’s what’s news in the world of foster care and adoption around the web:

  • Building Attachments with the Five Love Languages: “I believe in the wisdom behind Dr. Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages. The idea that each of us gives and receives love in different ways, just makes good sense. The use of love languages is a way to build bonds with anyone that you care about, but also a wonderful way to build an attachment with foster or adopted children.”
  • Keep Calm and Carry On . . . You’re a Foster Carer! “Foster care would be that little bit easier if you could press a ‘pause’ button on your own life. What would we not give for some sort of arrangement to put everything on hold, as we work to resolve the seemingly intractable problems of the children who come into our care? But the reality is that our own lives carry on: stuff happens to us too, with no regard for the children and young people who have been entrusted to us.”
  • Other Brothers (and Sisters!): Many adopted children have biological siblings. Six families share their stories of meeting or adopting their child’s birth brothers or sisters. (From Adoptive Families magazine)
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders: Facts and Resources.

Have news you’d like to share? Please post in our comments!

Inclusion in this post does not imply an endorsement by the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families. The Coalition is not responsible for the content of these resources.

Tip Sheet Tuesday: What Do These Behaviors Mean?

“I’m a convert!” said one formerly skeptical Wisconsin foster-adoptive parent. “It really is all about fear, and sometimes it really is as simple as asking, ‘What are you afraid of?’”

Kim talks about how frustrated she was in not being able to break through her daughter’s defiance. Finally one day while driving, she asked her daughter, “You don’t act out at school, right? But you do with me. Why is that?” Right away her daughter answered, “I’m afraid that Monique [her daughter’s biological mom] is drinking again and if she drinks, she might hurt someone and I don’t want her to go to jail.”

Kim was stunned. She had no idea how much her daughter still thought about her past and how scared she was to have someone she loved potentially be incarcerated. What’s more, Kim was surprised that there was no real link to the “why” behind her daughter’s behaviors and her daughter’s fears. Like most of us, Kim was taking her daughter’s outbursts personally.

While Kim says that she was glad for the immediate breakthrough in that particular incident, she also admits that it wasn’t the cure-all she was hoping for and didn’t always have the same results in other attempts.

Tip Sheet Tuesday: What's do These Behaviors Mean?Not An Easy Fix
As with other parenting approaches, this is not an easy fix. It may not generate immediate results, but over time, it can help you with your child’s most challenging behaviors. Heather Forbes wrote about a lot of these behaviors in her book, Beyond Consequences Logic and Control: A Love Based Approach to Helping Children with Severe Behaviors.

Here are some different approaches that may help in understanding some of the most challenging behaviors.

Fear and Stress
Most children lack the words and understanding to identify what they are feeling and what they need. Instead, children may act out when the emotions are too big or scary. Often, the emotion causing the behaviors is fear— triggered especially when too much stress is present. It’s hard when your own stress level is high, but try to respond to the fear behind your child’s actual behavior.

The following behaviors are common in children who have had a history of trauma or challenges with attachment. Some behaviors, however, are just ingrained in people—every child is born with a certain temperament and resilience level.

Aggression. A child displaying aggression can be scary to encounter. Kim says that even though her six-year-old can be completely heart melting at times, the sheer rage continues to amaze her. “It’s a shock to hear someone that little and sweet have so much hate directed at you and to have her use the f bomb, threats to kill and gestures that she does. It’s hard to think of her as vulnerable.”

Continue reading on our website.

Time Out! What to Do When Your Child’s Behavior Triggers You

Maybe it’s a dinner plate left with half a meal on it. Or a screaming fit that feels endless. Maybe it’s deliberate testing in ways that only your child knows will grind on your every nerve. Perhaps it’s the wrong attitude at the wrong time. There are countless opportunities for your child’s behavior to draw out your not-so-good side. No parent has avoided being tested and triggered by their children’s words and actions, and, often, it takes a series of live-and-learn moments to bring us to a better understanding of how to avoid parent melt-downs alongside kid melt-downs.

2204675_HiResCompassion – The Most Critical Tool
When kids act out (especially children who have experienced abuse, neglect, or other forms of trauma, rejection, and instability), they’re often exhibiting a very tender need in a less-than-optimal way. It may present as stubbornness or a power struggle, but we encourage you to try and see the world through the eyes of the child for that moment. You might see that he is in the midst of a transitional period – maybe he is missing a sibling, or struggling to form his identity despite missing or confusing pieces, or trying to make sense of all of the change and unpredictability in his life.

These moments of testing or crisis are when your child needs you most. It may be an opportunity for your child to realize that someone can manage their storm with them, and isn’t going to leave them when things get hard or when they lose control of themselves under pressure and pain. The unconditional love that this communicates back to your child can be very healing. None of this means condoning the behavior, but serves to coach him through the moment to use his words and other positive means to express his feelings, while showing him it’s safe for him to do so.

Think of compassion as your go-to anger-extinguisher. Keep it handy at all times.

Don’t Take It Personally
I have yet to meet the parent who has never heard the dreaded words, “I hate you” directed at them. It can make the blood boil in the moment, but, from a calm place, we know that hurtful words can be said merely to hurt someone, stop a perceived threat, express feelings of loss, or to alleviate pain. Remind yourself that it’s not personal, even if it feels personal. If you are able to, try to take a step back in that moment. Then, later, from a calmer and more thoughtful place, you may be able to reframe the situation in a way that will allow you to see the bigger picture behind a momentary hurtful outburst.

39778004_thumbnailHolding the Space
For some children, regulating emotions is more difficult than for others. As the parent, it’s important for you to remind yourself that you can use your regulation tools to keep the situation from escalating, especially when your child may not be able to do this. This is often referred to as “holding the space.” If your child is in emotional crisis, you can coach and support him through the episode in a way that de-escalates the situation and keeps him safe. Any serious conflict which arose can be discussed and managed later.

Whether it’s a full-blown crisis, or merely nails on a chalkboard, practice recognizing when you or your child are too stressed or unable to be rational. If that’s the case, or if you’re temporarily unable to be supportive of your child’s emotional needs, take a break. Avoid engaging when it can only lead to escalation. You may spare one another many emotional wounds that wouldn’t be inflicted if you or your child had a break for your thinking to shift back to a more rational, calm place.

Facing the Mirror
“It’s just the way he…”

“I just can’t stand when she…”

A lot of times, the minor annoyances that really get to us are inexpiable and unimportant. We know we can’t really rationalize them. What are the types of things that trigger you? Perhaps a drawn out tantrum doesn’t faze you, while a white lie about having homework done causes you to fly off the handle. What is it about that that triggers you? Sometimes the answers are easy and sometimes they are complex and take time to appear.

Increased self-awareness can lead to more accountability and rationality in the moment, preventing you from reacting on his or her level.

Gymnastic balance beam
The Balance Beam

When you take that step back, are you noticing that you are over-stressed and overwhelmed? In the bigger picture, you may find it helpful to identify ways that you can get some help to ease the tension of life’s demands. When we’re stressed and taxed, we lose the ability to manage ourselves and are significantly more likely to react sharply. It only takes a pin prick to set us off course. Seek support. You don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to do it alone. We’re here for your call.

Featured Tip Sheets

NEW Training: I Didn’t Expect This: When Issues Arise Post Adoption

I Didn't Expect This: When Issues Arise Post AdoptionChildren enter adoptive families with many needs. Some are evident at adoption; others surface in the course of later development. This workshop will explore common psychosocial concerns and emotional needs for youth who were adopted (both as part of a voluntary adoption plan or from foster care following history of disrupted relationships). Specifically, the presentation will briefly review the impact of early adversity on brain development and later behaviors, explore aspects of unspoken grief/loss often reported among adoptees, and consider fears of intimacy or questions of identity that may emerge during adolescence.  

About the Trainer
Samantha Wilson, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Pediatrics in the division of Child Development at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She is the staff psychologist within the International Adoption Clinic at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. In this role, she provides support to families at all stages of their adoption journeys, including pre-adoption education, initial consultation following a child’s immigration, school-age assessment, and child/family therapy. She has published numerous scholarly articles and book chapters on adoption, institutional care, attachment, and early child development. She is an adjunct staff to the Wisconsin-based TIES program, a heritage travel experience for children and families. Additionally, Dr. Wilson has clinical training/education to support the unique social-emotional development of infants/toddlers; she serves as an adjunct lecturer and clinical consultant to the University of Wisconsin Infant, Early Childhood, and Family Mental Health Capstone Program and provides reflective supervision to Early Head Start home visitors within Waukesha and West Bend, WI.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015
6-8 p.m.

$20/participant     $80/agency group

The Coalition for Children, Youth & Families
6682 W Greenfield Ave., Suite 310
Milwaukee, WI 53214
Attend via webinar

Register online, contact info@coalitionforcyf.org, or call 414-475-1246

World Wide Wednesday: August 19, 2015

iStock_000003621765_LargeIt’s World Wide Wednesday! Here’s what’s news in the world of foster care and adoption around the web:

  • Adoption Resources for Military Families: Military families stationed overseas and within the U.S. are not prohibited from adopting children from the U.S. foster care system.AdoptUSKids is working to help reduce barriers to adoption for military families. This includes providing free assistance to military families who are seeking to foster or adopt children from foster care, and developing free resources for child welfare agencies on best practices for working with military families.
  • 8 Tips for Helping Your Traumatized Child Rebuild Trust: When a child experiences or witnesses any form of emotional or physical abuse, their trust can become shattered. Trauma survivors may have trouble trusting their close family relationships or friendships. The symptoms of trauma can cause problems with trust, closeness, communication, and problem solving. These problems may affect the way the survivor acts with others.
  • Reinventing Intercountry Adoption: In the July 2015 issue of NCFA’s Adoption Advocate, C. Jackie Semar makes the case that to effectively and ethically promote the right of all children to have permanent families, it is necessary for adoption service providers to capitalize on collaboration. Only from a foundation of open dialogue and common purpose will we be able to strengthen intercountry adoption and address legitimate concerns in the adoption process.
  • 10 Tips to Help Your Child Follow Directions: Kids with learning and attention issues might have trouble following directions. Here are 10 ideas for helping your child improve.

Have news you’d like to share? Please post in our comments!

Inclusion in this post does not imply an endorsement by the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families. The Coalition is not responsible for the content of these resources.

Fact or Fiction: Dispelling Some of the Common Myths about Adoption

Families come to consider adoption as a way to grow for many reasons. Some families have biological children already, and simply want to add to their number through adoption, some struggle with infertility and others may have always “known” that they want to adopt. Ultimately, the one thing that all of these people have in common is a devotion to care for children who may have experienced some challenges at a young age.

As you take your own personal adoption journey, you’re likely to find a lot of information – some of it conflicting, some of it accurate and timely and some that gets passed along as fact when it is anything but.

We hear from many families every day about a range of issues in fostering and adopting. Following are several examples of common myths, inaccuracies and errors that we find ourselves addressing frequently. We believe that access to timely, accurate and factual information helps everyone along the journey of adoption.

Fact or Fiction: Dispelling Some of the Common Myths about AdoptionMisconception #1: The younger the child is, the fewer challenges will occur.
Unfortunately, we encounter this myth a lot, and it can contribute to a family’s feelings of frustration when looking to adopt an infant. The fact is, infants aren’t available for a variety of reasons.

The cost of working with a private adoption agency is not possible for every family, and there often is a long waiting list to be matched with an infant. The children in the Special Needs Adoption Program (children who are currently in foster care who need adoptive families) are typically elementary school aged and older.

Simply put, adopting a younger child doesn’t automatically guarantee fewer challenges. In fact, just as with birth children, there simply are no guarantees. There are ways to predict potential challenges, such as exposure to drugs/alcohol in utero, family and social history.

However, research shows that a child’s experience during pregnancy can create challenges regardless of exposure to abuse and neglect after birth. The environment the birth mother was in throughout her pregnancy and her ability to obtain appropriate prenatal care can play a big role.

Continue reading on our website.