Under the Umbrella: Holiday Triggers

Have you ever experienced a sight, sound, or smell that instantly brought on a memory of past experience? For example, the smell of a cooking ham or turkey can Under the Umbrella: Holiday Triggersinstantly bring back memories of a past family meal during the holidays. What you experience might even go beyond a mere memory; you might actually find yourself experiencing some intense emotions that are associated with that memory. This particular phenomenon is known as a trigger and, with all of the dazzling sights, sounds, smells, and activities associated with the holiday season, this time of year is filled with them.
For many people, the holiday season is filled with sensory triggers that will evoke positive memories of family and togetherness. However, for a child who has been separated from her family of origin, either through foster care or adoption, the holidays may trigger traumatic memories and negative emotions. Families who are caring for these children might feel confused about why the child in their care is showing signs of depression, defiance, or even angry outbursts during a normally happy time of year.
When a child enters foster care, or joins a family through adoption, she has already experienced a series of losses, and the holidays can be a difficult reminder of these losses. She might be thinking of former foster families or brothers and sisters, birth parents, or other birth relatives with whom she celebrated the holidays before. In HiResaddition, she might also be feeling the loss of particular holiday traditions and rituals that were important to her family of origin. A part of her may even feel that she is betraying her birth family by participating in your family’s celebrations. The holiday season may also remind her of past trauma, and the circumstances that led her to your family.  All of these swirling emotions and conflicting feelings may look like outbursts, tantrums, and depression in children.
If you are noticing some changes in the behavior of the children in your care, please keep in mind how the holiday atmosphere may be triggering the complex emotions and feelings described above. Take time to talk with the child about how she is feeling. It might also be helpful to look at your family’s traditions and see how you might incorporate some elements that hold a special meaning for the child you are caring for. Many foster and adoptive parents see this time of year as an opportunity to extend invitations to members of the child’s birth family, including them in the season’s celebration through exchanging gifts, cards, and photos. These are just a few ideas that may make the transition trough the holiday season a smoother one for children who have experienced similar losses and trauma.
The holiday season can be a joyous time, but also a stressful one for many families. This is particularly true for the child in your life who may be reminded of the various losses and traumatic memories associated with the foster care and adoption experience. By understanding the role triggers play in a child’s mood and behavior, families and caregivers can work to make sure this holiday season is a bright success. Please remember that all of us at the Coalition are here to support you in your foster and adoptive journey.

World Wide Wednesday, November 25, 2015

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

  • New foster care app educates caregivers and youth: The new “FOCUS on Foster Families” app provides resources and information to foster caregivers and youth in care. Hundreds of video resources feature foster care alumni and parents sharing advice. Read more in The Chronicle of Social Change.
  • Blog Post: Every Corner of My Life – “Being a birth mother is such an incredible gift. It is part of my story, and whether people realize it or not, it reaches into every corner of my life.” Read the full post

  • Many Kinds of Love: My excitement over the prospect of meeting my birth mother does not detract from or negate my love for my adoptive parents.
  • Everything You Need to Know about Scholarships and Foster Adoption: Some programs and scholarships aimed at helping foster care alumni afford a college education.

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: To Search or Not to Search

Tip Sheet Tuesday: To Search or Not to SearchAdoption is often viewed as a triad that exists between the adoptee, adoptive family, and the birth family. But for many Wisconsin adoptees, this triad may not feel whole because of a lack of information about their birth family. To complete the picture, many adoptees choose to search for the missing information.

People can sometimes make an unfair assumption that the reason behind an
adoptee’s wish to search for information about her birth family stems from dissatisfaction with or a conflict within the adoptive family. However, for adoptees, there are several reasons why you might choose to search for information about your birth parents and other birth family members. Before beginning your search, it’s important to have a good understanding of your reasons for searching, realistic expectations, and a personal support system in place to help you through what can be an emotional journey.

“My parents told me early on that I was adopted and that someday I could search for my birth parents if I was interested . . . Finding my birth parents really helped me complete the picture of who I am. It was very useful to gather their medical history, but it was also very helpful to talk about [the reason my birth parents made an adoption plan].”
John Bauman, Wisconsin Adoptee

Reasons for Searching
Curiosity about your past. It’s quite common for all of us to feel curious about our own personal histories. For those who were adopted, there may be many unanswered questions about the past, and you may find that you feel driven to find those answers. Depending on the type of adoption (domestic, international, or adoption from the foster care system) these questions could include:

  • Why did my parents choose to make an adoption plan for me?
  • Why was I placed in foster care?
  • Did my parents fight to keep me?
  • Why were their parental rights terminated?
  • What was it like to live in my country of origin?
  • Do I have any birth siblings?
  • What about extended birth family?
  • Continue reading

Under the Umbrella: Open Adoptions

Under the Umbrella: Open AdoptionsThere is a lot of information out there about open adoptions. Some of it is accurate and true and some of it is just plain false. While, in Wisconsin, open adoptions are not legally binding, it is thought to be, under the correct circumstances, in the best interest of the child or youth being adopted. Following are a few common myths and the realities of open adoptions.

  • Myth: In an open adoption, children are confused about who their parents and siblings are.

    Actually, children understand the roles of their adoptive parents and their birth parents. It does make things easier for children when the adults have open and honest communication with them and each other.

  • Myth: Open adoption is a form of co-parenting.

    Actually, in an open adoption, both parties understand the change in the other’s role once an adoption is finalized. Upon finalization of an adoption, the adoptive parents assume all the legal rights and responsibilities of parents and it is final. Birth parents also understand that they have relinquished their legal rights. While communication and contact occurs, the adoptive parents are the decision makers when it comes to the care and well-being of the child or youth.

  • Myth: Open adoption plans tend to break down over time.

    Actually, open adoption is like any other relationship, and all relationships have ebbs and flows. Not all open adoption plans are a one-size-fits-all; what works for one family may not hold true for another. It is likely that the relationship between the adoptive parents and birth parents will change over time. Being able to have open communication and honor each other’s roles in the life of the child or youth is useful in growing that relationship.

There can be a lot of benefits to having an open adoption. Above all, the benefit of an open adoption relationship revolve around what is in the best interest of the child or youth. An open adoption does not diminish the grief and loss a birth parent feels when they make an adoption plan; though an open adoption may help them find peace with their decision as they see the child grow and thrive with his or her adoptive family. An open adoption will not discourage a child or youth’s questions surrounding his or her adoption; though it may make it easier to obtain the answers he or she is seeking. Many adoptive families who have open adoption plans are thankful that their child has the opportunity to know his birth family members.

The Coalition for Children, Youth and Families is here to support all foster and adoptive families. If you need more support or information, you can always call us for help, we’d love to hear from you! Call our toll-free number 1-800-762-8063 or email us at info@coalitionforcyf.org.

World Wide Wednesday, November 18, 2015

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

  • Siblings: The Ties that Bind – International adoption can sometimes cause siblings to be separated when they are unable to be placed together.  For many children, the relationship a child has with his or her sibling(s) is the longest sustained relationship they have had in their life, often beyond that with their biological parents.  Therefore, being separated from this important person can be truly devastating to a child and he or she may experience fear, grief, loss, isolation, and depression. Continue reading

  • As the First Wave of China Adoptees returns to re-connect, this 5-Part Series, To Connect and Be Loved, is a touching testimonial of what is to come:

    “I’m worried that I lack the right words to adequately convey the way I felt about living and working with these children in China.” Juliet shared about the the combined experience that was at once wonderful, fulfilling, exciting, funny, frightening and, sometimes, heartbreaking. “Before I even left, I was vowing to come back”

    Read her 5 Part Series

  • Six Children’s Books that Use Psychological Techniques to Help Kids: Currently Amazon’s number one best-selling book, The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep, isn’t popular because of its riveting plot or gorgeous illustrations. Parents are buying the self-published book from Swedish author and psychologist Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin because it promises to use “psychological techniques” to help children fall asleep. These six children’s books all use well-established psychological methods, from cognitive behavioral therapy to deep breathing, to help children deal with a variety of issues. Continue Reading

  • Blog Post: Sharing the Seasons – “At this time last year, Mike and I were making the final decision to pursue adoption through the foster care system. I remember the way we figuratively stamped the decision we’d been dancing around for months with a final, “let’s do it,” as we drove across our state, brushstrokes of red, orange and yellow zipping past us.” Continue reading

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: Internet Safety Tips for Caregivers

The Internet offers many opportunities for adults and children to learn, and the Internet has also dramatically changed how we communicate.

Tip Sheet Tuesday: Internet Safety Tips for CaregiversUnfortunately, the Internet is also a place where children and adults can be seriously victimized by various kinds of predators. Children and adults can be exposed to cyber-bullying, inappropriate content, and loss of privacy.

In order to effectively protect our children, parents need to know the dangerous aspects of the Internet, including taking the necessary steps to promote internet safety for your family.

The Crimes Against Children Research Center found that one in five youth using the internet received online sexual solicitations. We need to encourage our children to come to us when something inappropriate happens.

Following are some tips that may be helpful for you and your children.

Establishing Family Ground Rules
Families have established house rules for a multitude of behaviors and expectations, but sometimes families neglect to address the importance of developing clear and
consistent rules regarding computer usage.

Families can post a written Family Internet Agreement that should:

  • Set clear boundaries on prohibiting the posting or sharing of personal identifying information online, such as names, pictures, telephone numbers, addresses, passwords, or credit card numbers.This includes not letting your child’s last name appear on the “from” line and some foster parents don’t allow their child to have even his or her first name as part of the email address. Absolutely do not let your child have an email address like Jane.Doe2011@email.com.
  • Continue reading on our website.

Under the Umbrella: “Screen Time” for Kids

How many hours of TV does your child watch each day? What about video games, computer time, and tablet use? When you add it up, your child may be spending a good amount of their day in front of a screen. Many parents and caregivers are giving more consideration to how screen time impacts their child(ren).
Under the Umbrella: "Screen Time" for KidsDo you know what role technology played in your child’s life before they came to your home? Your child may have spent a lot of time in front of a TV or computer screen, or she may not have had much access to technology. Depending on their experience, screen time may be familiar and comforting, or a new novelty. Some children who are in foster care or who were adopted would benefit from less screen time and more in-person interactions. Other children may need extra screen time to develop certain skills and practice social interactions in a less intimidating format. One thing that is clear is that technology is now ingrained in all our lives. What is not clear is to what extent children should spend using technology.
In recent years, the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) was that children under the age of two should have little to no screen time, and children over age two should be limited to two hours per day. This suggestion was based on research, which indicated that screen time for young children could negatively affect brain development. It goes without surprise that many families found this advice challenging – if not impossible – to follow. Recently, the AAP has relaxed these guidelines to help inform parents on how to best incorporate screen time into their families’ lives. Listed below are the new recommendations from the AAP when it comes to screen time for children. These suggestions apply to all families, including those formed through foster care and adoption.
Asian girl and her dad
  • Media is just another environment. Children do the same things they have always done, only virtually. Like any environment, media can have positive and negative effects.
  • Parenting has not changed. The same parenting rules apply to your children’s real and virtual environments. Play with them. Set limits; kids need and expect them. Teach kindness. Be involved. Know their friends and where they are going with them.
  • Role modeling is critical. Limit your own media use, and model online etiquette. Attentive parenting requires face time away from screens.
  • We learn from each other. Neuroscience research shows that very young children learn best via two-way communication. “Talk time” between caregiver and child remains critical for language development. Passive video presentations do not lead to language learning in infants and young toddlers. The more media engender live interactions, the more educational value they may hold (e.g., a toddler chatting by video with a parent who is traveling). Optimal educational media opportunities begin after age two, when media may play a role in bridging the learning achievement gap.
  • Content matters. The quality of content is more important than the platform or time spent with media. Prioritize how your child spends his time rather than just setting a timer.
  • Curation helps. More than 80,000 apps are labeled as educational, but little research validates their quality. An interactive product requires more than “pushing and swiping” to teach. Look to organizations like Common Sense Media that review age-appropriate apps, games, and programs.
  • Co-engagement counts. Family participation with media facilitates social interactions and learning. Play a video game with your kids. Your perspective influences how your children understand their media experience. For infants and toddlers, co-viewing is essential.
  • Playtime is important. Unstructured playtime stimulates creativity. Prioritize daily unplugged playtime, especially for the very young.
  • Set limits. Tech use, like all other activities, should have reasonable limits. Does your child’s technology use help or hinder participation in other activities?
  • It’s OK for your teen to be online. Online relationships are integral to adolescent development. Social media can support identity formation. Teach your teen appropriate behaviors that apply in both the real and online worlds. Ask teens to demonstrate what they are doing online to help you understand both content and context.
  • Create tech-free zones. Preserve family mealtime. Recharge devices No mobile signovernight outside your child’s bedroom. These actions encourage family time, healthier eating habits and healthier sleep.
  • Kids will be kids. Kids will make mistakes using media. These can be teachable moments if handled with empathy. Certain aberrations, however, such as sexting or posting self-harm images, signal a need to assess youths for other risk-taking behaviors.

Do you have questions about your child’s screen time? Start by checking out some of the tip sheets below. You may also want to talk to your child’s doctor or teacher for advice. And as always, The Coalition for Children, Youth and Families is here to listen to your concerns. Feel free to reach out to us at (414) 475-1246 to discuss this topic or other issues that affect foster and adoptive families.

Featured Tip Sheets