Welcome to all foster parents who give their homes and hearts to disadvantaged children! Mission to inform and promote adoption through foster care by documenting our fostering adventures. A blog by Penelope Webster.
The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family is a book I highly recommend for anyone who parents kids with troubled backgrounds, and should be required reading for all foster and adoptive parents. This book can be used as a continual parenting resource because it discusses just about any issue that a foster or adoptive parent may encounter. In this in-depth, comprehensive book summary, I outline the variety of topics that this book covers.
While The Connected Child examines behavior with a holistic approach; it discusses in detail how the trauma of your child’s past has affected brain chemistry, fear response, and sensory processing abilities of your child. Although the information in the book is based on research, it is presented in easy-to-understand language.
The Connected Child Book Summary
The Connected Child begins by showing the reader that there can be HOPE and HEALING in your child. By closely observing your child, showing compassion, and eliminating the traditional parenting techniques that can become obstacles to attachment, you can create a connected relationship with your child hurt by trauma. READ HOW HOPELESS I FELT
The Connected Child stresses the importance of a baby’s first years, and how the loss of a nurtured environment can affect a child for a lifetime. This even includes the baby’s environment prenatally, and not just exposure to drugs and alcohol. Even a pregnant mother’s stress can cause an influx of stress hormones into an unborn child that can cause changes in a baby’s brain development. The Connected Child dedicates a chapter on how stress affects the chemistry of the brain and the importance of nutrition. READ HOW EARLY NEGLECT STILL AFFECTS MY CHILD
The Connected Child includes solid, practical advice for a variety of behaviors that could be attributed to the trauma of a child’s past. The key is to decipher the behavior and the hidden message behind it. FEAR DRIVES A HURT CHILD’S BEHAVIOR. A parent can disarm this fear in order to meet the child’s need. READ HOW TO IDENTIFY YOUR CHILD’S EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS
Children from hard places may not have learned appropriate social interactions. Due to their fear and survival instincts, a child may act out, throw tantrums, or try to manipulate or control others around them. The Connected Child discusses ways that a parent can teach life values, such as respect and accepting the word NO. The parent must consistently model these life values by staying calm, actively listening, and offering praise and encouragement. READ ABOUT MY STRUGGLE WITH CONNECTION
The Connected Child emphasizes how the traditional way of parenting with punishment, such as using time-outs, can be counterproductive to attachment by encouraging isolation and shame. This book provides a number of useful parenting strategies that you can put to use immediately, along with examples of dialog and phrases you can use. The emphasis is on providing a respectful environment which begins with the parent’s being mindful in their response to misbehavior. Parents can also build connection by staying close during the child’s tough times. The parenting techniques include offering choices and compromises, allowing re-do’s, and having a unified front with your partner to avoid triangulation. An entire chapter is devoted to dealing with defiance. READ HOW TO USE A TIME-IN FOR DISCIPLINE
The key to parenting children from hard places is to nurture at every opportunity with positive engagement and to be proactive in situations which may be difficult for your child. The Connected Child acknowledges that there will be setbacks, but encourages parents to look at the overall progress your child has made. READ WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I TREATED MY CHILD LIKE A BABY
The Connected Child concludes by discussing the importance of parents to heal their past emotional wounds.
“There are many wonderful, responsible, capable, and self-sacrificing people who carry around unresolved traumas and wounds inside them, and as a result they are unready to give the deep, nurturing care that an at-risk child requires.”
The Connected Child has become a reference book that I pick up and re-read over and over because I will always glean yet another great parenting strategy and understanding as I struggle to navigate through trauma behaviors.
With the large amount of parenting tools and advice given, this book may feel overwhelming for someone just beginning their foster/adoption journey. However, the book has a very thorough index in the back to help you find the topic you are needing help with.
I had been suffering with a cold for over a week, fortunately not the flu. I was waking up with a stuffy nose, but this January morning was different. I woke suddenly that morning with excruciating pain in my left ear. I had woken up with a sudden ear infection!
What’s this about? I hadn’t had an ear infection since I was a young child! I tried lifting my head but was overcome by dizziness, then I realized I couldn’t hear.
During my doctor visit, I was concerned about my hearing loss, but he assured me that antibiotics would clear up the infection. He said I would be better in a few days. However, after a few days of antibiotics, the pain had subsided, but I still couldn’t hear out of my left ear.
I called the doctor again; my stomach in knots. The doctor assured me again to not be alarmed. He even stated that my hearing may not return to normal for a month! I just had to have faith that the doctor was right.
So I began adjusting to life (and parenting) with a hearing impairment, and what I realized shocked me about my parenting style.
5 WAYS HEARING LOSS HAS MADE ME A BETTER PARENT:
1. NOT TALKING ACROSS ROOMS
I never realized how often our family talks to each other from across the room. By losing my hearing, I suddenly couldn’t hear what my family was saying to me. I realized that I had also been talking from a distance — Many times, it was me wanting my children to do something OR stop doing something. Then, when they didn’t comply, I would get irritated at them for “not listening to me.” How funny is that? Now I was the one not listening because I couldn’t hear. Do you find yourself talking across a room at your children?
2. GETTING CLOSE TO TALK TO EACH OTHER
This sudden hearing loss required that I be close to hear what my children were saying. Getting close didn’t just mean proximity though. Getting close also meant that I had to put aside what I was doing in order to hear my child. A parent’s one-on-one full attention to a child strengthens the parent-child connection that children from hard places desperately need.
3. LOOKING AT MY CHILDREN WHEN THEY SPEAK
This hearing loss was particularly hard for me as I grew up with a father that had a severe hearing loss. Would history be repeating itself? Wouldn’t that be ironic? Growing up, my dad was always asking his children to look at him when we spoke. My dad needed that face-to-face contact so he could read our lips. When I lost my hearing, I discovered how valuable looking into my child’s face was – both in understanding what my children were saying, and letting them know that I was completely tuned into them. Many times, children from hard places haven’t had an adult tune into them and meet their needs.
4. CREATING EYE CONTACT IN CONVERSATIONS
As the famous quote says: “Eyes are the windows of the soul.” Eye contact helps with attachment and your child’s ability to connect with people. That means getting down to eye level with your children so you can make that eye contact and truly listen to their needs. Eye contact shows your children that you are tuned into them.
5. STAYING CALM DURING A TANTRUM
Because I couldn’t hear, tantrums didn’t bother me as much. I was able to literally “tune them out” making it easier for me to stay calm. As a child throws a tantrum, not engaging in the tantrum helps parents stay calmer. A parent must not get caught up in a child’s dysregulation to be effective in bringing a child back down to calmness.
Over the last two months, my hearing has improved, but it still hasn’t been fully restored. However, having this hearing loss has taught me how to connect better with my children to avoid the confusion and frustration that can come with not being heard.
What happens when a family can’t be adopting siblings?Saying no is a guilt-ridden decision that can affect children long-term. Keeping the biological bond through adopting siblings can help children navigate their adoptee identity together. This biological connection can help minimize adoptee grief as the children get older.
The Smiths faced that decision. After nearly two years of being foster parents to a baby boy, the Smiths finally adopted the young boy. After his adoption, the Smith’s family felt complete.
However, nearly four years later, the Smiths received a phone call they weren’t prepared for. Their forever son had siblings that needed a home!
Their son’s sisters moved in and the Smith family had to adjust to a larger family. However, parenting a home full of traumatized children began to take its toll on the Smith family. Realizing their limitations in raising children with numerous special needs, the Smiths were distraught about disrupting the placement of the girls with their biological brother.
Mrs. Smith’s sister, Shanna, had grown extremely attached to her foster nieces, and although Shanna already had four children, she just couldn’t bare the thought of never seeing her foster nieces again. Shanna said to her husband: “Babe…..please don’t say that I’m crazy…..but I really am pretty smitten with those girls!” Shanna was shocked when her husband responded that he felt the same way!
Siblings Adopting Siblings
Shanna and her husband leaped into the foster licensing process in order to keep the girls in their family, and in constant contact with their biological brother.
The Yoder’s have now become foster parents to their foster nieces. They hope one day to become the forever home to two little girls that can grow up as cousins with their biological brother. By adopting siblings, the children will grow up with a biological connection.
“MOM! An elephant adopted an alligator! You have to see!” I am amused, walking toward the living room. Then I am amazed. There on the screen is an elephant in a car with an alligator.
We are watching NickJr’s new animated show Hey Duggee! The show is about a big dog named Duggee, a troop leader for the Squirrel Club. The Squirrel Club Members are Tag, a rhino, Norrie, a mouse, Roly, a hippo, Betty an octopus, and Happy the alligator, whose parent is indeed an elephant.
In each episode, the Squirrel Club engages in fun educational activities that help them earn badges. The animation and dialog is simple and easy to follow making it suitable for preschoolers to watch.
The most amazing aspect of this program is that while Happy is adopted, there is no focus on it. Happy’s elephant parent is an accepted fact. I’m still not sure if the parent is mom or dad, but it really doesn’t matter. Nothing in the dialog states why Happy’s family is different. The implication is that the family is just different, that’s all.
This understatement is a big loud shout that different families are relevant and part of everyday life. The other very subtle observation is that crocodiles have attacked elephants in the wild. So even though Happy is not a crocodile but an alligator, the nuance of an elephant embracing an alligator into its heart and home nails down the fact that LOVE DOES CONQUER ALL.
In the past, television has portrayed adoption as a problem to be solved, or the adoptee or child needing a home is the center of the plot, and at times portrayed in a negative light. The audience is constantly reminded that adoption is the premise of the story, as well as the unconventionality that goes with it.
Not so with Hey Duggee! All families are welcome, with no questions asked. What amazed me most is that my child instantly recognized that Happy was adopted, without having it pointed out in the dialog. That is no small feat for children’s’ programming.
This has not gone unnoticed. Hey Duggee! has earned Studio AKA a BAFTA award in 2016 as well as an International Emmy award in 2017. The show is already in its second season and gaining popularity with adopted and traditional families alike.
Hey Duggee! can be seen on NickJr weekdays at 1:30pm EST or on the NickJr website anytime.
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I did not receive any compensation as NickJr doesn’t even know about this blog. This is simply a mom excited about a new children’s program with an adoption element.
Theresa Davis has been working with children and families for years, wearing different hats, mostly as an early childhood educator and now a teaching assistant. She writes for a local publication “The Parent Pages” as a columnist for the past two years, covering topics surrounding adoption, foster parenting and special needs families. She is also a former foster parent, now an adoptive mom of one daughter. She enjoys knitting, yoga, trying new recipes, and crafting with her little one.
As a former Houstonian, I have been grieving with my friends and family that have lost everything to Hurricane Harvey.
As the flood waters rose last week, panicked friends posted pleas for help on social media with their addresses.
“Can someone please get word out to come get me and my children? This is my address.”
“We have moved upstairs. The first floor is flooded and it’s still raining!”
“What do I do? Do I leave my dogs behind?”
I worried that it might be the last time I’d hear from some of them.
One family member lost long-time coworker Coach Jordan of Clear Creek High School – the school district I had lived in.
As I’ve sat high and dry in the Texas Hill Country while recovery efforts continue, I’ve asked myself over and over: “How can I make a difference?”
Then I realized that I can make a difference to the hurricane victims in Texas!
Hurricane Relief Fundraiser GOAL: 100,000 training pants
Right now, displaced families have a huge need for disposable training underwear. Potty training is next to impossible in the overcrowded emergency shelters. Plus, children that are stressed out such as this may revert back to wetting themselves.
The Texas Diaper Bank is a 501 c3 nonprofit established in 1997 to provide diapers for families in crisis. They have set up a special fund going directly to Hurricane Harvey victims.
We’ve set a goal of 100,000 training pants to help these weary families!!!
“Oh, I’m just a mom.” Those words can become the usual response if someone asks about occupation. However, as parents, we shouldn’t downplay our all-important role in raising a family. That’s especially true for foster parents whose role could possibly change the lives of children in their care. The skills and knowledge gained as a foster parent can be extremely valuable to an employer. Plus, foster parents must go through extensive training before becoming licensed by the government to care for children in State custody. I recently updated my resume, and here is a sample job description that a foster parent can use when writing a resume.
Foster Parent Job Description
Provide 24-hour care of foster children with various diagnoses such as RAD, ADD, ADHD, FASD, Bipolar, Conduct Disorder, Developmental Delays, and other emotional needs.
Encourage and reinforce appropriate behaviors through trauma-informed care using trust-based behavior management techniques.
Respond quickly and appropriately in emotional/behavioral crisis situations using the least restrictive intervention necessary to maintain safety of the child and others.
Attend court hearings and foster care review boards to ensure successful, clear communication of essential information. Provide mentoring in life skills as teens approach adulthood.
Acts as an educational advocate for children with regard to school placement, 504 accommodations,and Individual Education Plans for special education. Work with teachers and administrators to develop effective Behavior Intervention Plan based on child’s specific emotional needs.
Attend to health care needs, ensuring that regular medical, psychiatric, and dental checkups, hearing and vision exams, as well as other special medical needs assessments and appointments, as they arise.
Attend all therapies (physical, occupational, speech, equine, etc.) and implement therapy strategies recommended.
Consult with psychiatrists about efficacy of child medications.
Coordinate with social workers, ad litems, CASAs, and others involved in the case to ensure that all physical and emotional needs of the child is met.
Work with Community Resource Coordination Group (CRCG) to identify child’s needs and exploring resources and services to be executed in an Individual Service Plan.
Maintain records for child’s time in foster care; including medical/dental records, daily medication dosage records, developmental milestones, educational documentation, etc.
Early childhood trauma can radically change the way a child’s brain experiences a situation. Trauma causes the brain to go survival mode which triggers the FEAR response (flight, fight, or freeze). When a traumatized child is in FEAR response, the brain shuts off the thinking part of the brain, and the child cannot think or even recall coping skills. The primitive part of the brain is about only one thing — SURVIVAL!
Logical thought processes can be hijacked by the FEAR response caused by early childhood trauma. Trauma has the unique ability to rewire the brain, and what may seem like ordinary simple everyday situations, can become huge triggers for children that have experienced early trauma.
A child may not even remember the neglect or abuse experienced, but magically, the body remembers. This buried, intrinsic memory can trigger the FEAR response. FEAR hijacks the brain with a simple trigger that the child probably doesn’t understand or remember.
Recently, my child wanted me to buy him sunflower seeds after baseball practice. I knew he needed to eat a good meal so I just wanted to get him home for dinner. But hunger (even perceived hunger) is a huge trigger for children who have experienced early neglect or food insecurity. (You can read his heartbreaking story on infant neglect here.)
As the situation escalated, I tried to reason with my child, but he was becoming more irritated. The sunflower seeds were not going to help with his hunger, plus he had a huge bag of sunflower seeds at home. I wanted to just get him home.
COMMON SENSE SAYS:
I have sunflower seeds at home
I can wait 20 minutes to get my sunflower seeds
It’s okay to just go home and get my sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds won’t keep me from feeling hungry
But you can’t reason with a brain in fear response!EARLY CHILDHOOD TRAUMA SAYS:
If I don’t get sunflower seeds right now, I WILL STARVE TO DEATH!!!
I stopped the car at a park and let my son out to cool off and SWING (the repetitive motion of swinging is therapeutic and calming for the brain). As I was watching him and becoming more calm myself, I began asking questions.
4 QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN EARLY CHILDHOOD TRAUMA CAUSES MISBEHAVIOR
WHAT IS TRIGGERING THE BEHAVIOR?
My child hasn’t eaten dinner yet. (Read more about emotional triggers) WHAT’S GOING ON IN MY CHILD’S BRAIN?
My child in FEAR response. WHAT DOES HE NEED TO FEEL SAFE?
My child needs to know that I will meet his needs. WHY AM I SAYING NO?
I am saying NO because of all the common sense reasons.
MEETING YOUR CHILD’S NEED & CALMING THE TRAUMATIZED BRAIN
In that moment, I had an epiphany and realized that I should give my child what he NEEDS – that is food security!!! Therefore, my child has to know that I will meet his NEEDS so he won’t ever FEEL that he will go hungry again. A child has to FEEL SAFE!!!
My child needed the sunflower seeds to feel safe and calm his brain!
Parenting children from hard places is different than the way we were raised. You have to meet your traumatized child’s needs – even if it doesn’t seem like common sense.
What this may look like: I come close to my child, showing empathy for their disappointment. I may pick up my child, put my child in my lap, begin rocking and let them cry it out in my arms. At first, my child may fight that closeness or try to demand their way. But I won’t talk about the issue at all until my child stops crying, and is calm.
What this may look like to others: “You are rewarding your child for a tantrum.”
I’m not giving in. I’m giving comfort to my hurting child.
What others don’t realize is that when a child is having a meltdown, there is no negotiation, no “thinking about what you did” because a child simply can’t think during a tantrum. The child is in fear response and the thinking part of the brain is shut off by fear.
Only AFTER the tantrum, when the child is calm, do I revisit the issue, if needed. Sometimes we don’t have to revisit the issue because my child may just have needed to know that I understand the disappointment that they are experiencing.
Becoming a peaceful parent has totally transformed my relationship with my traumatized child!
Tantrums are fewer and go away quicker.
My attachment-challenged child has become extremely loving and desires closeness. He is more compliant, and will help me out when I ask. He tells me he loves me. He is happy!