Thursday, March 24, 2011

Session Six: Discipline!

Tonight we learned about disciplining the child that has been abused and/or neglected. It's apparently "different" than disciplining "typical" children. I think the strategies make sense for ALL children, really. The focus was on positive behavior management strategies. This is what I use when working with my clients. As much as I would love to spank some of them sometime (just kidding), that just wouldn't be kosher, would it? Positive behavior management is what I use and it works. It's a very simple concept, really, and isn't that hard when working with a child for an hour at a time. In reality, though I can see where it will be very difficult to implement and be consistent within a day-to-day, 24-7 situation...when you're tired and cranky, stressed and in a would much easier to focus on the "negative" behaviors of the child instead of catching the good behaviors.

My big ah-ha moment of tonight was that you can't effectively discipline if you're exhausted. It goes back to the importance of taking care of yourself--mentally and physically--and have some "me-time" (which was one of the characteristics of successful resource parents...previous session). I struggle with this now, even not having children. Making time for myself--to exercise, take a bubble bath, or get a pedi/manicure. I almost feel guilty for spending time focusing on myself instead of on the housework or my business or Todd and put it at the bottom of my priority list. When you look at it as necessary to be an effective parent, it now becomes not selfish, but as if you are doing it for the child.

Todd, on the other hand, learned a lot of new stuff about discipline strategies tonight, as he had no prior knowledge or experience on the matter. He looks forward to the challenge of disciplining a child without using corporal punishment. He said that he will just follow my lead (his words, not mine), which may not be such a good idea, as I will probably screw up plenty, despite my prior knowledge and experience!

Another thing that stuck with me tonight was something the woman from the other couple said. She's been reading a book called Positive Discipline in the Christian Home (which I'm going to have to buy because it sounds really good!). In the book it talks about how God disciplines us--not with shame and guilt. So we should remember that always in disciplining our own children. I thought that was good. Also, did you know that "discipline" comes from the word "disciple", which focuses on teaching...teaching the child the right way to do things, rather than just punishing them for doing the wrong things?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Session Five

The first part of session five was on assessing our family strengths...identifying our support system and the relationships, strong and weak, in our lives. We had to do an "eco-map" which was a visual representation of all of these relationships. I'm not sure we actually learned anything new from this activity. We are blessed with a very strong support system of family, friends, and neighbors, which will all be active parts of our lives and help us throughout this process. One weakness, I guess, is that we don't have family in Nashville to help. (hint, hint: maybe some of you could just move to Nashville!) :) Although, we know that our families are just a few hours away and they will be driving up on weekends to visit and help out in anyway we need!

The second part of the session was on helping the children transition in and out of your home. Of course for us, they will just be transitioning IN to the home (and hopefully not out!). There were some very helpful tips provided to help us with this. No big eye opening moments for me during this session, but still some useful tips were taken away!

Class next week is canceled, due to some scheduling "reconstruction." So we meet again on the 24th!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Understanding the Impact of Trauma

Children who are placed into foster care and/or adoption loose everything they know--their parents, other family members, school, friends, church, possibly siblings. They experience an extreme amount of loss, and therefore grief. Loss = Trauma-- in addition to the trauma they have been living with their whole life, thus the reason for removal. "Survival behaviors." Children develop these behaviors to cope with/survive the chaotic lives they've been living. These behaviors work for them, although they are not healthy. They will likely carry these behaviors into your home and thus disrupt the family life you know. These behaviors can range from withdrawal to aggressiveness, but all have an underlying emotional message. The emotions are too complex for the child to cope and it's our job, as their adoptive parents, to help them "unlearn" the old way of coping and learn a new way--a way that is healthy and socially acceptable--"repair the damage", if you will. Much patience, tolerance, and perseverance needed!

These past experiences, which can include unstable homes, abuse and/or neglect, bouncing around from home to home cause difficulty with forming attachments. It was interesting to learn about the attachment cycle and the impact on a child's (and adults) relationships...must be the psychology nerd in me (that was my minor, after all). We learned that it is OUR responsibility to make sure that the attachment forms, not the child's There are things we can do to help build that attachment. Most importantly--You can't take it personally! They drilled that into our heads tonight. It takes persistence!

Discipline!I was really uncertain about the whole discipline thing after the first/second session, but after tonight, it makes sense. It's just like dealing with the challenging behaviors of a child with Autism (well, sort of). It reminds me of when I worked in the schools and had to work with teachers on managing the challenging behavior of the students with Autism in their classrooms. These kids had special needs, there were reasons related to their disability for the behavior. Did that make acceptable? Absolutely not! But, you had to approach it in a different way. You couldn't discipline these children with same approach as the typically developing kids. You had to figure out the purpose of the behavior and implement strategies based on that. In the meantime, not in the presence of the challenging behavior, you taught them appropriate, socially acceptable means for achieving their needs. Many teachers were resistant to this, after all it was their classroom and they had rules. All the other kids had to follow them. That was my first reaction when I heard we'd have to discipline these children differently. It's our house. We were both raised with rules and consequences. We were spanked every now and then. Our parents were strict. And we turned out just fine. That's the way we are going to raise our children, too. But at the first session, that bubble was burst when we learned that you can't discipline children placed in  your home the way you may be used to. I feel much better about it all after tonight. I can do this--it's what I do everyday with my clients. I have to set rules and expectations with therapy sessions. I have to make sure they follow the rules. But I do it in a positive way, using a kind tone of voice. I do realize, though, that in the midst of "real life" stresses and having the child 24-7, it will be a bit more challenging.