Many children who have experienced trauma are triggered by transitions. This can be difficult to help a child manage because transitions are a part of everyday life in ways big and small. In responding to transition triggers, a child may show behaviors that range from mild protesting to a severe meltdown. Fortunately, there are many ways that caregivers can help predict and prepare for these circumstances to help a child have an easier time moving from one task to the next. Over time, children may come to learn the mechanisms that work for them, ultimately decreasing the length and severity of behavioral responses and increasing their ability to make positive behavioral changes. Feeling successful in this way is a powerful tool to helping kids heal from trauma and build positive relationships. During a time when transitions are more constant than ever, this is an invaluable gift to give to your child. Below are some suggestions on how to help a child build confidence in addressing their transition triggers.
Create a routine: Think about the main components that make up the child’s day and have a predictable structure in place. Organized activities, such as bedtime, are great to have in place for all ages. As your child progresses to be reassured by this structure, understand that maintaining consistency is key. For example, children who have experienced trauma may not be able to developmentally understand why one night they got a later bedtime and the next they did not.
The impact of COVID-19 continues to present new challenges for foster children and families experiencing the child welfare system. For children who have endured trauma, building and maintaining a structured environment they can count on is hard fought work by foster parents. The pandemic has resurfaced or exacerbated feelings of powerlessness and uncertainty with foster children already in an unfathomable situation. Now that we are several months into navigating a world turned upside down, take a moment to use the questions below to check in with yourself and the foster or adoptive family you support to encourage good mental, spiritual and emotional health.
What am I grateful for? The practice of gratitude is a powerful tool in finding joy even in the most difficult circumstances. Take a few minutes at the beginning of every day to list three things you are thankful for. This practice postures you to start the day with a glad heart.
This time of year, families are usually registering for summer camps and checking community activity calendars with great excitement, looking forward to the Summer months ahead. This year, the impact of COVID-19 means Summer will look different. As families continue making the necessary adjustments there are still many opportunities to creatively engage kids in ways that bring joy and fun. Below are some suggestions that will keep kids busy, create happy memories and build strong connections, all of which are vital in developing healthy, resilient families.
Porch drop offs: Kids love surprise gifts! Porch drop offs can be a great way to bring the fun and a change of pace. Create a bag of items like coloring sheets or puzzle books, sensory objects, water toys, summer treats and an age-appropriate craft project. Consider porch swapping puzzles, games and toys between households as you feel comfortable.
Cupcake Wars: Have one or more families set up a place where kids can get messy and host a virtual baking party. Drop off vanilla frosting, decorating supplies and cupcake batter. Have each kid use two ingredients from the pantry to create personalized flavors. (For younger kids, pre-make different flavors of cupcakes and frosting.) Let kids be as creative as their hearts’ desire with fondant, candy toppings, melted chocolate, cookies, and piping bags full of fun colors. Designate a judge to determine the winner of the decorating competition, have kids share about their personalized flavors, and enjoy the yummy results together.
During Support Team Training, you may recall learning about the many traumas foster children experience and the resulting impact of grief and loss. As children go through the process of resolving their experiences, it is not uncommon for a new traumatic event like the fallout of COVID-19 to re-start the cycle. Foster parents work tremendously hard to create a sense of stability and safety, which for many kids was upended overnight by this pandemic. In a time where children are being asked to shoulder many changes and uncertainties in their daily routine, psychological and emotional distress may resurface. Below is a refresher on each stage of grief, how this global crisis may be affecting a child impacted by foster care, and some helpful tips on how to walk alongside a foster child navigating new losses.
Denial: It can be difficult to help children understand what is going during this pandemic. Children may feel that this viral threat does not affect them and they can still have visits with family, play dates with friends, and continue going to school. Since things changed so dramatically over spring break, children may have thought of the first weeks as an extended vacation and expected to quickly return to normal.
Foster care and adoption is a rewarding journey that requires a lot of planning and energy to manage day-to-day needs. Families are doing everything from managing appointments, school activities, and therapies to family commitments, crisis management and re-certification requirements. It can be difficult to find a moment to pause and rest, especially when rest matters the most.
When it comes to processing complex emotions as a result of trauma, children do not have the same ability to identify and articulate the things that are bothering them. As a result, it is common for foster children to exhibit the pain of their trauma through behavioral outbursts. Adults in a parenting or mentorship role to the child can play a strong role in helping the child understand their emotions and teach them how to express powerful emotions effectively. One of the greatest ways to build this connection is through play. Below are some suggestions on how to use play to unlock emotions and thoughts that a foster child might be struggling with.
Happy New Year! This season creates the opportunity to reflect on the year passed and look forward to setting new goals in the year ahead. If you find yourself inspired by a fresh start, here are some foster care resolutions to consider setting to support your foster family. At Project 1.27, we are praying for renewed energy and enthusiasm for all our families and their support team members.
Check in regularly: Set a phone/calendar reminder to pray for and contact your foster family regularly. Inquire of your family about any updated information or needs they have and share with the rest of the support team if there are any needs the team can meet.
A Safe Place for Everyone in the Family
Although adding a foster sibling to the family is exciting for the children already in the home, when a family is placed there are a myriad of changes occurring. Trauma can manifest itself in the form of challenging behaviors that are emotionally, even physically challenging. As a result, building healing connection and trust with a foster child requires a high level of parental attention. Sometimes other children in the family may feel neglected or forgotten during this intense process. Below are some suggestions to ensure that the needs of all children in the family are nurtured during placement.
Prepare children for possible challenges: As is appropriate – and while maintaining respect for the foster child – consider having a conversation with existing children about the needs of a new child coming into the home. Encourage children to ask questions and keep explanations appropriate for their developmental phase.
The holiday season can be an eagerly anticipated time of year, but for children in foster care, it can also be a difficult and emotional time. This may be their first holiday separated from biological family, and there may be triggers of sights, smells, sounds, and traditions that cause them to miss home. This may result in challenging behavior as a child attempts to process intense emotions such as sadness, homesickness, confusion or anger. Keep in mind the following trauma-informed tips to help your foster family enjoy the season. The holidays can bring opportunities to create special memories and experiences with foster children and enhance the bonds they have with foster family and community.
If you support a family serving in the foster care system, you are likely aware that the goal of any case is reunification with the foster child’s family. Not only is reunification a beautiful example of God’s redemption, it is also the goal per the federal law that outlines Child Welfare practice. Reunification can be the most difficult stage for foster parents. Even though foster parents know reunification is the desired outcome, they almost certainly will experience grief over losing a child they have embraced and grown to love. The end of a placement is one of the times your foster family will need you the most. Below are some ideas on how to help the family celebrate reunification and grieve the loss of a beloved child.