Foster Family Matters

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June 13, 2019  

Part 1: “The Whole Brain Child” Book Discussion

Shawn, Ryan, and Lori discuss the introduction, chapter 1 and chapter 2 of The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson.

 

This Summer we are going to dive into a discussion of the book, The Whole-Brain Child:  12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. (https://amzn.to/2IJuJh4)  This is one of several books that CK Family Services recommends that all parents read, and it holds a special place with our show hosts.  We invite you to join us and read through the book alongside us this Summer.  Whether you are new to the book or have already read it through, we are confident that you’ll be glad you did.  If you need a copy of the book, please consider using the link above to purchase a copy via Amazon.com.  Doing so will help support the show.

 

If you have a community in which you already draw support, consider using this series to fuel your discussion topics.  If you are looking for community consider joining our Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/fosterfamilymatters/ where you can get direct access to Shawn, Ryan and Lori.

 

One of the things we like about this book is that the strategies are practical and well stated.  The combination of Dan and Tina is a one-two punch of intellect and relatability that provides contextual visual examples and explanations that are easy to understand and readily applicable to modern day parenting.

 

In this episode, we start by discussing the introduction through chapter 2.  We focus on the importance of understanding that our children’s brains are a work in progress and that by the choices we make as parents we guide the development of their brains and the way our children view and function in their environment.  For anyone who has concerns that the way things are now is the way they will be forever, this book will spark hope that you can change your stars through purposeful and intentional parenting strategies.

 

One of our favorite illustrations from this first part of the book is the depiction of chaos, calm, and rigidity as a river.  Too frequently parents view chaos and calm as the ends of the spectrum, but we learn in the book that the calm place is in the middle of the stream halfway between the opposing shores of chaos and rigidity.

 

Our brains have natural hemispheres.  In this first part of our discussion, we talk about the left brain and the right brain.  Our left brains can be equated with our logical thought processes and our right brains can be equated with emotional thought processes.  Each hemisphere provides an important aspect of our humanity.  The left brain is the letter of the law and the right brain is the spirit of the law.  The left-brain provides content and the right brain provides context.  As parents, we can take steps to help our children more readily integrate their left-brain, right-brain connectivity and engagement.  The two halves of our brain must work together for us to make sense of the world.

 

The first strategy presented in the book is Connect and Redirect: Surfing Emotional Waves.  The strategy involves encouraging left/right integration by first connecting with your child right-brain to right-brain.  Make an emotional connection.  Join your child and validate their feelings.  Express empathy and listen to their words and reflect with them.  The second part of the strategy is to redirect.  This is not the same sort of redirection many of us deploy when correcting behavior that is basically a distraction.  This redirection is purposeful and intentional focusing the child’s logical thoughts toward the desired outcome.  For this strategy to work, we must first connect right-brain to right-brain and then we can leverage the left brain through redirection.

 

The second strategy for the promotion of left/right integration is Name It to Tame It: Telling Stories to Calm Big Emotions.  If you really want to be set free from your trauma and from the big emotions that seem to control your behavior, you must come to terms with it.  Parents must help our children tell their story to help them name it and tame it.  “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32.

 

We are so glad that you have listened to this episode and we invite you to subscribe to our show via the subscription feature on your favorite podcast tool.  We are trying to increase our audience and so we ask you to help us by sharing, liking, staring, and leaving positive reviews (if you have positive thoughts on our show).

 

Our next episode will focus on the strategies in chapter 3 of The Whole-Brain Child.  We look forward to engaging with you over the course of the summer.

 

If you have not already, join our Facebook Group here:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/fosterfamilymatters/

If you have not already, pick up a copy of the book here:  https://amzn.to/2IJuJh4

If you are looking for our website, you will find it here:  www.fosterfamilymatters.org 

May 30, 2019  

Summer is Here! Managing Transitions (Part 2)

A well-managed transition can make or break your day.  It can be the difference maker, for the difference maker (a.k.a. YOU).  Whether you are preparing for a macro-level transition like school year to summer break, graduation to life after school, or something as world-changing as becoming a foster or adoptive parent . . . the ability to recognize, anticipate, plan for and then roll with the actual experience of transition is essential for you and your family's well being.

In this episode Ryan, Lori, and Shawn pick up where they left off with part 1 "Summer is Coming, Managing Transitions".  You don't have to skip over there now.  It is perfectly fine to listen to these out of order.  But we do encourage you to make time for both.

We are excited to announce that our next several show discussions after this one will be a study of the 12 strategies presented by Daniel Siegel and Tina Bryson in their book, The Whole-Brain Child.  We encourage every parent to own this book and incorporate these strategies into your own parenting toolbox.  If you don't already own a copy, we encourage you to use the link below to make the purchase from Amazon.  Amazon will give us a percentage of the purchase which will go to help support our show.

We encourage you to read along with us over the course of the summer.  We will tackle the introduction, chapter 1 and chapter 2 in our next episode.  If you are part of a small group or supportive community, you might even consider taking the summer to process these strategies together, using our discussions as a sort of study guide or conversation starter.

Here is the link:  https://amzn.to/2W9Vxka 

Also, we have started a Facebook Group for listeners of the show to connect with one another and engage with our hosts.  You can join the group here:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/fosterfamilymatters/ This will be a great place to engage in our discussions and we would love to hear your ideas and suggestions for upcoming episodes and topics.

May 16, 2019  

Summer is Coming, Managing Transitions

While many have been focused on the arrival of Winter in recent months, I assure you . . . Summer is Coming.  One of the best methods parents can use for improving their own experiences is to plan ahead and help their children manage transitions.  As the school year comes to end, opportunities to manage transitions abound.  Ryan, Lori, and Shawn discuss the importance of helping our children prepare for transitions in this episode.

May 9, 2019  

Happy Mother’s Day?

May 12, 2019, we celebrate Mother’s Day, which became a national holiday in the United States in May 1914.  Anna Jarvis is credited with founding Mother’s Day several years earlier in 1908 as a day to honor the sacrifices mothers made for their children.

Today, celebrations vary by family and culture, but most include children honoring their mother by giving her gifts and setting aside time to spend with her.  The holiday can be challenging for those who have experienced the loss of their mother and for mothers who have lost children. Commercialization of the holiday inflates expectations and enhances feelings of stress, grief, and loss.

Parents (mothers and fathers) of children who have experienced loss of one or more mothers may find their children’s behavior changes during the holiday season.  These children may not be enthusiastic to honor the sacrifices of their current mother (be that a step-mother, an adoptive mother, a foster mother, or other) and may act out against their current mother with hurtful words or actions.

We are not all the same.  In fact, we are each very much unique and the experiences that have led each of us (from newborn babies to the most seasoned of us all) to this upcoming Mother’s Day will greatly impact how we celebrate it and how we experience it.

This episode is for parents among us who are parenting children who have experienced the loss of one or more mothers and those who need a reminder of why mothers are such a blessing.  In this episode, Ryan and Lori share from their personal and professional experiences, parenting and supporting children who have suffered the loss of their mothers.

Arguably, some mothers have behaved in ways which leave us scratching our heads and wondering why our children would want to honor or even remember them, but we must step outside of our experiences and walk in the shoes of our children.

There are as many ways to mitigate the flood of emotions during this time both for the children, their mothers, and their fathers.  One of the ways is discussed in this episode and it involves gaining awareness and setting appropriate expectations for the season.  Another idea is to set aside separate days to honor the sacrifices made by each mother in a child’s life.  In the end, we should all lean into honoring the mothers in our lives 365 days a year.

We decided to publish this bonus episode because we believe in mothers.  We know that mothering can be thankless.  But this Mother’s Day we say thank you.  Thank you for choosing to be a mother.  You are loved and we are right here walking alongside you.

You can read more about the founding and history of Mother’s Day in America here:  https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/mothers-day.

May 2, 2019  

Let’s Keep Parenting Real

September 12, 1962, President John Kennedy spoke the following words, “But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?” His response sets the stage for this episode of our podcast, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone . . .”.

The opportunity and ability to parent children is a blessing. Parenting, at its core, serves to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills. Parenting is a challenge and we choose to parent not because it is easy, but because it is hard. We accept this truth. We honor those who choose to accept this challenge.

Birthing children is easy for some and impossible for others. This episode is not about that. This episode is about honesty and courage in the context of parenting children, regardless of the circumstances that led to the child-parent relationship.

Today, perhaps more so than in any other American generation, opportunities to parent are abundant. One can marry into parenting or adopt children or youth. Those who are able can birth children and parent them. Cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and family friends increasingly find themselves choosing to parent children to whom they did not give birth (for a variety of circumstances).

The path to parenthood is nearly inconsequential when you find yourself in the thick of parenting. The act of parenting is difficult and to parent well will certainly call you to empty yourself time and again. We do not parent because it is easy.

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” – Theodore Roosevelt

We live in a culture that tends to over-value perfection and ease. We scroll through seemingly endless posts from our family, friends, and friends of friends bragging about perfect spouses and romanticized depictions of parenthood and family life. We judge even while we envy, to our own demise, and endorse our complicity by perpetuating an aggrandized alternative reality. The casualty in this game is our sense of well-being because we come to believe our own propaganda and in so doing have lost faith in ourselves. It makes sense. We come to mistrust those who lie and betray, even more so when we are lying to ourselves.

The cure is to realign our perception of polarity on this issue. Parenting is hard and messy. It is supposed to be, and we choose to parent because it is hard. We must embrace honesty and because nothing in this world is worth doing unless it means effort, pain, and difficulty, we must express the effort, pain, and difficulty we experience in this honorable endeavor. We must honor one another’s struggle and enforce a vision of real-reality. Let’s flip the script and honor those who lead difficult lives and lead them well.

Name the struggle to tame it. It is okay to say, “I’m not okay”. Teach your children to be honest with themselves by being honest with yourself. Fend off the feeling of shame by bringing light into the dark places where you stow away your circumstances. When the hard threatens to steal your resolve deal with it, as it bubbles up, confident that there is beauty on the other side of the storm. Take time, when and where you can, to feed your soul and refresh your passion to see this hard thing through. But don’t linger in that place for longer than you need. If your legs and feet start to fall asleep . . . unlock the bathroom door and rejoin your family. You are precious to them.

April 18, 2019  

Can Support Networks & Community Make a Difference?

We were made for relationship. We were meant to live in relationship with other people. Nothing lives in isolation. At some point, you are going to need help. If you don’t have people around you who are equipped to help and love you, you are going to have a crisis. You need people who are willing to help you when you are on the wrong path. As individuals, we all need other people who we are “doing life” with and families need other families they are “doing life” with as well.

Parents sometimes start by looking to family members or close friends for support when struggling as a parent and for many, this turns out to be a good choice. For others, family and friends may shy away during times of crisis which leaves a sense of isolation, desperation or shame. It is not uncommon for your existing relationships (family and friends) to decry your plans to care for other people’s children. It is a natural defense mechanism. It can be their way of protecting themselves or you from the hurt or risk of hurt that Fear plants in their hearts.

Foster parents consistently report confusion or dismay when they approach the support systems they used before becoming foster parents to seek parenting advice and end up being told to “just give them back” or “that kid needs a good spanking”. While the advice givers are often well-intentioned and are genuinely concerned for the foster parent’s wellbeing, they lack understanding. These encounters can have a piling-on effect and unintentionally worsen the experience.

Many parents (foster and others) have found that the remedy is to purposefully and proactively inform or build and nurture their support network into a community of like-minded souls. Ryan tells a story from his and his wife’s personal experience. He and his wife were once part of a group of friends that they had grown to love. After deciding to foster and adopt children from foster care, they discovered that while they had changed the group had not and it was no longer a supportive environment for their needs. So, they built a new group. A group of like-minded folks who they could support and who in-turn could support them.
We all bear the responsibility to educate those in our circles. It may very well be that you have no need to abandon ship and leave your current relationships. But it is almost certain that whether you choose to stay in your current community or seek a new one, you will have to play a part in bringing them up to speed.

CK Family Services requires our foster parents to obtain and read several books including, “The Whole-Brain Child”, by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson) and “The Connected Child: Bring hope and healing to your adoptive family”, by Karyn B. Purvis, David R. Cross, and Wendy Lyons Sunshine. Many parents find that providing these books to their parents, friends, siblings, and others can help to make them more informed and effective as support.

The other side of the support network and community coin is the need to pour into others in a supportive way. Being part of a community is a two-way street. Exchange numbers frequently, make calls when needed, and answer calls every opportunity that you get. That is how a community is built.

Ask other families to take trips and outings with your family. Ask other families over for dinner or game night. Take all the kids to the park and spend adult time while the children play. Purposefully and intentionally build your community. It is not all about "take". You must be excited about giving.

We all have a story (or more) to tell and while we frequently down-play the significance of our own experiences; time and again our experience has been that the simplest of thoughts, words or stories turn out to be the difference maker in the life of someone else. Once you build your community. Share into it.

Every human that has ever taken a breath has experienced the need to sit in a safe place and receive support. If that is where you are today, receive all of the support you need and take the time you need to recover function. There is no shame in needing or seeking support. For many the act of asking for help takes courage. Be courageous.

If you are a foster or adoptive family with CK Family Services, there are several ways you can connect to existing support communities. We moderate Facebook Group, that is only available for families who are currently or have previously been licensed by CK Family Services (Covenant Kids). Contact our office and ask to join the group. Reach out to your foster care case manager. Don’t just stiffen your upper lip and trudge through it hoping it will all get better. Your case manager will connect you with the community, if you ask.

Many Churches provide a source of support and nurture for hurting families. Tapestry is a community of support for thousands of foster and adoptive parents. While it is no longer affiliated with a Church it still thrives to offer hope and healing for families in need.

The most important bits we can leave you with are don’t wait until you are struggling. Build your ark before the rain starts falling. “While you are trying to keep your head above water is not the time to learn how to bake a cake.” – Ryan North.

Look for ways to be support for others who need it. Find a sense of family and relationship. A sense of devotion to one another.

Resources:
The Whole-Brain Child, by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
https://smile.amazon.com/dp/0553386697/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_5-nUCbSQHZN5P

The Connected Child: Bring hope and healing to your adoptive family, by Karyn B. Purvis, David R. Cross, and Wendy Lyons Sunshine
https://smile.amazon.com/dp/0071475001/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_kboUCbY6PVQNM

April 4, 2019  

Self-Regulation: Just Breathe . . .

Karyn Purvis described self-regulation as “the body's ability to calm itself, by itself”. The discussion in this episode centers around three stages of regulation; outside-regulation, co-regulation and self-regulation.  Each of these three stages stair-step upon one another such that until one has experienced competent outside-regulation, co and self-regulation are unattainable.

Frequently, our road block, as parents, is our predetermined expectations based on a child’s chronological age.  We all have expectations for a child’s behavior based on their chronological age.  But if the child did not have proper stair-steps from outside-regulation to co-regulation to self-regulation, they are not able to perform to your expectations.  It is not that they won’t.  It is that they can’t.  They may need you to regulate for them or regulate with them to get them to the point they need to be.

If we ourselves, as parents cannot self-regulate, we are heading for chaos in our homes.  When your child is struggling, don’t join them in the chaos, invite them to your calm.  Regulation is contagious; both the good and the bad.  If I’m self-regulated I can be present to help my child get to a state of self-regulation.  If I am dysregulated, I’m going to share that with my child and heighten their own state of dysregulation.

What if I’m a parent that doesn’t do a great job with self-regulation?  Daniel J. Siegel is doing great work with mindfulness. Being mindful simply means paying attention.

Be purposeful in your decision to improve your capacity to self-regulate.  Take a self-inventory and determine what tools you have, what has and has not worked and then seek out additional tools.  Be mindful of your breathing, listen to music, meditate, talk yourself through the situation and “off the ledge”.  If you have a parenting partner (a spouse for example) create a safe-word during a period of calm that you or they can use to indicate your need to self-regulate during a period of crisis.

Take time to surround yourself with a community of support.  People you can trust and invite to speak truth into your life.  It isn’t always easy to hear someone suggest items you might need to work on, but if you are failing yourself in this, it is better to have someone else do it for you then to go on failing.

This isn’t just about the kids.  It is about us, as parents.  Give yourself permission to learn how to self-regulate and make a commitment to try.  When you fail don’t give up.  Self-regulation is a practice that you will continuously work to improve throughout your life.

Progression through the stages of regulation to self-regulation is the evidence that “it” is working.  That you are connecting in a meaningful way with your children in relationship and that they are healing. It means you/they can operate in an environment without assistance, which is one of the primary goals we all have as parents, for our children.

When you look at mis-behavior as dysregulation instead of maladaptation and you provide outside-regulation or co-regulation for your child you can help them gain the ability to self-regulate and empower them to have the critical brain-body integration required for healthy independence.

“Just breath.” – Lori Fangue

 

Resources:

Ryan's Spotify 80 Beats Per Minute (BPM) Playlist:  https://open.spotify.com/user/ryanandkayla/playlist/3OCYL3HxqkrsQtI2rdeRfa?si=tllT0-6zRl6xyfBX63CN0Q 

Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential-and Endangered
by Amazon.com
Learn more: https://smile.amazon.com/dp/0061656798/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_-hTPCbKF8K4N4

Books by Daniel J. Siegel: https://smile.amazon.com/Daniel-J-Siegel/e/B00459LSPI?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1554436722&sr=8-1

April 4, 2019  

What is Trauma?

Trauma has become something of a buzz word lately.  If you are a parent, or supporter of parents, of children with special needs, you've likely heard "trauma informed", "trauma aware" or some other variant used to describe programs, techniques, and clinical practice until you are just "trauma tired".  None the less, we can't very well discuss parenting without going there.  In this episode Ryan, Lori and Shawn attempt to set a common foundation for what we mean when we talk about trauma.  We think of this episode as a sort of foundation that we will build upon over time.

April 4, 2019  

Felt Safety: Why Knowing we are Safe is not Enough

We've all seen that look in our children's eyes (or perhaps our spouse's or our own). We are confident; we know they are safe.  They may even say they know they are safe as well.  But they are frozen with fear, running away from the circumstances or posturing for a fight and we, as parents, are forced by their actions to pause our plans and parent in that moment.  For children and many adults, it is simply not sufficient to "know" we are safe.  Our children must "feel" they are safe.  Ryan, Lori and Shawn discuss the differences and why felt safety is so important for our kids and ourselves on this parenting journey.