The Impact of Chronic Illness on a Family

chronic illness and the family

The Impact of Chronic Illness on a Family

We have ALL had a sick kiddo in our family at some point in time.  The stomach bug goes around, winter colds are passed from member to member, sore throats and ear aches happen to us all.  And when our kiddos are sick, we care for them.  We pay extra attention to them, tending to the needs they have.  The family adjusts.  But what do we do when the family is impacted by a child who is facing chronic illness?  As parents, how to we manage the care of the impacted child while maintaining care for the others and ourselves?

Facing a chronic illness in and of itself is difficult to do.  Watching our kiddo face it is harder.  There is a great helplessness that comes with watching our kids battle something beyond our control.  There is an unfairness to it.  We’d do anything to switch places with them.  We’d gladly take their suffering and give them our healthy bodies.  Unfortunately, there’s no way to do that.

Several areas of our family life can be impacted when chronic illness is present.  Our marriage, other kiddos, self-care, and interpersonal relationships can all feel the effect of chronic illness.  So how do we do this thing?  How do we stay intact during this season of our life?

Let’s look at marriage:

When one of our children is sick or has a disability, the marriage can take a beating, especially when there is lack of communication.  The kiddo with chronic illness/disability requires more attention.  It’s just a fact.  There are more needs, more time is required, and the learning curve is STEEP.  This can take a toll on the marriage if both parents are not intentional about coming together and supporting each other.  Some ways of doing this would be:

  • Words of encouragement – I am thankful to journey this with you. You’re doing a great job. I’m here for you.
  • Giving each other time to rest and connect with others – Why don’t you take a nap or go spend some time with some friends.
  • Showing appreciation can go a long way in any marriage, but especially when more is required – I so appreciate all you do!

Both parties need to be intentional to ask for what they have need of. Both parties need to be a support to each other.  Ecclesiastes 4:12 states that “A CORD OF THREE STRANDS IS NOT EASILY BROKEN” – the third cord being God.  It is VITAL to steal away time with your spouse, even if it’s on the couch chatting for ten minutes before bed or snagging a tight hug in passing.  A SOLID marriage with help all parties involved.

Let’s look at the kids:

Kids are needy.  Kids are demanding.  Kids require a lot from us.  And that’s when they’re healthy!  But what about when one is needing some extra care for extended amounts of time?  Kiddos with chronic illness/disability DO require more care, and that’s ok.  Each child deserves their needs to be taken care of.  Each child deserves to be loved.  It is important, though, as parents we be intentional about building relationship with our other kiddos too We need to be intentional about not using the chronic illness as an excuse – for example “I’m too tired to do ­­­­_________ with you because I’ve been caring for your brother”.  This sort of statement will build resentment between siblings.  Instead, state facts – “I’m not able to play right now, but let’s set a time for later” – and keep true to your word.  Talk with your kids freely about the chronic illness/disability.  Let them ask questions.  Let them share their frustrations and emotions around the issues.  Help them gain understanding on why things are the way they are or why things have to be done a certain way – “I know you love peanut butter but it can make brother very sick.”

Let’s look at self-care:

This is the piece that most often gets neglected.  Self-care is important for each person to do anyhow, but it is especially important for those facing chronic illness/disability.  The demands are high.  The stress is high.  Self-care is not about being selfish.  It’s about CARING FOR YOURSELF so you can go back and care for your family, being refreshed so you can go and refresh others.  Blaming yourself is not going to be helpful either.  Racking your brain to figure out what you could have done differently won’t help.  Sometimes the best idea is simply taking a bath, going for a walk, getting away for a gym class, or taking a nap while kiddos nap. Even having a good cry can be helpful and refreshing.  You cannot give what you don’t have, so if you have nothing left, you’ll have nothing to give your family.

Let’s look at interpersonal relationships:

This is IMPORTANT.  Having other people, outside the immediate family, is beneficial.  Friends can be there when you need them to be.  Friends can encourage.  Friends can be a part of your self-care and go out to lunch or a walk with you.  Friends can help you keep perspective.  Friends can uplift you in prayer.  Interpersonal relationships help keep your eyes up and aware of what’s going on around you instead of you staying focused on what is going on with you.

Having a kiddo with chronic illness/disability is hard.  But it’s NOT IMPOSSIBLE.  Putting things in place to care for your heart, your marriage, and your family will help whether you’re new to the chronic illness/disability scene or you’ve been there for a while.  Allow yourself the blessing of being cared for by God, others, and yourself.

 

depression counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Marriage Counseling at The Relationship Center

The post The Impact of Chronic Illness on a Family appeared first on Rebecca Barratt, MA, LPC.

How to Talk to Your Kids about Sex

Talk About SexTalking to your kiddos about sex is probably not the most looked forward to conversation in the grand scheme of parenting. BUT it is a necessity and can facilitate a whole other level of safety within the parent/child relationship.  As parents, questions come to mind such as:

  • At what age do I talk to my child about sex?
  • Is there someone else who can do it for me?
  • What resources are available?
  • What language is appropriate?
  • Will my child be embarrassed?
  • What if I mess up?

While these questions are legitimate, they should not keep you from talking to your child about sex.

Reality check:

Your child will hear about sex from other sources.  Whether it’s other kids, t.v., radio, or media, your kids will hear about sex.  You, however, have the choice to be proactive and be on the offense OR you can be reactive and be on the defense.  By being proactive, you are letting your kiddos know that it is OK to talk about sex and it is OK to talk you, the parent, about sex and sexual issues or questions.  First messages are the most powerful.  Why not then, be the first message?

So when do we talk to our kids about sex?
When is the right time?

A tongue and cheek answer would be birth.  But really, “the sex talk” is much more than just about sex.  It is about understanding how our bodies work as well as Gods design for sex and a sexual relationshipStarting early normalizes the talk, meaning it makes the discussion less awkward.

Instead of having “the talk” – as if it were a taboo subject or a rite of passage, it becomes a part of life.  And while there are boundaries around where the conversation happens, it offers an opportunity for the conversation to happen.

Starting Early:

When your kiddos are born, you’re less focused on telling them about the birds and the bees and more concerned with how many times they’ve pooped that day.  As they grow though, they become curious – it’s human nature.  The sex talk begins with teaching our children the proper names for body parts.  While it’s cute to give our private parts pet names, essentially we are teaching our kids that those body parts are a secret and we can’t or shouldn’t talk about them.

You don’t call your stomach by any other pet name, do you?  Well, what if they say penis in public!?!?!?!  Yes, it probably will happen.  I have a son who likes to yell boobies every time we pass the bra section in Target.

That’s when we, as parents, gently teach them the appropriate time and setting to talk about penises and vaginas, and boobies too. Teaching your kids the correct anatomical name for their body parts begins the foundation and builds a framework for future discussion. Here is an example of how you might talk with your child about their body parts:

Parent:  These are what we call your private body parts.  They have purpose and function, just like our hands and feet, but we do not share these with anyone else. They are just yours.  We keep them covered up unless we’re taking a bath or going potty.  It’s important to let mom or dad know if someone touches or tries to touch you in those spots.  It’s okay to tell them “no” and tell them those body parts are just for you.  Now, *what did we just learn about?*

*This is keyit helps you to know if your child is listening.  Early on, your kiddo will just be regurgitating information you just gave them, but that’s how they learn.  Just like when we teach our kids colors – they’re just spitting back information we just gave them.  Remember, we’re building a framework.

Kiddo:  I learned that these body parts are called……and they’re just mine and not for anyone else.

As our kiddos enter school, they should already have a framework for what is appropriate touch and what is not.  This way, if they are touched in an inappropriate manner, they know that the touch is not OK instead of feeling confused about the touch because no one has taught them about it.

Keep the conversation going:

Just because you taught your kiddos the correct anatomical names of their body parts doesn’t mean we’re done having the conversation.  It’s important to keep the conversation goingall the way up until they leave your house.  Peppering in conversations about body changes, sex, waiting for marriage to engage in sex, keeps the topic normative – or less scary to talk about.

Typically, between the ages of seven to nine is a good time to teach your children about sexual intercourse.  Remember, if they don’t hear it from you, they WILL hear it from peers.  Your goal, as parents, is to be on the front end of this conversation.  During this conversation, it’s important your kiddos see you as comfortable with the topic.  If you’re frightened about it, kiddos will pick up on that and take their cues from you. Here is an example of how you might continue the talk with your child:

Parent: I want to talk to you honey, about something special and very important.  I want to talk to you about something God created for marriage.  It’s called sex. (Explain what happens.)  Now, while you’re in school you may start hearing your peers talk about sex.  Sex is something that adults participate in and not kids. I want you to know that you can always come to me and talk with me about it.  If you have questions, I’d like you to come to me and ask.  Now, what are you hearing from me in this conversation?

By keeping the conversation going, we also inadvertently help our kids when it comes to decision making in the dating world.  If we give our kids a solid foundation on the gift of sex and what it was intended for, these teachings will come to mind as they begin the dating process.

Don’t stop there:

As time continues, your kiddo will be thrown into the midst of high school.  There, where decisions are difficult and pressure is heavy, being sure of where they stand on sexual issues and potential consequences of having sex, will be helpful and hopefully one less thing your teen will have to stress about.

Then, eventually your kiddos will go off to college and someday prepare for marriageBy building a foundation and an allowance for kids to talk to you about sex, they’ll likely go back to a trusted source rather than scour the internet for information – which we all know can be very dangerous and set our kids up for unrealistic expectations.

The key to any sex talk is to keep communication lines open.  The best way to do that is to be comfortable with the topic of sex yourself.  Your kids will pick up on any awkwardness from you.  The worst thing you can do is not talk to them about sex because you’re uncomfortable with it.

Below is a list of books that are very helpful in engaging your kids:

If you need additional help with navigating this discussion with your kiddos, please contact me at The Relationship Center. I’m here to help.

family-250x250Over 1,700 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 18,500 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Family Counseling at The Relationship Center

The post How to Talk to Your Kids about Sex appeared first on Rebecca Barratt, MA, LPC.

Tips for the Single Parent

Raising children is no doubt one of the most difficult jobs there is.  The demand is high, especially when they are little and there’s more than one.  The pay is not worth mentioning either.  There are many late nights coupled with early mornings and some days just not enough coffee.Single Parent with Kids Child rearing requires patience, love, kindness, and caring.  It also requires good boundaries and firm discipline; both are needed to raise children.  And both are difficult – even in a two parent household, and can be even harder when it’s a single parent home.

In a single parent home, the majority of parenting literally falls on you, the individual.  There are brief moments of reprieve, whether it’s church or daycare or school; but the nitty gritty is gifted to you.  There is no “you handle this kids, I’m going to run around the house three times”.  There is no “I don’t feel well, can you get up with the baby”.  It’s all on you.  And, it’s hard.

What to Expect:

Often times, single parents feel like they’re failing their kids because they can’t give them what they desire to or do with them what they hopeNothing could be further from the truth.

What kids desire most, and this would be true across the board, is relationship.  Your children will be unable to communicate this to you for years to come, but when it’s all boiled down, this is what counts.  Long term, material things don’t matter.

As counselors, we frequently see the pain caused by a lack of relationship with parents, but never long term hurt caused by a lack of “stuff.”  Your child wants to know if you’re going to be there for them when they need it.  Again, they won’t be able to verbalize this.

Practical Tips for Single Parenting:

  1. Make Time for Your Kiddos:

    Especially if you work full time, it is easy to get caught up in the day to day have-to’s of life.  Carve out time just for them.  Have a game night, dance party, sports games – something that requires interaction.  Movies are fine, but there’s no interaction required and when trying to build relationship with your kiddos, interaction is key.

  2. Get Plugged In:

    Get involved in a church with a good kids program.  It will reinforce what you’re teaching at home as well as give you some adult time.  It’s a great way to connect with other people – keeping both you and your kiddos sane.

  3. Stop Trying to Please Your Kiddos:

    Regardless of who’s responsible for the circumstances, continually trying to win your child over via trying to please them will not only wear you out, but give them a false understanding of people being around to make them happy.  Remember, both love AND discipline are important.  This means that loving them does not always mean they get what they want.  When they step outside of the boundaries you have set up, there are consequences for their actions.  Consistency is key.  I guarantee your kiddos will not always be happy with you, but they will know what is expected of them, as well as, your love for them.

  4. Reinforce Expectations:

    Kids have a magical way of only hearing part of what parents say.  It can be frustrating to keep repeating yourself, but when it comes to expectations, when they hear a consistent message, it eventually sinks in.  Often times when our kids don’t meet our expectations, it’s tempting to alter what we expect of them.  This can be harmful.  Instead of pulling out the best in them, we allow them to settle for less.  And, while it may be easier in the immediate, we don’t see the effects of this – either good or bad – until many years down the road.

  5. Set House Rules: 

    What are some house rules that will help the flow of the home?  It is okay to require of them what is age appropriate.  Do they make their beds?  Take out the trash?  Help with dishes?  Set a bedtime, and keep it.  Young kids flourish on routine. Getting them to bed at a decent hour will give you the same predictability, and perhaps a few extra quiet moments.

  6.  Make Time for Yourself:

     You need to make time for yourself BECAUSE you love your children.  Recruit a friend, family member, sitter, or find a local church that offers a moms night out program.  Take time to recharge your batteries, if even only for an hour.  We call this self-care.  Some may experience a great deal of guilt for doing this. Guilt that you’re not with your kids, guilt for asking for help, and guilt for doing something pleasurable.  Guilt is not helpful. It is vital to the well-being of the family you take good care of yourself.  Families with two parents get to make time for themselves, single parent homes need to as well.  If there’s nothing left of you, there’s nothing left for your kiddos.

family-250x250Over 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Family Counseling at The Relationship Center

The post Tips for the Single Parent appeared first on Rebecca Barratt, MA, LPC.

How to Tell Your Kids You’re Having Problems in Your Marriage

Talking to Your Child about Your MarriageIn an ideal world, marriage would be continually blissful and if there just happened to be a disagreement, it would be a trite little thing resolved in moments. Unfortunately, this is not the world we live in. In our humanness, we are guaranteed to face conflict at some point in time.

Conflict within the home, especially, can have a lasting impact on our children. How we deal with this conflict and what we choose to do with it can determine how our children are affected by it.

Should we tell our children what’s going on?

We can expect to deal with disagreements in marriage and have marital conflict, let’s define ‘marital conflict’ as an ongoing strenuous point in your relationship. Although we might have ongoing disagreements, many times we feel conflicted about when to tell the children or even if we should.

Your children need the heads up if the conflict has been going on for a period of time and it is disrupting the marriage:

  1. To the point of going to counseling
  2. Sleeping in separate rooms
  3. Moving to separate places

Parents often think they’re doing a service to their child by hiding everything from them and one day surprise them with the news of one spouse moving out. This can be earth shattering to a child. Imagine sending your child to school one day and everything is fine and the next day they need to face school with the news their parents are separating.

Talking to your children in an age appropriate manner can help relieve some of the stress. They don’t need every detail but having parents on the same page with their children can be stress relieving.

How do we talk to our children about what is taking place within the home?
  • It’s important to realize that children rely on the home as being a stable environment. This helps your child thrive. Marital conflict does not mean you’re going to ruin your child, but there must be clear communication by parents.
  • There needs to be a clear message from both parents that the conflict is strictly between the adults and that your child is NOT at fault in anyway.
  • Sharing with the child, dependent on age – less details when younger, more when older – the basics of the conflict, what you as parents are doing to work through it, and goals for an outcome.
  • This is best done when everyone can sit down as a family. When children can hear the same thing from both parents and have assurance from both parties, they are less likely to  feel caught in the middle. This gives the child a sense of safety and security and allows the child to focus on their developmental goals – making friends, engaging in school and other activities – and not be consumed with the parent’s relationship. This is a vital piece for children.
Here are a few examples of dialogues for different ages:

Elementary: Remember this is best done with both parents present.

Susie, mom and dad want to talk to you about something that is going on. Mom and dad are having some trouble getting along and so we are going to sleep in separate rooms for a little while so we can work on getting along. This is between mom and dad and it is no one’s fault. We want to you to keep playing and having fun. If you have any questions you can ask either one of us.” (It’s best to have both parents talking during this discussion). “We love you and we’re so glad you’re a part of our family.”

High school: Again, best done with both parents present.

Tommy, we have something we need to share with you. Your mom and I have been not getting along for some time and are having a difficult time coming to a resolution. We are in counseling and seeking help so we can have the best marriage possible. In the meantime, we are going to be sleeping in separate rooms. This is not your fault or your brother’s fault. This is between your mom and I. We are here for you no matter what and if you have any questions you can feel free to ask at any time. We love you and we’re so glad you’re a part of our family.

Here is a more detailed process on how to talk with your children:

Allow your child to ask questions.

This is a scary time for them. By allowing them to ask questions:

  • It reinforces that they are very much a part of the family
  • Communicates they are not a part of the problem
  • Shows that there is open communication

Your child may or may not have questions immediately come to them. Let them know that you understand this and are available to them when those questions arise. Some parents may face children, specifically teens, who become distant or annoyed with the conversation.

This does not mean your child is disinterested but simply is using a defense mechanism to help themselves cope with the news. As a parent, be careful not to let this determine a response of ‘they’re not interested’, ‘they’re fine’, or ‘they don’t care. None of those would prove to be accurate.

Don’t make promises you cannot keep.

For example, don’t promise your children that everything will be back to normal or that a spouse will come back home if they have chosen to leave. There is no way you can guarantee this, even if it is what is hoped for. Being age appropriate honest with your kids will give them a greater sense of security than if you promise things you cannot deliver.

Put yourself in your child’s shoes.

If you were 6 or 8, 14 or 17, what would you need from your parents during this time? There’s an age old adage that says ‘hindsight is 20/20’. Your child may not know what they need specifically from you at this time. Help them put words to their needs by putting yourself in their shoes.

Keep nasty comments to yourself.

They are not helpful in any way, shape, or form. They are destructive not only to the child, the relationship with the child and the other spouse, but to you and your child. If the conflict arises to such a degree, there needs to be a clear understanding that defaming the spouse in front of the children is simply not okay.

If you need additional help communicating with your kids about your marriage, or help with your marital conflict, please contact me at The Relationship Center.

 

depression counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Marriage Counseling at The Relationship Center

The post How to Tell Your Kids You’re Having Problems in Your Marriage appeared first on Rebecca Barratt, MA, LPC.

Help! My Child is Depressed!

If your child is depressed it is important to understand the symptoms and treatment options available.

What is Depression?

Depression is more than having a bad day or feeling blue—it can take a serious toll on an individual’s life.  Depression can be even more overwhelming when your child is the one experiencing it.  Children may experience depression for a variety of reasons, but it often results from a major change or trauma the child has gone through. If your child is depressed it is important to understand the symptoms and treatment options available. This article will teach you what to look for and the next steps to take if a child you know is experiencing depression.

Depression affects more than just the individual experiencing it.  As a parent, depression in your child may be confusing.  You may be asking:

    • Why is my child depressed?
    • What do I need to do next?
    • Is it my fault?
    • Will they struggle forever?

Trying to interact with a child who is depressed can sometimes feel like a lost cause.  As a parent you try and talk with your child and figure out what is wrong so you can help them.  Your child may not understand what is going on or how to communicate their feelings.  This can leave you frustrated with “I don’t know” answers.  Siblings may also be confused about what is happening in their family.  It is the elephant in the room that no one knows how to handle.

What Causes Depression?

Depression is often not attributed to one specific event but usually a series of events.  Biologically, one of the contributors to depression is a lowered level of neurotransmitters in the brain.  These carry signals through the brain that cause one to feel good.  Situations like divorce, loss of a loved one, serious illness, moving, intense periods of stress, and even school performance can be contributing factors to depression.

Recognizing Symptoms of Depression in Your Child:

Some of the symptoms of depression in children are as follows.  It is important to remember that your child may not have all of these but still may be dealing with depression.

  • Change in eating habits: eating significantly more or less than usual – not otherwise attributed to a growth spurt
  • Change in sleeping patterns: sleeping significantly more or having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Change in mood: the child is often more irritable, sad, or angry
  • Decrease in energy level: your typically spunky child is now more sedate
  • Loss of interest: Decreased desire or motivation to participate in activities the child once enjoyed
  • Low self-esteem: this may show up as negative self-talk – “I’m stupid” or “I’m ugly”
  • Hopelessness: your child may not see the future getting any better for them
  • Social withdrawal: not socializing or spending time with friends
  • Increased sensitivity to perceived rejection: believing that most people around them will reject them
  • Physical complaints that don’t respond to treatment (i.e. Stomach pains, increased headaches)
  • Increase in crying over situations that may seem benign (i.e. not liking dinner)
  • Disruptions at school: either academically or behaviorally
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

How to help:

  1. Talk with your child.  Open communication is vital.  Reassure your child.  Let them know that you’re there for them and you are willing to walk through this with them – they do not have to do this alone.
  2. Find a therapist willing to listen to both you and your child.  Walking through depression with your child needs to be a collaborative effort.
  3. Connect with a friend.  You, as the parent, need someone to walk through this with you.  Find a friend who can be encouraging.

What about medication?

Just because your child is feeling depressed or going through depression does not necessarily mean they need to be on medication.  This is a conversation you need to have with your child’s physician or psychiatrist.  Medication is best utilized in conjunction with therapy.

Now what?

If you have a child who is facing depression, or have concerns about your child, we’re here to assist you.  Please know there is help available.  This is not a journey that needs to be taken alone.  Follow this link to schedule an appointment to talk with someone about helping your child walk through depression.

 

family-250x250Over 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Family Counseling at The Relationship Center

The post Help! My Child is Depressed! appeared first on Rebecca Barratt, MA, LPC.

Why Can’t I Connect With My Foster Child?

Why Can’t I Connect With My Foster Child?

After pouring your heart and soul into your foster child, you are confused as to why they do not receive it with open arms, gobbling up all that you have to give.  You experience the pain of rejection as they toss everything you have offered them back into your face, seasoned with anger.  The experience of the disconnection resonates with both parties, and it is difficult not to take the child’s perceived rejection personally.

Attachment: What is it?

We’ve all seen them, cute, chubby cheeks that are attached to little bodies that we call newborns.  They are adorable.  In order for an infant to develop socially and emotionally, a secure relationship with a caregiver needs to take place.  Often times in the case of a child who has been placed in foster care, these secure relationships do not happen. From approximate ages six months to two years, the caregiver role is vital.  Caregivers who are sensitive and responsive to social interactions with the child, like when the child needs food, comfort or care, secure attachment is formed.  Engaging with the child through these events offers an opportunity for bonding.  Through these attachments children grow, individuate, and become functional adults.

Attachment: Why is it so important?

Attachment plays a vital role in an individual’s life.  Attachment produces a sense of belonging, especially within a family unit.  A child who is securely attached to parental figures will have a sense that they are valuable and worthwhile.   For a child who does not have a secure base, they will often take to wandering in their early teen years, looking for a place to belong.

In the life of a foster child, attachment is often lacking.  You, as a foster parent, can have an impact on that.  Kiddos in foster care report that just knowing that they were cared about assisted in feeling more comfortable.

A Caregiver’s Influence:

  1. Parents’ relationship with their child influences development.
  2. Infants use caregivers as a secure base to go from and return to when exploring the world.
  3. Caregivers response will shape a child’s perceptions, emotions, thoughts, and expectations later in life.
  4. Social support minimizes stress – for all parties involved.

Role of Caregiver; What Happens if it’s Not There?

When a child does not experience these early boding relationships, it often shows up in late childhood, early teen years.  In the case of foster care or adoption, it can seem like a sudden shift in relationship.  The effort and energy the new caretaker has invested suddenly seems unnoticed.  Children in foster care are there because of a trauma.  The trauma could include sexual abuse, verbal abuse, neglect, abandonment, and physical abuse.  When a child experiences a trauma, or repeated trauma, their EQ, or emotional intelligence quotient, gets stunted at that age.  For example, a child who experiences neglect beginning at age three will present themselves emotionally as a three year old even though they are much older.  This is important to realize because it speaks to the need that the child has.

What is RAD?

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry define several of these symptoms as Reactive Attachment Disorder, or RAD.  They suggest that most children experiencing RAD have had a disruption in the early relationships which often include physical or emotional abuse and neglect.  Those who have had “multiple or traumatic losses in their primary care giver” are also subject to RAD, including those who are in foster care.

Reactive Attachment Disorder, or RAD, is a fairly new term within the field of psychology and is defined as serious problems in emotional attachments to others (AACAP).  This shows up with children not responding to developmentally appropriate social interactions – with individuals both inside and outside the family unit.  This can be confusing to the caregiver as it shows up as ‘mixed’, meaning that the child could be responsive to you and the ‘switch gears’ and be unresponsive to your care.  Perhaps the child is resistant to your comfort, avoiding you, or watchful of you.

This also shows up in being indiscriminate in regards as to who the child attaches to.  For example, a child may seem to bond quickly with a school teacher or Sunday school teacher, a coach, or a friend’s mom, regardless of the adults’ investment in the child.

Healing Attachment:

  1. Participate in activities: What activities does the child like to do?  Participate with them.  Get them involved.
  2. Safe touch: Touch can be a powerful tool, especially when done safely.
  3. Teaching: What are life skills that you could teach the child?
  4. Reinforce and remind the child of your love.  With both word and action, remind the child of your love for them.
  5. Set up expectations/family rules.  While it can seem contradictory, having guidelines and family rules offers boundaries in which the child can rely on.

Now What?

  1. Keep on keeping on: The child needs consistent love from a stable and secure source.
  2. Involve the child in therapy, but be a part.  Often times a child is sent to therapy and made to feel as though they were the problem.  As a caregiver, being a part of their therapy can be healing and momentum building in the bonding process.
  3. Learn to listen: Build the skill of hearing the child’s heart.  Refrain from reminding the child all that you have done for them.  This can be damaging to the relationship.

If you are currently a foster parent, or know someone who is, and is struggling to build the connection with your kiddos, we’re here to help.  Please know there is help available.  This is not a journey that needs to be taken alone.  Follow this link to schedule an appointment to talk with someone about working through the attachment process.

 

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Resources:

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (2011, March). Reactive attachment disorder. Retrieved from http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/Facts_for_Families_Pages/Reactive_Attachment_Disorder_85.aspx

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (2005, May). Foster care. Retrieved from http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/Facts_for_Families_Pages/Foster_Care_64.aspx

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. (4th ed.). Washington D.C: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Diehl, D. C., Howse, R. B., & Trivette, C. M. (2010). Youth in foster care: developmental assets and attitudes towards adoption and mentoring. Child & Family Social Work , (16), 81-92. doi: doi:10.1111/j.1365-2206.2010.00716.x

Mitchell, M. B., Kuczynski, L., Tubbs, C. Y., & Ross, C. (2010). We care about care: advice by children in care for children in care, foster parents and child welfare workers about the transition into foster care.Child & Family Social Work , (15), 176-185. doi: doi:10.1111/j.1365-2206.2009.00657.x

 

 

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