Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Take a deep breath and jump into the New Year!!

It’s that time of year that we grown-ups start thinking about all the “what if’s” from the past year.  What if we had lost those 20lbs that we said we would, what if we had gone organic last year, and what if we had kept up with date night with my spouse?  It is so easy for us to look back and be frustrated with what we did not do. Take a moment and remember all you did do this past year.  Breathe in and breathe out and realize that you did what you could.  Look back at some pictures from the year or your Facebook posts and remember all the accomplishments and events that happened.  

Take one more deep breath and get ready for another year.  What the year consists of is up to you.  If you want to bring joy to it, you will be able to find some joy in almost every circumstance.  If you want to explore the world, you will find a way to explore every small moment.  The year is not written.  

Here ……  We ……. Go ……

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How can I encourage my children to make New Year’s resolutions with me?

Making New Year’s resolutions may or may not be a tradition for you, but even if it is not it can be a great way to teach your children about working to improve a part of their lives.  

It does not have to be at the turn of the New Year but most of us want our children to grow to be adults that recognize their shortcomings and work to improve themselves.  Children will always model the attitudes and actions of the adults closest to them so it’s a good opportunity for us adults to work to better ourselves too.  

1.        Talk to your children in a positive way about one of the ways YOU would like to improve YOURSELF.  This means that if your goal is to lose a little weight, avoid making comments about how fat or ugly you feel.  These phrases and terms can really get stuck in your children’s heads for a long time.   Focus instead on wanting to have more energy and be well balanced.  

2.       Ask your children if there are any habits in their own lives that they would like to work to improve.  Be very careful her NEVER to lead your children to what YOU think they should do.  Chances are you have talked to them in the past about actions they need to work on or behaviors that are not appropriate or healthy.  Your children will already remember that and you don’t need to repeat yourself.  Work instead to let your children contemplate the question.  It may take them a few days to understand and come up with something they want to work on.    

3.       When your children come up with an idea, support it and invite them to explain it more thoroughly.  Ask your children why this action and why now. Talk about how they will feel when this habit is created (or eliminated).  Express to your children how proud you are that they have decided to take these big steps and let them know you will be there through the process.  Ask your children to partner with you and hold each other accountable.  

4.      Work together on the steps.  Sometimes a life change can be just too big to start or stop right away.  For example if your daughter wanted to find more friends at school there may be steps involved in that.  The first would be to think about who is friendly.  Then next would be to involve the new friend in a few activities at school.  The next might be to invite the other child to eat lunch with her.  Next you could invite the child to the house to play.  

Another example might be that your son wants to get better at baseball.  The first step might be to practice catching for 15 min every day, and then he might add 15 min of hitting every day.  Working to get a coach or tutor might be a step that is taken, and you might want your child to earn extra money or do extra chores to pay for it.

5.       As your children begin to work through these steps there are bound to be disappointments and horrible days.  That is expected when changing a habit.  That is why working as partners with them is such a great idea.  Your children can nudge and encourage you in your new habit forming/breaking endeavor and you can do the same for them.  This is a very big step. As a parent it is our first instinct to come and fix the problem or tell them how to fix it and what to do.  However, it is very important to let your children lead this process.  You can encourage them with comments like “I saw that it was very difficult for you to choose to work on hitting the baseball today, but you kept at it and did it even though all your friends were outside playing Frisbee.  I am proud and I see that you are working very hard.”  Or “I know that you were very disappointed when your new friend Emma did not want to sit with you at lunch.  It is very hard when you ask such an important question and someone says no." 

Working with your children to improve part of your life can be a great connecting experience.  And the benefit works for you, your children and the relationship you have together. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Families Grown through Adoption: Public Adoption

Over the last few months I have been re-posting articles I wrote about Adoption for my good friends at Regarding Nannies. I encourage you to regularly take a look at what they have to offer you as someone caring for children.  

As I adoptive mother myself, this is a topic I love to talk and write about.  The decision to adopt was easy for me and my husband.  Choosing the method was a bit more complicated.  In picking a Public Adoption we knew we were risking our hearts a bit more but Nadia was worth it.    

Public Adoption has many names it is known under: state adoption, foster to adoption, foster care and legal risk adoption.  These are adoptions that happen through a state and local government agency.  Here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin ours is called Children Service Society of Wisconsin (CSSW.)  Many people are afraid of this form of adoption because of the great risk of losing the child.  Unlike most private adoptions, an adoptive family welcomes home the child before the rights of the birth parents are officially terminated.  Speaking from experience this is a giant risk.  

This adoption is free, in fact in most states the adoptive parents are paid to care for the child while they are still officially in foster care.  Often times, but not always adoptive parents are given a stipend and other benefits like state healthcare for the child until he or she is 18 years old.  This form of adoption will generally get a child in your home in the shortest amount of time and is quickest if you are willing to accept an older child or a child with special needs. 
Unfortunately this method of adoption has the most drawbacks.  The risks or dangers are many.  Though most of the social workers you will work with through this system are knowledgeable and friendly, they have very large and overwhelming workloads.  This causes home studies and paperwork to take longer.  There are usually classes that need to be taken and once you take custody of a child, you can expect visits from social workers every other week.  

Also, with this kind of adoption the birth parents generally do not want to give up their child.  The child is usually being removed because of neglect, abuse or parental drug use.  This in itself presents the increased possibility of long term effects on the child.  However, the fact that the birth mom or dad is actively fighting the decisions of the court causes many families to stay far away from this method of adoption.

I said my husband and I adopted Nadia through public adoption.  Though her adoption went smoothly, we had a heartbreaking event with our first attempt of adoption.  We were in the process of taking custody of a 9 month old girl when the courts made the decision she would stay where she was – which was another adoptive family that was neglecting her.  Of course this was heartbreaking and I still think and pray for this little girl named Grace.  

Nick and Esther Crawford have had another difficult road to adopting their little girl Peach.  They had a 1 year old boy when they made the choice to adopt through the state.  Peach is now a 6 year old that has been in and out of foster care for her entire life.  Nick and Esther worked hard to include Peach’s birth mother in their lives even going so far to invite her to Thanksgiving and other family events.  They did this because they wanted Peach to transaction well and they also wanted her birth mother to know she could always be a part of Peach’s life.  This had mix results.  Her birth mother has gone back and forth in her willingness to terminate her parental rights.  Nick and Esther are unwavering in their commitment to Peach and somehow are able to love her birth mother through all these issues.  They are confident they will someday be able to officially call Peach part of their forever family, it will just take time.  

Public adoption is clearly not for everyone, however I believe there is a sense that some of the children in this system have no one else.  I personally know this is what motivates me to adopt through the public system.  And I guess I would say it is one more benefit to this type of adoption.  

I strongly believe that any form of adoption you choose, you are welcoming a child into your home that needs you.  Every family is different and needs to decide for themselves which is right for them. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What do I do when my child starts wondering about Santa Claus?

We want our children to be honest with us.  The best way to teach this is to be honest with them.  When it comes to topics like Santa, Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy this becomes complicated.  We want our children to enjoy the “magic” of these special events but we know they will eventually find out the truth.  Most of us want to balance between the mom from Miracle on 34th Street who told her child from the earliest age that there is no Santa and the parent keeping the magic alive far past the normal age.   

On the one hand by encouraging your children to ask Santa for toys at Christmas, having them visit a local Santa and making cookies for him to eat Christmas Eve, you bring your children joy.  On the other hand it is a type of a lie. 

The easiest alternative is to tell your children from the beginning that the story of Santa is just that, a story.  You can tell your children the real stories of St Nick and all the legends of Santa Claus that are out there.  I don’t see any reason you can’t even have them visit Santa.  It can be a fun adventure, like visiting Disney World.  Most of the children understand that the characters are not real, they are made up.  But they often still get excited to see these characters.  Santa can be no different.  The story he brings of giving toys to children in need is a beautiful one.  It is very possible for your children to be excited about the character of Santa but understand it to be a story, not reality.   

A lot of parents though may have already gone down the road of a “real” Santa or you simply have preference and want to bring that magic into your children’s lives in a substantial way.  If this is the case then you probably already are aware there will come a time that you need to come clean.  

I think the most damaging thing for children when it comes to learning about Santa is how they find out.  It is usually from other children but sometimes it is from their own deductive reasoning.  If your child begins to question Santa, you can use it as an opportunity to encourage his detective skills.  “Wow, how did you figure out the mystery?  What were your clues?”   

When your children’s bubble is burst by an older sibling or school friends it can be more devastating because it may seem to them like you have been holding out.  Focus your attention on how your children are feeling about the issue and let that be your guide.  Help them with the deductive reasoning. 

If at this point you make up new stories and fabricate more lies to cover the original lie that can damage your relationship.  If you continue with the myth, when they eventually find out the truth they will not only be crushed but they will then remember you trying to continue with the lie.  This can be devastating, not only because Santa isn’t real, but because mom and dad lied to me about it to “make me behave better.”

Once your child starts questioning the truth, it is time to end the story.  However, you don’t need to just blurt out “Santa is not real.”  Be honest with your child and explain that your intention was to bring joy and excitement to him, not to hurt him.  Again you can praise the critical thinking that went into discovering the truth.    

It is better for you to tell your child a little too early about the true identity of Santa than it is to wait until he finds out from someone else.