Friday, November 18, 2016

Foster Care Meeting 5 & 6

Class five and six were definitely easier classes, but they were also very important.

In class five, we learned about the biological parents. After talking so much about figuring out what was going on in children's minds, we were turning our attention to the "abusers" and "neglectors."

However, after talking about asking "why are they doing this," in relation to the children, it was pretty easy for me to transfer that same thought process toward the parents.

First, the instructor showed us a picture of a very messy home. He asked us to try and look at it in a positive way. Instead of finding things to scorn and find concerning, he asked us to look for positive areas in the home. Our job was to figure out what the parent was doing right, so we could work from there. We were also supposed to try and think of the best possible reasons that the house might be in that condition.

He explained that he had been to some extremely disgusting homes when he first became involved in the foster care program, and he had motioned to the mess around him and asked the parents, "What are we going to do about this?"

The parents would look at him with very obvious confusion and say, "About what? You should have seen my mother's house. Mine looks great compared to hers."

A lot of time, they simply don't know that there is a better way. If we are going to work with them, we need to find the good things that they are accomplishing so we can support, love, and care for them.

Some of the notes I took during this meeting, consisted of the following:

  • We need to think "why are they doing this? or why are they acting this way?" instead of "How dare they do this!" toward the parents.
  • If there is a cause for behaviors in children, why isn't there a cause for adults?
  • Never say anything bad about bioparents, especially in front of their children. If the kid wants to talk negatively about their parents, listen and validate their feelings, but don't encourage. 
  • We need to help parents get in a state where they think, "I can do that." Overwhelmed parents are not thinking parents. Don't be fearful, invite and aid. 
  • Try and see things from bioparent's perspective. They are living in the moment. They can't see the big picture, or waste time thinking about the future.
It was really interesting to think about things from a different perspective. We had entered this program to help children in need. I had never even thought about helping their families. However, as we watched some videos of parents who had previously had children in foster care, I realized how important it is that we don't give up on the children's parents too. 

A lot of these parents are no more than children in adults bodies still living in survival mode and struggling with their own abuse and trauma. They need the help as much as their children do. Instead of turning our backs on them and dismissing them as "failures," we need to be their support and encourage the progress they are making.

The instructor talked about how, especially with parents who are on drugs, that the trauma of having their children removed can send them spiraling even deeper into their addiction. By the time they finish the grief cycle, time is almost up (they have a year to prove to the judge that they are making substantial progress.) Often these parents will look at all the things that they are supposed to do and the amount of time they have left, and they will just give up. 

Reunification is the BEST option, if it is safe and possible. We need to treat these parents like human beings and have more empathy for what they are going through. I hope that we'll be able to help a lot of parents and children become reunited and functional.

In class 6, we talked about Managing Emotions & Behaviors and the Effects of Caregiving. In other words, this was the discipline class.

Grig and I had both been looking forward to this class, because we were hoping that it would help us with disciplining our three year old. It was somewhat gratifying to realize that we were already doing a lot of the things that he explained to us. 

For example, a while ago, we were trying to figure out how to help Kevin's reactions. He would start screaming when he didn't like something, and would become physical. We were at a loss, when suddenly it hit me that we could try role-playing. So, when something happened, and he reacted in a way that we didn't like, we would stop and practice the situation in a positive manner a couple more times. 

So it would go like this: 

Random friend: Kevin's Mom, Kevin is blocking the slide!
Kevin: *gives a grumpy and stubborn face*
Me: Kevin, would you like it if your friends wouldn't let you go down the slide?
Kevin: *grunts and doesn't respond*
Me: Would that make you happy?
Kevin: No.
Me: Okay, let's practice. You pretend to block me, and I'm going to ask you to stop. 
Kevin: *stands in front of me with arms stretched out*
Me: Please move, Kevin.
Kevin: Okay. *He moves out of the way*
Me: My turn. Now I'm going to block you.
Kevin: Please move out of my way.
Me: Very good! Let's try again!

It's been working really well for us, and has helped to teach him how he should react in those situations. He's been a lot easier to work with. You can't just tell a child how to stop a behavior, they have to have something to replace that behavior.

There are also some that we definitely need to work on, but overall, I don't think we are doing too badly as parents. 

Here are some of my notes from the discipline class:
  • Effective discipline is more concerned about stopping future behaviors, instead of current behaviors
  • Offer reasons and show child why they will benefit the child
  • Engage in positive discussions
  • The most effective parenting is teaching and showing 
  • You can't tell someone they can't do something, you have to give them another option
  • 3 things to ask before you deal with a child: 1-How am I feeling? 2- How is the child feeling? 3- If I continue with this path, how will this impact our relationship long-term.
  • Every interaction you have with a child teaches something. 
  • Always ask WHY. If we're questioning, we're staying in the logical part of our brain and not dropping into the emotional basement of our brain. The emotional part of our brain is the part that can be out-of-control.
  • Whenever you say, "Don't" you've only alerted their brains to what comes next. Most of the time, they won't hear the "don't." They'll only hear the second part, and they'll do it.
  • Notice good behaviors. Recognize them and praise the child. Acknowledge the progress they're making and help the child be aware of their own progress.
  • Negative attention is better than NO attention. A child will take what they can get.
  • Timing matters (how far along they are developmentally, understanding their age and what they can comprehend, how we and they are feeling in the moment.
  • Every behavior is purposeful. There's always a reason behind it. 
  • Have appropriate consequences, both good and bad. They need to make sense to your child. Control yourself. Our logic brain and our emotional brain are like the opposite ends of a teeter-totter. The higher one side, the less control the other side has. If we allow our emotions to be raised to high in our minds, we are only going to negatively impact our relationship. Wait until you're at least even. 
Image result for teeter totter public domain
  • Help them rewire their own brains. Positive reinforcement with immediate feedback. (The instructor explained it like a game of hot and cold. You're always giving feedback on how close they are getting to the target. Telling them they are colder isn't negative, it's useful. If a child comes in the room and you just stare at them, they won't know how to find the object.)
  • Explain what they are doing well, don't just tell them, "Good job."
  • When modeling a behavior, talk out loud and explain what you are doing and why you are doing it. 
It was a really good class, and I think it has already helped our parenting.

It's kind of funny. I've been training dogs for a long time, and a lot of what they are saying about parenting is pretty similar to dog training. For example, I learned that you should never discipline or train when you are angry. Anger will turn everything you do into a negative experience. If you're feeling your emotions rise, stop training. Resume when you are under control again.

Of course there are differences, but all the things the teacher was teaching us made sense to me.

He also mentioned one other important thing that I wanted to write down.

If you have a two-year-old, and you tell them no, they are going to throw a fit. There is no magic way to fix their behavior.

What did you expect? They're two.


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