help4yourfamily

Create the family you want to have

Parent Affirmation Monday- being present- 12/3/2012

Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu.

Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

This week’s affirmation is simple and meant to be a reminder to help your holiday season happier for you. Have you ever noticed how the holidays have changed since you had children. They can go from a time you anticipate all of the wonderful surprises, to a time you find yourself constantly working to make sure everything gets done. When you are planning the holidays around your children, while also keeping up with the regular routines in your life, the joy of the season can become lost in favor of muddling through and getting it all done. My hope is to simply remind you to take time to stop and enjoy yourself along the way.

I remember my wedding day. It was scheduled to be outside in the summer at the end of a long drought in our area. It was actually scheduled for what I now call “the day the drought ended.” About an hour and a half before the ceremony, the drought ended with a bang, thunder, lightning and a heavy downpour. I guess because I don’t take myself very seriously, I really didn’t fret about it. My friends kept telling me how sorry they were for the bad luck and kept reminding me rain on your wedding day is lucky. I just laughed and told them it was all going into my memories of a special day. I decided the minute the rain started that the day would be special, rain or not.

My point is, that at some point, it is all just going to be memories. If the kids are too scared to sit on Santa’s lap for the perfect picture? Memories. If you burn the turkey and everyone lives on side dishes? Memories. Almost any imperfect happening can be looked back on with a smile later if we have the right attitude, so why not allow yourself to be present, go with the flow, and, when it gets to the point where you have a chance to sit back and enjoy your hard work and planning, do it?

This week, I want to remind you that as you find yourself planning to create just the “right” memories, remember also, that there comes a point at which you can stop and just enjoy the ride as well. Show your children that when you plan well, you also get to laugh hard, have fun, and be present in the moment. Any worries you have about work, money or anything else can wait a moment while you allow yourself and your children to enjoy a family meal, take a drive to see the Christmas lights, or enjoy a special holiday show.

This week’s affirmation is:

I enjoy being present with my children as we enjoy each moment together. I remember that it is often the imperfect moments that we end up treasuring the most.

By the way, 15 minutes before my ceremony, the sky cleared and we ended up having our ceremony outside anyway. It turns out whether I worried or not, the day was destined to work out just fine.

December 3, 2012 Posted by | affirmations, help for parents, parent support/ self improvement | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Parent Affirmation Monday- budgeting- 11/26/2012

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

Pile of gorgeous gifts

Pile of gorgeous gifts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s that time of year again. The time when any old unresolved feelings we have about giving and receiving get activated. Whether you celebrate a holiday that involves gifts, right about now in the United States it would take quite a lot to get away from the messages we get about the meaning of giving and receiving different kinds of gifts. For parents, the meaning of giving gifts can change when we have children. Some of us work to make sure our children have just the same kind of holiday that our parents gave us. Others want our holidays to have little to no resemblance to the holidays from our past. We have a tendency to see people that we only see one to two times per year right around now, which can bring up old, unresolved feelings and cause us to evaluate where we think we are in relation to others. With this perfect storm of holiday memories past and holiday hopes for the future, what happens next can put a real strain on our wallets.

In an effort to get us all through the holidays feeling content with the decisions we have made, I would like to recommend taking a moment each day to ponder what a reasonable budget is for you for this season. When you do, you might want to keep in mind that children are happier when their parents are happy, peaceful and content. Sticking with a budget allows you to feel this way. A parent who is stressed and worried about money is more likely to overreact when children are feeling the normal excitement that goes with the holidays.

If you do that thing I hear some parents do where you worry that you are not getting your children enough, take a moment to ask them what they got last Christmas. I bet they don’t remember it all beyond a few meaningful gifts. Think what the money from the gifts they have already forgotten from last year would mean in your retirement fund, or your child’s college savings rather than on the floor of your child’s room. Also remember that when we look back, we tend to think more about our parents actions, good or bad, than we remember what items they gave us.

This weeks affirmation is:

When I give gifts to my children, I spend only an amount that is affordable to me. I remember that I show my love to my children via actions more than things.

One person who has really come up with a wonderful way to help parents get through the holiday while maintaining sanity and a budget is the Flylady. She has a free email sign up that allows you to “fly through the holidays” where she gives one item that takes a couple of minutes each day to help you get ready for the holidays. I used it myself last year and had to pinch myself while I sipped coffee and read a book on Christmas Eve because all of my preparations were complete, and I had come in under budget. You can do it too.

As a child, did you ever receive a gift that was really special to you? What was the meaning of the gift? What memories do  you want your children to have this holiday?

November 26, 2012 Posted by | affirmations, parent support/ self improvement | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tips for Gift Giving and the Child With a History of Abuse

English: Danboard holding a Christmas gift.

English: Danboard holding a Christmas gift. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

It is the time of year when many adults are on a mission to find just the right gifts for the special children in their lives. One issue that comes up in my practice around this time of year is that of giving gifts to children who have a history of abuse or neglect. While many adults would love to believe that this is the time of year when we can try to make things right, be it a child who may have missed out on many of the memories that make us misty eyed, or laugh out loud when we think about them. I have spoken with many a parent who wishes to restore the magical elements of the Christmas or Hannukah holiday season by showering children with gifts and creating special memories for children in hopes of replacing older more difficult memories.

To ease the way for adoptive and foster parents of children who have a history of abuse or neglect, I would like to give some food for thought as you decide what will work for your child this holiday.

1. Please be aware that for children who have been abused, gifts may carry a different meaning than they do for other children. Many times the cycle of physical abuse including domestic violence may include gifts from the perpetrator following the abuse as the abusers way of trying to apologize or bribe a child into staying silent. Additionally, a child who has been a victim of sexual abuse may have been offered gifts as part of the process of grooming the child for abuse, or again as a means to apologize or buy silence from the child. If you have a child in your home who has experienced this, or you are uncertain if a child has experienced the giving of gifts as part of a cycle of abuse, please be sure to check in with your child’s therapist to see what you might need to do to help re-write the script for you child when it comes to the giving and receiving of gifts. This process cannot be described in a post because it will need to be individualized for each child. If you are uncertain whether your child has this issue and they do not have a therapist, it is time to start looking for one.

2. When children have a history of abuse or neglect, they tend to miss the lessons we all learn (or don’t learn) as babies about emotional regulation. In other words, whereas the rest of us tend to learn over time that we all have highs and lows, sometimes even in the same day, and we learn to manage those highs and lows, children with an abuse or neglect history have not been taught this same emotional management systems so the highs can seem higher or more agitated and the lows can seem lower. Many parents describe to me that their adopted or foster child just can’t seem to stop when things are going well and find a way to get into trouble every time they have a good day. If you have a child like this, I would suggest that for the child’s benefit, you pare down your festivities to something that is more meaningful to them and which does not get them more over-excited than they already are. A few thoughtful gifts will be more meaningful and easier to manage than a tree that has many, many gifts underneath it.

3. Remember your child may not have learned about the same traditions you have around holidays and birthdays. I have had children tremble and shake in my office over the idea of “birthday spankings,” because they actually got painful birthday spankings in their birth family, or because a foster or adoptive parent mentioned them as a joke, but the child in question did not hear it as a joke but as a threat. Similarly, I have had children in my office who have had Christmas taken away as punishment for being bad, or had gifts given only to be repossessed by parents the next day. Some children have had traumas specific to a given day, for example, witnessing domestic violence at Thanksgiving or seeing a parent get hurt by another parent who did not agree with how much money was spent on a child’s gift. Children may have been given an internal message that all gifts bring pain of some sort with them, whether it is the pain of disappointment, physical or emotional pain, or the feeling of being unworthy of a gift. Again, if you are concerned that this is an issue for your child, the time is now to begin discussing it with your child’s therapist to see about recognizing and rewriting old belief patterns.

4. Consider whether your child may need you to walk them through the gift giving process in your family. Most of us do not think about it, but each family really does do things in a unique way. Letting your child know how this family does it, will be helpful to them so they know what is going to happen next.

5. Avoid labeling gifts as secrets, as in, “Don’t tell Mom we got this for her. It’s a secret.” Instead try something like, “We are going to surprise mom with this gift. It’s okay to keep this surprise until she gets it.” It may seem like a small distinction but for kids with the kind of history we are talking about I always try to teach the difference between surprises and secrets. Surprises= safe and good, secrets= unsafe and bad. As children grow and begin to feel safer in their day to day life, we can get less concrete about this issue.

6. Remember to receive any gift your child gives you with love and acceptance being extra sure that they do not hear critique of their gift as you receive it. Remember to that your child, for all of the above reasons and more, may have difficulty giving a gift to you as it may symbolize for them any number of difficult memories, or remind them of a relationship they have a major internal conflict about.

While I know this post may remind you of some issues you would rather forget during the season, one wonderful things I have seen over the years is how parents of adoptive and foster children work so hard to come up with the combination of experiences that best meet their child’s needs. If you are a foster or adoptive parent of a child adopted at an older age with a history of abuse or neglect, please feel free to chime in with any other tips you have. I would love to hear about things that went right and things you would have changed if you could go back in time.

November 21, 2012 Posted by | attachment disorder, keeping children safe, mental health | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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