Care For Yourself: Harmony Family Center’s Adoptive Mom’s Retreat

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One of the most vital aspects of being a caregiver of any kind is carving out time to care for yourself. We liken it to being on an airplane that’s going down. Adults must put their masks on first before helping children or others who are not capable of getting their masks on. We can only care for others for so long before we run out of oxygen and have nothing left to give.

When you combine caring for yourself and being in an environment where you are with others in your same life situation, some major renewal and healing can take place. A few months ago I had the privilege of being in just such an environment at Harmony Family Center’s Camp Montvale (see my Mudder’s Day Madness blog for more on this amazing location). Camp Montvale is a beautiful location in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains that houses Harmony Family Center’s equine therapy program and their adoptive family camps, both of which our family has participated in and loved!

“This Man Can”

I attended Harmony’s very first adoptive mom’s retreat, the theme for which was “This Mom Can.” Two things we’ve found to be true of all camps and retreats held by Harmony Family Center at Camp Montvale are they feed and serve you well, and they balance structured time with fun and down time. The retreat was about 24 hours long and consisted of two structured parent group times, two yoga sessions (one restorative and one morning yoga), s’mores by the fire, a pajama party, me time (either a guided nature walk, relaxation and self-regulation techniques, equine experience, or free time), pampering time (resting with new friends, therapeutic art, or manicure station), and lots of good food and fun.

The overwhelming consensus seemed to be that all of the moms had a blast and wanted to enjoy another retreat like it as soon as possible. I so enjoyed connecting with moms I knew previously and getting to know them better and making new friends. I met moms who were walking some of the extremely difficult, heart-wrenching parts of the foster care adoption journey that we were living through. The sense of connection and validation was so refreshing.

Retreats such as this one provide a very targeted way for foster and adoptive parents to get some much needed self care. I highly recommend caregivers find and take advantage of a retreat especially for adoptive or foster parents. Check out my video to see some of the retreat up close!



What retreats for foster or adoptive parents have you attended or do you know about in your area?

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What I Hate Most (Today) About Foster Care: 5 Things to Do About It

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At this point in our society, foster care is at times necessary to keep kids safe, and when implemented and utilized correctly, foster care can yield success. But, it is always, at least to some extent, messy, traumatic, and problematic. Anyone involved with foster care hates aspects of it. Professionals and foster parents want to quit often and many do, and the children and birth families want out desperately.

Uncertainty

So many parts of foster care are worthy of disdain, but what I hate most, at least today anyways, is the uncertainty of it. As an adult, I can scarcely wrap my head around the maybe’s, the what if’s, and so on, but what bothers me most is the inability I have as a foster parent to answer those questions, what if’s, maybe’s, and such of the children I am responsible for, those whom I am seeking to give “felt safety” to—a sense of security. I can’t make them any promises for the future.

We live in daily uncertainty. These questions break my heart:

  • Can we have a party at Chuck-E-Cheese for my birthday?
  • Can I be a pirate for Halloween?
  • I do not want to move again! What if I get moved this week? What if they come tomorrow and tell me to pack my bags?
  • What if my parents’ rights are terminated, and I never get to see them again?
  • What if I never see my siblings again?
  • What if my next home (insert something undesirable to the child here)?
  • I miss my house. I miss waking up in my own bed! What if I never get to sleep there again?

There is so much unknown about their futures, and this can drag on for months and years. There is such a feeling of powerlessness and lack of control for us and them.


What Can I Do About Uncertainty?

With my adopted children I can now promise that as long as I’m alive, I am their mom forever, I will keep them in contact with their birth families, I will continue to go to bat for them fighting for their best interests and helping them overcome difficulties from their past. I cannot tell foster kids even what their near future holds. I cannot promise them everyone in their lives will react in certain ways, but there are some things I can do.

  1. Safe Adults – Safe Relationships
    I can seek to help them build trust in safe adults in their lives, so I will not make promises I cannot keep. I will not ensure them that [X] will or will not happen when I cannot guarantee that it will or will not. I will let them know I will do everything in my very limited power to ensure something does or does not happen. I will promise to go to bat for them and fight with everything I can for their best interests. I can make sure the decision makers know how the kids feel and what their wishes are.
  2. Felt Safety and Security
    I can do the best I can to make them feel safe and secure while they’re here and give them hope for their futures, but even for a teen who is just a few years away from escaping, the present is most often too daunting and overwhelming to see past. I can show them examples of adults who were in their shoes who made it.
  3. Assisting With Fears
    I can walk them through their fears, helping them understand the ones which are irrational, and helping them think through what the worst realities could be and what they can do about them. This will help take away the overwhelming power of these fears.
  4. Feel Better With The Little Things
    I can do everything in my power to make them feel just a little better. I can print out pictures for a birth mom and buy her a birthday card when they’re sad they’re missing her birthday. I can arrange sibling visits. I can make sure they have good experiences in my home and document it for them to remember in the future, wherever that future may take them.
  5. Validate Feelings
    I can validate their feelings and provide a listening ear.

Now It’s Your Turn!

What do you hate most about foster care, and what are you doing about it?


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Fidget Spinners – True Fidgets or Simply Toys

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Fidget spinners have become the desire of kids of all ages across the United States, inundating checkout lanes and mall kiosks. Having started as a simple contraption, they are now being sold in light-up and singing versions and come in all shapes and sizes.

What I Love About the Craze

Before the beginning of the current fidget spinner craze and the smaller trend of fidget cubes which preceded it, the term “fidget” as a noun was not well known outside of circles of therapists and parents of children with special needs. As a matter of fact, just months ago our volunteers discussed holding a fidget drive to collect fidgets to give to foster and adoptive families, but they struggled with how to express succinctly what they would be collecting. The fidget spinner and fidget cube have both also normalized the use of fidgets somewhat, making children who need these tools feel less odd for using something their classmates do not.

So What Is a Fidget Exactly and Who Do They Help?

To fidget, as defined by Dictionary.com, means to move about restlessly, nervously, or impatiently. Fidgeting is very common among children with ADD/ADHD (attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), autism, anxiety, mood regulation disorders, and trauma.

Children who are in foster care, who have been adopted, or who have special needs often lack the ability to calm, or self-soothe, themselves, and it’s our job as their life coaches to teach them these skills and also to come alongside and calm them until they learn to do it themselves. Kids with any of the aforementioned difficulties need sensory activities to help them calm down. Engaging the senses and providing motor activities in different ways produces calming effects, reducing stress and anxiety and helping the brain and senses organize themselves and increasing attention. Fidgets are objects that provide sensory input and motor activity that produce calming effects for their users, they increase attention, and they allow users to better filter sensory input.

“Fidgets are objects that provide sensory input and motor activity that produce calming effects for their users, they increase attention, and they allow users to better filter sensory input.”

Are Fidget Spinners True Fidgets?

In our travels, we have encountered teacher after teacher who loathes fidget spinners. These fidgets have sparked controversy and begun to be banned in schools several states. Good fidgets provide a sensory experience for their users without distracting them or others around them. Fidget spinners are visually distracting to those using them and to others who can see them. One teacher talked about children who do not need fidgets playing with them in her classroom and about students spinning them on their nose. Additionally, fidget spinners do not provide much gross motor engagement or tactile stimulation. While research has not been done to test out this new fad, the general consensus among scientists, therapists, teachers, and parents seems to be that fidget spinners are toys and NOT true fidgets.

How Can You Help Your Child?

Every child is different, so we recommend you experiment with what types of motor activities and sensory experiences help your child to be calm and attentive. Check out our blogs—”The Best Fidgets for Surviving Amusement Parks with Kids” and “Calm Down Boxes for Foster, Adoptive and Special Needs Homes“—for ideas!

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