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10 Questions for Discovering Media Triggers Which Harm Foster/Adoptive Kids

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Effects of Stress and Trauma

More often than not people use books, songs, and movies as a great way to escape the cares, worries, and concerns of reality temporarily. Many of us have a good grasp at what types of media we can add to our day to ward off negative stress and emotions. This is because we have a great understanding of our own thoughts, feelings and our own personal history.

When stress and severe and/or chronic trauma are tossed into one’s life, it brings up a multitude of issues including how a piece of media will affect a person. I [Darren] have become somewhat aware of this phenomenon the longer that I am on the adoption/foster care journey.

My Media Experience

As a university student in the 1990s, I was introduced to the TV series called, The X-files by a group of friends. In the show two specialized FBI agents investigate paranormal or supernatural occurrences happening throughout the United States. More often than not this included alien activity but the show also did visit human phenomenon that frequently put other people in mortal danger. This show was great at causing you to keep guessing and get your adrenaline pumping. The cliff hangers and suspense were part of the appeal for me to continue watching every week.

Fast forward to the present with me as a foster father and an adoptive father of four. I have since witnessed a lot of real horrors that can occur in the human world. I have discovered these scary events through learning past history of children or from having to help a child overcome their trauma-caused behaviors. A side-effect of getting in the trenches and helping people that are suffering from trauma is getting a bit shell-shocked yourself – secondary PTSD is real.

While looking through Netflix for a movie to watch with my older children, I came across X-files. Knowing that my son would relish the thrills I decided to introduce them to the show. They LOVED it but I found myself begging them to turn the show off after binging three episodes. I just couldn’t hack the adrenaline rush the show was causing inside me. What was once thrilling now made me anxious and I know it is due to the traumas that I have experienced while caring for children – I’m not complaining, looking for pity, or upset – I’m just stating reality.

Is Media Harming Your Child?

If a TV show can effect me because of SECONDARY PTSD, then how much more is certain media affecting my children who incidentally are less equipped to cope with these issues. This is part of the reason why Transfiguring Adoption reviews various media through our book and movie lists. We want you not only to be able to begin a conversation with your child but know if a piece of media has the potential to trigger your child’s trauma.

Ten Questions for Discovering Media Triggers

  1. Are children, adults, or animals being abused? Domestic violence? How graphic/real is it?
  2. Are drugs or alcohol being consumed? How graphic/real is it?
    Naturally, children from traumatic backgrounds may have experience these abuses in their birth home. Obviously, placing media that reminds them of past trauma is not going to be healthy.
  3. Sexual content? Nudity? Sexual violence? Consent? No consent?
    Just as point number two, this area could directly remind children of the trauma found in their birth home.
  4. Is a character being rejected by adults or peers?
    Foster/adoptive children seem to have this innate fear of being different and most seem to feel like an outsider due to their situation or past. This thinking along with the fact that some kiddos may have actually been rejected by their birth family.
  5. Will the media cause your child to have an adrenaline rush?
    An adrenaline rush and other chemicals are present during many situations like a birthday party, Christmas, an amusement park ride. It is also present when we are being physically or sexually abused or in other dangers. Thus, a spike in adrenaline can trigger one’s body and mind to think about past trauma even though you might be experiencing something positive. This is why many foster kiddos will sabotage a holiday or a birthday.
  6. Are children/animals being neglected? How graphic/real is it?
    These might even be a small part or a snippet of a storyline in a movie or book. However, for a child who spent years being neglected, just a few seconds of seeing a dog not fed or severely ignored is a enough to awaken emotional stress inside of them.
  7. Does a person/animal die? A parent? How graphic/real is it?
  8. Is there an action being performed in the media that your child negatively associates with their past?
    Naturally, all of these questions require you to know your child and this question especially insists you know him/her.
  9. Are foster/adoptive parents portrayed in a bad light or unfit to care properly for a child?
    Many times media portrays foster/adoptive parents as the villains or knuckleheads for comic relief. Children from traumatic backgrounds have more than likely been forced to be the adult/parent in their life, which in turn makes it difficult to get them to simply be a child under a caregiver’s home. Movies that portray caregivers as the less than equipped to properly care for children will merely help to reinforce the notion that a child must continue to care for themselves.
  10. Is a character being abandoned? Purposefully left behind?
    If your child was not abandoned by a birth parent, they are more than likely still coping with the fact that they were taken from their birth home. It is important to be sensitive about movies or books that are portraying a character being left behind.

Click & Print the Worksheet Below for Your Reference

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Be Available and Know Your Child

As we have briefly mentioned above, it is important to know your child when looking at a piece of media. There have been times where several foster parents have warned against viewing a certain movies. However, after viewing the movie, my child had no issue with it.

However, one cannot predict or protect a child from everything at all times. Thus, it is always good to be available to talk with your child about a piece of media. The pitfall that many of us caregivers fall into is simply being available to talk directly after viewing/reading something. Most people simply do not process that quickly. Days or weeks after being acquainted with a piece of media it is very possible that thoughts or ideas are going to percolate to the surface of your child’s mind. These are going to be ideas that they need help unpacking and thinking through with a safe and caring adult.

Did this help you? We would love to hear what you think.


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Ways To Make An Adopted Child Feel More Included – Guest Blog by Maxine Chalker

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When it comes to adoption, there are some challenges when it comes to making sure your child feels included in the family. Make your adopted child feel more included without focusing solely on them. It’s a challenging prospect, but one you will have to face if you are determined to build a harmonious home and family.

It’s common for adopted children, and their parents, to go through a period of wondering whether they will fit into the family naturally one day. However, setting biological differences aside, there are too many cases to ignore where the person who was adopted has been introduced into a family with the love and support they needed to create an eternal parent-child bond. What may have worked for one family may not work for yours, but here are some tips to try and work in in order to make your child feel more included.

  1. Don’t rush love

Just like you didn’t rush into the adoption process, you shouldn’t rush the bonding experience. Instead, take a step back and observe the small ways in which your child is reaching further and further out to you. Maybe they smile a little more when you walk in the room, or you’ve found a common interest or you’ve discovered that you have the same quirk. Rest in those moments a little more and marvel at all the magical ways bonding takes place at its own pace. You will get there together and only together.

Each stage of a baby’s and child’s development requires different things from the parent to build trust and love.

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  1. Read together

Reading time is sacred time for several reasons: we rarely do it anymore, it’s one of the quietest and calmest activities we engage in and it’s a beautiful opportunity to connect in a whole other world of fantasy. You may be reading with a toddler who barely understands the words, or a child is doing most of the reading; either way, it is a stress-melting way to end the day while you sit close and share a bedtime snack.

AdoptionsFromTheHeart.com has a list of books you can consider including in this ritual to have the most impact.

  1. Involve the other kids

If your adopted child is going to feel more like a part of the family, they must feel like they are on equal footing with the other children in the home and beyond. While it’s sensible to set the same rules and expectations for all kids in the house, it sometimes gets overlooked outside.

Are you taking the same steps when your child is playing with their new cousins, or on the playground? Kids can innately sense that you are coddling or protecting the newest addition, and that’s perfectly common at first. But, you must let them pitch in just like the rest of the kids or they won’t quite feel like they are “one or part of the gang”. This is much easier when bringing a very young baby into the family and will take a little more patience and encouragement for older kids, but the payoff when you see all children in the family working and playing as a unit is priceless.

  1. Start new traditions

If for you, the word “family” is synonymous with the word “tradition” then you’re not alone. Families are built and glued (and sometimes re-glued together) with traditions.

Start up a new tradition when your adopted child arrives and not only will they feel welcomed, they will see what a positive impact they are already having in their home. If they come from a different ethnic background, you can always use that as inspiration for the tradition but as long as you make it fun and sustainable throughout the years, it will be perfect.

Need a few ideas for new family traditions? Try some of these totally fun and goofy activities and see what sticks! Even just in trying out new things you will be bonding.

Just remember that it is possible, with much patience and compassion, for your new family to bond unconditionally.

Author Bio:

Maxine Chalker is the founder and Executive Director of Adoptions
From The Heart. She holds a MSW and LSW which she uses to give
adoption a new face by breaking down the barriers and taking some
of the mystery out of the adoption process. 
Chalker was also adopted.

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Accio Books Project Helping Kids – Interview With Katie of the Harry Potter Alliance

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The Power of Books

Transfiguring Adoption believes that books and other media are an excellent way for not only children but anyone to work through trauma and past issues. There is simply something therapeutic about getting away from your own real troubles but seeing them play out on a fictional character.

Families, children, and adoptees have often told us at events that Transfiguring Adoption’s discussion guide helps folks because people can relate to Harry Potter or another character in the book. It is then easier to talk about a character’s issues rather than dwell on your own.

Foster and Adoptive Families Should Know about the Harry Potter Alliance

The Harry Potter Alliance is an organization that seeks to turn fans into heroes. They help resource their local chapters throughout the world and spread information so that everyday fans like you and me can not just wish to help but actually begin to solve the world’s problems.

There are so many times as a foster or adoptive parent that you may be focused on solving the issues caused by past trauma in your kiddo’s life that the family unit neglects to think about how they can help other folks in the world. Again, we believe there is power in the useful tool of books. This project has the chance of not only positively affecting the lives of children in the States but keep reading to see how you can make a HUGE impact in the lives of children just receiving the resource of a library.

The Accio Books Project

The HPA website has this to say about Accio Books:

“Since 2009, this annual worldwide book drive has given over 250,000 books away to communities in need. This year, we’re [HPA] doing something special.

In 2015, our Masaka HPA chapter worked with leaders and volunteers in their community to build Good Shepherd School, a co-educational school for 250 young people in Masaka’s rural area.  This year, they plan to open a library – and we’re [HPA] going to stock it.  That’s right!  Wizard Activists will send thousands of books and school supplies to the school in order to stock its brand new library. We’ll also be working with three awesome organizations – Books for Africa, the Literate Earth Project, and Out of Print Clothing – to maximize our impact and make sure that Good Shepherd gets a great mix of fiction, nonfiction and academic resources!

Stocking a library in a school our chapter helped build is a big deal – but we’re not done yet!  We want to use Accio Books to advocate and celebrate! Once again, we’re partnering with the American Library Association to advocate for increased support for public libraries.  We have all the resources you need to participate down below!  We’re also partnering with Book Riot to host events to honor World Book Night in three major cities – and we’ve even got a toolkit for you to host your own!”

Join The Cause

[Visit The Event Page Now]

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