Post Adoption Support

Post Adoption Support

Adoption affects adopted persons and families in many different ways over the course of their lifetime.  As result many adoptive families need information and support to manage challenges as they arise. Challenges may appear and reappear at different stages of life, even when their adoption is a positive experience.  We encourage families to seek assistance proactively when the first concern or questions arise.  Please note: there is no need for a family to feel ashamed or hesitant to request help… Just give yourself permission to learn & expand your skills!

Post-adoption services can help families with a range of challenges which may include:

  1. A parent struggling with how to explain adoption to a preschooler..or any aged child.
  2. A teenager struggling with their teenage identity, especially as it pertains to being an adopted child.  Identity development can be more complex for adopted children and teenagers.
  3. Identity development can be complicated if the child’s race or birth culture differs from that of the adoptive family.  Given the importance of maintaining a child’s birth heritage, parents may seek resources on this topic.
  4. Families of children who have experienced trauma, neglect, abuse, out-of-home care, or institutionalization may require more intensive services.
  5. All adopted children and youth, (even those adopted as infants) experience some level of grief and loss.  They may grieve as they come to understand their history and they may also struggle with feelings of abandonment.
  6. Any child or youth separated from birth parents has experienced a break in attachment, and may not have known consistent love and affection.  As result, they may have difficulty trusting and attaching to their new family.  These children may need help building healthy relationships.
  7. Open adoptions may lead to families and adopted children needing support in maintaining relationships with birth family members.
  8. Adoptive parents may experience grief and loss issues of their own, which may relate to infertility.  Emotions can be intensified by the reality of their adoption, especially if it doesn’t match what they expected it to be.
  9. At some point, many adoptees want to access birth information and/or reconnect with birth families.  While technology can accelerate a birth relative search, this faster pace can be emotionally overwhelming.  They also may not know where to begin their search.
  10. Children who were exposed prenatally to drugs and alcohol may have ongoing emotional, developmental, physical or behavioral difficulties.  These may vary from health issues, to developmental delays, to feeding, sleeping and attachment issues. Issues may arise at school requiring an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and a referral fro special services.

There are many tangible services available which can help with post-adoption challenges:

  1. Therapy/Counseling:  Professional help for concerns is always available to address any post-adoption challenge.  Proactive access can often prevent concerns from becoming serious problems.  For more information, contact the CHI office for insight and a referral.
  2. Support Groups:  Both Online and in-person groups are available.  Both offer parents and adoptees valuable opportunities to interact and share with others who may have had relevant experiences.  Parents can even start their own group as many post-adoption services were founded by concerned adoptive parents!
  3. Camps, picnics and other events:  Retreats and camps are available for members of adoptive families to connect with others like themselves.
  4. Educational resources:   Parents can access a workshop or conference, or an online resource to learn about the topics important to them, socialize with other families, and access adoption materials.  (many will be listed below).
  5. Financial assistance:  While most services are not free of charge, their may be assistance available for some adoptive families.  Many children adopted from public agencies qualify for adoption subsidy which can be used to pay for these services as spelled out in the adoption assistance agreement. Medicaid is available to meet a child’s special health, mental or emotional needs.  Your health insurance carrier may also offer benefits which can be used for post adoption services.  Some employers may provide benefits which will reimburse adoption related service fees.  Scholarships are often available to help with the cost of attending adoption conferences and seminars.
  6. Public adoption agencies (county or State offices) & many private adoption agencies may provide services which can benefit your family dynamic.

In addition to the specific services listed above, we’ve compiled a lengthy list of online resources – which can be accessed at any time & are listed below.  These may be especially helpful if your family is not living within this agency’s home state, which is California.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network was established to improve access to care, treatment, and services for traumatized children and adolescents exposed to traumatic events. The group offers a wealth of online trainings and informational links.

Child Welfare Information Gateway promotes the well-being of families by connecting the public to information, resources and tools covering topics on child welfare, child abuse & neglect, adoption and more.  Child Information Gateway provides access to information and resources to help protect and strengthen families.

TCU Institute of Child Development  Offers Trust Based Relationship Intervention (TBRI) DVD’s that families can order for themselves.

Empowered to Connect offers a faith based version of TBRI. Families can go onto the website, click resources & then on the righthand side there are many topics they can click & see a short video or write up on the subject.

Attachment Trauma Network promotes healing of traumatized children and their families through support, education and advocacy.

CASE -Center for Adoption Support & Education C.A.S.E. is the national leader in adoption-competent support with foster and adopted children and adults, their families and the network of professionals who assist them. With more than 17 years of adoption expertise and an extensive range of services, C.A.S.E. is empowering families in the adoption and foster care community to grow together and overcome challenges.  This is an excellent site that offers articles, trainings, and lots of resources for all members of an adoptive family.

REACH – Tulare County and REACH- Kings County  REACH, which stands for Resources, Education, Advocacy, Crisis Intervention and Hope was designed to support and enrich the lives of adopted children and families, as well as others who have been touched by adoption.   REACH services are family-centered and recognize the core issues of adoption. Services are designed to support and preserve all family relationships and maximize the child’s potential and full integration into a family. REACH services are provided at multiple locations throughout California to help families effectively prepare for the experience of adoption and to ensure families receive support at all stages of adoptive parenting. There are REACH programs in the following counties:  Contra Costa, San Benito, Solano, Kings, Mono, Madera, Mariposa, and Tulare.

Dave Thomas Foundation  Access the link for a guide to Strengthen your Forever Family:  A step-by-Step guide to Post-Adoption.  This free resource booklet includes information for parents about the types of resources available after adoptions have been finalized. Topics include how to select and locate providers, what to do if your community doesn’t have resources available, and recommendations of other national non-profits that can help.

NACAC North American Council on Adoptable Children is an organization that offers numerous articles designed to help families who have adopted children with special needs.

PACT, an Adoption Alliance, was begun by two adoptive parents in 1991.  Pact has developed a range of services that can connect you to other families like your own.

CWLA Child Welfare League of America is the oldest national organization serving vulnerable children, youth, and their families. CLWA provides trainings, consultations, and a variety of conferences including teleconferences found at the link.

Voice for Adoption is a national organization that works to make a difference in the lives of children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted and the families who adopt children from foster care

Adoption Learning Partners provides educational adoption resources for adopted individuals, parents, families, and professionals through web-based and interactive courses. Adoption Learning Partners offers courses for families parenting adopted children to learn how to sort through issues and learn new skills. Courses address topics like talking to your child about adoption, helping your child cope with feelings of grief and loss, and answering questions about your child’s heritage and background with sensitivity and respect.

Evan B. Donaldson Institute is a non-profit organization that dedicates itself to adoption by improving the current policies and practices of adoption. Through a wealth of publications, the Institute seeks to end negative stereotypes and misinformation about adoption by providing an accurate picture of its rewards, as well as its challenges.  Search by topic to locate resources you may need.

Adoptive Families Magazine is an excellent magazine with well-written articles for all adoptive parents.

What have we missed? Please add any resources you have found to be helpful to your family in the comments.

 

School & Daycare: Handling Separation Anxiety

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Your children have been back to school for a few weeks now. It’s been long enough, that you probably have a solid grasp on how it’s going. Has it been smooth sailing for your little people? Or, are you perhaps noticing signs of separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a normal phase of most children’s development and is a pretty standard expectation for children between 12-18 months old. We can all picture this age group becoming upset or sometimes even hysterical, when their primary caretaker leaves the room. For children who are being raised by their biological parents, this separation anxiety can be a time of great concern.

But, for adoptive and foster children, separations can tap into their past trauma(s) and can be even more challenging than the more typical milestone described above. After all, many of these children were abandoned or removed from their first homes, never to see their first caregivers again. Some have been shuffled from foster home to foster home. And then there’s the separation that occurs in most international adoptions, and that’s when the baby is handed over to you – the new loving adoptive parents. While some agencies and countries do a better job of these transitions, the majority of them are still overwhelmingly anxiety producing for the children. Suddenly the child is placed in the arms of someone who doesn’t look, sound or smell like anyone they’ve ever seen before. How terrifying!

Yet, realizing that these children have been through separations of great magnitude, we often seem surprised at their level of separation anxiety when we drop them off at the sitter’s or leave them at school. And, if we aren’t aware of the importance, we can follow some very bad advice. How the adults in the adopted child’s world react to separating can make a great deal of difference in how the child responds.

Here are some basic “Don’ts” for school aged children:

*Don’t sneak out the back door without saying goodbye (perhaps just like the child’s original abandonment).

*Don’t leave them at daycare centers or new schools for the first time, without any transitional efforts which would allow the child to adjust to new adults and getting to know the people/environment there.

*Don’t consider your feelings first. It’s hard to leave your little one, and many parents feel guilty. So, rather than face the “scene” your child will make, slipping away unnoticed just seems easier. This may be easier on you, but not on your child.

*And, some parents will err to the other extreme, making the separation such a long, drawn-out, tearful event that the child’s anxiety levels increase. Separating from your child should be a deliberate event, after you’ve given the child a chance to get comfortable with their new surroundings and the caregivers.

As parents of children who have been abandoned, shuffled around and separated from those they love, we need to be cognizant of how our children are adjusting to separating from us. Day care providers and school personnel will often minimize separation anxiety issues, even if our children’s anxiety continues to increase. Watch for signs of whether your child is adjusting or not. And don’t be timid to ask for modifications to routines or procedures if the way your child is required to separate from you is adding to their anxiety. Some centers or schools require that a child be dropped off at the door, which is sometimes not right for an anxious child.

In many adoptive and foster children, separation anxiety doesn’t show up for many months or years after they’ve come into your homes. This anxiety often takes adoptive parents by surprise, because the child can be much older than what we consider typical (toddler stage).  As we know, children have to build that attachment to you first, so that you’re no longer just one more of a string of temporary adults in their lives. After that, they can experience the emotional developmental stage of separation anxiety. New school routines, a class filled with kids they do not know, different winding hallways, etc. involves a lot of processing for a five, six, seven or eight year old!

So, much to our confusion and embarrassment, this stage can show up in elementary-aged children, causing problems at their schools. Don’t let the adults in the situation dictate what must be done because of your child’s chronological age. Teachers may emphatically tell you that this step is abnormal and needs to be dealt with “firmly.” Child psychologists will advise otherwise.

You know what your child needs. You also know his history and the potential trauma triggers. Don’t minimize your child’s feelings. Watch his reactions and find a place and a way to separate what works for him.

Here are a couple of ideas about helping your school aged child ease her worries:

*An Exercise: sit in a chair behind your child and face her away from you. Then, ask if she can see you. Naturally, the child might whip her head around and said, “Of course I can. You’re right there.” Tell her to turn back around and close her eyes. Then ask her the same question again. Your child will probably exclaim something like “YES! I can see you!” Prod a little bit: “How can you see me?” She might answer: “Because I KNOW you’re sitting on the couch!”

EXCELLENT! At drop-offs you can remind her of this exercise and stress that “You may not be in the room at school with her, but you are at home sitting in your chair. And she can “see” you in that chair!  You will ALWAYS be there for her.”  

*Place a few family pictures in a small album that your child can access if she gets uneasy at school. This can be kept in a backpack or desk.

*Allow your child to take a comfort object to school.   A small stuffed friend or a special memento can be stashed in the backpack, or carried in a pocket.  The child can then access this when they need reassurance.  Consider giving the memento or stuffed friend a symbolic “kiss” before your child departs. My daughter actually carried a metal heart in her pocket for several weeks at the start of a new school, in first grade.  

*Print out a photo of the family together, laminate it, and have your child help to affix it to the inside of a lunchbox.

With time and consistency – these tiny little reassurances just might get your little one through their school day… tear and anxiety free.  With time and baby-steps toward improvement – the anxiety should alleviate.  Do consider a talk with your CHI social worker or a school principal, if this appears to be an ongoing problem for your child for additional ideas and approaches.

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The Weight of the Wait

 

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The old proverb is right.  Time moves slowly for those who wait.  For prospective adoptive parents, the period between home study approval and welcoming a child home – can become excruciating.

There is no way to rush this waiting period, which proceeds at its own pace. Fortunately there is much you can do during your time as a prospective adoptive parent – to keep your mind off the calendar. You have more time now to accomplish things that need to be done, and your future life as a parent will be easier if you do them now.

Take positive, constructive action weekly ~ or even daily. These actions will help you keep your perspective, your sense of humor and your sense of balance.  We’ve compiled a lengthy list of action items for your waiting period.

{Relax.  These not all need to be done – but if it makes you feel better in the interim, accomplish them as needed to alleviate the “weight” of the “wait”}.

  1. Research employer family leave plans. Talk to your employer and start planning for time away from the office when you are placed.
  2. Research and consider options for your new will, life insurance and make your guardianship plan legal.
  3. Kick any unhealthy habits that may be a detriment to your future child (i.e. quit smoking, loose excess weight, etc.)
  4. If adopting a newborn, learn the nuts and bolts of baby care.
  5. Consider taking a college course on Childhood Development.
  6. Attend an adoptive parent support group.
  7. Prepare a First Aid Kit with child specific tools (contact the Red Cross or your pediatrician).
  8. Research furniture for the child’s room, making selections (but not purchasing unless a match has occurred which can be considered solid) for the age range you are open to.
  9. Request forms for adding a child to your health insurance plan.
  10. Research car seats and strollers.
  11. Practice installing your car seat and get it checked by a car seat specialist (call your local police and fire department for assistance)
  12. Research and discuss discipline styles/techniques and alternative parenting techniques you may like to try (sign language, baby massage, breastfeeding, etc.)
  13. Research and interview childcare providers.  See if you can be added to a wait list for accessing services.
  14. Research and consider if you’d like to mail out an adoption announcement.  If you do, address your envelopes now to save you the hassle later.
  15. Begin your child’s lifebook – your experiences as you start your adoption journey and anticipate the child’s arrival is an important part of the story.
  16. Begin talking about adoption with family and friends, so that they know how you feel about certain topics (open adoption, sharing the child’s story, attachment parenting, etc.)
  17. Take full advantage of your free time.  This will diminish when you become a parent.
  18. Research childhood nutrition and if there will be any special considerations to be made for the child you wish to adopt.  (i.e. smoothie diet for child with cleft palate; nutrition rich foods for internationally adopted child; healthy snack availability for child who may hoard food, etc.)
  19. If adopting internationally, learn about your child’s birth culture.
  20. If adopting internationally, begin practicing recipes associated with your child’s culture.  Visit restaurants with culturally specific foods and try them out.
  21. Start noticing the “children’s menu” at your favorite restaurants.  Make note of places that have really great menus.
  22. If married, set up a weekly “date” and keep it.  Nurture your relationship now. Start addressing #23.
  23. Start having conversations about how you plan to parent.  Discuss religious education preferences and child-rearing practices.
  24. Start considering names for your child.
  25. Spend time around children.  “Borrow” friends and relative children for fun outings so you can learn through hands-on experience.
  26. Start shopping for child necessities.  Don’t go overboard, but spreading out the financial burden of toothpaste, child shampoo, hairbrushes, eating utensils, sippy cups, etc. can be planned more carefully now – rather than at the last minute.
  27. Keep busy with productive and enjoyable activities that nurture yourself:  Revisit and old hobby, start a self-care/exercise routine, etc.
  28. Get in shape.  You will soon be running, carrying and bending more than you ever have.
  29. Read everything you can about topics you are concerned about.  Visit adoption forums online, Read Parenting Books and blogs.
  30. Begin Childproofing your home beyond what the agency requires you to do in preparation.  Take a close look at your surroundings from the “eye of a child” (taking into consideration the age range you are open to).  There may be sharp corners, unshielded electrical outlets, unlocked cabinets filled with household cleaners and other hazards that will need to be removed before the child comes home.
  31. Finish projects around the house.  Now is a great time to finish anything that was started and left hanging.
  32. Register for baby/child necessities at a store so that well-wishers have a guide to best fit your needs when you receive placement.
  33. Pray if you’re so inclined.  And Pray some more.
  34. Prepare your pets for the child’s arrival by making changes to their routine (more time outside or in a crate) well in advance.  Familiarize them with children when on walks and at parks.  Work on their bad habits (jumping, nibbling, stealing food, etc.).
  35. If you are adopting internationally, begin planning for any necessary immunizations that will be required for your adoption trip.
  36. Line up your support team, especially if you are a single parent.  Ask close friends and family who might take over every once in awhile to allow you a chance to sleep, run errands, etc.
  37. Write your own parents a thank-you letter.  Tell them how excited you are to follow in their footsteps and how much you appreciated their parenting efforts.
  38. Research early intervention and preschool programs that you might access; specifically considering any special needs you are open to.
  39. Buy a camera and learn how to take really good photos.  Photographic memories are priceless.  Take a class if you are interested.
  40. If adopting internationally, try and learn as much of your child’s birth language as possible.
  41. Get your own appointments out of the way.  Schedule dental, optometrist, veterinary, etc. visits if you are able; so that you can concentrate on the child’s needs when they arrive.
  42. Start your library of children’s books.  You can peruse the titles and thoughtfully research the messages within them at your leisure now.
  43. Research community and resource class opportunities (check your local library for story times, Parents Day Out, Mommy & Me, MOPS groups, etc.)
  44. Cook and freeze meals for your first weeks as a parent.  Consider asking a friend to set up a meal delivery sign-up through signupgenius.com for close family and friends to help out.
  45. Consider gift options for your child’s birth family, big brother/sister (if applicable), orphanage caretakers, etc.
  46. Put your finances in order.  Work on your “emergency” fund if you don’t have one.
  47. Consider joining or starting a “Waiting Families Group.”  Getting together with people on similar journey’s can be very rewarding.  No one understands what you’re going through better than someone who is also living it!
  48. Declutter, clean and organize your home.
  49. Start planning for college.  Research and consider all your options including a Upromise Savings Plan, a prepaid college fund or a 529 Savings Plan.
  50. Make sure your passport is up to date if adopting internationally.
  51. Make a packing list of what you need to take with you in the event you get a last minute “call,” or even if you have ample time to plan your travel to pick up your child.
  52. Plan a last “kid-free” vacation.
  53. Compose a letter to your child.  Help siblings write a letter.  Ask grandparents to write a letter.  Add these precious mementos to the child’s future lifebook.
  54. Consider fundraising opportunities, which can help you realize your adoption goal.  Some parents fund their entire adoption via fundraising.
  55. Read everything you can on nurturing attachment with an adopted child.
  56. Connect with friends.  Feel free to ask parents you admire – questions about parenting.
  57. Read up on “adoption friendly” terminology and begin deciding what language you will use in describing your own family.
  58. Sit in the child’s room and ponder what the child will find scary within it.
  59. See all the adult movies you care to watch.  Once a child joins your family, you’ll likely spend your movie budget on more child-friendly options.
  60. Sleep in.  As much as possible.  Because soon, it may not be an option.
  61. Buy all the birthday, anniversary, graduation, etc. cards/gifts you’ll need for the year.  If possible, address and add sentiments to the cards, so they’ll be ready to hit the mail when needed.
  62. Remind yourself of the best lullabies, nursery rhymes and children’s games  from when you were a child.
  63. Begin watching garage sales and craigslist for great deals on toys.  Begin preparing a small selection of commonly loved toys.  A household with kids can never have enough games, puzzles, legos, art supplies, etc.
  64. Pick out the perfect “cuddly” for your child.  Many kids have a blanket or special friend that tags along with them throughout their childhood.  Choose something that is super soft and that can withstand many, many washings.  If you’re sure it’ll be “the one” consider purchasing more than one so that you always have a spare to rely on if it gets lost, dirty, etc.
  65. Start spreading the news and ask for prayers and good wishes.

 

What would you add to this list?

Book Review: The Red Thread by Ann Hood

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Although I hoped to enjoy the story line of this book, I ended up being very disappointed. For your reference, you can read more reviews and information about the book here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7020981-the-red-thread

The storyline is best summarized as:
“In China there is a belief that people who are destined to be together are connected by an invisible red thread. After losing her infant daughter in a freak accident, Maya Lange opens The Red Thread, an adoption agency that specializes in placing baby girls from China with American families. Maya finds some comfort in her work, until a group of six couples share their personal stories of their desire for a child. Their painful and courageous journey toward adoption forces her to confront the lost daughter of her past. Brilliantly braiding together the stories of Chinese birth mothers who give up their daughters, Ann Hood writes a moving and beautifully told novel of fate and the red thread that binds these characters’ lives. Heartrending and wise, The Red Thread is a stirring portrait of unforgettable love and yearning for a baby.”

My Review:
Obviously, I work in the adoption field and fear that readers get a very wrong idea about what it’s like to pursue an international adoption.

The points I would like to make about this book are:

~families are never perfect and social workers shouldn’t expect them to be, but they MUST be stable to adopt. Amongst the dynamics of the prospective adoptive families, there was adultery, substance abuse, partners who were only doing it to please their wives, unresolved infertility, a mother that couldn’t accept a special needs daughter, a last minute pregnancy, unresolved grief and loss issues, etc. These are all issues that would have been massive red flags in the real adoptive world. An agency director having knowledge of these issues and encouraging applicants to move forward without addressing/resolving the issues fully – shouldn’t be working in the field at all.

~babies adopted internationally may appear “perfectly healthy” on record, but there is no assurance that there will not be any challenges going forward. Grief and loss issues (to varying extremes) are an absolute, and this wasn’t mentioned a single time in the book. There is certainly full disclosure on known medical history, etc. but since an abandoned child’s family history is almost entirely unknown – the child’s future should be accepted as holding unknowns as well. Stable families open to adopting internationally should have been better educated on the possibilities, rather than being repeatedly assured that the babies were “healthy!, perfect!, adorable!,” etc.

~Home studies are conducted on prospective families and the way the book describes the process really downplays the service. If any changes occur in a household – an updated home study is required. Education for the family is a huge component to the home study. And, if either of these facts were mentioned, the story line would have played out completely different (and perhaps been more enjoyable for readers like me).

~ Finally, at the end, the agency director moves forward in a manner that is a total conflict of interest. A director shouldn’t be using her own agency in this manner. She also would not be able to use an outdated home study to achieve her end goal. I could go on and on… but finding closure to unresolved grief issues over losing one child – by adopting another is also completely ridiculous.

I don’t want to entirely spoil the story for others… but, what occurred in this book would never be allowed in a true adoption scenario. This kind of story completely perpetuates the negative stigma attached to adoption. If you read this book, consider it to be a completely fictional tale.

Please also note: Many years ago, adoptions did evolve with less bureaucracy, monitoring, etc. However, this book was written in 2010. If you are a prospective adoptive family – please know that something is very very wrong if your adoption proceeds in a manner that resembles this story.

An Introduction to Doodle Therapy

Hi!  I’m Stacy Dinkel and I’ve been on board in some capacity at Chrysalis House, Inc. for twelve+ years.  Regardless of the role I’ve filled at this agency, I’ve always relied on my creativity to serve those I work with.  I’ve always been “artsy,” following in my own Mama’s footsteps and interjecting creativity into everything I do, (whether it be in art projects, social work OR parenting).  Although I have a Masters in Counseling – my undergraduate degree is actually in Art Therapy.

Enthusiastically, I’m introducing a new series on this blog, which we’ll be calling Doodle Therapy.  The Doodle Therapy posts will use creative activities as a means to connect with your own family in a variety of creative ways. I do not claim to be a registered Art Therapist, nor will we be assessing any artistic projects in a therapeutic way.  Yet, this series will be designed to encourage CHI families to get creative together, using art as a touchstone for conversation, growth and healing!!

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Art as “therapy” is a topic that always raises eyebrows and questions.  While art can absolutely be used to develop an understanding of the person who makes it — the process can be extremely useful in helping people grow, rehabilitate and heal too.  Despite what you believe – art therapies require no talent.  Drawing, painting, clay work, etc. are all methods of expression easily available to us all, regardless of age or artistic ability.  The purpose is not to create great “art” but to explore and express yourself! Art can be a profoundly relaxing activity; ultimately reducing stress and anxiety.  Another side benefit is that you can also simultaneously begin to resolve overwhelming emotions, crises and traumas.  Mindful questions and talks about what has been portrayed can be a super important part of the process and extremely useful to parents and children.

As a parent of an adopted child, art can be an excellent opener to talking about the hard stuff  (which can include past abuse, current anxiety, grief & loss, fears or even what the child can expect in the future).  Consider these Doodle Therapy exercises a “tool” you’ve added to your parenting toolbox! Don’t hesitate to bring topics to your CHI social worker or a therapist, if you feel they need further address.

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Today, let’s think about how available art is to your children – as you may want to consider making it a more prominent resource.  Do you have art supplies readily available to your kiddos?

Crayons, pencils, markers, scissors, chalks, paints, Play-Doh, etc. are all tools you can utilize in future exercises regardless of your child(ren)’s age.  Many parents have a fear of allowing children free reign to these items – and many choose to restrict them to sessions of well-supervised use.  Whatever the case – you know your child best and know whether they may initiate haircuts or create unwanted wall murals!  If you believe your child(ren) can handle free access to art supplies, you may be surprised at what they have the potential and freedom to create.

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Throughout this past weekend, I asked my kids to draw pictures of themselves and to help each other in the creative process.  My kids started out drawing one another and then swapped pieces back and forth until they decided they were complete.  My daughter has taken interest in caricatures, so we tried to take my son’s piece in that direction (I helped with the outline).  I left their artwork and and supplies on a table for the duration of the weekend. This strategy served several purposes:

  1. It was a 4 day weekend and art was a great time filler that they came back to repeatedly.  (Art can offset boredom!)
  2. It was a means of encouraging cooperative and positive interaction between the two siblings.    (Art can facilitate relationship building and bonding!)
  3. It prompted many discussions about what they like about themselves and each other – and how to depict that in picture form.  (Art can involve self esteem building!  You can create a better awareness of self and others!)
  4. The artistic experience simultaneously hones other skills too – fine motor skills, technical skills, creativity, an eye for composition, confidence to try new ideas, etc.  Through creating and reflecting on art processes, people can cope with symptoms, facilitate the ability to label and express emotions and enjoy the self affirming pleasures of being artful.

& finally… it offered me a project to post here as an introduction to this new series!  My kiddos are Kenzie (9) and Rylan (6), and they’ll be assisting me in demonstrating future Doodle Therapy projects.  My daughter’s nickname is “Doodle,” so she’s especially qualified for her new position.

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Please join in the fun!  Your first Doodle Therapy assignment is:

Have your child(ren) create a self-portrait, a portrait of a sibling ~ OR ~ Create a family portrait.  

This can be done individually or as a collaborative family process by working together as a team! To alleviate frustration and encourage relationship building – this is a great project for siblings/parents to support each other through any rough spots.

This project is about finding your way artistically and enjoying the experience.

Be well and Be creative!

~Stacy Dinkel, M.A.

P.S.  Because we’d like to promote your ability to play along, I have set up a Flickr (www.flickr.com) group specific to this series.  Please consider joining the group and submitting projects that your children have completed as result of our Doodle Therapy series.  This will be a closed group, available to ONLY those who are invited to participate.  To Join: Please send an email to myself at: stacy@chrysalishouse.com requesting to be “invited” to join this group. 

Please note:  If confidentiality is a prominent concern, please refrain from posting pictures which specifically include your child(ren).  In this event, you may simply submit a photo of only the art itself.  Agency use of your photos is not the focus of this group – we are merely wishing to encourage and join you in your creative journey as a family!  CHI will never use your images without first requesting permission to do so!