Gratitude is the best attitude: A Thanksgiving lesson for families

thankful-grateful-blessed

Parenting foster and or adoptive children can be a challenge at any time of the year, but holidays can sometimes seem extra stressful (especially when adverse or negative memories surround previous holidays).  Practicing gratitude is a fantastic practice… but, it may be especially good medicine for kiddos (& their family members) who struggle with a light case of holiday blues. *

Practicing gratitude regularly not only helps kids to take a small break, it has scientifically-proven physical and emotional benefits.  Gratitude brings happiness, peace, relaxation, love, compassion, enthusiasm, confidence, and a sense of satisfaction with life.  All of these emotions reduce the effects of the stress hormone, cortisol – and can improve some aspects of mental health.

Here are some creative gratitude lessons to try with your kids, which will benefit the whole family:
1. Recognize that there are many different ways to cultivate gratitude and your older child will need to have some freedom to explore what works best for them.  Let them lead the way by asking them to create a new gratitude tradition for the whole family.  This allows for creativity and makes it feel less like a chore.
2. Go at it indirectly by fostering altruism.  Helping others or committing “random acts of kindness” leads to a feeling of gratitude.
3. Suggest a family 30-day (or even just 7-day) gratitude challenge and have everyone keep a hand-written gratitude journal where they have to notice at least 1 thing to be grateful for every day.  Buy a little journal for each family member to personalize and decorate along with a special pen to make it feel fresh and new. Click here for a link to fun gratitude journal prompts.
4 Create a fun gratitude conversation at dinner or in the car ride between activities.  Click here for a link to a conversation starter activity.
5 Challenge the family to a gratitude scavenger hunt and get their technology involved!  Click here for a photo scavenger hunt.

What are YOU thankful for? Honoring your gratitude is meant to make you feel GOOD, so be creative and have fun. Make it a family project!

(If you’re managing significant holiday blues  – please contact your social worker for advice).

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Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Chrysalis House, Inc. would love to shine a light on this topic too often left in the dark.

Of course, children with abuse and neglect histories are enfolded within many of the families that this agency helps to build. But, helping families build positive, healthy relationships is a major part of the prevention of child abuse ~ and is also at the core of all the good work we do at CHI. As always, CHI continues the offer of our free support group(s), and are always on the ready for referrals to trainings or counseling that can promote healthy growth within our parents. It is our hope that families always feel comfortable in reaching out to CHI workers for advice, referrals and support.

As individuals, YOU, can also make a big difference in child abuse prevention, year-round, through small acts ~ because a cause is only as strong as the people who support it. Here are ways the typical CHI family can help:

Here is a list of simple efforts that can have a positive effect on the well-being and healthy development of children, families and communities. Remind yourself of things you can do in April, and throughout the year, to prevent child abuse and neglect!

As a parent: Talk openly with your child.

  • Teach your child that it is your job to protect him.
  • Teach your child that it is not her responsibility to protect others.
  • Demonstrate daily that you will not be angry, no matter what your child tells you about any aspect of his life.
  • Listen quietly. Children have a hard time telling parents about troubling events.
  • Teach your child about her body, about what abuse is and, as age-appropriate, about sex. Teach her words that help her discuss sex comfortably with you.
  • Teach your child that it is against the “rules” for adults to act in a sexual way with children and use examples.
  • Block out 15 minutes a day to play one-on-one with your child — doing anything he or she wants. We know from studies that the more parents engage in positive activities with their children, the less they use negative physical and psychological discipline.
  • Tell the children or youth in your life how much you care for them and appreciate them. All children deserve to have someone who is “crazy about them” and loves them unconditionally.
  • Discipline your child thoughtfully. Never discipline your child when you are very upset. Give yourself time to calm down. Remember that discipline is a way to teach your child. Use privileges to encourage good behavior and time-out to help your child regain control.
  • Examine your behavior. Abuse is not just physical. Both words and actions can inflict deep, lasting wounds. Be a nurturing parent. Use your actions to show children and other adults that conflicts can be settled without hitting or yelling

As a concerned person:

  • Consider placing Pinwheels for Prevention. Throughout April, honor this mission with a pinwheel. By its very nature, the pinwheel connotes whimsy and childlike notions. In essence, it has come to serve as the physical symbol, or reminder, of the great childhoods we want for all children.
  • Learn the facts and understand the risks about child abuse:
    • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will have been sexually abused by their eighteenth birthday.
    • Only 1 in 10 children reports the abuse themselves. Those children who keep the abuse a secret or who tell and are not believed are far more likely to suffer psychological, emotional, social, and/or physical problems that will most likely follow them into adulthood.
    • 22% of abused children are under 8 years old.
    • The average age of abused children is 9.

For friends and neighbors:

  • Compliment a parent — someone you know or even someone in public — on something positive you see them do with their children. Each parent contributes uniquely to children’s development.
  • Offer your time to baby-sit for the child of a friend, neighbor or family member. All parents need help sometimes — even if it is just to rest or “recharge” for an hour or two.
  • Introduce yourself to your neighbors. Caring and connected neighborhoods can be powerful in reducing neighborhood violence and supporting struggling parents.

For your community:

  • If you are an employer enacting policies that impact the work-life balance, remember we all have an effect on the lives of children. Aim to positively impact work life balance by taking positive steps toward advocating that change.
  • Do volunteer work for a youth- or family- serving organization in your community. Some families just need a little help from time to time, and community organizations are designed to do just that.
  • Take action on legislative issues that affect children and families. Call your elected representatives, join demonstrations and be sure always to vote to show that you support services to help families raise healthy children.
  • Create a “Safe Children Zone” in your neighborhood. Host a community meeting with your neighbors to talk about what each of you can do to help create a sense of safety for the children in your neighborhood.
  • Ask yours or another faith-based organization in your community about donations — even small ones — that can be made to support families in need. Some families need help providing for their children’s basic needs. Your church community may also benefit from the opportunity to better understand HOW they can prevent child abuse. Consider preparing a presentation.

 By knowing more, we can all do more. It truly takes a village to build a strong community. If you have reason to believe a child may be at risk of harm in their home, call your local child abuse hotline.

 

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A fost/adopt story

Adoption Awareness

In the spirit of creating awareness during National Adoption Awareness Month, we are thrilled and thankful to share Dana’s words below. Dana is an extraordinary mother who began her journey as an adoptive Mama about 12 years ago. After 12 years of wisdoms and experiences with her boys, she has grown even more confident in her advocacy for adoption and remains enthusiastic about her decision to become a single adoptive parent. Dana doesn’t mention it and that’s probably because it’s a norm for her ~ but hers is also a story of becoming a more conspicuous adoptive family… as she has enjoyed a successful transracial adoption.  Thanks to Facebook, I (Stacy), have had the privilege of watching their lives unfold.  I’m so lucky to have been able to watch them grow together and see their three smiles long after my time with them was finalized… which was on the day they became a forever family.

The Story of Dana & her sons…

In my late twenties I learned I could not have biological children. My dream was to be a mom; it was what I was meant to do. Rather than dwell on what couldn’t happen, I knew adoption was my path to parenthood. Single and entering my 30’s, I decided it was time. Although I could be called a bit crazy to adopt two boys on my own as a single mom, I never gave great thought to this.  I was meant to be a mom; single or not, I was fulfilling my destiny. I am not so foolish to think that it wasn’t going to be a bit more difficult for me, since I was a one parent family, but I had a great job, a great family and incredible support system to encourage me.

I met with Stacy at Chrysalis House and knew they were the ones to help and guide me through the adoptive process. Stacy and I spent many hours searching for the match that was waiting for me. Anxiety, nervousness, excitement, and determination are just a few of the feelings I was trying to sort through in my head while waiting to find one of my sons. The process was long. I was a single parent looking to adopt on my own, and it was an emotional roller coaster. I was a successful business person who now desperately wanted to be a mother. The day I met Isaiah, who we now also call Izzy, there was no question that he was my son! From the moment I set eyes on him, I knew we were meant to be a family.

The transition was challenging. Izzy had been with an amazing foster family since he was born (he was 2 years old at the time I met him) who lived 3 hours away from me. We eased into the transition with play dates in the beginning, then overnight visits, then a week long visit. There was a lot of travel and time to think about and prepare for my son to come home. The entire process took a few months. I was fortunate, my company gave me maternity leave for six weeks so Isaiah and I could begin our lives as a family.

During our first year together we relocated to a different city. Once settled into our new home, I knew it was time to begin the search to complete our family with another child. Chrysalis House once again was there to help and guide me. This time around, possibly because I already had one adopted son, the process was much quicker. Within a few short months I met Devon, who meant to be Isaiah’s brother and my son. I will never forget the moment I told Izzy about his new brother, I showed him a picture of Devon on the computer and he started jumping up and down screaming “That’s my brother! That’s my brother!” Our excitement was difficult to contain. Our family was now on the road to becoming complete!

It has been just over 12 years since Isaiah’s adoption and almost 10 years since Devon’s adoption was finalized. My boys are my life! I could not be more proud of the young men they are becoming. Isaiah is an amazing athlete, he is playing football for his high school. Devon is a fantastic cook, has a passion for the culinary arts and wants to be a chef and own a restaurant one day.

What I’ve learned is: Parenthood is a journey unlike any other. Whether you have biological or adoptive children you never knew you had the capacity to love someone as much as your children. It is like a switch that enlarges your heart to enable you to love, care for and put these children first … in your life.  It’s just unlike anything else!

My switch was flipped the moment I set eyes on my sons. It was destiny, we were meant to be a family. I am so thankful to all those who are a part of adoption plans: birth mothers, foster families, state and local agencies, and of course, my personal support system. Adoption is a gift of love that I am thankful to have received!

November is Adoption Awareness Month

Adoption Awareness

As we’ve done historically during Adoption Awareness month, we are enthusiastic to post real life stories throughout the month of November.  We are now soliciting stories from families willing to share their words, experiences and inspirations.  In the past, we’ve found that these stories have stirred up great conversations and we look forward to further creating awareness… of how unique each adoption experience is…of what it’s been like for these people to have “claimed” one another and built a permanent family together.

Taking the lead from a comment on our last blog post – we have asked several families who have been an adoptive family for 5 or more years to share what it has been like for them.  We are so thankful to those who have said yes and are hopeful that more will follow suit.  We know it’s hard and challenging but these wisdoms are truly inspiring.  We feel that real life example is the best way to celebrate Adoption & Awareness!  Experiential examples may be just the validation another family needs to follow a path they, too, feel led to explore!

If you would like to share your own story, please email me at: stacy@chrysalishouse.com.  Although we have prioritized asking families who have finalized over five years ago.. who doesn’t love a relatively new placement story, too?  There are no limits to the length of love..or the length of the story, etc.  Names can be changed to protect confidentiality as needed.  Stories have come from our clients in the past, but we are open to those from outside our agency as well.

Be sure to visit during November as we share several stories of domestic, foster and international adoption…

“Children never outgrow the need for family” is a perfect slogan for National Adoption Awareness Month.  If you feel the mission resonating with you, please contact our office to discuss this potential.  We can be reached at 559.229.9862 or at http://www.chrysalishouse.com.

Some things are worth the wait…

worth the wait

Adoption IS worth the wait!  & we’re sorry that we haven’t posted lately. We hope to get back on track soon!

We’re wondering out loud ~ if there are any topics of interest to our readers?  With Pinterest, blogs, Facebook, etc. it starts to feel like everything has been well covered… no fewer than 3 times.

Please humor us with a comment including any ideas for articles you would find valuable!