Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sensory Play

Here are some sensory toys and bins we enjoy at home:

1.) Sensory Bins
  • Beans and Rice
    • We mixed rice and beans and placed small toy cars and safari animals in the bins. The cars, rice, and beans can be found at dollar tree. We found the safari animals at walmart.
  • Farm Themed
    • We placed fake grass, rocks, and rice in a bin with various farm animals. We found the rice, grass, and rocks at dollar tree. The farm animals can be found at dollar general and walmart.

  • Ocean Themed
    • We placed marbles with multiple colors (fish eggs), light blue/white marbles, shells, and ocean animals in water. You can find the marbles at dollar tree and the animals and dollar general.
  • Sand and Shore Theme
    • We made rice from ground up wild rice and added shells for the sand and placed blue and clear marbles and rocks for the ocean. We then added animals and eggs. You can find the marbles at dollar tree and the animals at dollar general. The white "eggs" are ping pong balls. The shells were found at hobby lobby.

  • Creepy Crawly Shaving Cream Theme
    • We got toy bugs and covered them with shaving cream. The kids were then told to find 8 things in the box. The bugs were found in the party aisle at walmart.

2.) Sensory Toys

  • My oldest daughter loves the liquid timers. They can be found on online. An example of a liquid timer is shown below.
picture from: nationalautismresources.com

  • My son loves squishy animals (they also make various types of balls) . Animals filled with goo, sand, beads, small plastic balls. He doesn't care. As long as he can squish it. :) I have found these type of animals various places. Be careful with the splat ball animals they tend to stick to the ceiling when thrown up in the air. We still buy them we just have some rules to go along with them now. ;) You can also make your own squishy ball by filling a balloon with lentils.  

  • My younger daughter loves play dough. There are various ways to make your own too! Although we have not ventured into this area yet. I plan to do so soon! Feel free to google "homemade play dough." It's pretty amazing what can be created to display different colors, smells, and feels. 

  •  All three kiddos love the sit-n-spin. They especially love the one that plays music.

  • My oldest daughter loves puffer balls. She pulls each string out and stretches it over and over. An example of a puffer ball is below.
Picture from squishymart.com
  • I have not tried tangle toys yet, but I recently ordered a few. They are a very popular fidget. An example of a tangle toy is below.
  • I have also not tried this yet, but you can make your own search and find toy (or sometimes called I SPY toy) by adding several items to a water bottle, such as safety pins, buttons, small toys, paper clips, etc to and then filling the bottle with rice.  An example of a search and find is below.

    picture from craftprojectideas.com

    I hope these examples of sensory play help your family as much as they have ours! Please feel free to share any further ideas that you have by using the comment box below!
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*I was not paid to advertise any store. The only purpose of this post is to share sensory ideas.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Number One Thing I Wish I Knew

I often read about things that parents wish they would have known before fostering or adopting a child. The items on the list have varied from saying no is okay to wow, there is a lot of paperwork and everything in between. While those things are true, the one thing I wish I knew is that love is not enough.  I know that sounds crazy right?! I thought so to before I entered our journey and found that love is important, but knowledge about how to share love is even more important.

Foster and adoptive children are different. They have experienced at the minumum, loss. In addition to that they may have experienced neglect, abuse, rejection, stress etc. These children often times do not have a mother who cares for them before they are even born by refraining from drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and stress. These mothers may not have tried to eat healthfully, take parenting classes, or seek prenatal care. These types of stresses even in-utero can harm a child's development.

After birth, the infant may not have felt their mother's embrace, heard her soft voice, or leaned in to hear her heart beat. The infant may have cried for hours without an adult to tend to their needs. They may have sat and stared at the walls for hours without a glimpse of social interaction. As the infant grew to a child needs may have continued to be ignored and angry rages may have been present.

This is just a glimpse of what a child may go through before being adoped or entering a foster home. These children do not trust adults and have lived in survival mode for a while. Angry rages, defiance, and dishonesty may occur even when the child is placed in a loving home where all their needs are met. This is not because the child is bad and often times the child cannot control their behavior. This child may hoard food, because they are scared to death that they are going to go hungry again. A child with this type of background may lash out in anger, because they are afraid to open their hearts to love and are overwhelmed with emotions. The child may lie out of fear of being physically punished when they get home.  It is important to look at the driving factors behind a child's behaviors before automatically giving a punishment or becoming frustrated.

Knowledge of the cause will help an adult find a solution. If a child is afraid of the bathtub for example and throws a fit every night before bath. A timeout, restriction from TV time, or early bedtime will not decrease the frequency of the fits. Telling the child it is okay and you love them will not make them feel any better about bath time. To them, it is NOT okay and love is a word that is not well understood.

So how do you gain trust and allow for the opportunity to earn their love and trust? Connect with your child and be patient. Remind yourself that days, weeks, or months may not be long enough for a child to put their guard down. It may take years of "I love you's", one-on-one playtime, daily meals, clean clothes, and gentle parenting for a child to slightly open up to you. This is not because you are not loving enough. This is because people in their past did not love in a way that made them feel cherished, taken care of, or safe.

Therefore, no love is not enough without knowledge and prospective about the child's world and how they process it.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Which Attachment Style Describes You?

My husband and I have been taking TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention) parenting classes. It is strongly based on the work of Karyn Purvis. One portion of the class is strongly based on attachment styles. My husband and I found it very beneficial to look inward to find out what attachment style we currently hold and how that attachment style may affect our children as we parent. Our goal, of course, is for each of our children to hold a secure attachment style. However, if we are not secure ourselves, it will be impossible to parent our children in a way to guide them to secure attachment. I, for example, have found that my attachment style tends to be a little bit avoidant. In times of stress, I like to be alone and away from the cause. This is not good when my children's fits or bad choices are the cause of my stress. I am now working hard at changing in order to be fully present for my children in times of stress. If I had not taken the time to study the types of attachment and then look inward, I would have never had the opportunity to better myself as a mom in this way. Now that I have gone through this process (and am going through it still), I cannot keep this information to myself. So, here we go....

There are four basic attachment styles-secure, avoidant, ambivalent, and disorganized.

  • The secure attachment style is characteristic of a child who looks towards their caregiver in times of stress, uncertainty, fear, sadness etc. As an infant this child most likely cried and was picked up over and over and over. This child has learned that their parent is there for them in every situation.
from youtube.com mother, baby strange situation

  • The avoidant attachment style is shown when a child does not seek their parents comfort in times of stress. This child may seem "calm as a cucumber" when in a stressful situation. Although, this may seem good on the outside, the child is holding all of their stress in on the inside. This may be referred to as psuedo-dependent.
from youtube.com, mother-baby strange situation
  • The ambivalent attachment style is characterized by a child that may go to their parent in times of stress, but will not be calmed by their parent's embrace. The care this child received was most likely inconsistent varying from sensitive to neglectful.

  • The disorganized attachment style is confusing. The child displays characteristics from each category and then also displays characteristics that do not match any category. This child may ask for a hug and then throw a tantrum when an adult becomes closer with their arms outstretched. Sadly, the child's caregiver was most likely the child's source of fear. Therefore, the person the child is supposed to seek in times of stress is causing the stress. This is seen in abusive situations.
You may wonder how these types of attachment affect a person in the long run. There are several descriptions of each attachment style as follows:

  • Secure- "positive view of self, others, and relationships." (Siegal)
  • Avoidant- may be viewed as a loner. Response to stress is isolation. At times, relationships may become unimportant. 
  • Ambivalent- anxious, self-critical, insecure, clingy, overly-dependent
  • Disorganized-fearful, desire relationships until things become serious, no clear connection to others. Past drives the future.
As you may have noticed, each style is strongly based on how the child was/is raised. It is almost always true that a child will have the same attachment style as their parent. However, a child is not "stuck" in one attachment style. With hard work a child can transition from a insecure attachment style (avoidant, ambivalent, disorganized) to a secure attachment style. In order to help a child move towards secure attachment it is important to realize where they are currently and more importantly what type of attachment style you currently have.

This gives me as an adoptive parent hope. I was not there when my children were babies, even toddlers to ensure that the best care possible was provided. The damage was already done when they entered my front door. However, their past does not have to determine their future, because their brains can still create new connections. This is true for a person of any age. What a huge blessing God has given us to overcome our past and move forward into our future with a "positive view of self, others, and relationships."

If you would like to know more about TBRI or attachment, consider taking an Empowered to Connect Class. You can find an Empowered to Connect trainer in your area by going to http://empoweredtoconnect.org/training/ and clicking on Find an ETC Trainer Near You

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I am the type of person that loves to plan and even more than that I like things to go as planned. Well....I have had to let go of some of that dream, because raising a child with traum often means that things do not always go as planned.

When it comes to caring for any child plans do not always go the way they are supposed to. When raising a traumatized child, it is a surprise for plans to go smoothly. We have last minute tears, rage, opposition, and defiance. We have driven our of our drive way just to go down the street and come back. We have made it to our destination only to spend the majority of the time with our kiddos in the parking lot. We have missed important events as our child(ren)'s emotions catch up to them and nothing more is needed than our embrace. Our kids need us and when they need us to be present, we are present. I am sure all of the parents reading this blog feel the same about their children. You all would drop everything for your kids and we are no different. With trauma, its just in overdrive. It forces us more and more to rely on God's plan instead of our own, which has always been a hard thing for me. Let's just say I am being humbled like woah!

Even with all the missed events, late appearances, and last minute plan changes, I would not change a thing. These kids are AMAZING! Yes, there are times I want to pull my hair out or crawl into a corner and cry, but in the end we always see the gift we have received and are still receiving. I am beyond thankful for my valiant knight, beautiful butterfly, and little peanut.

Proverbs 16:9     
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Hearts of Gold

Sometimes people think that all kids from foster care are bad. This could be farthest from the truth. These kids have compassionate hearts of gold. Kids who know what it is like to suffer and know what it is like to go without, don't have to imagine people's pain when things go wrong. They know pain. They know what it's like to have growling bellies go without. They know what it's like to live in a place that no one would label as safe. They know how it feels to cry theirselves to sleep after being hurt by someone they trust. Although these experiences create anger, sadness, and fear. They also create a deep sense of compassion.

Yes, my children scream and hit sometimes, but they also seem as if tears are about to form when a homeless person walks past. They have packed their toys in boxes for kids in their past, whom they know have none. They brought home a note about Operation Christmas Child and personally read it to us and begged us to fill shoe boxes. 

These kids are not bad, they have larger hearts than most adults I know. They're just broken and wounded. Their fears cause night terrors, tantrums that last for hours, and gluttony, but these do not display the heart of the child.  These display fear. Fear that someone bad may come back, fear of instability, and fear of having an empty tummy. Some days, I forget that and then I get a school paper home like this one....
And I am reminded of their little hearts of gold. At the same time I am reminded of their pain and the reason why these items were chose for their, "what I would spend a million dollars on," paper. I remember why they have the compassion they do and I am immediately forced to look at those rough nights with more understanding.

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Updates on the Littles

Our knight is growing so fast! I cannot believe he will be eleven this year! He loves sports. He just finished basketball and will be start...