Working with Kids From Hard Places

Do you work with kids from hard places? 

Maybe you’re a teacher, a counselor, a CASA worker or a foster parent.

Maybe you work at a Day Care.

Maybe you adopted a group of kids who didn’t get the best start in life.

Maybe you have extended family members who have struggled with raising their own children and you have stepped in.

Or maybe you have had tragedy or divorce in your family and everyone is in survival mode. 

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If you can say yes, to one or all of the above, then this podcast is for you.

Amerey interviews her husband, Seth, about working with kids from hard places. They discuss unique educational experiences and Seth’s work at Chestnut Mountain Ranch, a Christian home and school for boys in need of hope and healing.

Your kids, family, classroom or _______ may not be exactly the same as Seth’s situation, but there are common denominators. Hopefully, this episode will be a starting point for some conversation about those issues. Instead of sweeping these things under the rug and just trying to survive, let’s talk. Let’s share our burdens and our struggles. I’m going to say those powerful words “me too”. I know the struggles of trying to bring hope and healing to kids from hard places. If there is a topic you would love to see on The Whole House Podcast pertaining to kids from hard places, comment here or email us -thewholehouseteam@gmail.com. We would love to hear from you! We’d love to come along side you and be a support. We love you guys!

iTunes link here.

Podomatic link here.

Time in Verses Time Out

Does Time Out Work?

A really popular parenting tool is time out. Here’s the problem, kids from hard places who have already been discarded, neglected or abused- time out just reinforces some beliefs:

  • you don’t matter
  • you’re not valuable
  • I’m going to separate myself from you

What they need instead is time in. What is time in? When a child is dysregulated, he needs to be beside you so you can co-regulate. Instead of sending him away, you keep him beside you. Keep them 2 or 3 feet away on a chair (or on the floor) until they calm down. When the child is calm, have a quick conversation and move on. This is a great chance for a redo (post on that here). You are looking for connection. Parents have an opportunity to connect after the child calms down. Our goal is build relationships. These kiddos were harmed through relationship and they will be healed through relationship.

Time out often breeds violent behaviors because the child needs someone to help them regulate.

Beside me jobs.

This simply means keeping the child beside you while you do chores. Let the child talk. She may put one dish in the dishwasher to your ten, it’s okay. This time of connection grows during this time. Beside me jobs, shoulder to shoulder allows the kiddo to spend time with you. During this time you are helping them regulate. The fruit of years of beside me jobs is a child is able to sort things through conversation. Not only that, but a child will mirror your behavior (see post on that here). If you are enjoying your chore and her company, she will eventually do the same.

 

Here’s a video from The Whole House Adoption/Foster Care Support Group on the subject. Comment if you would like to join or find us on Facebook!

Six Risk Factors

“A scar is evidence of a wound, but also evidence that we can heal.”- Scott McClellan

I didn’t think it would be this hard.

My child’s behaviors are out of control.

He got kicked off the school bus AGAIN.

He keeps punching kids in line.

The whole house is like a war zone.

I thought I could do this, but I don’t know if I can. It’s just too hard.

 

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I’ve heard these statements along with pleas for help from countless parents. I have offered to come into the home and do some observation, as well as get some parenting tools that work into the hands of the parents. It seems as if every time, the parent says, “Oh, he/she is so manipulative, I don’t know.” As if the child will pull the wool over my eyes (as he may do with some professionals or teachers) or their situation is so unique, so individual that I won’t be able to grasp it. It is this pit of ‘aloneness’ that foster and adoptive parents feel. No one else struggles like you. Nobody understands. We adoptive/foster parents may feel as if we have slipped an Alfred Hitchcock are captives who will never escape.   To move forward with understanding, we must first have knowledge.

Every behavior is a need inappropriately expressed.  Foster/Adopted children have had trauma in their lives. Trauma changes the neurochemistry of the brain in these children.

In adoption/foster circles we hear the phrase ‘children from hard places’. As Ryan North, Executive Director of Tapestry Ministries, reminds us, this is not a geographical location. As explained in The Connected Child, there are six primary risk factors that characterize children from hard places:

  1. Prenatal stress and harm-over 80% of children adopted/foster care have been exposed to drugs or alcohol, cortisol crosses the placenta and alters the structure of the brain and damages the immune system* story of the woman stressed in pregnancy- measured her cortisol levels and those of her infant six months after delivery.
  2. Difficult labor or birth Twin example- one born at home, one at a hospital after a 45-minute ride to the hospital
  3. Early medical trauma Hospital stay, surgery, etc.
  4. Trauma- a house fire, natural disaster, auto accident, death of a parent
  5. Neglect-  says “You don’t exist.”
  6. Abuse – says “You don’t matter.”

Five things are impacted by early trauma (any one of the six risk factors)

  1. Brain- altered brain development, overactive amygdala. It’s as if the child is chased by a bear all the time. Our experiences shape the connections in our brain. Hebbian principle- what fires together wires together.
  2. Biology- Neurochemistry is altered. Hormones altered. Serotonin is often low. Dopamine is low or high. Some young children have the adrenals of a ninety-year-old.
  3. Body- Learning delays, developmental delays, sensory issues
  4. Beliefs- What’s one firmly held belief that you have? What would it take you to change that belief? Kids from hard places often believe: People don’t love me because I’m not worthy. If I was worth something, people won’t treat me this way. Everyone leaves.
  5. Behavior Regulation. Co-regulation. Self Regulation. – A child from hard places has difficulty regulating because he has not had the natural progression. Remember, a behavior is a need inappropriately expressed. Fight, Flight, Freeze mode is often what kids from hard places get stuck in.

Traditional parenting doesn’t work with these kids. In the ETC course for adoptive/foster parents, we teach 25 parenting tools to help these kids have hope and healing. The tools are based on the model TBRI- Trust-Based Relational Intervention, created by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross at TCU in Texas. This approach was turned into a training curriculum by Michael Monroe and Dr. Purvis called ETC Training for Adoptive and Foster Parents. 

If you’re struggling with helping your adoptive/foster child heal and make progress, check out ETC Training, find one in your area here.

If you are local and want Kathleen to come do a training for parents or professionals- email her at Postiveadoption@gmail.com.