Healthy Summer Living With Capital Letter Syndrome

This week on The Whole House podcast, Lori and Kathleen talked about Healthy Summer living with a capital letter syndrome. Whether you’re an adult with a capital letter syndrome or have a child with one, summer means change. To help prepare, we wanted to look at some healthy ways to cope with the changes summer brings:

  1. Keep a schedule.
  2. Harness the power of habit.
  3. Prioritize S.A.F.E. activities.

“The brain needs safety and involvement for positive learning experiences. If little children are not motivated to learn, check how safe they feel.” – James M. Healy, Ph.D., author, and educator

Remember that kids need to feel safe to enjoy learning and play. In the acronym above, “SAFE” stands for “Sensory-motor, Appropriate, Fun, and Easy.” Here’s what that means:

S: Sensory-motor

“Kids who are out of sync may have difficulty making the sensory-motor connection. Because their best attempts are often inadequate and unsatisfactory, these children may give up trying or simply lose interest. They may opt for sensory activities that require negligible motor response, such as watching television, listening to music, or reading. The gap between sensory input and motor output widens because the less they do, the less they may be able to do.” – The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun

It’s important not to fall into the trap of doing whatever the child wants to do simply because it’s easier or because he balks at going outdoors. The more sensory activity a child has, the better prepared he will be to function in real life.

When a child becomes conditioned to perfection or comfort in his environment air conditioning, a comfy chair, a screen to entertain him he will be less flexible and unable to adapt when circumstances aren’t just right. That’s a recipe for disaster.

People with capital letter syndromes are less flexible naturally, so why not take some time and work on flexibility when you have the opportunity to? We’ve all heard the complaints: It’s too hot. I’m bored. Can we go in yet? In response, you can alleviate a bit of the discomfort, set a time frame for how long you’ll stay outside, or provide a game (water games are great for hot days).

A: Appropriate

Sensory seekers will go for daredevil experiences, while sensory avoiders will shun activity. It’s important to find appropriate activities for both. I raised one of each of these. The challenge is keeping the sensory seeker safe and the sensory avoider playing with the rest of the kiddos instead of standing on the sidelines.

“So when a sensory seeker clambers to the diving board although he can’t swim, we must rechannel his out of sync behavior.” – The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun

We must give the sensory-avoider a chance to practice new activities privately so she doesn’t just stand on the sidelines watching.

At our family camp, the kids were jumping rope and playing while my daughter stood with her eyes downcast and shoulders slumped. She was afraid to try after tripping on the rope one time. I took her to the other side of the house, and we practiced alone until she could manage jumping successfully. She joined the cousins with a smile on her face and jumped rope with them.

You’re doing your sensory-avoiding child a disservice if you don’t find ways to help them participate in sensory activities and feel successful.

F: Fun (Functional and Family Builders)

“When the child experiences challenges to which he can respond effectively, he has ‘fun’.” – The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun

While a child is having fun, he is experiencing sensory integration. This is functional activity that will provide skills for adulthood.

We all want our kids to play, cooperate, and get along — but are we modeling that for them? Are we showing instead of telling? It’s fun and simple to show. Have a squirt gun battle with your kids and be prepared to get wet. Play “Mother May I?” and don’t cry when you have to go back to the beginning. Play hide and seek. Have a crab-walk race, a sack race, or a human wheelbarrow race. These are all functional, family bonding activities!

E: Easy (Economical, Environmentally Friendly, and Emotionally Satisfying)

Fun doesn’t have to be expensive! You can create loads of fun for your family in your own backyard or in a creek, stream, or lake. Check your area for trails to hike or bike. Look around for access to a creek. Go creek walking. Skip stones. There is something so emotionally satisfying about skipping stones! I am not great at it, but my kids are!

Whatever you choose to do, make sure it is emotionally satisfying. I would put that at the top of the list.

“The activities should be easy enough for your child to taste success. When they are too challenging, your child may resist doing them. Think of how frustrating it is to be a child who wants to have fun, wants to please you — and can’t.” – The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun

Also, make sure you take the time to discern the child’s fear level. If it is high and you know he would really enjoy the activity and have success, gently push. By gently, I mean comfort and coax with a calm voice. Don’t yell, “You’re going to do this or else!” Say, “Let’s just try this for a couple of minutes. I’ll hold your hand. See, you’re doing it.” Some parents struggle with being sweet when they just want the kid to JUST DO IT!

Here’s a good self-check: ask yourself how you would want to be treated in this situation. Even if you are an adventure-seeker who is afraid of nothing, do you enjoy put-downs, yelling, or belittling?

Here’s a good example. My niece was visiting, and we took her creek walking. This was her first time. She was about 7 years old and was used to city living. Creek walking is a Guire tradition. It’s super simple and free. You just put on old tennis shoes or rubber boots and walk in the creek. You can catch craw-dads or just enjoy the walk.

This was all new to my niece. She was afraid — understandably so. You may be reading this, thinking, That’s just a weird thing to do. She thought so. I asked her to try for a few minutes and held her hand. After those few minutes, she let go of my hand and thoroughly enjoyed the day. After fifteen minutes, she took the lead!

I’m not saying every child will obtain this level of competence, but every child can have an emotionally rewarding experience. Some kids may need you to hold their hand the whole time. That’s okay. Meet the child at their level.

One final thought: Don’t take resistance as a “no.” There are many interpretations of resistance. It may mean, I’m afraid, I don’t think I can do this, or I have never done this before. Some of the activities my kids resisted as young children are their fondest memories as adults.

So what are you waiting for? Get outside!

For more help, check out this video: A Sensory World Preview.

 

* The S.A.F.E. Acronym is from The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun. This is a great resource book full of fun stuff to do with any child!

Episode 73

 

 

What If We Treated Foster/Adoptive Parents as Missionaries?

I’ve long held the belief that adoptive/foster parents are missionaries. When I tell people about our international adoption, I like to say that not only did I visit the country, but I also brought some natives home.

This true for all adoptive/foster parents. We don’t clock out and go back to our dorm or hut or whatever the missionary lives in. We also don’t get on a plane and go back to the comfort of our own home.

What if We Treated Foster Parents as Missionaries_

As foster or adoptive parents, our home is a long-term (forever) mission base. We bring these kids who have been discarded by the culture, hurt by their parents, and harmed by trauma into our homes. There is rarely a respite.

I talked to Elizabeth King, a full-time missionary with twenty-two years under her belt. When she and her husband were presented with the opportunity to adopt two girls, they said, “More ministry? Yes!” They were up for it. Hadn’t they been practicing this for years? She says:

“But we were not really ready for the total onslaught of doing ministry right from the very core of who we were. Always before we had ministered outside of our home or had temporary visitors in our home. Our residence was a place of refuge from the rigors of ministry. But now, by accepting these broken girls into our lives – there was nowhere left to retreat to. Nowhere to relax. No escape from the desperate needs and destructive behaviors of the two hurting souls. We found that all our weaknesses, which we could hide pretty well in the course of normal ministry, were now staring us in the face every day.”

If we change the way we think about adoptive/foster parents and slide them into the missionary category, there will be changes in four areas:

Our Prayers

First, adoptive/foster parents will be prayed for more often. Think of how often we pray for missionaries. We tack their photos up on the fridge to remind us to pray for them daily. If we see adoptive/foster parents as missionaries, we will do the same for them.

  • Pray for safety. Adoptive/foster families need a hedge of protection prayed around them. They are in the midst of a battle.

“The protection of children isn’t charity. It isn’t part of a political program fitting somewhere between tax cuts and gun rights or between carbon emission caps and a national service corps. It’s spiritual warfare.” – Russell Moore

  • Pray that they can minister the gospel. It’s tough to be in the middle of the battle and keep ministering the gospel at the same time. While there may not be actual bullets or bombs, foster and adoptive parents face many spiritual and emotional battles.
  • Pray that adoptive/foster parents will be able to teach and reach across cultural lines. Kids that have come from hard places have come from a different culture. Many of them have come from a culture of abuse and neglect. They don’t speak the same language or believe the same things. Most often when a kiddo is being fostered and he is brought to church with the family, the assumption is that he will immediately speak the language of religion. He won’t.
  • Pray that “the natives” will trust them enough to listen. Once these kiddos walk through the doors of our homes, we expect them to feel safe and secure and attach immediately. They won’t — and beyond that, they can’t. When kids come home through foster care or adoption, the foster parent isn’t automatically held in high esteem. Mom and dad aren’t regarded as trustworthy. They may be viewed as just another pit stop for kids with a garbage bag full of belongings. These kiddos may be thinking that these people will hurt/abandon/molest them too. These kiddos have never felt safe. Why would they feel safe with foster or adoptive parents they just met?

“With “normal” families, you can assume that if they haven’t asked prayer for something specific, they probably don’t have any really urgent needs. But foster/adoptive families kind of habituate to a higher level of chaos and urgency, and you feel like this is what they signed up for, so they won’t usually ask prayer for specific things.” – Kristin Peters, adoptive parent

Our Expectations

If we really, fully understand the full-time ministry that is fostering or adopting, we won’t be shocked when these families aren’t at church every Sunday. We would just assume they are doing their job.

Sometimes foster/adoptive parents are so deep in the trenches, they can’t escape. They’re working so hard on attachment with these kids that any break — even just to come to church — can destroy the work they have done. When my newbies first came home, we didn’t go to church or homeschool group for a while. After a while, I heard the gentle grumblings of the leadership wondering when I was coming back to teach.

When we did come back, I kept my kids with me. It was my primary job to attach to them. All of my other commitments were secondary.

Our Contributions

If we view foster and adopted parents as missionaries, we will do everything we can to make sure they are equipped spiritually, emotionally, and physically before going on their “mission.”

When my family traveled to Poland to adopt our four, we had Rubbermaid containers of supplies, suitcases, and books. On the second trip, the children’s church filled those same containers with supplies to leave at the orphanage for the kids and staff.

Missionary families need physical supplies. They also need training. Would you travel to another country to preach the gospel if you didn’t speak the language or at least have an interpreter? And wouldn’t you go to a Christian source for training instead of a secular one?

So, why don’t we offer spiritual and physical training from a Christian perspective for our adoptive/foster missionaries? It does exist. Why not offer it within the four walls of the church?

Our Involvement

Finally, if we view foster/adoptive parents as missionaries, we will consider it an honor to invest in their journey.

“God asks us to reach out to those who need Him. Adoptive families have done this in a more sacrificial way than most people could even comprehend. It is the right thing for the body of Christ to support those who have given themselves so fully to the care of the little ones God has sent them.” – Elizabeth King, missionary and adoptive mom

This is probably the most difficult one for the body of Christ to swallow. I’ve been told that since I chose to adopt, I just need to suck it up, so to speak. In case you are wondering, I did not receive or ask for money from the church to fund my adoption. But I sure wish it were available for other families. We pay monthly support to missionaries so they can do their thing. Why not do the same for foster/adoptive families on some level?

And there are other ways to invest in foster care/adoption, too.

“You’re either called to bring a child into your home or support those who do! – Real Life Foster Mom

You can take them dinner, offer to babysit, buy school supplies, get them a gift card, buy Christmas gifts, or — my favorite — take a foster/adoptive Mom out for coffee and LISTEN. Not all investments require tons of money. What they do take, however, is time. Sacrifice a bit of your time for those who have surrendered all of theirs.

“Adoptive parents are like missionaries on steroids. There is no furlough from this job, no let-up in sight. If missionaries should be honored and supported, adoptive families – especially those who have adopted children from trauma – need our love, our respect, and our support just as much – and likely more. Maybe finances aren’t an issue. But finding time for friendship when you know your friends will never understand what you’re going through anyway and the demands at home are overwhelming – it’s just so hard.” – Elizabeth King

 

 

 

What Sunlight Does for My Body

* by Jessica McHugh, NASM – CPT

In this week’s podcast, Kathleen and I (Jessica), talk about the importance of outdoor activity for our families. We touched on the subject of Vitamin D and the ever-growing number of people who are deficient of this vitamin. An increase in indoor working hours, the lack of outdoor activity for most people, and the overuse of sunscreen have contributed to a skyrocketing number of people experiencing health effects from this deficiency. Myself included.

Winter is not my jam. My body cannot stand the frigid cold, and my body NEEDS sunlight. The never-ending gray days of winter leave me with severe fatigue, joint pain, and seasonal depression. I try to sit under an infrared light as much as I possibly can, but it’s not the same as the sun at all.

We were very blessed with an amazing week of weather last week, so I was able to work outside in the sun for at least 60 minutes a day, and my body responded so very well! I went all week with the most energy I’ve had since last fall. I didn’t need my usual afternoon nap like I tend to require when the skies are gray. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

I know my body, and I know it needs sunlight to function well. All of ours do. It is the way our bodies are designed. Isn’t it crazy that the best way to absorb Vitamin D cannot be found in a supplement but can be found by stepping outside, baring our chest & arms, and letting the warmth of the sun work its magic?

I know that there are times where the sun is not accessible. So what do we do then? We listen to our bodies. We rest when our bodies need rest. An infrared light can be a great asset if your body is rebelling because of the lack of sunshine. I bought mine at Tractor Supply Company. But honestly, GET YOURSELF OUTSIDE.

 

Want to hear more about this topic? Grab a cup of coffee and join us on this week’s podcast:

Episode 72

Moms Managing Stress During the Summer Season

* by Jessica McHugh

As a young mother, I never gave a second thought to managing my stress — OR my kids’ stress — during the summer (or any time, really, to be honest).

I was on edge the majority of the time, our schedules were packed with activities from those Pinterest summer bucket lists, we were exhausted, and it wasn’t working out as Instagram suggested. Something had to give, and my stress was number one on the list.

The last couple of years, not managing my stress has been detrimental to my health. I’ve had to learn and focus on maintaining my inner peace to minimize the number of autoimmune flareups I have. I can’t prevent them all, but I’m surely going to do my best.

When Kathleen and I were discussing topics for our Healthy Summer Living month, I knew I wanted to have an open conversation about managing your mom stress. Why? Because anytime you’re dealing with children and their schedules/routines get thrown for a loop, there’s going to be extra stress — sometimes a lot of it. If we can’t manage the extra stress of summer, we can’t help our littles manage it. And littles who can’t manage stress grow up to be adults who can’t manage stress (it’s a vicious cycle).

Here are a few things that have helped me keep cool during the stay at home summer months:

Keep It Simple

Try letting your summer happen organically. Instead of having those summer bucket lists laminated, try going with the flow. Don’t sweat every single detail trying to make perfect memories. You’ll miss the small, perfect memories happening right under your nose. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be amazing.

Find Time to Do What You Love

Our summer days are longer, but they seem to be over before we know it. With the kids out of school, it can feel like there’s no time for “you.”

Sound selfish? I thought so too, at first. But getting 10-45 minutes a day to feed my soul only serves the greater good of my household. When I give myself time to do things like devotionals, worship, and read, I equip myself for the days ahead. It’s long-term therapy, really.

Enjoy It

Remember — why stress today when tomorrow isn’t promised? You only have 17 summers with your children. Do you really want to spend those stressed out? Your kids will remember your presence. It doesn’t much matter what else you’re doing.

We would love to know how you manage your stress during the summer months!

 

Want to hear more about this topic? Grab a cup of coffee and join us on this week’s podcast:


Jessica is a daughter of God, wife, mother, and entrepreneur – in that order. Her room has, at times, been her stronghold. This has left her feeling obligated to share her struggles along with her victories to help others attempting to overcome the same hurdles. She specializes in helping women practice self-love through movement & self-awareness. It took her a long time to see herself through the eyes of Christ and if she can shorten that duration for others, she’s living her purpose.

3 Steps Every Church Can Take to Become Trauma-Informed

Trauma has become a buzz word. I hear it everywhere. TV. Blogs. Social Media. TED Talks. Books. What does it mean?

According to the dictionary, trauma is “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.” But trauma means more than that. The concept of trauma also encompasses the short-term and long-term effects of the experience in question.

In an article for Psychology Today, Melissa Withers discussed just how common trauma and its after-effects are: “The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente assessed associations between childhood trauma, stress, and maltreatment and health and well-being later in life. Almost two-thirds of the participants (both men and women) reported at least one childhood experience of physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or family dysfunction, and more than one of five reported three or more such experiences.”

The Six Risk Factors

There are six risk factors* that create trauma:

  1. Prenatal stress and harm. Over 80% of children adopted/foster care have been exposed to drugs or alcohol. Also, cortisol can cross the placenta, alter the structure of the brain, and damage the immune system.
  2. Difficult labor or birth.
  3. Early medical trauma. This could be a hospital stay, surgery, etc.
  4. Trauma. Examples include a house fire, natural disaster, auto accident, or the death of a parent.
  5. Neglect. When kids are neglected, it tells them, “You don’t exist.”
  6. Abuse. When kids are abused, it tells them, “You don’t matter.”

* You can read more about these risk factors and listen to a podcast on the subject here.

What Is Trauma-Informed Care?

Being trauma-informed isn’t just knowing what trauma is; it’s also knowing what to do about it. As Melissa Withers put it in that Psychology Today article, “Trauma-informed care means treating a whole person, taking into account past trauma and the resulting coping mechanisms when attempting to understand behaviors and treat the patient.”

Trauma-informed care means treating a whole person

Here’s a good analogy:

You go to the doctor and he says, “Listen, I’d really like to help you. I know all about the body, how many muscles and bones, etc… but I don’t know how to treat what you have. I’m not informed about your condition.”

Wouldn’t you hightail it out of there and find a new doctor or asked to be referred to a specialist?

I had this experience when my primary care physician diagnosed me with CFS. He said, “There’s nothing I can do to help you. I don’t know anything about the disease.” I had to go see a specialist.

The big “C” church is doing the same thing with people who are wrecked from trauma. They’re wounded, broken, bruised, and afflicted. We greet (or ignore) them when they visit the church. Their kiddos go to Sunday school and kids’ church. The adults listen to the sermon. The families might even attend for a few Sundays. Then they never come back. Why? What’s going on behind the scenes?

The staff, like the doctor in the example, doesn’t know how to treat the condition. The condition is trauma. Trauma shows up in behaviors and beliefs. Trauma looks like dysregulation. Trauma is the kiddo who can’t sit in a chair or melts down when the lights are too bright and the music too loud. Trauma is the adult who can’t sit through the service because the preacher pounces on the theme of forgiveness before the victim is ready.

Trauma victims have a shame-based core, so when they are corrected in behavior (which stems from a need), it only solidifies the belief that they have no right to exist.

What’s Our Response?

We beef up programs. We look at numbers and add more programs, all while ignoring the sickness. We play more games. Get new puppets. Deliver cookies to the new families. We have more meetings and talk about how to get attendance up. And….we keep losing people — physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Why?

The church isn’t trauma-informed. There seems to be a brick wall when it comes to churches listening to the call of trauma-informed ministry.  I know. I’ve tried getting my foot in the door to train local churches. I get a myriad of responses. Some think I’m self-promoting. In the end, though, it usually boils down to “We don’t need it.”

It’s sad. Children and adults alike are suffering because the powers that be don’t want to humble themselves and ask for help — or even stop and consider that they might need help. So, every week, the church re-wounds the wounded. The church refuses to make accommodations for those who need them. And the wounded leave in a trail of tears. The wounded run into the arms of the world, to people who accept them and offer them a drink.

Science and the Church

Some people think being trauma-informed falls into the category of science and therefore has nothing to do with the Church. Some believe that science and religion don’t mix. Or they think the idea of trauma-informed care is a fad that we should just wait out.

It’s disappointing to see the viewpoint of “science and religion don’t mix” when God invented science. Every real scientific principle lines up with the Word of God. Every trauma-informed principle is Biblical.

Spoiler alert: Jesus is the great physician.

3 Steps Toward Trauma-Informed Ministry

1. Follow the example Jesus set. Jesus came to heal the broken-hearted, to bind up their wounds. We follow in the footsteps of Jesus when we become trauma-informed. Jesus came for those who are sick. Not those who are well. When we Christians march around with our hypocritical false faces, pretending we have it all together, we fail. Trauma-affected people will only be further traumatized by hypocrisy.

And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

2. Invest in the proper tools and training.

You can’t minister to those affected by trauma unless you have the proper training and tools. Training takes time, and we must be intentional about it. We can’t keep walking in the same traditional ways. Let’s face it: Many of the traditional ways are not inherently Biblical. They’re man-made rules. Let’s set those aside and tend to the wounded, learn to accommodate them, set up a sick-bay, and get to work.

Make no mistake — the devil, our enemy, wants to devour the wounded. He roams about looking for the weak link. When we continue to wound the sick, maltreated, abused, and neglected, we are walking in the devil’s footsteps.

Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour. (I Peter 5:8)

3. Change your mind (renew it) about what a church service looks like.

When you minister to trauma-affected people, you are going to see some behaviors that don’t fit traditional religious ideas. It’s okay. You want revival? You want to see a change in peoples lives? Then you must invite the people who need help, not the kids and adults who can dress up nicely and sit in the pews.

Church in the early years didn’t look like our modern-day services. It was meeting in people’s homes and breaking bread together (Acts 2:46).

If the church wants revival or radical change, we have to change our mindset. We have to get ready by doing the work. It’s messy work. It’s hard work. I’ve never seen a well-behaved revival service, have you? Let’s set aside our pre-conceived ideas and do our homework. Church, let’s get biblically based trauma-informed.


Empowered to Connect Training equips teachers, pastors, and caregivers with a holistic understanding of the trauma-affected child/adult needs and development while empowering them with the tools and strategies to effectively meet those needs, build trust, and help the survivor heal and grow. The training is taught from a Christian perspective and focuses on a wide range of topics, including the six risk factors, the five B’s affected by trauma, understanding how the past affects the present, and some tools that can be used to help bring hope and healing.

Want more info about trauma training for your church? Contact us: