Connecting to Your Kids
June 1, 2021
Here are five hints on making connections with your hard-to-reach foster child.
Rowdy Student to Son
April 20, 2021
"At certain points, his behavior got so bad," Chelsea said, "I thought, 'I can't do this anymore. I can't be a teacher.'" Chelsea was working with Teach for America in a low-income elementary school. That's how she found herself in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, struggling to control Jerome and, somehow, gaining his trust. Other teachers would send the boy to her classroom, where she made him get his work done. "I got a lot of thankful emails and knocks on my door," she said.
March 9, 2021
“Instant Family” is a realistic full-length feature film about the ups and downs of fostering-to-adopt. To quote one reviewer: “We are foster parents and this movie touched every base and emotion about what foster parents go through.” The film story was written by a foster parent. The actors are excellent. And beyond all that, it is touching and funny and great entertainment.
Bedwetter at Five
February 9, 2021
“We’ve had our five-year-old foster son for over a year now and we were planning to adopt him. All was well until two months ago when he began to wet the bed nightly. Trying to be understanding, we began by waking him regularly to use the bathroom. Lately we have started to withhold sweets and privileges. Nothing seems to work.”
The Best Resource: Each Other
December 15, 2020
Foster parents offer a special community of know-how and support. Thanks to the internet and Facebook, Indiana foster parents have a statewide resource, the Indiana Foster and Adoptive Parents group. On IFAAP, with its nearly 10,000 members, our state foster and adoptive parents can communicate back and forth regularly with one another on a large variety of practical and parenting issues.
Pay Attention to Behavior You Want
December 1, 2020
The mistake most of us make is failing to recognize that negative attention is valued almost as much as positive time and praise. If there were only one simple rule for discipline, it would be this: You get more of whatever you notice.
When Residential Care Makes Sense
November 17, 2020
While family remains the time-honored best way to provide a child with nurture and safety, there are exceptions. Sometimes the medical or emotional needs of a child require more than an individual family can offer. Or an older foster child, usually age ten or more, seriously threatens the physical or sexual safety of family members.
What to Call Your Foster Parents
October 20, 2020
What does your new foster son or daughter call you? Names are important. His initial reaction offers a window to his world.
White Parents / Black Child
September 22, 2020
“We are white parents planning to adopt our four-year-old foster son of color. Any suggestions on how to handle the race questions ahead?”
College or a Job for a High School Graduate?
September 8, 2020
My 18-year-old adopted son will be graduating from high school in the Spring. I want him to apply to college and receive an education. He wants to get a job. Help.
The fact that he is adopted should make no difference. You should respond the same way you would if he were your birth child. But before you do, here are a few things you might consider.
August 25, 2020
Once a tantrum has started, stopping it is difficult. Rock-em sock-em tantrums are unlikely to be corrected by rational pleas or explanations. Foster parents need a three-step approach. First, do what you can to prevent a tantrum. Second, stop the out-of-control behavior. Third, re-engage the energy in another activity.
Your Quiet Foster Child
August 11, 2020
You have had a new second-grade foster son or daughter for a month. He is compliant but smiles rarely. Very passive and says little. All your overtures seem to have elicited short and unhelpful responses. How can you connect?
Fix the Problem, Not the Blame
July 28, 2020
“The more I get after him, the worse he gets. He’s just doing it to get attention,” complained one foster mom. Mother has stated the major objection to the Lecture/Yell/Punish (LYP) method of discipline. It’s not that effective.
About Time Outs
July 14, 2020
What does the coach do when his basketball team loses control of the game? A good coach calls a time out. Not so much to give his team new instructions but to “stop the bleeding.” Give them some time to regroup.
The Scary Stuff
June 30, 2020
“My adopted son and daughter are almost legal adults. I know I need to give them more freedom to grow up,” one dad told me. “And yet the stakes are so much higher. No more little problems. Now my kids are facing mistakes that could change or destroy their lives. I know I need to let them go and yet I am frightened at what can happen. I want to protect them.”
Curfews for Teens
June 16, 2020
Prevention by reining in a teen’s time away from home late at night is a good parental strategy. It is important to know where your youngsters are, especially later at night. Especially for teens when the odds go up for car crashes, sex, and other life-changing events.
Choice of Friends
June 2, 2020
Peers are important, especially for teens. As Judith Harris in The Nurture Assumption makes clear, peers have a strong influence in socializing one another. And teens are fascinated by the novelty of someone different. Perhaps they are attracted by the apparent self-confidence of a braggart or a bully, or the delinquent behavior of an agemate who flaunts the law. Probation departments have rules that forbid delinquents from associating with other probationers. Worrying about your child’s companions is legitimate. Children copy the behavior of their friends.
May 15, 2020
Get ready for school. Pick up your toys. Do your homework. Come to dinner. Foot-dragging can provoke long drawn-out attempts to get results by endless nagging. Parents become frustrated. Reminding and arguing and threatening are usually ineffective. Even worse, the attention that nagging provides can reinforce the very behavior that is driving the parent mad. The best discipline for slowpokes is for the parent to set deadlines. And then to enforce them, not with a lecture or punishment, but with practical consequences.
Thoughts on Defiance
April 21, 2020
“I don’t have to,” asserts six-year-old Dion when he is told to pick up his toys. Some moms might automatically react negatively to the verbal defiance. “Don’t you dare talk to me like that,” she may reply. Mom may even be successful at obtaining compliance. But the price may be that Dion learns simply to suppress his oppositional feelings. A wiser mom might respond that she understands and accepts Dion’s resistance. “I know you’re mad but we still have to get these toys picked up.” Mom is showing respect for Dion’s feelings while still insisting on obedience.
Getting Through to Your Child
February 11, 2020
The biggest mistake we make in our effort to control the behavior of our children is our tendency to blame them. We wrap our verbal discipline inside a message that sounds like good parenting. It may sound good to us but it often fails because our child responds by shutting us out or automatically defending himself or herself.
December 31, 2019
During a recent visit to our local hospital in Indianapolis, I noticed a brief and intermittent melody played over the hospital-wide sound system. I had to ask a nurse what that meant. She replied with a smile: “Oh, they play that every time we have a baby born here.”
December 3, 2019
When one lecturer recently asked a group of foster parents what behavior they would most like to eliminate in their child’s repertoire, lying led the list. “It’s a betrayal of family trust,” declared one father. “How can you ever trust him if you never know whether you are getting the truth?”
Finding That First Job
November 5, 2019
My foster son wants to work. What kind of job should he get for starters and how can I help him?
October 22, 2019
A better approach is to begin with prevention. You are taking a damaged child into your home. Don’t tempt him or her. Instead, secure your valuables.
Four Good Reads for Children at Bedtime
August 27, 2019
Several parents have asked for suggestions about children’s books that especially relate to foster and adopted children. Here are my favorites.
The Family Meal
July 30, 2019
The family meal has historically served two very important functions. It has provided better nutrition and it offers a major time when parents and children can relate to one another. So sit down and eat together when that is possible. But if not, here are a few other ideas.
Time Out for Foster Parents
June 4, 2019
Be gentle with yourself. You are your child’s biggest and best resource. Remember when you first get on a plane? The stewardess is giving safety instructions. In case of emergency, if you are traveling with a small child, she tells you to put on your own oxygen mask first. Without you, your child may be lost.
Dealing with Children's Cellphone Use
December 18, 2018
Taking away their cellphones and forbidding access is not usually a wise strategy. In addition to preventing contact with their peers and searching for useful information, it may foster resentment and encourage sneakiness. Here are four approaches which may help you monitor cellphones and computer use without appearing to take over.
August 28, 2018
Five-year-olds and up are capable of learning and performing several household chores.
The Non-responsive Child
August 14, 2018
"We have had our five-year-old foster daughter for six months and are hoping to adopt her. She causes no trouble but is like a shy little mouse with few words and big eyes. How can we break through and communicate with her?"
Handling the Non-stop Child
July 17, 2018
“Constantly in motion. That’s our first-grader, Jonny. If I can get him to stop for a minute, he stays poised on the edge of his seat, ready to run off as soon as I say okay….His mind is just as undisciplined, jumping from one thought to another. Homework time is a nightmare. His doctor prescribed medication to calm him without much success. Any ideas?”
Preparing a Life Book
July 3, 2018
One simple and meaningful way to get to know your foster/adopted child is to help him or her collect their history in pictures and stories in their own homemade personal book. Whether you are able to adopt the child or not, a picture-story book will become a treasure for a child who lacks “possessions.”
On Being an Adoptive Dad
April 10, 2018
My father, Dr. Jim Kenny, wrote the following article on how he felt about being the adoptive father of my brother and three sisters.
Hints on Handling Your New Foster Child
March 27, 2018
In my last blog entry, I asked you to imagine welcoming your new ten-year-old foster son. He certainly feels alone and scared and may express that by acting cocksure, or more likely quiet and reserved at first. From a psychologist who was also a foster parent, here are a few hints on how you might respond.
My New Foster Son
March 13, 2018
Imagine your new foster son has just come in the door. His name is Eric, he is ten years old, and is clutching a paper sack holding everything he owns. Not much. You greet him warmly and tell him he is welcome. But you don’t really know him. All you have to go by are your expectations. Here are a few thoughts you might consider.
When Kids Fight
December 19, 2017
“My pre-teen-age boys get into fights regularly,” complained one foster parent. “It’s hard to stop them. My caseworker warns me against punishment. Help!”
The Best Training for Foster Parents
November 21, 2017
Whatever happened to the old adage: “Experience is the best teacher”? Most would agree that is true. So why the heavy reliance on agency-run workshops or classes for foster parent training? Parenting can be learned and improved in several ways.
Foster Children Discipline Tips for Foster Parents
October 24, 2017
For too many people, discipline is equated with punishment. This creates a special problem for foster children who have already suffered from abuse and neglect. In actual fact, punishment is a rather ineffective method for obtaining compliance. There are other methods that work better. Here are a few ideas.
Indiana Adoption Subsidies for Foster Parents
October 10, 2017
Many different subsidies are available for Indiana foster parents who wish to adopt. They include continuing your monthly payments, providing health insurance, reimbursing you for some of your adoption expenses, a federal income tax credit, and help with college tuition. Your new child is entitled to all the financial support that is offered.