Friday, May 22, 2015

Our Annual ADHD and RAD Kid Summer Planner:

Welcome to Our Annual ADHD and RAD Kid Summer Planner, otherwise known as: "Why I Didn't Lose My Mind While My Kid's were on Summer Vacation" by Foster Parent Rescue
By John and Diane
(First appeared on our blog 5/8/12)

We are only a few short weeks away from summer break from school around here, and if you are a foster parent, or parent of a tough kid, like a child with ADD, ADHD or an attachment disorder, to name a few, the thought of days and days with your child looking to you and saying "I'm bored, "or worse, leaves you quivering in a cold sweat at night, I can help.

 I have faced this challenge year after year, and although I always do "the happy dance" when school starts back up again, me and my boys always get through it.

The key to a successful summer with minimal tantrums, episodes, blow outs, running –aways, fits, fights and other miscellaneous catastrophes is sticking to a schedule. 

Schedules are just another word for "security" for kids with trust issues, like a lot of foster-kids, and help kids with attention-deficit issues know what to expect and when to expect it.

Schedules help control the constant questions and demands, and provide a structure that mimics the school system- which is something the kids are used to and comfortable with.

Kid's with behavior issues usually "spin-out" when school lets out because their structure is gone and the lack of structure allows anxiety to build.

So, having said that, begin the process of getting ready for summer break before school lets out. Get an idea of what their lunch time is at school, what time they have gym class, and what time they have quiet study.

Now, look at your own resources and schedule. If you have a parent full-time at home, decide if you want to continue to get the kids up and dressed at the normal school time, or allow for an additional hour of sleep (as a consideration for Mom or Dad only.) 

You will want to write additional chores in for each child for each day, since they won't be doing homework, and if you have children who need help with school, you may do homeschooling hours as well. 

You will want to do some physical activities as well, whether it is riding bikes, or participating in programs at the local YMCA.  

Next, sit down with a large dry erase calendar and write in each day's time schedule.

 It should include times to get up, dressed and eat meals, bedtime, and naps for younger children. 

Write in each child's daily chores like washing dishes after meals, daily cleaning of their rooms, cleaning up after pets, folding their own laundry, whatever you need.

Add in study hours for homeschooled children or kids' who are behind in school and need the added tutoring. 

Each day should have a leisure activity planned, like fishing, riding bikes, swimming, basketball or playing a team sport. 

Each child may have a special chore that they enjoy like gardening for one child, cooking for another.

I usually allow kids to stay in their rooms once they are settled for bed and read, or play quietly by themselves until lights-out.

Be sure to include your own weekly chores if you have to bring the kids with you, like grocery shopping.

Once you have the week written in, stick to it as best you can. Of course, things come up, but the waking and bedtime hours should stay the same as much as possible, and chores should remain consistent as much as possible. 

The closer you stick to the schedule, the easier your child will be to handle and the less agitated and anxious their own behavior will be.  

When you are happy with the schedule, put it under plastic or Plexiglas and hang it on the wall where kids can read it and know what to expect for each day, but cannot erase your hard work!

Have you got some other tricks for getting through the summer with your challenging kids? Please share your successful tips here with us or on our FB page!
image: License
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Monday, April 27, 2015

Learning Websites for Kids: A resource

Hi friends, 
I don't believe in sitting your kids in front of a computer all day - I believe its better to keep, especially troubled kids, physically active and outdoors, in touch with nature whenever possible - there is simply something healing about that.... but, there is a place for online learning and making learning fun with technology is awesome for kids who may have trouble in other ways.

Check out these resources and work WITH your kids - Praise often and celebrate victories!
Please share any other resources you might love to help teach your kids.

John and Diane

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Tapping Into Creativity to Teach Self-Soothing to Children

Hi Friends, I just wanted to share this article from Some interesting ideas on how to help your kids deal with stress and how to Self Soothe (You can probably use them too!)

9 Tools to Help Kids Cope Creativly with Stress
By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
Associate Editor

9 Tools to Help Kids Cope Creatively with StressLike adults, kids also get stressed out. They stress over school, bullies and fights with friends. They worry when their parents argue. They experience loneliness and have fears about many things from failing an important test to not fitting in.
In her book The Power of Your Child’s Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success, child educational psychologist and UCLA professor Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D, shares nine tools that help kids access their inner world so they can better traverse the trials and tribulations of growing up.
Here’s a brief look at Reznick’s valuable tools.

1. Use the Balloon Breath.
Balloon Breath is a deep, diaphragmatic breathing that helps kids calm down and concentrate. Reznick says that it provides the way in to your child’s private world so they can listen to their inner voice. Have your child put their hands on their belly and breathe in and out slowly.
2. Discover your special place.
According to Reznick, “There are private places within your child’s inner world where he can work out problems or take mini-vacations from the stresses of life, where he can relax, regroup, or just hang out in a healthy way.” This special place acts as a springboard for the other tools, she says, because it provides the calm environment needed to start.
In this special place — which could be anything from a castle to a garden to outer space — your child feels loved and protected. Reznick gives the example of a 5-year-old girl who felt awkward about being more advanced than her friends in class. She used her special place to feel less isolated. She told Reznick: “The way to get there is to climb on the clouds and hop from cloud to cloud. Birds fly all over. Mostly they know when I’m coming. Here I feel accepted.”
3. Meet a wise animal friend.
“An Animal Friend is an imaginary, loving protector who has a child’s best interest at heart, and helps him access inner wisdom,” Reznick writes. She gives the example of a 7-year-old boy who imagined lions at his hospital bedside keeping him safe and giving him the courage to face a tough procedure.
Ruth, a 10-year-old girl who had a hard time with change, used a slew of animals to help her transition into summer vacation. For instance, one horse would stand up for Ruth when her feelings got hurt. Another horse would suggest strategies to reduce stress like journaling her feelings.
4. Encounter a personal wizard.
Sometimes, Reznick writes, kids want magic. That’s where a personal wizard comes in. Wizards act as kids’ mentors and guides. “When your child calls on a Wizard, she is supported by a collective imagination as old as the first fairytale and as new as the latest fantasy film.”
For her clients Reznick creates magical realms where they can access all kinds of information and get their questions answered. She includes examples like the “Hall of Knowledge,” which has the book All Information for All Time.
Another helpful way for kids to access their inner wisdom is to imagine talking to their future wiser, braver selves. Whatever problem is plaguing them, kids can consult their grown-up selves.
5. Receive gifts from an inner guide.
Once your child has an animal friend or personal wizard, they can ask them for gifts. These gifts can be anything from objects to thoughts to ideas that help kids solve their problems. Reznick tells of a 10-year-old who received a rose quartz heart to heal the loneliness and sadness she felt after her friend moved away. A 6-year-old received a Ball of Focus to help him concentrate better.
6. Check in with heart and belly.
This is another way to encourage kids to listen to their inner wisdom. For instance, have your child put their hand over their heart or on their stomach and imagine listening to the conversation. Reznick says that this makes the connection more tangible and helps kids give themselves a tender touch.
7. Talk to the toes and other body parts.
This tool helps kids listen more closely to their bodies and access their emotions and physical symptoms. “Talking to Body Parts can reveal the fears and worries that turn tension into physical pain; it also makes elusive feelings concrete so that your child can work with them in creative and healing ways,” Reznick writes.
She suggests starting with two to four feelings, and including half positive and half negative emotions.
10-year-old Thomas was one of Reznick’s clients. He was a worrier but rarely expressed his emotions. With encouragement from Reznick, he found out where certain emotions lived in his body. He learned that stress hid in his head by saying things like “I have to do my homework!” or “Am I ever going to graduate middle school?” When Thomas felt overwhelmed, Calmness, which resided in his arms would tell him not to worry too much, to do his homework and to remember to have fun.
The Power of Your Childs Imagination8. Use color for healing.
Kids can use color to reduce both emotional and physical pain. They can associate specific colors with a stomachache or use color to overcome negative feelings. For instance, Reznick says that purple Courage can calm orange Fear.
7-year-old Helena suffered chronic stomachaches, which were connected to her parents’ constant fighting. She imagined that a swirling rainbow would make her stomach feel better. She also used white light to shield herself from her parents’ arguing. The first time she used this tool, Helena told Reznick that it felt great, “Like I was in the middle of the sun with golden lightbulbs going through my body.”
9. Tap into energy.
When words don’t work, Reznick says that a loving touch can work wonders to calm kids. For instance, you can place your hands wherever your child feels discomfort. Or you can teach children to do this for themselves. Have children rub their hands together and imagine sending love from their heart to their hands. Then they can place their hands over their stomach or another area for a few minutes.
Learn more about Charlotte Reznick’s work at her website.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Teaching Through Play: Car Game Math with ADD and Slow Learners

by John and Diane.
All parents spend a lot of time in the car, but when I am driving around with my foster boys it feels like I spend ALL my time in the car when I should be doing more important things, like helping them with their homework. Although my kids do get help after school with their studies, my ADD and “slow learning” kids need extra help so I add it in every chance I get. So, when I drive my boys to games or school we do math-games-on-the-go.
For Math and Memory
The first game I play with my kids’ works on both their math and memory skills. One of my kids has memory issues that go back to a brain injury, so working on this everyday is vital. This is how we play a Math and Memory game:
First I count from 1-10.  I let the kids listen to me count out loud.
Next time I count I leave out one number.  I count slowly so it’s easy for the child to catch what number I leave out at first. As the game goes on I will speed up.
When I get to 10, the kids can tell me which number I left out, if they can remember.  This way, the child has to:
1.     Figure out what number I left out – showing his knowledge of his numbers and sequence and
2.     Remember that number until I finish counting through the rest to get to the end- showing his ability to remember.
You’d think this would be easy, but I have found that kids learn their numbers with learning-songs. If the songs get disrupted, they can’t remember their numbers. So, if you do not let them sing the number song they learned, they are lost. By mixing it up, and leaving out numbers, you force them to think of numbers in a different way.

Building Up the Numbers
I have found that when I play the game, as soon as the child with the memory issues finds out which number I left out, he’ll want to tell me right away, and like I said, I can’t let him, because I want to challenge him to remember until I get to the end of the count. You want them to remember the number in there head for a short time.
 I even had to start with the number 9 just so the child could win.  That is how impaired his memory would be as we started the game.
Eventually I could leave out the number 2 or 3 and then I know he was learning to remember longer. Next I move to counting up to 1-15 and then to 1-20 and so on so the child had to hold the number in his head much longer. So, for example, a real challenge would be to leave out the number 5 and you are counting to 30.  See how it works?  
Adding and Subtracting Games
Sometimes I found math would intimidate my kids just because it was “MATH” and so the words themselves, “adding” and “subtracting” would scare them. They’d feel like they were too “stupid” to learn big-ol’ scary “MATH” so, I would have to trick them into it.
So, my Car Adding and Subtracting Game was born.
For adding, I would simply ask, “what number is above 3?” and the child would be able to answer “4” and so on. They found this really fun because they were successful at it and could answer easily.
I did the same thing for subtraction, “What number is below 5?” “4!”  No problem!
 After we would do this for a while, I would sneak the words, “plus” or “minus” in.  At first my kids would say they couldn’t do it, but then I would go back and show them that “plus” and “above” were the same, and before they were even aware of it, they were adding and subtracting simple numbers.
So, not only are the kids learning, they are happy in the car, because they are successful, and they are competing in a positive way against each other, and there are rewards for doing well, such as the winner gets to ride in the front seat! They also get to play a game with Dad, their favorite toy!
The competition is not just between the boys; it is with me as well, which they also love. Every time they both miss a number, I get a point, if they get a number or problem correct, they get a point.
So, even though the math is easy, it reinforces the basics, which is necessary for my kids, and helps keep information fresh in their minds and occupies my ADD kids on the numerous errands and car trips we all must endure daily.
Got some simple learning car-games to share? Please comment here!
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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Blowing the Whistle on Arguing

by John and Diane

Working with foster kids means often dealing with kids with multiple behavioral, emotional and cognitive issues. Creative approaches when dealing with frustrating and escalating behavioral situations in the home is the only way to maintain sanity for both the foster parent and the kids in the house. This is how my whistle blowing technique came to be.

I use routine approaches like 123 Magic and Love and Logic everyday with my kids, but for stair-stepping rage and tantrums, this new technique has evolved and has really worked for me and the boys I have had in my care.

To give you some background, for parents who haven’t had kids who are detached or have multiple emotional issues, a normal day for me might include an incident like this:

I might tell Bobby to take a shower. He doesn't want to. I will use 123 Magic or Love and Logic techniques to get him to comply. He resists. Now, this is an issue I cannot lose, so I have to eventually yell at Bobby to try to get him to comply, he will not. I may have to call the police to come and tell him to take a shower (and I have) just to win the argument. Once you begin the fight, you cannot lose.

The next technique I tried was this: If the child refused to do what I asked, I would recite to him all the things I did for him that day, week or month. I found that sometimes kids would reflect on my sacrifices and comply. Others would not.

Then, I noticed that as the child’s refusal and anger would escalate, if I matched his tone and volume, and got even louder, the child would back down and stop the tantrum behavior. This is a tough route to go for the foster parent, and everyone else in the household, as, even though the yelling isn’t done by the parent in anger, it is still loud and disturbing. Once the child’s rage stopped I could back down the argument and begin rebuilding the relationship with the child immediately by telling him that I love him and explaining the reasons for the original request.
Eventually, this gets tiresome and it is a difficult technique for a foster Mom to accomplish as her voice may be softer and she may be a less authoritative figure in the home.

A foster parent is only human, and the constant re-directing and arguing to get a difficult, detached child to do simple routine tasks can be exhausting. This is when I thought of using the whistle system. I realized it wasn't so much the words I was saying when I matched my pre-teen boys verbal arguing or tantrum, but the tone and volume that made the most difference and stopped the tantrum. I decided to talk to his case managers and psychiatrist about using a whistle instead of my voice in a situation of an escalating rage.

My technique was thought out and discussed before use with both his therapists and my foster kids so that everyone understood the use and reasoning behind the whistle. The explanation to the kids was this: I would tell the kids to do something and if they argued with me, I would blow the whistle one short time. If they persist in arguing instead of doing what they were told, I would blow the whistle again. If they continued to argue, I would continue to blow the whistle more loudly and until which time they would do as they were told or went to their room for a time out. Since the kids were already familiar with the countdown system, they understood immediately the consequences of the whistle. They also understood that the whistle was to stop unnecessary back talk and that once the whistle started blowing, they were not going to be winning the argument.

Among his therapists and caseworkers, we discussed the benefits of this behavioral modification system. If it worked, and was used consistently, my kids with attachment disorders, alcohol syndrome issues and ADHD, with all of their impulsive behavioral issues, would be more easily brought under control when in a rage, and that, potentially, the whistle-ending rage technique would be transferable to school teachers or other caregivers for my kids.

So, I began keeping my whistle in my pocket. When, inevitably, a child started back talking and refusing to do as they were told, I pulled out the whistle and blew one quick blow.
I then reminded my child about the whistle technique, and that there would be no more arguing. As he began to argue once more, I blew the whistle again. He stopped. As he started to argue once again, I blew it another time. He stopped. After a few minutes of this, the child left the room without a tantrum, and either does his task or takes a time out.

Now, I don’t use the whistle all the time, and if I don’t have it handy, all I have to do is ask someone to get the whistle for me, and the child who is beginning to argue or tantrum will stop and focus on the fact that the whistle is coming! The unpleasant sound and the knowledge that the argument will be useless are very efficient in stopping the behavior.

Peer pressure also helps make the whistle technique effective. Let’s face it, the only thing worse than hearing people yell is hearing a whistle blow, and I often hear one child tell the other child to stop their bad behavior because the other child doesn't want to hear the whistle.
So, to sum it up, here is why I like the whistle technique to stop tantrum and arguing behavior with my attachment disorder/ADHD kids:

· It’s easy to use by both Mom and Dad.
· I don’t have to argue anymore, which makes my life less frustrating.
· I don’t have to think of 100 different ways of re-stating my reasons for asking my kids to do the action I requested.
· If the child’s behavior is getting to me, he or she won’t know it, because the whistle blowing can only get louder or softer. The child will have no sense of victory if they don’t feel like they are winning by affecting me in any way.
· I don’t have to worry about accidentally swearing or letting my own emotions get the best of me in a verbal argument. Foster parents aren’t perfect, but the whistle will make it easier to be better.
· It’s easier for me to talk to the child afterwards because blowing the whistle is both a distraction from the hurtful things they may be saying to me and a stress release for me, so I can be nurturing and calm after the fight to help heal and re-bond.
· I am not mentally or physically as worn out or tired. My voice is not hoarse after a hard day.
· The whistle around my neck is a visual reminder to the kids not to argue with me.
· The whistle technique is transferable. I can teach it to the other people in my life who may watch or care for my foster kids so that they can have better control over the children’s behavior while they are in their homes.
· After you use it a few times you don’t have to use it very often after that. All you do is have to reach for it and the child backs down from his argumentative behavior.

Why the whistle technique will work on your child.
· It’s louder than they can yell or swear at you.
· It stops them from thinking of a new argument because they can’t finish the first one.
· It disrupts the flow of the argument and the sound may hurt their ears, make them laugh or startle them, but it is not abusive.
· The whistle is annoying enough so that peer pressure will help to modify the child’s behavior in the home.
· Stubborn children who try to out-yell the whistle will eventually give up and realize they cannot physically compete. Eventually they will go to their room and the situation is diffused.

Always consult your caseworkers and the foster child’s psychiatrist before using the whistle technique.

Read:  Whistle Blowing Technique Update: Moving Forward  next

image adapted from: flickr: By anneh632

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Truth about Triggers…

 by John and Diane
“Triggers” is a term we use when talking about behavioral impulses that are set off by someone else’s actions or words.  We all have them. Sometimes our own anger can be “triggered” by a tone of voice or being ignored by a reticent teenager. It’s human nature.
When talking about our foster kids though, I have written a lot about triggers because for better and for worse, dealing with a child’s triggers is all part of the job. 
There are always three stages of dealing with a child’s triggers. 
1. Learning them.
2.  Avoiding them and
3. Triggering them.
Here is how I approach triggers.
For children without trust disorders and who are attached to you but may have anger issues:  (Here anger issues are defined as a child who will hit, bite, yell, throw things, break things and call you and others names. He or she will blame everyone else other than himself or herself.)
Learning Phase:
o   If he or she is a new foster child I will watch them and learn what their triggers are and not go near them and tell other to do the same. The reason I will do this is to get them out of throwing fits every day, which can become more of a habitual way for them to communicate rather than to really express what they need to express. 
o   I will monitor what types of things bring out triggers. Authority? Rules? Feelings of deprivation or disrespect?
        Avoiding Phase:                 
o   Once we can go a day or two without throwing a fit, we can celebrate our achievements and trust can begin to grow.
o   I treat the child like a guest, not expecting too much from them, allowing them privileges without expectations, to avoid triggers until the relationship between us develops.  (See:  Youand Your RAD Kid: The Importance of the Trust-Building- Honeymoon Period)
This phase can take some time.... 
      Triggering Phase
o   Once a relationship has been established I can slowly begin to purposefully trigger the child’s behavior to teach them to deal with the “triggers” in different ways.

·       When should I trigger my child?
o    When it is safe for you and the child
o    When you have the time to work through the battle you are going to take on
o    After you figure out how you will handle the child when he or she blows up. Talk it over with your counseler or Doctor beforehand to make your plan.
o   Have a safe plan just in case you forgot something. Is there someone who could help you? Is the camera on and you are taping the incident just in case it gets out of hand?

·        Don’t trigger a child right before getting on the bus to go to school. 

If you do, you will just have sent a bomb to school, even if the child seem like they handle the triggering   ok, when they left to go to school, if you did have the time to go over the issue with the child. Let the school know that the child has been triggered once already this morning so they don’t trigger him again. This has happen to me …Opps!  Sorry teachers!  My child went off at school and continued a triggered argument from home at school.
·       Always, after you trigger the child, talk with them and go over what just happen and let the child know you knew he or she was going to act in the manner they did and it didn’t surprise you.  If you can make it like almost a game for yourself so you can laugh at it in a nice way this will help you not to make the blow up feel or become personal because you had control over making it happen. So it was just a teaching moment between you and the child. Say something like, "I knew you were going to blow up like that Becky, that's why I pushed you like that. I am trying to help you learn how to deal with people differently. How could you have handled that differently? If you had done something differently this morning, would your whole day have gone differently?"  Discuss what different reactions would have brought about different consequences to help the child learn how to react in the future.

Note:  Remember if we are angry or let what the child say or do hurt us we can’t work with the child. It becomes unsafe for you and the child you’re trying to help.  If you do feel hurt but feel like you can handle it, don’t let the child see that he or she has hurt you.   

Tip:  I find if you can double-team a child with a counselor or an adult that is working with you, this works the best.

 Important: If you trigger a child and start a battle you must win.

You control where it will happen and when so you have the upper hand. You are taking that control away from the child.

·       Why do we now trigger the child?
o    Because the child is growing up and soon will be on his or her own and the world will not tip toe around their triggers. It is better to deal with the triggers in a safe setting then for them to face them in a bar or in a jail.

We will trigger them over and over telling them every time “I did it on purpose.” This will either make the child smarter and learn that he has to stop it and he or she has a problem or it will make them mad at you and stop triggering when you do it, so that they feel the beat you. Either way you win.

Like always when I work with my children I ask God for help to give me the strength to deal with the name-calling or even the hitting. I may have to take a pushing but I won't ever let it stop me from helping a child in need. 

I hope you have found this helpful and God Bless you for all the work you all do with your foster, adopted or bio kids with troubles…. 

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year, New House Rules: Starting the Year Off RIght

By John and Diane.

The House Rules  post is our Number 1. read post on this blog, and it's no wonder. Getting house-rules to work in your home means setting boundaries that allow kids to understand expectations and consequences...and to follow them.  It doesn't mean your kids will be perfect, but it is the foundation that tells your kids that you are in control and that defiance has penalties. Especially important for foster homes or homes where your kids have behavioral problems, having and posting house rules clearly defines expectations, which is a vital, first step.

Having said that, we thought this would be a good time to go back over the House Rules and encourage those of you who don't have any to start the new year off right by posting your own in your home. You might want to tweak them a bit to reflect your own circumstances and kids, but overall, you want to be clear about the rules and the penalties and always leave room for additions and changes to be made by YOU. (kids always look for loopholes.)

Once you have your house rules developed, go over them with the kids so that everyone understands them.  Remember, although kids might complain about the rules, rules also give your kids comfort and security. They help ease anxiety and let the kids know that the rules apply to everyone and help keep Everyone safe and happy.

Now, my example set of rules has been created with my foster kids in mind, and has been tweaked over the years to include areas of concern including things like inappropriate sexual behaviors and the like.

Don't forget: Go over house rules with the children's visitors as well.

House Rules should be incorporated with Chore Lists and Disciplinary Action Forms, all available to download off our Facebook page.

Here is our basic list of house rules:
1.    Do not steal
2.    Do not lie
3.    Do not swear
4.    Do not fight
5.    Do not back talk to adults
6.    Do not enter other people’s bedrooms without permission from John.
7.    Always knock on the bathroom door before entering, wash hand after using, flush toilet, and put toilet seat down.
8.    Always pick up your toys or anything you were using and put them back.
9.    Always ask before taking food. Pop/ juices/milk can only be drank at mealtime. All other times.  Water is available for you to drink.   
   10.  Do not eat in your bedroom or any other room   other than the kitchen and dining room area without permission from John.  Always put your dishes away.
12. No cell phone or computers in the bedroom after bedtime.
13. No sitting next to each other on the couch or being under a blanket together, you must always be able to be seen.
14. No grabbing or holding any other children when playing a game or any other time or reason.
15. No taking revenge on other kids for any reason.  Any of these rules can be modified by John at any time.