Friday, October 23, 2015

Is Your Foster Child SAD?: Identifying Seasonal Affect Disorder

By John and Diane.

It might be hard to tell with your foster kids, but at this time of the year if they are especially anxious, grumpy, sleepy and have difficulty concentrating they might be suffering from symptoms of SAD: seasonal affect disorder.

 When days get shorter and the amount of sunlight exposure your kids have because of school and time spent indoors because of the weather changes, a study by the National Institute of Mental Health showed that three percent of kids may suffer from seasonal depression or SAD.

Now, with foster kids, who may already have many of the issues that are part of the seasonal affect disorder symptomology, more notably a change in eating (a craving for sweets)  or sleeping patterns may be the key to determining if your child is also affected by the seasonal light changes.

Treatment for SAD is usually non-drug related and focuses on light-therapy, including dawn-simulating light alarms that gradually increase the light in the child's room to simulate a normal summer sunrise. Increasing outdoor winter activities to spend time in the sun and a healthy diet also help seasonal depression.

For more information check out the below article:

Seasonal Affective Disorder in Children

By Deborah Gray

Did you know that children can suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)? I'm embarrassed to admit that I just found this out recently, after years of writing about mental health. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a condition that can cause depression, fatigue and overeating, among other things, and it is brought on by the change of seasons. According to Winter Blues by Normal Rosenthal, M.D., a survey done by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) showed that about three percent of children suffer from SAD, with a greater incidence occurring in the last three years of high school.

I'm surprised that it hadn't occurred to me before. After all, if children could have clinical depression and other depressive disorders, why not SAD? Apparently even animals can suffer from SAD. Of course, it's worth nothing that all creatures on earth have a tendency toward SAD symptoms in the winter, but when normal functioning starts being impaired, it's time to take a closer look.

So, is there a chance that a child you know has Seasonal Affective Disorder? Well, if he starts off the school year doing well, but his grades start dropping after the holidays, it's possible. If she bounces out of bed after eight to ten hours of sleep in the summer but can barely drag herself out of bed after more than twelve hours of sleep in the winter, it's worth looking into.
SAD in children can go undiagnosed fairly easily, especially in adolescents, who are expected to be moody and have trouble getting out of bed. A few seasons may need to pass before anyone notices a seasonal pattern in behavior.

Symptoms of SAD in Children

  • A change in appetite, especially a craving for sweet or starchy foods
  • Anxiety
  • A drop in energy level
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • A tendency to oversleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • As with diagnosing SAD in an adult, the single biggest clue is whether the symptoms are seasonal.
    It's important that your child be evaluated by a qualified professional. If you think that your child has SAD, chances are good that your instincts are correct. But she still needs to see a doctor and have other possibilities eliminated first, and any treatment should be under a doctor's care, even if the treatment is purely non-drug.


    Read more at :  Health

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    Tuesday, October 13, 2015

    Hoarding Food Behavior Amongst Foster Kids: An Opportunity for Understanding and Building Trust

    by John and Diane

    Hoarding behaviors of all kinds are not uncommon amongst foster or adopted kids. Hoarding food is especially common and often times overly worrisome for new foster or adoptive parents.  Food issues can be scary.  Let’s face it, watching your new kids gobble up the food on the dinner table can be a bit distressing and although your first approach might be to simply try to teach them some table manners and basic etiquette, the behavior can be a symptom of something bigger.

    Typical types of food behaviors foster parents will see are:
    ·      Eating too much- weight gain
    ·      Not eating enough – weight loss
    ·      Monitoring food supplies
    ·      Hoarding and hiding food

    Most of these issues have some kind of relationship with control and comfort. These kids have just been removed from a place where they felt some measure of security, even if the home was neglectful or abusive, so controlling food by eating too much or too little or by hoarding it, is a way to get control over their environment.

    Children that seem to monitor the amount of food in the house, or hoard food so that a sibling or others in the home have food, are dealing with a continuance of the caregiver role they most likely had previously.  Often children in neglectful homes took on parental responsibilities and continue to exhibit survivalist “hoarding” even when they first arrive in a safer environment.

    Some children will gain weight or lose weight in response to a history of sexual abuse. They will attempt to alter their appearance to make themselves less attractive, even after the immediate threat or actor has been removed.

    Other times children will simply turn to food as a form of comfort to help them deal with their new surroundings. 

    No matter what the circumstances, your approach towards a new foster child’s food hoarding behavior is to… do nothing.   

    Make sure the child is safe, allow the child to have access to food and monitor the situation.  Your focus at the beginning of your relationship with the child is not to monitor their weight gain (although extreme weight gain or weight loss should be brought to the attention of doctors or caseworkers) but to gain and build their trust. 

    Work towards assuring the child that there is plenty of food for everyone and that they have ample access to it.  Do not allow caseworkers to make you the “bad cop” and to force you to deal with a pre-existing obesity problem. Your main concern will be to build trust and provide a sense of safety and security.  Once you have a well-established relationship with the child you can gently work on better eating and a more active lifestyle along with the child's doctor and caseworker.

    Fighting over food hoarding with your new foster or adoptive child will only create distrust and prevent you from building an important bond with the child.  Fighting the hoarding behavior without having a trusting and solid relationship with the child will only make the behavior worse.

     Allow the behavior to happen and view it as an opportunity to learn about the child’s history and background… why they do what they do.  Ultimately, this knowledge will help you and the caseworkers work with the child and the hoarding behavior will eventually stop on its own.

    Food hoarding is only a symptom of bigger issues, so do your best to allow it to happen safely (provide a fridge in the room if necessary) while you work on the more important goals of building trust, and making the child feel safe and secure.

    See also:Help: My RAD Child Needs A Door Alarm....

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