Teaching Adopted Children Their Story

Source: Spirit-Fire, Flickr

Source: Spirit-Fire, Flickr

Parents of adopted children will one day face the question about whether or not to tell their child the story of how they came to join the family. An intensely personal decision, parents must make the decision that is best for the child and family. There is no easy answer about how to approach this subject or when. That is entirely up to the parents and the situation surrounding the adoption process. If you are an adoptive parent considering having this discussion with your child, we have a few tips to offer to ease the process.

Open Adoptions

Naturally, open adoptions will result in more conversations about birth parents. When your child is younger, you can begin to lay the groundwork. As the child grows up, you can expand on the story and explanation. For example, when younger the child can learn to understand that any visitation or contact is with a family member or other name you feel is appropriate. As the child grows up, you can explain the nature of this relationship more and the nuances of birth and adoptive parents. You can explain the significance and how their unique situation is different from their peers.

Grow the Conversation

As above, you want to grow the conversation as your child grows. A three-year-old won’t be able to understand all of the details like a ten-year-old can. Questions may come up as children are very curious (as we all know!) and can often sense things. Even if your own child doesn’t, other children might ask questions. It’s important to be prepared as adoptive parents and know what you wish to discuss and when.

One common question that arises as a child gets older is “why?” If this does happen, remember to not speak negatively about the birth parents or the situation. Coming from a place of positivity and love will help you down the road when a teenager might ask “why?” again. Balance your answer between giving an answer to the why and expanding on all of the positive ways this decision has impacted everyone.

As children grow up they will likely want more details, too. You can continue to grow the story of the adoption and the experience of your family together. Perhaps tell the story with pictures or any other information you have on hand. And remember to be patient as your child will be rewriting some part of their personal narrative as the story of the adoption grows right along with them.

Online Support for Adoptive Parents

People supporting each other

Source: Flickr, Ondřej Lipár

Now that the spirit and cheer of ringing in the New Year has settled, many of us are back to the usual routine. That means meal prep, long work hours, shoveling snow, laundry, homework, and so much more. Usually we all end up feeling like the day needs just one more hour! The festive spirit of the holidays can be invigorating, but once that all settles, facing the day-to-day routine again brings about stress and anxiety for many adoptive parents. We understand that there is always a mountain of paperwork to complete or stacks of mail to sift through. But thankfully, there are many resources available online to ease that stress.

Parent Support Group Series

We have posted about various Parent Support Group options for Kansas City, Wichita, and St. Louis, with more cities slated to come as we continue on into 2017. If you haven’t already, please check out these blog pages and see what options are available in your city. Support groups can range from in-person meetings at churches or baby boutiques, to great parent meet-ups at playgrounds, musical events, and more. Plus, there are links to find support groups online, too. There is something for everyone.

Parent groups are crucial for adoptive parents as building your community and support group will only help you succeed and feel more confident as you go through the process. Plus, people who have been through it all before will always want to share any tips they can offer.

Online Support

If our Support Group Series hasn’t yet covered your town, or if you find yourself in a more remote location, then online is the way to go. You can start with Adoption.com‘s large forum site that is open to all parents who have questions or need support of any kind. Additionally, there is the parent group database on the North American Council on Adoptable Children. Both of these are great places to start.

On our own website, we list many local support groups that are available, too. Whatever your need or whatever your question, there is someone out there ready to help. So reach out and get ready to find your community.

The Importance of Holiday Stories

Children with Santa

Source: Flickr, Bailiwick Studios

For many of us, Christmas is a special time of year when we get to spend time with loved ones and give back to our neighbors, family, and communities. For our young ones, it is quickly become all about presents. Especially when you consider how many toy commercials and catalogs they see starting back in September. The idea of Christmas being just about presents can quickly take over before we even realize it.

One way to balance the season of gifts is to talk to kids about giving back and sharing with others. With younger children this can be a bit hard since it’s natural at certain ages to “have a case of the gimmies,” but there are many children’s books that tell wonderful stories about loving one’s family, giving back, and coming together.

Holiday Children’s Books

Consider getting the classic that many of us knew growing up – The Berenstein Bears and the Joy of Giving. This book is especially good if you find your child is asking for every toy from the catalog or spending all day talking about what he or she asked Santa for Christmas. The lovely book tackles what Christmas is really about and helps children understand the ideas of giving and sharing. With a similar story of giving is Santa Mouse, who realizes that Santa is always giving gifts but never receiving them.

You can also trust that Scholastic has a large variety of holiday-themed books, many of which teach wonderful lessons. For example, Light the Lights tells a heartwarming holiday story of an interfaith family and The Mitten, which is adapted from an old Ukrainian tale about a boy and his grandmother.

All of these books make great options for engaging your children during the holidays and talking about giving and the joy of family. They can help balance the stories of gifts received and are easily accessible in most bookstores and local public libraries.

Children and Devices

Children on phone

Source: Flickr, Guillermo Alonso

Where do we draw the line when it comes to our kids and devices? And how do we navigate requests for cellphones when they are older? How long is too long when it comes to looking at a screen on a road trip? Our entire world is very different from when we (the parents) grew up. Instead of kickball, there’s Angry Birds. And instead of math workbooks, there’s an app for that. Everything in your home can be digital, from the refrigerator to the lights, and computers are mainstays in most schools and homes. Sometimes that “computer” is simply in the palm of your child’s hand.

Parenting Challenges

Parenting now has unique and new hurdles that everyone must learn to navigate. You have to decide when to take the phone or pad away and what apps are actually stimulating your child’s brain in a healthy and productive way. This isn’t an issue just for parents of teens, either. Children as young as 1 or 2 are ready to start holding the phone and playing. And toddlers are able to understand and engage with devices at incredible rates. Time with screens isn’t going to diminish or go away; it’s here to stay. So what do parents do about it?

Talking About Technology

In a recent learning and technology news story, parents confronted the issue of kids and screens. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these types of news stories are some of the most popular with parents. In this particular one, parents shared with each other. They asked questions about how to encourage face-to-face time with children, ensuring the privacy and safety of their children, and how parents can model good device behavior. These questions keep coming up and some worry about parents spending too much time on devices as well.

Finding Balance

It is important to remember a good balance, between play at the playground and play on any device. If you find that you are facing similar questions with your own children, engage your fellow parents in discussion. It can be good to talk these concerns out and you may decide to form playgroups. You could opt to focus on physical play with all phones put away (including parents). Or you can have kids try to act out their favorite app games in real life.

Focusing on coming together as a family and enjoying playtime is a quick and easy way to distract from devices. You can take everyone on a camping trip, where there’s no data or signal, or simply put rules in place such as “no phones at the table.” Finding the right balance for your family is most important in this new tech-driven world.

Parent Support Group Series, Kansas City

Source: Flickr user Janita

Source: Flickr user Janita

In September, we started a blog series to help bring parents, especially stay-at-home moms, together, city-by-city. We started with Wichita, Kansas then we reached out to those of you in St. Louis, Missouri. Now, we want to reach readers in Kansas City who may be in need of additional support. With the holiday season upon us, many people find themselves extra stressed out between gift shopping, kids out of school, and a growing “to do” list. You are not alone if the holiday time makes you feel overwhelmed.

Below, we share ways that you can meet other parents in your area and find like-minded friends. Friendship is vital to living a full life and it shouldn’t stop when you become a parent. This is especially true for adoptive parents who need to build support circles of all kinds. From swapping parenting tips, to sharing recipes and enjoying each other’s company, friends make life more complete. During this holiday time, be sure to reach out to others and engage with your community. ‘Tis the season for giving, and that includes supportive hugs from friends!

Online

As mentioned in our last blog, be sure to check out the MeetUp website. This is a central place where people can post and create meet-ups for parents. It is an easy way to start, so give it a try if you want to test the waters.

There’s one group that’s been active since 2012 with a focus on friendly, fun, and frugal good times. Activities are often kid and pet friendly, so jump on in and join the group.

Blogs

Kansas City Moms Blog – a great space for finding activities, tips, crafts, and so much more.

KC Parent – tackling all kinds of parenting issues, this site includes education and holiday sections, along with all things Kansas City.

In-Person Groups

MOMentum – this group is especially helpful for moms looking for supportive relationships, adult conversation, and regular discussions. It’s an active support group that meets the first Tuesday of every month and helps moms connect. Check it out at the Richmond First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall.

Friends of Adoption – this is a local group that offers support at all stages of the adoption process.

If you’re considering home school and want to find a support group, check out Midwest Parent Educators site for a group that meets regularly.

Be sure to look at the entire KC Kids Fun website for a full list of parent groups to check out in your area.

 

 

Ways to Celebrate and Show Thanks

Source: Flickr user anjanettew

Source: Flickr user anjanettew

The day for rest, family, and giving thanks is nearly upon us. While you and your family bond on Thursday, whether it’s you, your spouse and children or a whole big family gathering, take the time to really think about what you wish to give thanks for. Talk to your children about this concept and share what makes you feel happy and grateful. It can be a lovely time to come together as a family and give thanks for each other, for birth parents, and so much more.

For younger children, this concept is especially good at teaching gratitude and learning to appreciate small blessings. Social scientists, such as Dr. Christine Carter, studied how grateful children are more likely to grow into happier adults and that the concept of thankfulness (and the ability to be thankful) is not an inherent trait. It’s something people can learn and children can be taught, just like learning a new language. To embrace this concept with your children on Thanksgiving, try some of these suggestions and remember to simply be thankful for each other!

Source: Flickr user anjanettew

Source: Flickr user anjanettew

Volunteer

Does your church offer volunteer opportunities? Or perhaps your local community finds a Meals On Wheels program. Whatever the option, volunteering with your children is a great way to show gratitude for what you have and your desire to help others. Volunteering is also something that can be done year round as a family and sets a wonderful tone for children as they grow up.

Shop for Others

The next time you are at the grocery store or mall with your children, encourage them to pick out one or two items. It could be canned goods, gloves, warm socks, or a blanket. Then after you are done shopping, take your kids with you to the local shelter or food bank and let them donate the items.

School Lessons

Speak with your child’s teacher to see what lessons they are learning around Thanksgiving. Then you can build on those at home, asking them what they think the Pilgrims were thankful for and what a Pilgrim would be thankful for now. If your children are old enough to write, have them write a letter of thanks to someone that they appreciate. This is also an activity the entire family can do and then you can read the letters around the dinner table.

All of these opportunities are a great way to teach children how to show thanks and we hope you and your family have a thankful and wonderful Thanksgiving.

How Cooking Helps Parents & Kids Bond

With Halloween in the rearview holiday mirror, we are all turning our focus to the next big holiday – Thanksgiving! And what a wonderful holiday it is. With a focus on spending quality time with family, preparing and eating delicious food, and relaxing afterwards with a warm slice of pumpkin pie, it’s hard to find fault in the holiday about giving thanks and sharing with others. Our communal tables become full of smiling faces and sleepy, nodding heads after the meal. It’s a great time to give thanks for our children and parents and to come together over a meal that spans the day (if you count sneaking in tasty bites!). In addition to all of these wonderful aspects of Thanksgiving, it’s also a great opportunity to cook with your children.

Source: Flickr, Rachel Tayse

Source: Flickr, Rachel Tayse

Benefits of Cooking with Kids

Why would you want to cook with your kids? Well, it’s a great chance to talk to your kids about family history. When you pull out that weathered recipe card of your grandmother’s pumpkin pie, talk to your child about the grandmother. Share the family stories and your own memories of what Thanksgiving was like for you growing up. This can be particularly beneficial for adoptive parents whose child is growing up and becoming curious about family members, family history, and their own personal story. Use the recipes as a way to talk about traditions and create a chance for your child to ask questions and show you what they are curious about.

Parenting Help

Cooking isn’t just for stories, either. It’s a great parenting help, too! When kids help prepare food, they are more likely to eat it later on. So if you have a picky eater, make sure and have them snap green beans, peel potatoes, or sprinkle the brown sugar on the sweet potatoes. Any involvement will increase their interest and make them want to taste it later on. So while you bond over stories, you encourage your child to take an interest in their food and even learn about measuring, sharing, counting, and science, too!

Source: Flickr, Rachel Tayse

Source: Flickr, Rachel Tayse

Cooking with Young Children

There’s something for a child of any age, too, so long as you do a little planning. Preschoolers learn a lot from watching, so let them see how dishes come together and if they can feel, taste, and even play with some food parts go ahead and let them enjoy. Down the road, this may pay off when you try to introduce new foods to your child.

Cooking with Teens

We all know the occasional sullenness of teenagers who would rather be on their phones than participate in the family meal. If you are facing such a teen this year, consider letting them pick a favorite dish to have (even if it’s not a traditional Thanksgiving dish) so long as they do some of the prep work. That will help keep them in the kitchen and talking.

This year, enjoy some family bonding over Thanksgiving cooking and hopefully this will become a new tradition to be celebrated each year.

Connecting With Your Adoptive Community

Source: Flickr user moodboard

For some adoptive parents, the community that surrounds them is supportive, but not necessarily made up of other adoptive parents. Having a community as parents is incredibly important and pivotal to success. From swapping stories about parenting trials, to sharing techniques and information about illnesses, nothing can replace a strong community of parents. If you find that the other parents around you are not adoptive parents, don’t lose hope. There’s no reason to feel alone with the connections that the internet can provide today.

In previous posts, we have mentioned some local options for parent support groups along with another post about adoption education resources. Be sure to check these out as many will help introduce you to other adoptive parents who can become your community. But if you are looking for support – sharing tears, frustrations, and the joy of raising an adoptive child – then you might consider an online blog.

Privacy and security are certainly concerns, but you can create and run a personal blog without giving away personal information or contact details. The level of anonymity is entirely up to you. Once you decide what you are comfortable with sharing, consider the possibilities: open sharing of information, connecting with adoptive parents across the US (maybe even the world!), and having a vast community right at your fingertips, nearly 24 hours a day. Many adoptive parents have blogs that you can read right now. A quick Google search turns up hundreds! Here are a few that you can peruse as examples:

Adoptive Parent Blogs

Confessions of an Adoptive Parent
A Mother on the Road Less Traveled
My Real Kid
Mama Mem
The Big Long Wait

Parents can treat a blog like a journal entry, sharing and speaking things that are perhaps too hard to share in person. It’s also a chance to virtually meet other parents and build connections that can last. Many of the blogs above have a vast blogging community with regular readers. Additionally, when you put your story out there for other adoptive and foster parents to read someone may just take comfort in your story one day. Consider how much better you felt when you realized your fears were not just your own. Sharing your story not only relieves stress for you, but it also connects you to others. One of the greatest aspects of the internet is its ability to connect us all, and there’s no reason it can’t do the same for you and your family as you embark on your adoption journey.

Online Education Resources for Adoptive and Foster Parents

Source: Flickr user Jules

At Adoption & Beyond, we are available to talk with you whenever you need us. We understand the immediate nature of adoption and that questions can arise all the time. Although we hope that you will come in and visit us (or call), we also know that making time for appointments in busy lives is a challenge. Most of us turn to the internet for answers, whether we need help with a math problem or a parenting technique. And the internet can be a great resource, especially for people who can’t travel easily or have long work hours.

Below is a list of adoption webinar resources for potential and current adoptive and foster parents. If you’ve never participated in a webinar, don’t worry! It won’t bring back nightmares of pop quizzes or tests. It’s simply an online “class” or meeting. Your level of participation is entirely up to you. Most offer a general informative lecture followed by the ability to type in questions. Then the speaker will address as many questions as possible and provide additional web links, PowerPoint presentations, and more. They are a wonderful resource for getting started.

If you attend any webinars and have questions, feel free to call us so we can help.

Online Webinars

C.A.S.E. webinars – The Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE) has a mission to strengthen the wellbeing of foster and adoptive families and understands that learning is a natural and lifelong process. They offer a monthly webinar series called “Strengthening Your Family” that gives away 300 free registrations (it’s normally $25). The next one is scheduled for October 20th and tackles the topic: Is Medication Right for My Child? Coupon codes for free webinars can be found on their site, along with a monthly schedule of all webinars you can attend.

Adoptions Together – This site offers a variety of free, on-demand webinars covering topics such as transitioning from foster care to being an adoptive parent and how to be a child’s advocate in school. For a nominal fee (about $10.00), you can also choose from another 20 webinars covering a wide variety of topics useful to both foster and adoptive parents.

National Council for Adoption – The archived webinars are available to download instantly and over topics from parenting stress to adoption and the law. Though do note that state laws vary and if you have questions, please call us.

Parent Support Group Series – St. Louis, MO

Source: Flickr user Janita

Source: Flickr user Janita

We are starting a blog series to help bring parents, especially stay-at-home moms, together, city-by-city. We started with Wichita, Kansas and now we are reaching out to those of you in and near St. Louis, Missouri. Below, we share ways that you can meet other parents in your area and find like-minded friends. Friendship is vital to living a full life and it shouldn’t stop when you become a parent. This is especially true for adoptive parents who need to build support circles of all kinds. From swapping parenting tips, to sharing recipes and enjoying each other’s company, friends make life more complete.

Online

As mentioned in our last blog, be sure to check out the MeetUp website. This is a central place where people can post and create meet-ups for parents. It is an easy way to start, so give it a try if you want to test the waters.

Blogs

Nifty Mom – a lifestyle blog from a local who also addresses parenting issues and provides tips from raising her own kids.
STL Motherhood
Circle of Moms

In-person groups

St Louis Catholic Moms – This group offers a wide variety of events and meetings for moms. Whether you need support with a newborn or new addition to your family, or want likeminded women to enjoy a night out with, this group can help. They also offer a book club and playdates.

Keep in mind that most churches offer events and support groups for parents, so don’t be shy about asking what is available.

Parents as Teachers (PAT) – If you live in St. Louis, you are in luck as the PAT headquarters is there! These groups are meant to be informal ways for children to play and parents to meet and have social experiences with adults and for their kids. Check with your local public school for details about groups or call the office and ask for more information.

Missouri History Museum – They offer a Parent & Me program for families with children ages 2 – 5 that encourages free exploration of the museum and a chance for parents to meet.

BILY Parent Group – Although this group is in St. Charles, it may be useful for some parents who are struggling with behavioral issues with their children. The group can help with any crisis issues and create action plans.

Additionally, be sure to check out storytimes at your local public library. These are great opportunities to meet other moms nearby.