Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative

Tips for Parenting a Child With a Disability

by Megan McQueen

Download a full copy of the PDF here.

tip-sheet-disabilities

For more detailed information, read our earlier blog post.

Megan McQueen is a warmhearted teacher, coach, consultant, and writer. She grounds her work in empathetic education, importing a strong sense of community and social skills to those with which she works. Megan prioritizes emotional learning and problem solving skills. When not at work, she is most likely playing with her husband, two children, and pup.

For Families: Raising Grandchildren

A young child and an elderly person walking along a beach.

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

By Megan McQueen

I got to know a grandmother as she took over care for her grandchild. She struggled to shift into her new role as caretaker while setting new boundaries and establishing routines. She had pictured herself being the fun-loving grandparent who got to say “Yes!” to her grandchild’s whims, but realized this role needed to shift as she played the role of parent, too. This new life as her grandchild’s caregiver was not the one she had imagined for herself. She also worried about her daughter who battled with addiction. At the same time, the grandmother relished this “bonus time” with her joyful grandchild. She thoroughly enjoyed the closeness they experienced together. 

A change in family dynamics can be stressful and traumatic. It may also bring relief to families during a time of stress and need. Grandparents who step in to care for their grandchildren may have to manage adjustments in their finances, living arrangements, and energy levels. They may also need to care for and support their own adult child (if still living), or manage their grief if not. On top of all these changes are the children’s mental health needs. As a grandparent continuing or stepping into a new role with your grandchildren, it may be helpful to acknowledge and accept all of your feelings – the ups and the downs – without shame so that you can also seek out and create moments of joy with your grandchildren. You have an opportunity to connect with a child in a new way who will remind you of the importance of living in the present. You have raised children, and you can do it again. 

These suggestions may help your new routine become more easeful with your grandchildren.

Get necessary paperwork and legal needs in order. Look into your insurance to see about adding your grandchild or apply for state assistance (such as the Oregon Health Plan). Look into medical records to ensure that immunizations, well-child checks, and preventative visits are up-to-date. Remember to include dental and vision appointments for the children, too. You can also apply for financial assistance through the DHS Self-Sufficiency Offices. Create a file for your grandchild with contact information for their medical team as well as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and others who are involved in your grandchild’s care.

Create a support team. Think about who you can lean on when you need a break. Who do you have a trusting relationship with that can watch your grandchildren? Who can help with extracurricular events and school commutes? Who can provide emotional support for you and for your grandchildren? In addition to these trusted friends, think about who can provide medical and emotional support that you and your family may need. Make a list of these people so you can easily lean in when you need additional support.

Communicate with your grandchild’s teachers. You may feel reluctant to share your family situation, but teachers are familiar with all different kinds of families. Communicating your grandchild’s background will help her teachers gain insight into how they can better meet her needs at school. By beginning with an honest conversation, you demonstrate that you have your grandchild’s best interests at heart. Attend as many family events as possible including conferences, family nights, even PTA meetings if you can. Getting involved will allow you and the community around you to support your grandchild’s time in school. If your grandchildren are young enough, seek out Head Start for assistance. Head Start offers wraparound services for the entire family.

Be active together! Use your grandchildren’s energy to help keep you healthy as well. Keep moving by gardening together, taking walks in the neighborhood, biking to a nearby park, and walking or biking to school if possible. Ask your pediatrician about recommended activity goals and nutrition suggestions. It is amazing how quickly the medical and health field updates their guidance. Realize you may need more learning about this, but you will all benefit – especially if you spend the time active and cooking together. Food Hero is a great resource with easy recipes that children can be involved in, kid-tested & approved recipes, and recipes with 5 items or fewer!

Learn about Trauma-Based Care. Often children arrive in your home because of trauma. Family members may have different reactions to the same stress. Understanding how children develop and how trauma can impact growing bodies and brains will help you respond in a caring, supportive manner. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network can provide helpful insight about how we react to stress and how we can care for ourselves and others who have experienced trauma. When you care for yourself, not only will you be a more compassionate caregiver, but you are also modeling important self-care strategies for the children in your life.

Reach out and connect with other families. Find a parenting group or class in your area to help your family create community. All kinds of parents are welcome – step-parents, foster parents, and grandparents. Your experience will be valuable to share with others. You may learn new evidence-based strategies to support your grandchild’s wellbeing and feel supported. You may find a safe place to ask questions and learn about local resources for families.

Families come in many different forms and are simply groups of people who love and care for each other. We all have an origin story and they are often different from one another’s. Be proud of your family! Many children are being raised by grandparents or other relatives for a variety of reasons. There are agencies and resources that are in place to support you. Your situation may not be what you envisioned for yourself, but you can all learn from it and grow together. You will benefit from having close relationships with each other.

Online Resources:

Books:

For adults:

For children:

Megan McQueen is a warmhearted teacher, coach, consultant, and writer. She grounds her work in empathetic education, importing a strong sense of community and social skills to those with which she works. Megan prioritizes emotional learning and problem solving skills. When not at work, she is most likely playing with her husband, two children, and pup.

Talking with (White) Kids about Race and Social Justice Issues (for families)

By Megan McQueen

As a white woman, I have benefited from the foundational white supremacy that infiltrates every system in our society. I learned that the civil rights movements in the 1960’s were important moments in history that solved many societal problems. The suburbs that I grew up in were somewhat racially diverse. I mistakenly thought that my friends and classmates had the same opportunities I did. As I began teaching in a racially diverse school, I realized I had a lot of unlearning to do. I listened to the families I worked with and began to understand that the civil rights movement was not over. I learned about my white privilege that has made my life easier than my friends of color. I want my white children to understand others’ perspectives and know they benefit from racist policies. I want to see them work to dismantle racism. 

My thoughts here belong to this moment in time. I hope that I will look back on this post and see that I have grown. I hope to amplify black voices and spark conversations. I hope you may see yourself in some part of me: a white person who wants to raise anti-racist children in a racist society. I am continuing my journey into unlearning, listening, and educating myself. As an educator, I have a responsibility to serve my students. All of my students and all parts of them. Hiding negative parts of the world is tempting, but disingenuous. Children deserve to know the truth and white silence upholds white supremacy. I urge you to seek out the words, experiences, and writings of people of color to learn from without burdening them. Analyze your books, social media feed, movies, influencers, and ensure that your heart is open as you continue this journey.

We know that race is socially-constructed. Differences and designations in race were created by people to create power structures. Race is also an important part of people’s identity and culture. Our racial identity impacts how we move through the world: our culture, our experiences, our perceptions. 

Start with yourself: I’ve always celebrated diversity with my students and children. But years ago I realized that I wasn’t addressing race or racism. It is lovely to share artists, authors, and musicians of color, but it is not enough. We can talk about equality, but we need to understand some history. Sign yourself up for some homework. Recognize that you have implicit bias. Read Between the World and Me, White Fragility, and How to Be an Antiracist for starters. Watch “13th” and “I Am Not Your Negro.” Begin to learn other perspectives and how our society got to this place. Know that white privilege does not mean that you haven’t worked for what you’ve accomplished or that your life hasn’t been challenging. White privilege means that you have generationally, systematically benefited just because of the color of your skin.

Start young: Children exhibit racist ideas from a very young age. They notice skin color. Acknowledge it! Name it. Let your kids know that talking about race is okay and something you will continuously do together. Many preschool and kindergarten teachers talk with their students about racism. Young childrens’ views can be changed easily. You can undo racist ideas quickly with several conversations. Also know it is never too late to start talking about race. You have tremendous power as a parent. Ensure that you are conscious of how you are using it. You have the greatest impact on determining if your child will be racist or antiracist.

Share positive stories: Share positive stories about people. Encourage diverse friendships (not as token friends, but remember to branch out of your neighborhood or school friend group). Read books with diverse characters and talk about their experiences. Take care that normal, everyday experiences are shared, not just stories of people to be pitied or saved. As Dr. Bloodline Barthelus said in a CASEL webinar, “Balance the narrative.” When people have strong connections with a cousin, uncle, neighbor, friend, they will easily understand why everyone is worthy of love and equal treatment. 

Encourage action: Children often feel powerless in the adult world. This is an instance where they have great power. When talking together about racism, your child may ask what they can do to help. Ask them if they have ideas. How can they help everyone in their school feel safe and celebrated? How can they interrupt racism when they hear it? Role play some scenarios together. When they notice a lack of diversity in books or toys or advertisements, encourage them to reach out to the company and ask for more representation. Your family can make signs and attend protests. Your children can research black-owned businesses in your town and support them. “Kids want to help,” says Dr. Deborah Rivas-Drake; prepare to support their efforts to take action.

Dr. Bloodline Barthelus shared a story from her graduate professor who asked, “How do you raise a racist?” The students answered in many ways to which the professor said, “No. You do nothing.” Be brave and start the work today.

Websites:

Books

Picture Books:

Middle Grade:

Young Adult:

For Adults:

*Please consider supporting black-owned bookstores when purchasing books.

Megan McQueen is a warmhearted teacher, coach, consultant, and writer. She grounds her work in empathetic education, importing a strong sense of community and social skills to those with which she works. Megan prioritizes emotional learning and problem solving skills. When not at work, she is most likely playing with her husband, two children, and pup.

Parenting with a disability

By Megan McQueen

As a mother who has some physical limitations, I have glimpses into the world of living with a disability. I was told when my youngest child was a baby that the constant pain I was in would continue to worsen and I would be in a wheelchair in about ten years. I began to consider the accessibility of our home and adaptations my life would require with added equipment and decreased mobility.

We all live within a wide range of abilities. Abilities can be neurodiverse, cognitive, physical, and invisible. Your specific life experience is based upon who you are through your adventures, your thoughts, and your genes. The broad suggestions I offer below may be helpful. As you are aware, only you will know when the answer fits your specific questions. Your individual situation and family life will guide your needs so you can best meet your own or your family’s challenges.

You have value and you belong. People of all shapes, colors, and abilities belong in our society. Join a parenting class, visit your child’s school events, sign up for a mom’s group. You are welcome there. Give yourself a pep talk and jump in!

Seek out a network of people who understand. Any given group may or may not be in your exact situation, but if they share similar experiences, they may be able to empathize and offer support. Try an online search of your specific condition and branch out to seek local, personal connections as well. Friends can offer suggestions regarding resources for parenting recommendations and positive adaptations. 

Frame your situation as strength-based. Will you have challenges? Yes. Use these as opportunities for your children to learn patience, understanding, and an inclusive-based look at the world. You will tap into your creativity to design the life you require. You will have a strong system of friends and family who will support your journey. Solid personal connections are one of the best indicators of health and resiliency. 

Hire out help you need. Look into your medical insurance or social security benefits to see if there is coverage for home-based help with parenting needs or a service animal to assist you. Lean on your parents with a disability group (see above) to help research supports or trade each other services you can offer. A baby-sitting trade can be invaluable when attending medical appointments, for example. 

Lean on Early Intervention Services. Many opportunities exist for children with disabled parents in the early intervention (EI) suite of services. Ask your pediatrician about offerings through EI and head start preschool programs. 

Be a “good-enough” parent. There is so much pressure to be a perfect parent! All parents need to take a step away from the pressure of unrealistic expectations. Release yourself from the negative-cycle and enjoy your time with your family! Focus on the positive aspects of your life together and have fun. Create moments of joy and play together. Your life will not be “perfect” – no one’s is. Accept that and feel comfortable with the idea of “good-enough.” That doesn’t mean you won’t strive to learn and grow as a parent, but that you also see the value you bring to any moment. Easing up on the pressure will benefit everyone in your home.

Be creative! Oftentimes, you may need to adapt something to make it more accessible for you. Cut the legs off a crib and put it on risers to make the crib the best height for you. Use a handheld shower head instead of leaning over the side of the bathtub as you would otherwise. Keep supplies organized and within reach. There are small carts on wheels that can be handy in each room. Pull them out when needed and tuck them out of the way when you’re finished with your supplies. Have craft supplies and healthy snacks for your children within their reach, so that you can rest when you need to and your children can have some of their needs met.

Talk openly with your child about your disability. Share how living differently brings you strength and an appreciation of others. You have gained much by learning to listen to your body. Talk with your children about how there are a variety of ways to live and that our diversity makes all of our lives richer. Acknowledge the struggles you (and your children) encounter because of your condition and use that to empathize with others’ experiences. Brainstorm ideas to be more inclusive at school and in your community. By fully embracing all parts of yourself, you will model important lessons for radical self-love that will bring more satisfaction to your life.

You can love and care for your children just as anyone else can. Create a joyful home full of snuggles and love for your family. Reach out for support when you need it (everyone does!) to figure out the details.

In my own life, I have gained appreciation for people navigating a disability through learning from mine. My experiences have taught me to be grateful for all that I have been able to do and recognize that it may change. It is not always easy, but I know my children have gained compassion with their opportunities to help me. Caring for others and receiving care are some of the most tender ways to live fully. My journey may not be a “typical” one, but it is valuable and a rich source of kindness for my family.

Books:

For Parents:

For Children:

Websites:

Megan McQueen is a warmhearted teacher, coach, consultant, and writer. She grounds her work in empathetic education, importing a strong sense of community and social skills to those with which she works. Megan prioritizes emotional learning and problem solving skills. When not at work, she is most likely playing with her husband, two children, and pup.

Teaching during a pandemic

By Megan McQueen

Oh, teachers, I wish I could wrap you up in a big hug. This is hard. We chose a career in education because we cherish our connection with others. We want to help people find success. With very little or no warning, we left our classes to help flatten the curve. Now we are home, missing our students – our children and families, and trying to figure out how best to support them from a distance. As I chatted with a teacher friend, she cried and said, “What am I supposed to do? This is who I am and I can’t do it anymore!”

Many educators around the world are being asked or encouraged to teach from a distance. We are quickly learning how to navigate the platforms available, juggling the ever-changing expectations from our school districts, organizations, programs, or bosses, and feeling overwhelmed by the needs of our students. As we transition to working from home, a great many of us also have our own families at home that need attention. It bears repeating: This is hard. But we can do this. Educators are nothing, if not flexible. We are used to shocking news, changing our plans to respond to a need, and more joy, compassion, and heart-opening love than we knew was possible as a professional. I hope you can find solace in these suggestions that have been helpful to me the last few weeks. Although some of these strategies are specific to public school settings, most are intended to support educators working in many different settings supporting children and families, including through parenting education.

This is emergency learning. Maine’s Department of Education Commissioner, Pender Makin, was quoted as saying, “This is not remote or distance learning. This is emergency learning, during a global emergency. We need to give ourselves grace and remember, this is not what we would do if we planned distance/remote learning. We have not planned this emergency.” We need to be patient with ourselves. We are scrambling to find a quiet workspace in our homes. We are trying to quickly train ourselves to use many different digital platforms and apps to communicate and teach from. We are digging through the endless links for ideas to support children and families. We are asking our own families to please be quiet while we’re recording (just me?). Through all of the chaos, take a break. Go take a short walk, clear your head and remember your why. I’m guessing that your why was similar to mine and about building relationships. Let that be your focus. You are supporting your students, no matter their age, background, level of need, through an emergency. You are providing them with some routine and connection. Take some pressure off yourself. Show your students that you are excited to “see” them and share some humor with them.

Terrible First Time. A teacher friend was walking me through some new technology that we would be using. When I thanked her for answering so many questions, she asked me if I had listened to Brené Brown’s new podcast. My already-limited podcast time was one of the first things to disappear during my sheltering time. My friend told me to make time to listen to the first episode. I immediately turned it on. Brené talks about FFT’s (which she translates to the kid-friendly Terrible First Time). She describes the vulnerable, scared, and awkward feelings we all have when starting something new. Everyday, all day long, we are having terrible first times! We are learning how to join an online meeting, how to invite someone to a meeting, our online etiquette, how to add others to our platform, mute them all while also finding ways for them to share their voices, and trouble-shoot technology issues. I’m going to stop, because this list is stressing me out. Suffice to say, we’ve probably never spent this much time with our families either. We have no alone time and no outside support. We are all trying to figure it all out at the same time. Literally, everyone in the whole world is going through a terrible first time (but some have more resources to do so than others). I relish stories from those with more experience and remember that we will get through this and things will get better.

Care for yourself. I know there are a million directions you can be going, but take a minute to plan some moments for yourself. Usually our lives are planned out to-the-second and we are lucky to have breaks when we need them. I am finding that being outside is restorative. I’m discovering that taking small walking breaks outdoors is helpful for my mind and body to counteract all this new sitting still that is new to me. I am beginning my days with some meditation and intention-setting, which most often center around responding with love to my family. Compared to my old schedule, this all feels indulgent, which is necessary right now. I have a variety of feelings moment-to-moment and day-to-day. Just as I would talk to my students, I acknowledge that my thoughts are real and acceptable, and that they are temporary. Sometimes during meditation, I repeat to myself, “Not permanent, not perfect, not personal.” This helps me gain perspective on my situation. Find what works for you to help you navigate the flexibility required for this new normal.

Connect. First, connect with yourself. Ask yourself what you need in this moment. Is it more water? A bike ride? A second of quiet? A good cry? Give yourself what you need. Then, think about your students whether they are children, youth, or families. Think about how you can build your connection in a new way. Send them funny videos of how you’re spending your time. If your students are older, share a meme that is making you laugh or smile. Find a small way to give them a virtual connection or hug. Are there students you haven’t been able to connect with? Be creative. Leave something at their door so they know you’re thinking of them. If your students are adults, maybe you can send them snail mail or ask another student if they know a better way to be in touch. How can you help your students connect with each other?  Your first priority is not content; it is connection. If you are struggling to make a connection with a student or for them to attend online, reach out to your district or organization. Many school districts and programs are reaching out to families that are in need and may have other ways to meet needs. You cannot do everything. I know that lost connections are one of the most painful parts of this. You worry about your families. Do your best, send them love, let them know you are available to talk with when they are available.

Care for your family. If you have children of your own at home, they may be seeking more of a connection from you as well. Get clear on how you can take care of your basic needs so that you can better care for your children. I find that if I wake early and meditate for a few minutes, sneak in a few short solo walks, I am a much better parent. Maybe you need to sleep in and drink your coffee in silence or hide some good snacks for yourself. Do what you need to so that you can help your children navigate this experience. When my husband and I are both in video meetings, we let our kids know that they will need to be independent and set them up before we start our meetings. Or, I tell my kids that I will be in a meeting, but can be interrupted if needed, but that their dad cannot because he is in an important meeting (or the opposite). There is no shame in plugging your kid into a device or the TV for a bit so you can get some work done. There are many high-quality options for screen time. We all just have to get through this. I try to notice the positive aspects of this time as well. I am enjoying having family lunches and dinners. Our family is watching movies and playing games together more often. I remember that this event is shaping our lives and I want my children to remember kindness, flexibility, grit, and feeling loved when they reflect on it. Parenting during a pandemic is new to me also, but I want to be stable and gentle when my children are calling out for more connection. We always have a choice to respond with empathy. We won’t always be able to pull that off, but we will have opportunities to try again.

Laugh at the small stuff. I was busily recording my voice to digital sight word flashcards that I could share with students. I had to re-do my recordings several times because my microphone picked up my husband in another room on his video meeting, my dog started barking at the mailman, and my phone rang. I realized that I was getting frustrated and stepped away. This wasn’t going to work at that moment. I switched to another project. What could I do? Getting mad at my family or the small quarters we were sharing would not help anything. I put on some good music and danced while checking my email. This is no different than the unplanned interruptions that happen during live classes anyway. Laugh and move on. 

There are no tricks to this. We have to feel all of our feelings, learn many new things at once, and love our people. That’s it, really. Sip a cup of tea, take a deep breath, and tackle one new thing. Laugh at your mistakes. Call your colleagues for help and a good cry. Hug your family and celebrate small moments of joy. Procrastibake. Try again tomorrow. Be patient with yourself. Think how incredible it will feel to leave your house and give your students a big hug someday.

Megan McQueen is a warmhearted teacher, coach, consultant, and writer. She grounds her work in empathetic education, importing a strong sense of community and social skills to those with which she works. Megan prioritizes emotional learning and problem solving skills. When not at work, she is most likely playing with her husband, two children, and pup.

Tips for Working with Adoptive Families

By Megan McQueen

Download a copy of the full tip sheet PDF.

adopted-family-tip-sheet-page-1

adopted-family-tip-sheet-page-2

For families seeking more detailed information, see our earlier blog post.

Megan McQueen is a warmhearted teacher, coach, consultant, and writer. She grounds her work in empathetic education, importing a strong sense of community and social skills to those with which she works. Megan prioritizes emotional learning and problem solving skills. When not at work, she is most likely playing with her husband, two children, and puppy.

Tips for Building Community with Diverse Families

By Megan McQueen

Download a copy of the full tip sheet PDF.

diverse-families-tip-sheet-page-1

diverse-families-tip-sheet-page-2

Megan McQueen is a warmhearted teacher, coach, consultant, and writer. She grounds her work in empathetic education, importing a strong sense of community and social skills to those with which she works. Megan prioritizes emotional learning and problem solving skills. When not at work, she is most likely playing with her husband, two children, and puppy.

Parenting During Pandemic

By Megan McQueen

Along with you, my family is in quarantine to prevent the spread of the nasty Coronavirus. Our work and school lives are disrupted, our anxiety is heightened, and we are missing our social connections. I am reminding myself of how I can help my family best through these next few weeks; creating, and noticing the small moments of joy in our days together. 

Emotions are high right now as we navigate the ever-changing news. We are worried for our health and safety, for our family members, our bank accounts, and our most vulnerable in our society. We are flooded with information. As we all navigate a new challenge together, we may need a little extra help from one another so that we don’t feel alone as parents and caregivers. Here are a few strategies to try along with me.

Protect yourself. Beyond the necessary health precautions that we are learning, take steps to protect your emotional health as well. Stay off your phone for the first hour you are awake to avoid starting the day feeling overwhelmed. Instead, read a book, meditate, snuggle with your children, take a walk, or sneak in some quiet work at home time if that is an ideal time. Avoid “panic scrolling” through social media and news headlines. This is a wonderful time to begin or restart a gratitude practice for yourself and with your children. Give yourself grace. You may be grappling with balancing working from home and parenting at the same time. Be gentle with yourself.

Reassure your children. Depending on the age of your children, provide helpful news for them. This npr comic may be helpful, or this BrainPOP video (K-3). Older kids (3rd grade and older) may appreciate the Newsela site. Be honest about what you know, but keep it simple. Acknowledge the fearful feelings they may have and empathize with them. Let them know all of their feelings are okay and share your feelings as well. Be sure to talk about how you and they can manage those feelings (e.g., “When I feel worried, I think about what we are doing to help others. Sometimes I don’t want to talk about it, but I might want a big hug.”). Also share ways in which people are helping each other through this. As I talk with my partner, I am careful to save dire information for when my kids are out of earshot. When I hear positive stories and find fun videos of people making the most of their quarantines, I share those with my kids. 

Create fun moments of joy. Do not feel the need to begin full-fledged homeschooling right now. You may be working from home, going to work, or caring for someone. Take this pressure off yourself. Many school districts are sharing resources to continue learning at home and some are even starting to support children and youth through distance learning. Build some of these ideas into your days. Also, brainstorm a list of things your family would like to do. Bake (why didn’t I buy Nutella at the store?), hike, play a family game, read a book together, build a fort, watch a movie, have a dance party. My kids pulled out the sidewalk chalk and filled our street with art. Later, as I was walking my dog, neighbors told me that seeing their artwork made them smile. 

Design a routine for your family. Kids (and adults) thrive on routines. This quarantine is a bit uprooting for us. If your children are old enough, they can help create a routine. I made a list that had several required items (caring for pets, chores, outdoor activity) and my 9 & 12 year-olds filled in the table with the times they would like to complete these tasks. There were choices for other projects such as creative time, academic time, and screen time. Their learning is self-paced and initiated by them. They may research someone they are interested in, work on a science project, jump on an online academic site, virtually visit a museum. We try to keep up the reading that kids are missing during their school day as well by building in some reading routines before bed, after lunch, before naps, or during breakfast. Self-paced or self-directed learning may not work for other children, depending on their age, energy level, and learning needs, but you might find that your children like to choose some of their own activities each day, too.

Connect with friends and family. We are social creatures and isolation is difficult for us. I love the idea of friends cooking the same meal (over Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime), sitting down at the same time and eating “together.” One of my kids wandered around the house, chatting about nothing with their friend on FaceTime. We are missing the chatting and small talk with our friends and colleagues. We may connect online for professional meetings, but remember to build in the time for bantering as well. My parents and children usually FaceTime weekly, but I imagine this will become more frequent. We are also going to take advantage of being able to connect with our family that lives in other time zones much easier now that we are all home throughout the day. 

Help each other! Some of the most challenging parts of this quarantine is our disconnection and the feelings of helplessness that may come along with that. Having social support is one of the biggest predictors of resilience. We need others to talk through challenges, brainstorm, and problem-solve. We can become anxious when we lose or have a change in our social lives to some extent. But, we can be creative about how we help each other. Do you know a mom who has young kids and a partner who is a healthcare worker in quarantine? Leave some fancy chocolates on their doorstep. Offer to pick up some items at the store for an elderly neighbor or a friend who has young children. Your children can also benefit from finding ways to help. Mail your kids’ sweet artwork to cousins and grandparents. Paint rocks to leave out on neighborhood walks. Send thank you cards to hospitals and grocery stores. If your kids are old enough, perhaps they can walk a dog for a neighbor, mow their lawn, take out their trash bins, or weed their garden.

This is our opportunity to slow down our lives a bit and make choices about how we spend our days. Take advantage of this time to strengthen your family. Most of us cannot and should not go out in public. We can still find ways to connect with each other and spend quality time with our own families and networks of friends. Minimize the time you spend offline as much as possible to help your mental health and stay present with your family. How else are you helping your children and your family navigate these days? 

Be well! 

Megan McQueen is a warmhearted teacher, coach, consultant, and writer. She grounds her work in empathetic education, importing a strong sense of community and social skills to those with which she works. Megan prioritizes emotional learning and problem solving skills. When not at work, she is most likely playing with her husband, two children, and puppy.

Parenting Adopted Children

Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

By Megan McQueen

As my sister prepared to adopt her daughter, our family excitedly gathered clothes, books, and toys for her. My sister shared photos and advice that she received from her case workers. She read about how best to transition a child to a new home and planned as much as she could for a new addition to the family. As delighted as we all were, we also wondered about additional considerations my niece would need because of her past experiences.

Welcoming a child to the family through adoption or fostering is exciting! Adoption might come with other feelings as well, including doubt, love, grief, and joy. Each child brings their own personality, needs, and quirks that we as parents and caregivers learn about as we get to know our children. You may have a lot of information about your child’s experience and you may not – and that’s okay. You can still build a trusting, loving attachment relationship and we can help build their resilience. Depending on the age of our child when they join the family and their experiences before adoption, adopted children may have missed important developmental milestones or faced trauma. Of course, you are able to raise a happy, well-adjusted child – especially with extra knowledge about child development.

Whether you are preparing for adoption or have already adopted and welcomed one or more children into your family, try these strategies at home: 

Learn about child development. Find reputable resources, such as Just in Time Parenting (which is available in English and Spanish). Learn about different stages of child development – those leading up to your child’s time joining your family as well as your child’s current age and stage. This website shares research, activities, advice, and fun from birth through age five. Some of the tips provided are simple games to build coordination. For example, 25-26 months olds can play with a spoon and pan to copy sounds you make drumming. This builds rhythm, coordination, and builds your relationship. 

Focus on building a positive, trusting relationship. At seven months old, Just in Time Parenting reminds readers that babies are learning about different people. They may have developed caring, trusting attachment relationships with their caregivers before coming to your family or they might be developing these relationships for the first time. Even with trusting relationships, children at this age may cry or scream with other people (including family members they know and love!). This is normal and part of the process of learning who they can trust. Again, babies that may not have attached to a loving parent or caregiver before this age may be dealing with trust, attachment, and abandonment issues that will require extra patience, effort, and time to build those healthy relationships.

Value play time together! Children and adults need to play. The time spent together will build your relationship and many skills. Gross-motor (large muscles: leg & arm muscles & balance) and fine-motor (small muscles in fingers) skills are built through running, dancing, skipping, drawing, painting, and building. Children will solve problems, use their imagination, and build a strong connection with their playmates. Play time is also an opportunity to work through issues they may have faced, such as a stressful separation, a long plane ride, or difficult doctor visits.

Join a parenting class. Connect with other families, build confidence, and establish better relationships with your children as well as with families in your community. Learn ways to raise confident, kind, independent children.

Seek out any needed medical support and therapy for your child. This may mean dentist appointments, occupational therapy, play therapy and speech and language support. Ask your pediatrician about Early Intervention services that may be useful. Boost your child with experts to prevent or minimize issues later in childhood. 

Advocate for your child. Ask your child care providers to share signs of emotional distress they may see so you can bring them to the attention of your child’s medical team or social workers.Educate the people in your child’s life (daycare providers, grandparents, or teachers) about your child’s specific needs and how best to bolster them so your child is surrounded by people who can care for them in the most meaningful manner. For example, tell caregivers that you are working to build trust with your child. If they refuse to share a toy, use this as an opportunity to build empathy. Talk to your child about how they feel when they want something someone else has. How does it feel when that person shares? How does it feel when that person won’t share? How does it feel when you share with someone? These conversations will boost relationships and build social and emotional skills. 

My niece has brought much joy to our family and we have all learned from her. One of my favorite lessons she has shared is unconditional love. We accept her for who she is and do our best to support her. Our utmost goal has always been to meet her needs. She is perfect as she is and our job is to love her; just the same as for all the other children in our family.

Tips for parents and caregivers:

  • Parent children based on emotional age.
  • Instead of “time out”, take a break together to help build attachment.
  • Be consistent and predictable.
  • Model and teach desirable behaviors.
  • Be patient (with yourself and your child).
  • Remain calm and help the child regulate herself before discussing consequences.
  • Allow extra time transitioning between activities.
  • Create a “safe place” for family members to calm down and take a break.

Children’s Books:

Web Resources:

For a downloadable tip sheet for parenting educators, see this blog post.

Megan McQueen is a warmhearted teacher, coach, consultant, and writer. She grounds her work in empathetic education, importing a strong sense of community and social skills to those with which she works. Megan prioritizes emotional learning and problem solving skills. When not at work, she is most likely playing with her husband, two children, and puppy.

Tips for Co-parenting After Separating

By Megan McQueen

Download a copy of the full tip sheet PDF.

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For more detailed information about working with families with foster children, please refer to our earlier blog post.

Megan McQueen is a warmhearted teacher, coach, consultant, and writer. She grounds her work in empathetic education, importing a strong sense of community and social skills to those with which she works. Megan prioritizes emotional learning and problem solving skills. When not at work, she is most likely playing with her husband, two children, and puppy.

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