}

Self-Care for Foster and Adoptive Families

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

We have all heard the parenting analogy of having to put on our own oxygen mask before putting the masks on our children. The thinking behind this being of course that we must put our mask on first to make sure we are conscious to put the masks on them. As caregivers, we must take care of ourselves so that we are able to give full and proper care to our children. However, actually putting this into practice in our everyday lives is difficult for most parents and it can seem nearly impossible for foster and adoptive parents. 

Self-care for foster and adoptive families is critical. It can make the difference between success and burnout, thriving or breakdown.Self-care is even more important for foster and adoptive parents than it is for other parents because foster and adopted children require more from their caregivers and the stakes are much higher.

Foster parents are in very high demand. There are not enough foster homes in this country to meet the growing number of children entering into foster care. There are even fewer foster parents who are qualified to meet the needs of the growing number of children entering the child welfare system requiring specialized care. This results in greater demands being placed on existing foster families, which often results in foster parent burnout. With such overwhelming demands being put onto foster parents, how do they make time for self-care?

Adoption disruption rates are also on the rise. Adoption disruption occurs when an adoptive family is unable to continue to care for their adopted child and that child is placed into foster care or another adoptive home. Though a failed adoption is obviously a worst case scenario for a child who has already lost his or her birth family, it is also devastating for the adoptive family. It is not something that any family resorts to lightly and the judgment and guilt the family experiences during and after the failed adoption is both heartbreaking and debilitating. 

Not all adoption disruption and foster care burnout can be prevented, but by laying and maintaining a solid foundation of self-care and making it non-negotiable in your household, you can help protect yourself and your family from some of the pitfalls that may otherwise await you. Consider self-care the best shield of protection your family can have.

I am not an expert in self-care. After our two sons were born, we were foster parents for eight years. We went on to adopt three of our foster children and then adopted two children internationally. In the course of what would be eleven years between when we began the journey to expand our family and when we brought our last two children home, I made a lot of mistakes when it came to self-care. Later, when I began my work as an adoption advocate, I heard first-hand countless stories from others who were suffering because of what boiled down to a lack of self-care. 

It is my hope that others who are on the journey to adoption, have already adopted, or are fostering can implement solid self-care strategies to help protect their families. I still am better at talking the talk than walking the walk, so writing this has also been a good reminder to myself. Self-care is something that is a conscious decision and something that doesn’t come naturally for me, so I hope that you will join me on the journey and we can find our way together.

Self-care is both simpler and more complicated than people realize. Particularly when it comes to the dynamics involved in foster care and adoption, there is a lot to consider. I have written a book on the topic of self-care for foster and adoptive families that addresses such things as:

  • things you can do regarding your home, relationships, finances, and education in order to prepare
  • building a support network
  • 12 steps to survive the triage stage
  • Post Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS)
  • loss
  • actionable, sustainable ways to practise effective self-care

You can read more about the book as well as hear from those who have read it by clicking here or clicking the image below.

Self-Care for Foster and Adoptive Families

For today, you can begin by ensuring that you are taking care of your body and that your basic needs are being met so that you can better care for your family.

Join me for a free 5 part email series, Little Hearts, Big Worries offering resources and hope for parents.

This is part of a series written by moms of special needs kiddos on the topic of self-care. You will find wonderful self-care suggestions shared by these moms.

7 Practical Self Care Activities for Stressed Out Special Needs Parents | My Home Truths

Self-Care for Foster and Adoptive Families | The Chaos and The Clutter

What Happens When You Ignore Self Care | This Outnumbered Mama

50 Self-Care Activities You Can Do Together With Kids | And Next Comes L

Why You Should Keep a Journal as a Part of Your Self Care Routine | Kori at Home

Our Favourite Books for Kids About Special Needs

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

Whether or not you have a child with special needs, it is important for your kids to understand special needs and develop compassion for others. Five of our kids have special needs, so I am always on the lookout for good children’s books on the topic.

Whether or not you have a child with special needs, it is important for your kids to understand special needs and develop compassion for others. I am always on the lookout for good children's books on the topic.

These are some of our family’s favourites in no particular order:

1. My Brother Charlie written by Holly Robinson Peete and her 12 year old daughter Ryan is based on their real life experience as Ryan’s twin brother has autism. While it certainly speaks about the differences that a child with autism may portray, it also speaks about their strengths.

2. In Jesse’s Shoes…Appreciating Kids with Special Needs by Beverly Lewis is also about a sister learning to accept and appreciate her brother’s special needs.
3. Nathan’s Wish: A Story About Cerebral Palsy by Laurie Lears is a great book for opening conversation with kids about very obvious differences in others such as them being in a wheelchair.
4. Why Does Izzy Cover Her Ears? Dealing with Sensory Overload by Jennifer Veenendall is an especially good book for explaining sensory processing disorder to kids.
5. We’re Different, We’re the Same (a Sesame Street book) by Bobbi Jane Kates is a great book. We use it for talking about differences in terms of race and looks and in terms of special needs.
6. When My Worries Get Too Big! A Relaxation Book for Children Who Live with Anxiety by Kari Dunn Buron is one of the few books that deal with childhood anxiety, something talked about very little but it is all too real for those families living with it.
7. Forgetful Frankie, the World’s Greatest Rock Skipper, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder does a really good job of explaining in easy to understand language the positives and some of the challenges of FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder).
8. Ellie Bean the Drama Queen: A Children’s Book About Sensory Processing Disorder by Jennie Harding is another cute book about sensory processing disorder. There are actually quite a few good books out there on this particular topic so it was hard to just pick two for this list.
9. Wilma Jean the Worry Machine by Julia Cook is a book to explain anxiety disorders in children to children. Again, this is not a subject that is talked about very much and yet more and more children are suffering from anxiety related issues.
10. Stand in My Shoes: Kids Learning About Empathy by Bob Sornson, PhD is more of a general book but can be used to open dialogue with kids who may have questions about special needs or who may be struggling with how to relate to kids they see as different.

11. Let’s Hear it for Almigal by Wendy Kupfer tells the story of a girl who loses her hearing and gets cochlear implants. As the mom of a daughter who has gone deaf and gets many questions from other kids about her hearing equipment, I would love for more kids to be educated about this.

Join me for a free 5 part email series, Little Hearts, Big Worries offering resources and hope for parents.

Navigating the Store with a Child with Sensory or Anxiety Issues

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

When you’re the parent of a child with sensory or anxiety issues, a simple trip to the grocery store can be daunting. With so many of my kids having special needs, I’ve certainly had to endure my share of public meltdowns. Now I go into those situations armed with the right tools to help my kiddos cope. Grocery shopping is manageable again.

Grocery Shopping Survival Tips for children with sensory or anxiety issuesThe most important thing I’ve learned is to better understand my child. If I believe that my child is just trying to be difficult, I am going to go into the situation with frustration as my foundation. If I believe that the situation is one that is extremely difficult for my child, I go in with compassion as my foundation. 

As I’m sure you can imagine, me coming from a place of compassion is going to go over very differently than me coming from a place of frustration.

This video simulation shows what a trip to the store would be like for someone experiencing sensory overload.

For children with Sensory Processing Disorder, a typical grocery store is a veritable nightmare of sounds, lights, colours, temperature changes, and smells. These can lead to challenging behaviours.

For children with anxiety, any public place can trigger fears. There is so much that is unknown even if it’s a location they have visited many times because the people who will be there are an unknown variable. Anything could potentially happen.

If there is nothing else you take with you from reading this, please take this with you. Understanding why your child is reacting to the triggers they face when they go to the store (or another public place) is crucial to being compassionate in your reactions to their behaviours and being sensitive to their feelings.

Other tips for navigating the store with a child with sensory or anxiety issues:

  • Optimize your chances of success by ensuring your child is well rested and well fed.
  • Have your child use the bathroom before you leave home. If you forget this step, you’ll want to read these tips for surviving a public washroom with a child with sensory issues.
  • Give as much warning as possible. Tell them also how many stops or stores will occur on the outing.
  • Let them know what to expect. When going to a new store, I have even shown my child pictures (either ones I have taken or ones I find online) to help them prepare. Give them as much information as you can. My kids like to see my grocery list ahead of time so they know about how long it will take us.
  • Discuss potential or known triggers and have a plan for coping with them. Encourage your child to talk to you if they begin to feel overwhelmed. Sometimes meltdowns occur before they can pinpoint the source of the trigger but other times, communication can avert a potential meltdown.
  • If it’s a new store, take a short trip there first to buy one item. Build your child’s trust by really just buying that one item even if you remember other things you need while there. I know this is not easy to do but building that trust with your child is so important.
  • Use sensory solutions such as noise cancelling headphones, fidgets, sensory balls, and tight fitting clothing or weighted vests to help your child cope.
  • Give your child something to hold in their pocket such as a sensory ball or fidget. This will serve two purposes. It will help calm them and it will keep their hands in their pockets instead of touching everything in sight.
  • Acknowledge and praise any success. Celebrate the baby steps and don’t make a big issue out of setbacks. There will be setbacks, but it is possible to go out in public with a child with sensory or anxiety issues without it being a disaster.
  • And if there is a meltdown, be sure to be compassionate towards your child instead of being distracted by the potential judgment of others.

Join me for a free 5 part email series, Little Hearts, Big Worries offering resources and hope for parents.

This post is part of a Parenting a Child with Special Needs series with special needs moms who share their thoughts on “managing public situations.” These articles may help you navigate your way through your next time out in public.

How I’ve Learned to Manage Public Situations as a Special Needs Parent | My Home Truths

10 Tips for Running Errands with a Special Needs Child | Every Star is Different

7 Tips to Surviving Judgment as the Parent of a Special Needs Child | The Chaos and The Clutter

Navigating the Store with a Child with Sensory or Anxiety Issues | The Chaos and The Clutter

Dear Mom at the Park | This Outnumbered Mama

Dear Mom Who Is Afraid to Leave Her House | Kori at Home

How to Help a Mom When Her Child Suffers a Public Meltdown | Finding the Golden Gleam

public bathroom tips for children with sensory issuesSurviving Public Bathrooms with a Child who has Sensory Needs

7 Tips to Surviving Judgment as the Parent of a Child with Special Needs

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

It’s a Tuesday morning and you head to the grocery store. You’ve specifically chosen a Tuesday morning because it’s the least busy at this particular store. You have your list organized according to the layout of the store. You spend half an hour preparing your child for what to expect on the outing. You drive there armed with fidgets and stress balls with calming music playing softly in the background. You even let them wear the superhero costume without saying a word because you know it helps them both feel braver and feel more regulated because it fits tightly.

7 tips you need to survive the judgment from others when you are parenting a child with special needsYou have done everything you can think of to ensure this grocery trip is as pain-free as possible. You park. Take a deep breath. Turn around, smile at your child and together you walk in.

You get through the produce section with all its smells and unexpected mini sprinklers without issue. You mentally congratulate yourself for remembering to prepare your child for those potential pitfalls this morning!

You get through most of the aisles without anything dramatic happening. Even the cereal aisle is navigated without distress. You’re starting to breathe a bit easier now. You can see the end in sight.

You swing by the pharmacy where the kind pharmacist is very familiar with your family. Your child knows them well enough to respond and say hello. You can see that this has raised their anxiety just a bit and as you walk away from that counter, you check in with your child to see how they are managing. You tell them that you appreciate how well they are doing. You encourage them by showing them how much of the grocery list is complete.

In the dairy section, you see signs that the tension is mounting. There’s a temperature change and the lights are bright. It’s starting to get a bit more crowded in the store by now. Your child is touching everything you pass by and has knocked an item off the shelf.

You hand your child the list and a pencil and ask them to cross off what’s been found so far. You know that in doing so, you will give them a visual and tangible reminder of how close they are to being done. You will also give them something to do with their hands.

Your child comments that the wheel on the cart is squeaky. You are reading the back of a box trying to determine if it’s gluten free so you don’t respond right away. You move on towards the checkout but your child is standing back where you were, hands over their ears, screaming. You judge the distance between yourself and them and know that you will not make it in time to stop this from becoming a huge meltdown.

As you rush towards them, you mentally play back the trip to the store. Playing detective is an important part of your job as the parent of a child with special needs. You decide based on the evidence that it’s the squeaky wheels on the cart that were the final straw so you abandon your cart mid aisle and rush faster towards your child to help them calm down.

Out of the corner of your eye, you catch glares, a man shaking his head disapprovingly and a woman is approaching you, bent on sharing her “wisdom”. You know what’s likely coming. Not “good job mama”. Not “can I help?”

Judgment.

You’re well acquainted with the whispers, the glares and the outright rude comments. Years ago, you may have left the store in tears over her ignorant words, but not today. Today you know that her words are more a reflection of who she is than who you or your child are. Today, your only worry is your child. You’ve got this!

Tips to Surviving Judgment as the Parent of a Child with Special Needs:

  1. Breathe.
  2. Choose and practise a mantra that you can say internally. “They cannot steal my joy.” “I am the right mom for my child.” “They do not have the privilege of knowing my child.” “This is them, not me.”
  3. Know that you do not need to respond. It is not your job to educate the world at the moment your child needs you most.
  4. Better they judge you than your child. Often, it is tempting to explain your reasons, your methods, your child’s needs to save face. Sometimes it is appropriate to do so, but if your response is only going to further isolate your child and make them feel more different, you may need to risk being judged.
  5. Surround yourself with those who “get it”. Create a network of support people who understand. Those who have also walked this road are safe to share with. They can offer encouragement in a way that no one else can. If there is not a support group in your community, find one online.
  6. Keep track of your wins. Parenting a child with special needs can be discouraging at times because it’s often two steps forward, one and three quarters steps back. Celebrating your wins will help you rise above the judgment because you will have confidence that your child is moving in the right direction.
  7. Remember that you know your child best and that your child is doing their best. “They’re not giving you a hard time. They’re having a hard time.”

Join me for a free 5 part email series, Little Hearts, Big Worries offering resources and hope for parents.

This post is part of a Parenting a Child with Special Needs series with special needs moms who share their thoughts on “managing public situations.” These articles may help you navigate your way through your next time out in public.

How I’ve Learned to Manage Public Situations as a Special Needs Parent | My Home Truths

10 Tips for Running Errands with a Special Needs Child | Every Star is Different

7 Tips to Surviving Judgment as the Parent of a Special Needs Child | The Chaos and The Clutter

Navigating the Store with a Child with Sensory or Anxiety Issues | The Chaos and The Clutter

Dear Mom at the Park | This Outnumbered Mama

Dear Mom Who Is Afraid to Leave Her House | Kori at Home

How to Help a Mom When Her Child Suffers a Public MeltdownI Finding the Golden Gleam