Taking Care of Yourself
Self-care: Do it for yourself, your family, and your kids
If resource parents had a motto, it might be “children first.” Or perhaps “children and their families first.” Either would be fitting. Foster and adoptive parents and kinship caregivers do what they do because they want to see children and their families heal and thrive. Their focus is on the welfare of others. But they’ve got to be careful. Meeting the needs of the children in their care can be so all-consuming that sometimes they put themselves and their own needs last. This, of course, is a mistake. To be healthy, children need healthy families. But when we neglect ourselves, we may suddenly find we are overwhelmed, exhausted, drained, frustrated, angry, resentful, and unable to take joy in the good work we do.
Caring for children who have experienced trauma can take a toll on resource parents. When the stress of parenting affects our mental and physical health or interferes with our ability to parent effectively, we are suffering from “compassion fatigue.” The following can be signs of compassion fatigue:
- Feeling mentally or physically exhausted most of the time
- Using alcohol, food, caffeine, or other substances to fight feelings of being overwhelmed
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Feeling numb and distanced from others or your own life
- Feeling unsatisfied in your work
- Feeling moody, frequently lashing out at children or your partner
- Catching every cold that comes along, or frequent headaches or stomach aches
When we start showing these signs, chances are we aren’t providing the consistent, predictable, enriching, and nurturing care the children in our homes need. Self-care can help us get back on track; it can also keep us from getting to this point in the first place.
Barriers to Self-Care
We know we should exercise, eat right, and do the “other stuff” needed to take care of ourselves. But family life can be chaotic and demanding. When you add in parent-child visits, therapy appointments, school meetings, check-ups, and the other things we have on our plates, it is easy for self-care activities to be forgotten. As the sidebar on the previous page illustrates, there can be many barriers to self-care for resource parents. If you’ve struggled with self-care, you’re not alone. As they turn out the light at the end of the day, how many resource parents think wistfully to themselves, “Maybe I’ll be able to grab a quiet moment for myself tomorrow.”
Self-Care Is a Skill
One thing to keep in mind about self-care is that it is a skill—something you can practice and get better at. You will make mistakes or slip up, but if you keep at it, it will become easier and a natural part of your daily life.
Common Barriers to Self-Care for Resource Parents
Suppose you are a resource parent who is presently doing nothing to take care of herself. Where should you begin? Here are a few basic self-care practices that should be part of every person’s life:
- Get enough sleep most nights; for some people this is six hours a night, for others eight.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet, including breakfast. Avoid eating on the run, behind your desk, or in your car.
- Get some form of regular exercise.
- Visit your doctors and follow their recommendations.
- Use alcohol in moderation, or not at all.
- Take regular breaks from stressful activities. Nonstop parenting can be a stressful activity. Find a way, somehow, every day, to have at least a few minutes to yourself. Take a relaxing bath, read a book, sit on the porch, have a cup of herbal tea.
- Laugh every day.
- Express yourself. If you’re feeling frustrated, sad, or angry, be honest about your emotions before they get out of control. Tell your children or spouse calmly that you are angry before you fly off the handle. Express the positive, as well, by making time to engage in something that you love, such as a craft, a game, writing, painting, or a sport.
- Nurture your relationships with your partner, family, and friends. Have a hobby or take a class, get a massage, or have a regular night out.
- Let someone else do something to take care of you. By taking care of ourselves, we make it easier to face the challenges that come with parenting children who have endured trauma.
Create a Self-Care Plan
Setting goals can help you get the self-care you need. Consider creating a written self-care plan.
The goal here is to maintain a balance between work and relaxation, and between your commitments to others and to yourself. Your plan should include activities you do purely for fun. It should also include a regular stress management approach, such as a physical activity you enjoy, meditation, yoga, or prayer. Your plan should list things you plan to do either daily or weekly/monthly. As you build your plan, be careful to include things that are reasonable—that you really can do—and that are just for you. The box below shows a sample self-care plan. Remember, the best plan in the world will only work if you actually follow through with it. Deliberately place your self-care plan somewhere you can see it, and where it can serve as a reminder of your commitment to taking good care of yourself, as well as your children.
Sample Self-Care Plan
I promise to make time to take care of myself by doing the following at least . . .
Daily, Weekly, or Monthly
- walk the dog
- go bowling
- play with the cat
- nice dinner out with my partner
- get a manicure, pedicure, etc.
- go out with a group of friends
- read a book for pleasure
- attend a support group meeting
- go to the movies
- attend religious services
- write in my journal
- listen to music in the car
Note: Your plan should include a few items in the daily and weekly/monthly categories—not too many!
Source: Chapter 8 “Caring for Children Who Have Experienced Trauma: A Workshop for Resource Parents” (NCTSN, 2010) Used by permission
Please save the date for our Annual Foster Family Retreat which will be held on Saturday, August 25, 2018, at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection at 13720 Roe Ave. Leawood, KS 66224. For those of you not familiar with the area, Leawood is a Kansas City suburb in southern Johnson County, KS.
Registration information will be coming out over the summer and we hope you can make it!
Kansas Care Providers of the Month
Michael and Marti Shields have been opening up their hearts and home to children in need since 2013. They contribute their love and time to help a child(ren) who they don’t even know; which is an incredible amount of selflessness. Mike and Marti are both in the helping fields and come home to try to help even more. It is very enriching to see children grow by foster parents showing consistency and love and teaching them what healthy relationships look like! They work together as a team to highlight the child’s strengths. The Shields help the child grow by providing consistency, structure, set expectations, and love. The child thrives and each time you can see them grow from having their needs met. The Shields are understanding when there is a setback but they still let the child know they are there for them.
When asked by the child’s teacher, “why do you think you are doing better in this school when you had to go to a behavior school before (before being placed in care)?” The child replied, “I can go home now and know foster mom and foster dad love me. I have structure and things are the same for me when I come home. I know what to expect.” Before bed each night, this child asks for a goodnight hug from foster mom. Through foster care, ordinary people become superheroes! We appreciate the Shields for being superheroes to so many children in need.
“A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.” -Hercules
Krysta Kaiser will be holding a “Safe Touch” training in our Kearney, Nebraska office on 6/16/18 and 6/24/18 from 9a.m. to 12 p.m. Please RSVP to Krysta, firstname.lastname@example.org to let her know which training you will attend.
Between Families Recruitment Moment
How many of you remember “The Imaginary Journey” when you went through your MAPP or Deciding Together Class? I remember it being one of the longest 10 to 15 minutes of my life once they started it. That uneasy feeling as they guided you being taken from your home and placed with strangers felt like. All the questions that went through my mind during and after. Every time I teach MAPP or DT and we get to Book 2 that feeling creeps back in. Even though I am an adult and have coping skills to handle the situation and I am also the instructor now and I know what is coming. That feeling of loss and abandonment are still there.
We have over 7600 children in the Foster Care system in just the state of Kansas. 7600 children living the journey every day and not knowing what to expect on the other end. Here at TFI we are lucky because we know that we have you all on the other end of that journey for these kids. I am always proud when I speak to other people and tell them how wonderful our Foster Parents are and how we appreciate them. How you all decided that you wanted to be the light at the end of the not so imagined journey that our kids in need have to take.
As all of us know, we never have enough of you that want to help. One more time of a million, I am asking that you help us spread the word that we need more families to help our kids. If you know someone that would like to be the safe place in this not so imaginary journey. Talk with them, contact your worker and ask them to do a presentation at an organization that you may belong to, give us a name of a business that would collaborate with us to do events. Anything that you can do to help us recruit more families like you will be a blessing to many children to come. Thank you for all you do every day for the children in need. They need your attention and care.
Community Liaison Coordinator
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Texas Family Initiative LLC and New Horizons Ranch & Center Inc. are pleased to introduce 2INgage: a new partnership proudly serving children and families in Region 2. 2INgage is honored to have been selected by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to serve as the Single Source Continuum Contractor responsible for overseeing the care and services for the children in the foster care system in Region 2 – a 30 county area that include Abilene, Wichita Falls and Brownwood. Approximately 2000 children and families will be served per year through this new program, once fully implemented. 2INgage will be expanding office space in Abilene and Wichita Falls creating employment opportunities for both caseworkers and administrative personnel.
Check out this wonderful article from the Tahlequah Daily Press about Foster Care Awareness Month and the need for more families!
Oklahoma Care Providers of the Month
Krishanda O’Dell is our Oklahoma Care Provider of the Month. She is a single parent with placement of 3 siblings ages 8yo, 6yo, and 2yo. Ms. O’Dell has had placement of them for two years now. Since taking placement of the children she has been a prime example of a bridging foster parent. She has transported the children to their home county for visits and provided extra visits when possible, provided supervision for visits and phone calls, involved birth parents in family activities and school functions, and maintained involvement with relatives who reside out of state. Even after termination of parental rights, Ms. O’Dell has continued to bridge and work with the birth family and DHS as she always put the needs of the children first. Ms. O’Dell has since been approved through the court to adopt the children and she plans to continue to maintain connections even after adoption. Thank you for being a great advocate for children, families, and foster care!
Ronald and Lucretia Morey
Thaddeus and Julie Moberg
Jarrod and Shelly Salmon
Cody and Kayla Shoemaker/Beals
James “Randy” and Reva “Ramona” Miller
Scottie “Scott” Thomas
Jesse and Kelli Page
Michael and Brandi Bower
TFI has the following grant funding available to assist foster children and foster families. Please speak with your foster care worker for more information:
Pritchett Trust: Funds available to foster children placed in Crawford County, KS for the purchase of musical instruments and music lessons.
Drumming Therapy taps into layers of the mind and body that other modalities cannot. Studies have shown that repetitive drumming changes brain wave activity, inducing a state of calm and focused awareness.
The first sound we ever heard while still in our mother’s womb, was the beating of her heart, and the rhythm of her breath. No matter our race, gender, age, religion or belief system, this common experience exists for all human beings.
When newcomers are first introduced to drumming as adults, they often say “oh, I don’t have any rhythm,” in an attempt to excuse themselves for their imagined inadequacy.
The truth is: We All have Rhythm!
Rhythm is our natural inheritance. It exists in our bodies, our hearts, our breath. It exists in the vibration of atoms, the cycles of the seasons, the ticking of clocks, the orbit of the earth. There is no part of creation that is without rhythm!
Drumming is a practice that spans the globe and has a presence in every culture. It has been used for centuries in rituals, ceremonies, communication, rites of passage, music and dance, celebration, healing, community building, and cultural events.
Drumming Therapy is a method of utilizing the natural power of rhythm and sound and applying it to an individual or group for the purpose of healing. A truly holistic healing approach, group drumming breaks down social barriers, promotes freedom of expression, non-verbal communication, unity and cooperation. Drumming awakens dormant emotions and unexplained feelings of excitement, peace, and ecstasy. It can elevate the mood, decrease anxiety, and stress, and it boosts immune system functioning and benefits physical health.
There is a growing body of research on the therapeutic effects of group drumming. Barry B. Bittman, MD has published some ground-breaking studies showing the benefits to the immune system, stress levels and mood.
Drumming Therapy is an excellent way for children to learn self-awareness, listening skills, coordination of breath and movement, cooperation and patience. It is also a valuable channel for intense emotions and teaches containment of strong feelings and impulses that would otherwise become disruptive and destructive. Whether your child has low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, defiant behavior, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder or simply an abundance of energy, drumming therapy can be a valuable aid to learning and growth.
Drumming has been a wonderfully successful approach to working with kids who have trouble focusing and connecting with others in a satisfying way. Often, these kids have had so much failure in their lives that they come to identify themselves as being “no good.” A cycle of negative self-reinforcement occurs, often resulting in low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, anger problems and acting out. The personal power awakened by drumming helps to rebuild a sense of efficacy and self-worth. The repetitive rhythm has a physiologically calming effect. It also builds valuable skills for processing and communicating information, and containing or channeling intense emotions and impulses.
Drumming Therapy Is a Powerful and Effective Way To Learn Valuable Coping Skills:
- Ability to focus inward as well as outward
- Develop self-awareness and self-esteem
- Mastery of breath and movement
- Ability to stay “on task”
- Improve listening skills
- Increase Frustration Tolerance
- Channel aggressive/destructive impulses into creative and positive activity
- Develop self-control, patience and cooperation
SO WHAT IS “DRUMMING THERAPY?”
Drumming therapy begins on a weekly or twice weekly basis, usually for 30-minute sessions. The instruction is one to one. As focus and frustration tolerance improve, sessions may be extended to 60 minutes.
THIS IS NOT A MUSIC CLASS.
Drumming Therapy is not focused on learning traditional music. The goals are therapeutic. Drumming Therapy is intuitive, spontaneous, and highly personalized. It allows for the greatest amount of creativity and self-expression within a structured and disciplined process.
Although some drum technique is taught, the focus is on the development of coping skills. Identification and expression of feelings is practiced both verbally and through the drums. Firm and consistent limits are set in order to maximize learning.
Drumming begins with the basics and progresses at the child’s own natural pace. Gradually, as listening skills improve and the sense of natural rhythm develops, exercises may become more complex.
Eventually, it may become possible to drum with other kids who have also been receiving individual drumming therapy. Through group drumming, newly learned skills are applied to the development of social skills.
Participants of all ages describe feeling “calm and centered” after drumming, and children show a visible decrease in arousal and impulsive energy after participating in drum therapy. Kids look forward to drumming sessions and outside incentives on not needed to encourage participation. Sessions are designed to be fun, interesting, and therapeutic with life-skills lessons woven into the process.
Learn more about the powerful lessons, experiences, community building and healing that can be experienced through Therapeutic Drumming.
- Drumming Therapy can elevate the ___________, decrease _________, and stress, and it boosts immune system.
- Drumming Therapy can be a valuable aid to ____________ and ___________.
- The personal power awakened by drumming helps to re-build a sense of efficacy and ________________.
- The repetitive rhythm has a physiologically calming effect? TRUE or FALSE
- Drumming therapy can improve listening skills? TRUE or FALSE
- Drumming therapy is not focused on learning ____________ ____________.
- It allows for the greatest amount of __________ and self-expression within a structured and disciplined process.