Mindfulness and ADHD: How to Curb the Impulsivity

There are three primary symptoms of ADHD, and their presentation is different in each individual. They are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. As you probably know, impulsivity is the tendency to act without properly assessing the consequences beforehand. For those with ADHD, increased impulsivity appears to be the effect of an under-stimulated prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain that controls the so-called “executive functions.” Hyperactivity often functions as a means to sufficiently arouse the prefrontal area of the brain, so that the person with ADHD can give sustained attention where it is needed.

But there is another way to curb the impulsivity. Those with ADHD can work to slow down their thinking, applying mindfulness to a situation. Here, I am speaking of mindfulness as the ability to become increasingly aware of what is going on inside of and around us. For instance, mindfulness can be as simple as taking an inventory of the objects in our direct vicinity, or as complicated as learning how to identify specific physiological sensations in the body. However it manifests, mindfulness tends to be characterized by slowness and an increased awareness of what is occurring in the moment.

The application for impulsivity is pretty straightforward: Slowing down and deliberately thinking of what is occurring in the moment protects us from making impulsive decisions. Instead of allowing our brains to run around in fifteen different directions at once—which prohibits reflection, we can center ourselves on a specific thought, or direct our attention toward a specific object or task. Over time, the idea is that our brains will become more proficient at doing this sort of thing, which means it will require less effort. Instead of our attention being automatically diffused, such that we cannot think through something, our minds will be settled and more attentive.

Impulsivity can be a major issue for people with ADHD. However, there are steps we can take to try and introduce protective factors against the frequency with which we act impulsively. This will reduce regret, and also lower our vulnerability to anxiety and depression. As we begin to observe more positive outcomes, we can grow more confident of our ability to make competent decisions.

Restructuring the Narrative: How an ADHD Diagnosis Can Change the Story

Excited about the prospect of solving a cold case, the newly appointed detective opened up the box of long forgotten evidence. He knew that the process would be tedious, but he also knew that a disciplined and thorough approach could pay dividends. Perhaps he would find something someone had overlooked, or maybe there is a piece of evidence that could now be submitted to more sophisticated testing methods, uncovering clues unavailable at the prime of the investigation? Whatever the case may be, if there was something new, they would have to reinterpret everything.

For some, they spent their entire childhood not knowing they were suffering from a treatable condition. Perhaps they didn’t draw enough attention to themselves to be noticed, or evaluated, as they remained firmly planted in the range of what was considered acceptable or expected behaviors? Or maybe they had an intuition that something was not quite right, but they never thought it necessary to pursue further investigation? And so, they developed a sense of identity around their functioning and interactions, drawing what seemed to be obvious conclusions. “My relationships tend to be unstable, mostly because I can’t handle my emotions.” Or, they said, “I’m not really that smart of a person. I haven’t ever done well in school.” Of course, these messages have implications, as they inform the person’s decisions, sometimes selling them short on what is possible.

But then, some of these folks get a diagnosis. This changes things for them. Drastically. Any time a new and significant piece of information comes to the forefront, we’re forced to reevaluate the case we once made. That is the connection between diagnostics and the forensic introduction I gave in the first paragraph. Sometimes a missing piece of the puzzle is uncovered, and this revelation becomes a catalyst for new and transformative developments. Old parts of the story can now be measured against a new standard of evaluation, which changes the conclusions drawn. For instance, the man who believed he was “no good at school” can reframe his understanding, replacing it with the more reasonable observation: I struggled because I couldn’t keep all the details together. That makes a difference.

Some of us react to the idea of a diagnosis with fear. We avoid even the acknowledgment of the possibility, because, to us, it somehow represents giving up hope—or waving our white flag to the possibility of a better future. To say it means it’s true, and if it is true, then it is also over. (Or so we tell ourselves). But we don’t have to take this approach. Instead, we can view it as an opportunity to reinterpret, and subsequently restructure, our personal narratives. As we gain knowledge about ourselves, we can update the storyline of our lives to better reflect the relevant facts. This can give us significant hope and reassurance—and hope is what keeps us coming back.

Sometimes a diagnosis, ADHD or otherwise, is like finding an overlooked clue in a cold case. It connects all of the formerly incoherent pieces together, creating something meaningful and redemptive. It can clear the record, exonerating us from the false allegation of “not being good enough.”

 

 

Adult ADHD and Communication

ADHD and Communication

The ability to communicate effectively is integral to the maintenance of long-term relationships. However, communication can be inherently difficult. This should come as no surprise, given we not only tend to have different communication styles—but we also tend to ascribe idiosyncratic meanings to our words. For instance, what does the term “good” mean in the context of the statement, “I had a good day?” The meaning depends upon the individual making the statement, and clarity depends upon us being able to contextualize what they say. That is, we have to ask questions, so as to get to the bottom of things.

If we have ADHD, or we are in a relationship with some who has ADHD, then the inherent difficulties with communication can be exacerbated. For instance, someone with ADHD might struggle with forgetfulness or inattentiveness. These characteristics can manifest in the way the person communicates with others. In the course of listening to us speak, for instance, the person with ADHD might have an attentional shift—being drawn away from our words, which results in missing out on key pieces of information. Or perhaps they initially received the information, but weren’t able to recall it. Then, when they respond, it can seem like they haven’t heard us, leaving us to assume that they weren’t listening, and perhaps didn’t even care about what we were saying. If that’s the implicit message we internalize, then it can negatively affect our future interactions with the person. Maybe we’ll choose to minimize our interactions with them, for instance?

What to do?

As the person speaking to someone with ADHD, one thing we can do is to make sure to keep the communication in context, accounting for the characteristics described in the previous paragraph. For instance, when we feel we are being neglected, or not listened to, we can remind ourselves, “Maybe they’re unable to recall what I said?” This may lead to the realization that we’re saying too much at once and perhaps contributing to the problem. If that’s the case, we can change our own behaviors to help the situation. As the person with ADHD, we can attempt to find ways to be more attentive during conversations. Perhaps choosing a specific place and time to talk would be conducive to attentiveness, because we could exercise more control over the environment. For instance, we could choose a place with less distractions, or a time when we our minds are not overwhelmed with one hundred other things to do.

The important thing to remember is that communication is a two way street. If we are committed to the betterment of our relationships, then we need to be willing to make whatever adjustments we can to help facilitate more effective communication. Better communication is a protective factor for the health of the relationship, increasing the probability of greater intimacy with the other person. We’ll never be perfect, because communication is too complex and varied. However, through increased knowledge of communication patterns, we can better insure productive exchanges, even if a person has ADHD.

Anorexia Nervosa in Adolescents

It’s that time of year again, swimsuit season! Imagine you have a “girls’ day” planned with your teen daughter complete with lunch, manicures and shopping. You’ve noticed your teen has lost some weight recently but attribute it to her time competing in cross country. But the glimpse you get in the department store mirror tells a different story. As you crack the door and hand her more suits to try, you are confronted with a shocking sight; a gaunt, emaciated, unhealthy adolescent stands before you. How did this happen? How did you not know?

Anorexia Nervosa can be very difficult to detect in the teen population. Young people that suffer from this disorder are usually adept at hiding their maladaptive behaviors from parents, teachers and trusted peers. Many problem behaviors leading to AN are acted out in isolation, making detection extremely difficult.

Anorexia is not just a diet. It is not a choice or a phase an adolescent will grow out of. It is not found solely in females; males are also at risk.  Anorexia Nervosa is the restriction of intake relative to the energy requirements needed for the teen. AN presents as extreme weight loss, or an inability to maintain a healthy weight. Those that suffer from this disorder value low weight as his or her primary source of identity and self-worth. This is accompanied by an irrational fear of weight gain or loss of control of eating. These adolescents have an extremely negative and distorted body image that impacts many areas of their lives. Many view an eating disorder as a way to establish a feeling of control and manage anxiety.

What are some signs of Anorexia Nervosa? Parents and teachers should look for rapid weight loss in their students and loved ones, even if the teen is above a healthy weight. The teen may refuse to eat certain foods or have odd food preferences. Some adolescents with this disorder have a high need for control and seem like perfectionists. Take note if the teen skips meals, won’t eat in front of others, or escapes to the bathroom immediately following a meal. Ask questions if your teen has stopped menstruating. Those that suffer from AN may enjoy cooking, watching cooking shows and vicariously watching others eat without partaking themselves. Dieting is the leading behavior associated with the development of Anorexia.

Anorexia has two main types. The restricting type involves limiting calories by diets, fasting or over-exercising. The binge eating/purging type involves purging by vomiting, diuretics or laxatives. Both types of anorexia can lead to life threatening electrolyte shifts, cardiac problems, bone loss, loss of cognitive functioning and damage to vital organs. Some are genetically vulnerable to anorexia nervosa and life changes or transitions (even positive ones) can trigger these behaviors.

Early intervention is crucial when diagnosing anorexia nervosa. These interventions enhance the chance of favorable outcomes in adolescent populations. When a child is diagnosed with cancer, what happens? Family and peers encircle the sick individual. Friends accompany the patient to chemotherapy and doctor appointments. Support is usually ample and constant, and the child is not left to fight the disease alone.

The same attention is needed when treating eating disorders. Hope can be restored with the aid of parents, teachers and clinicians. Family therapy is preferred as the entire family unit rallies around the teen suffering from AN.  Family Based Treatment (FBT) is an evidence-based treatment plan proven effective with anorexia nervosa. It utilizes parents as a resource and teaches adolescents that food is fuel.  Recovery is possible, and a multidisciplinary team approach is usually best including parents, physicians and mental health providers.  Treatment outcomes for adolescents are significantly better than for adults; there is hope for teens suffering from anorexia nervosa!

Resources for those that would like more information on eating disorders:

moeatingdisorders.org.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/eating-disorders

Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology Special Issue: Eating Disorders and Body Image in Sport and Exercise, December 2018.

This information was in part compiled and consolidated from a lecture given by Laura M. Huff, Ph.D for The St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute.

 

 

Tis’ The Season for Increased Organization

The holidays are fast approaching, which, for many, means an already overloaded schedule is about to take on even more complexity. For those living with ADHD, the extra stress can have a cascading effect. Even more things to do often leads to even more things left undone. It becomes an ever increasing feedback loop.

 

What are some things a person with ADHD can do to help alleviate these circumstances?
First, write things down, or make an electronic note of some sort. Those with ADHD lack the internal structure necessary to organize daily tasks. Hence, creating and implementing external structures, such as written notes or setting reminders on their phone, helps to compensate for the losses. These act as both records and reminders, aiding in memory related issues.
Second, prioritize. Writing things down helps. But there needs to be a specific order of action. Often times, the complexity we face is due to neglecting more important things. If we can keep the most important things in the forefront of our efforts, then the lesser things often resolve themselves. This can help to alleviate the overall stress.
Finally, act as soon as you have the first opportunity. Many people who have ADHD struggle with procrastination. Putting things off until later, however, multiplies the amount of things to do in the future. And, of course, this can create anticipatory anxiety, such that it reinforces the procrastination. This can become another feedback loop, keeping us from ever doing what needs to be done. But if we can begin immediately, even doing a small portion, it can be a catalyst for more action.
The holidays don’t have to be more hectic than they already are. Keeping these few steps in mind as you go through the season can make things more manageable.

World Kindness Day

Whenever you turn on the news these days chances are it is not covering a very happy story. It’s likely about something involving violence, hatred, anger, tragedy, or disaster. For whatever reason people tend to latch onto what makes somebody different, with the impression that different equals less. That can make it feel like the world we live in is a pretty sad, desolate place. There just doesn’t seem to be enough positivity or happiness to outweigh all of the nastiness and disgust. Sometimes it feels like there is a lack of kindness.

If you dig deeper, however, there isn’t a lack of kindness at all. Rather, there is a lack of awareness of the kindness we encounter on a daily basis. There doesn’t appear to be a true appreciation for those people that share and exude kindness on a daily basis. So, how can we remedy that? Where do we begin? Well, November 13th is World Kindness Day, so perhaps we can use that as a springboard to bring kindness back into the spotlight. Here are a few suggestions.

Keep it up. If you’re somebody that already shares kindness with those around you, don’t stop! Although it can be easy to feel discouraged, the world needs your positivity and caring nature now more than ever.

Initiate. There may be an opportunity to share a moment of kindness with someone but you don’t necessarily want to stand out or draw attention to yourself. Don’t be afraid to be the person to share kindness! Chances are there’s somebody else that is watching and needs to see your example.

Notice. Look around you more often and obverse the random acts of kindness. You may be surprised by how many caring people you encounter without even realizing. That awareness will open your eyes to the beauty of kindness.

Defend. It’s typically people that are marginalized in society that are on the receiving end of hatred, violence, and anger. If you see someone that can’t protect themselves or is viewed as “different”, be their defender. Stand up for them and help them realize that they are in fact valued and loved.

Nudge. Sometimes people need a gentle reminder that their actions are wrongfully motivated or are outright harmful. Push those people back in the right direction by reminding them what true kindness looks like.

Empathize. Put yourself in the shoes of people that are different than you. Instead of responding with judgment try and understand their situation in life and how a simple act of love can be just what they need.

Support. Kindness can take many different forms. It can be an outward act of giving and caring. Sometimes, however, it’s just being a simple ear to listen to or shoulder to cry on. Be the supportive presence in the lives of those that are struggling.

Seek. It’s one thing to be more generally aware of opportunities to share kindness. It’s another thing to actively find and create those moments. Don’t just be complacent with acknowledging the kindness around you – be somebody that makes it happen for other people to notice.

You may think that kindness has vanished from the world. Depending on where you look there may be some truth to that. However, kindness still exists. It’s still present. And it still makes an impact. Instead of letting negativity, hatred, and despair dictate how we view the world, let’s flip the script. On World Kindness Day, on in the days to come, let’s view the world through a lens of kindness.

Good Neighbor Day

Do you ever stop to think about the people in your life whose names you may not know? The family that lives next door, the man that works in the office down the hall, or the greeter at the gym? These people aren’t family, friends, coworkers, or even necessarily acquaintances. But these people are more integral in your life than you may realize. These are the familiar faces that you see on a daily basis, people you likely take for granted. September 28th is Good Neighbor Day, so what can you do to better appreciate those nameless neighbors in your life?

  1. Recognize. As you go through your day, take time to be more aware of the people you interact with. Chances are, there are people that you see and interact with more frequently than you realize. As you leave your house look around the block and observe the people that live in your neighborhood. As you make it in to work or school, try and recognize the people working in the offices or rooms next door. When you go to the gym, acknowledge the person greeting you as you walk in. At the grocery store, is it the same person that checks you out each week? Think about all the places you go to on a regular basis, and more importantly, the people that live or work there. These people help bring consistency to your life.

 

  1. Appreciate. Now that you’re more aware of these neighbors in your life it’s time to start appreciating them. Think about their Think about the fact that they too are an individual going through their day and that you are an fundamental part of their daily routine as well. With each small interaction you have the potential to make an impact on their day. Wave to your neighbor mowing the lawn as you leave the house. Smile and say hello to the woman working in the office next door as you both walk into the building. Say an extra thank you to the man checking you out at the grocery store.

 

  1. Do more. It’s “Good Neighbor” Day, not “Simply Acknowledge the Existence of Your Neighbor” Day. This is a day to do something a little more special for these anonymous passersby in your life. Invite that family next door over for dinner. Instead of just saying hello to the people you share an office space with, stop them and ask them how their day is going. When you go into the gym or grocery store, learn the names of the people assisting you. Perhaps doing something so direct and personal is out of your comfort zone. There are more subtle ways to be a good neighbor. Leave a gift card in your neighbor’s mailbox. Pay for the groceries of the person behind you in line. Give a friendly note to the greeter at the gym.

 

Being a good neighbor is more than just going about your business and not causing issues. Every time you step out your front door you have the potential to be a positive presence in your local community. A good neighbor doesn’t just put their head down and avoid human interaction – a good neighbor seeks out ways to appreciate their fellow neighbor and brighten their days. September 28th is a great day to start being a good neighbor. But don’t let it stop there. Every day is a great day to be a Good Neighbor.

 

Power of Encouragement

“You can do it!”

“Keep going, don’t give up!”

“Great job!”

Imagine how amazing it would be to have a friend follow you around all day, shouting these words of encouragement whenever you need them. Whenever you’re feeling stressed or upset, there’s your friend to lift you up through the power of positive words. Whenever you’re ready to give up on your homework or quit your job, your friend is there to tell you how capable you are of succeeding. The moment you get distracted or feel lost, there’s your friend to get you back on track by reminding you of your goal. Sadly, we don’t have anyone that has the time to just follow us around all day. But that doesn’t mean those moments of encouragement don’t exist. In fact, moments of encouragement surround us, so long as we allow them and look for them. Sometimes that encouragement is as obvious as those phrases listed above.  Oftentimes, however, that encouragement is much more subtle and discreet. September 12th is National Encouragement Day, so let’s talk about the power and importance of encouragement and the impact it can have on our lives.

We’re all Struggling
Everyone gets discouraged. It’s just human nature. We all have those days where absolutely nothing seems to be going well and nothing we do seems to work. The mistakes we make are magnified and blown out of proportion. We just want to give up. In those instances it can be easy to convince ourselves that we’re just not good enough or that we’re the only one that’s struggling. But guess what? Everyone is struggling. Every person we encounter has their own baggage, their own obstacles, and their own personal afflictions or temptations. It’s important to remind ourselves that we’re not the only one fighting personal battles in our lives. Once we understand that we’re not the only person struggling it will become clear that we’re not as alone as we thought.

The Power of Words
Think about a time in your life where you were struggling. Was it painful? Was it overwhelming? Did you feel alone or lost? Now think of a time where you were trying to accomplish a goal. Did you feel like giving up? Did you doubt yourself or your abilities? After reflecting on those times in your life ask yourself about the people that helped you the most. How did they help you? What type of support did they offer? Chances are they encouraged you through the use of positive, uplifting words. It could have been something as simple as “I’m here with you.” Words of encouragement don’t need to be the motivational, “pump you up” type of speeches you hear in a football locker room at halftime. Sometimes the simplest words of encouragement make the most impact. Has a simple hello ever lifted your spirits or brightened your day? Has a coworker given you a compliment on a day where you just didn’t feel good enough? Those are just a couple examples of instances where subtle expressions of encouragement and support can help someone feel immensely valued.

Do you ever stop to think about just how impactful words can be? Sometimes it’s not just the words themselves but the intent behind them. Sharing words of encouragement is very intentional and personal. Whenever you offer encouragement to someone you are reminding them that they are not alone. When you say things like “Good luck” or “Keep trying” you are really saying, “I want YOU to succeed. I’m rooting for YOU. I’m here for YOU.”

A Very Special Gift
We all possess one very special gift – the power to be the encourager. Everyone has the ability to positively change somebody’s day – maybe even their life – by simply offering kind words of support and encouragement. If you see somebody struggling or hurting, try and place yourself in their shoes. Think about the times you’ve felt alone. Think about the times you didn’t feel like you were enough. Then remind yourself of the encouragement you received and how much that helped. YOU can be the one that helps this person rediscover their own self worth. That’s a pretty incredible feeling. Go through each day thinking about the fact that the power of your words can be just what is needed to help  someone achieve their goal or feel accomplished.

Let’s celebrate!
So, how can we commemorate National Encouragement Day? Here are a few steps you can follow to have a successful National Encouragement Day.

Step 1.
Be more aware. Keep in mind that everyone is struggling with something. Be on the lookout for signs that somebody is dealing with something difficult. Maybe they seem less talkative than usual or perhaps they look physically frustrated or stressed. Open your eyes to the world around you and look for opportunities to be the encourager.

Step 2. Be intentional. If you do recognize somebody struggling, don’t be afraid to act. You may not feel like your words of encouragement are enough to make a difference. If everyone had that mindset, though, then nobody would ever help anyone. So be willing to be the person to offer those words of support. And remember, through your encouragement you are reminding that person that they are enough and that they are valued.

Step 3
. Be encouraged. That sounds pretty simple, right? Unfortunately it can be difficult to accept words of encouragement. We may assume the other person is just saying those words or that they don’t genuinely mean it. We may still be operating under the impression that we’re not enough and those words of encouragement are empty words. But again, remember that those words of encouragement are outward signs of love, support, and acceptance. Allow yourself to receive those words and let them serve as motivation and inspiration to keep on moving forward.

Step 4. Don’t stop. National Encouragement Day is a great way to remind ourselves of the importance of positive words and supportive acts of kindness. But don’t let it stop there. Encouragement is a powerful tool that should be utilized every day. Seek out opportunities in your daily life to lift up those around you. Remind yourself of the wonderful gift you have to be the encourager and positively impact someone’s life. And don’t forget to allow yourself to be encouraged. Think of all those times words of encouragement impacted you. Make an effort each day to feel that encouragement in your life and in turn share it with those around you. This can be a difficult task, but just remember…YOU CAN DO IT!

National Fostercare Month

Happy May!
May Is National Foster Care Month. This month is designed to highlight to the community that we each play a part in effecting the lives of children & teens in foster care. If we, as a community don’t…who will?  What are YOU doing to support or lift these vulnerable youth up?  As many know, our office provides mental health support to foster families, foster children and biological families. We want these children to know that they are important, they are valued, they are loved.

Realistically, many families in our community are unable to foster…but that shouldn’t prevent them from getting involved. These youth are in tough places.  These kids only know what they have been exposed to, lets expose them to something bigger and better.  What can YOUR family do?   
 
Here’s how you can support foster families and foster youth: 
 
  • Do homework with or tutor a foster child/teen – Did you know that many children who come into care are significantly behind their peers academically? Every hour you spend with a foster child will make an impact. This doesn’t have to be through an “official” program. You don’t need to be an educator, just someone who can spend time quizzing spelling or site words, helping with math problems, reading books or assisting with projects.
  • Donate outgrown or new clothes to foster families – Did you know many foster children come into care with only the clothes on their backs, sometimes even that is taken away?  Any clothes you donate will be used and appreciated by the foster youth and foster families. You can donate to local foster organizations, directly to childrens division or put in facebook marketplace groups free to local foster families.
  • Become a CASA – Did you know that in court there are a lot of politics? There are alot of children who are caught in the middle. CASAs are neutral, and become a vital part in updating judges on how the children are and what’s in their best interest.  CASA volunteers are always needed!  Here’s where to find more information about CASAs in our area! Click here!
  • Be a mentor or a special adult to a foster youth –  Research says that children need someone who can be unconditional, many foster children do not have that. This can be picking up the youth and hanging out for the day. This can be teaching the youth a new hobby or going to their sporting events/extra curricular activities to cheer them on. Being present in a child’s life is a powerful tool to showing the child that they matter, that they are important.
  • Be a mentor to the biological family – Our foster youth’s families need mentors too!  Many biological families are *stuck* …they feel like they are alone.  Consider taking the opportunity to assist them in their recovery and healing process by driving them to parenting classes, or drug screens. Maybe sitting with them at court or in meetings that can be scary for them.   Cheer with them as they stay clean for 1 month or celebrate with them when they get their first over night visit with their kiddos. Maybe take them out for lunch so they can see YOU parent YOUR kids, as an example of what it should look like. By supporting the childrens’ biological family this allows them to build the skills and confidence to be a better parent to their children.
  • Assist with extra curricular activity – Some foster families struggle with connecting foster youth to extra curricular activities because of the cost. Other foster families struggle with not having enough time to devote to bringing their foster youth to practices/games/tournaments.   Individuals or families in the community can donate old sports equipment, pay for sports fees, or even offer to drive them to practices or games.  Every little bit helps connect these kids to opportunities.
  • Make a meal Did you know that most foster families have 2-4 weekly appointments per child in their home on top of other age appropriate extra curricular activities? Sometimes a meal is a powerful way to show that you support them and the work they are doing. This small gesture is always appreciated by foster families.
  • Volunteer at FAST, Butterfly Haven or Foster & Adoptive Care Coalitionor really any foster & adoptive non-profit that connects foster families with resources – Did you know how awesome our community is here in Saint Louis?   Here in our metro we have many wonderful organizations dedicated to supporting foster children and their foster families.  These organizations are so important in supporting the families to take care of these vulnerable children.  Here are some links to these organizations:  Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition; Foster and Adoptive Support Team; Butterfly Haven
  • Become a babysitter or respite for a foster family – Did you know that one of the biggest needs of foster families is to have a break or to have extra support in parenting? Sometimes it helps to have someone watch a kiddo while you go to court or maybe take a weekend off.  If you know a foster family who has medically fragile, behavioral or special needs children, having additional support in the community is beneficial for self care.
  • Work with your city, county, state and federal representatives to change laws and statutes to benefit children & foster families. – Did you know that some laws are outdated? When you see people running for positions, be asking – “What are you doing to support our most vulnerable populations?”  When you have an opportunity to talk to local leaders ask, “What are you doing for the foster children in your jurisdictions?”
  • Listen, be unconditional, avoid judgement – Did you know many foster families are approached in public about the way they parent or by their childrens’ behavior.  Educate yourself on trauma, and be present with the foster family.  It helps to have someone in their corner who can listen to their struggles and not judge them for something they do not have control over.
  • Run Errands – We all know how busy raising children can be.  Now add in court, caseworkers, various therapy appointments, parent child visits times 2 or 3 or 6. Sometimes it can be helpful to have someone offer to pick up a box of diapers or take one youth to buy a new pair of shoes. These little deeds can make a huge impact.
  • Simply ask.  – Ask the foster family or foster youth what they need or what you can do.  Maybe they need help putting together a new bike they bought for a youth. Maybe they need someone to drive their middle school kiddo to a friend’s house. Maybe they need someone to play with the new baby while they take a shower.   It doesn’t hurt to ask.


#nationalfostercaremonth #takesavillage #fostercare #focusontheimportantthings

 

Grief Defined and Discussed

Grief is defined by most people as a feeling of suffering or loss that often occurs after the death of a loved one. While death causes one type of grief, there are many other times we experience grief. Any major life changes such as a breakup, loss of friendship, illness, or major injury can lead to feelings of grief because of the loss of life (or part of it) as we knew it.  Therefore, a better definition of grief is: The physical, emotional, somatic, cognitive, and spiritual response to an actual or threatened loss of a person, place, or thing to which we are emotionally attached.  While the experience of grief is different for everyone, it is often associated with certain feelings, physical sensations, thoughts or beliefs, behaviors, and experiences. While it is difficult to define “normal” grief, one may experience the following:

Feelings:
– Numbness
– Denial
– Anxiety
– Shock
– Anger
– Loneliness
– Fatigue
– Yearning
– Relief

Physical symptoms:
– Nausea/upset stomach
– Fatigue/lack of energy
– Shortness of Breath
– Tightness of Chest
– Panic Attack-like symptoms

Common thoughts:
– Confusion
– Disbelief
– Sense of presence
– Lack of concentration
– Dreams/nightmares

Common behaviors:
– Absent-minded behavior
– Appetite disturbances
– Sleep disturbances
– Social withdrawal
– Dreams of the deceased

Common experiences:
– Denial
– Anxiety
– Depression
– Anger
– Guilt
– Fear
– Bargaining

There are many theories of the stages of grief. While each one has a different number of stages with different names, they are all alike, consisting of some combination of these or similar experiences. The most important thing to remember is that everyone experiences grief differently. You may experience different stages for different lengths of time than your friends or loved ones, even if grieving the same loss. It is an important process that allows us to come to terms with the loss
we have experienced and find a new normal.

 

Leah Coady is a therapist with Step By Step Counseling. She holds the credentials of a Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor.