All Posts By

Dr. Kris Kittle

The Un-Motivation Factor

By | Blog, Challenges, Parenting, Wisdom

So many parents who adopt older children get excited about the many opportunities their newly adopted child will have after they join the family.

  • They will have regular, healthy meals.
  • They will have the opportunity to get a good education.
  • They will experience love and connection in their new family.
  • They may even be provided opportunities to heal from their past trauma through various types of therapies.

Most, if not all, of these opportunities would not have been possible before being placed in their new family.

However, many parents found that in the excitement to provide their child new opportunities, they neglected to take one factor into consideration: UNmotivation.

The unmotivation factor comes into play when the child is not interested in experiencing these opportunities. Perhaps they do not value education in the same way their parents do and are not as committed to achieving their highest educational potential. Or maybe they are not in a place where they can work through their past in therapy.

Consequently, the lack of motivation may be by choice, but it can also be due to inability. They may simply not be able to step outside of their comfort zone.

How can you inspire motivation in your child? Great question.

Some children may be willing and able to respond to your encouragement while others will not.

For some, it is about their need to be in control but other find changes scary. Some may jump at the chance to grow while others need to be prodded.

As parents, we simply need to continue to provide our children encouragement to pursue opportunities, yet we should not get discouraged or frustrated when our child chooses not to step outside of their comfort zone. It is hard to see their potential when they do not see it (or desire it).

But it is important to remember it is not our journey, it is theirs. We can only continue to encourage them while celebrating the small steps they make. And sometimes celebrating the small victories is what keeps us going!

Establishing Foundations of Trust in Older Child Adoption

By | Blog

Parenting is a bit like building a house. I’m not a builder, but my brother is. Having a firm, solid foundation is necessary to keep the house from settling differently which will tear it apart. It provides the proper support for the structure. So how does building a house correlate with parenting?

Like this…

As a parent, you are a builder. When your child is young, you parent by meeting needs. And through meeting needs, you are seen as trustworthy. Your child trusts that if he/she comes you with a booboo, you will give a hug, kiss and snuggle to make it better. If your child is hungry, he/she can come to you and know you will provide them with food to eat. If your child is sad, he/she can come to you for comfort and assurance.

The foundation of your relationship with your child is based on the trust of knowing you are available for them. You are there to meet needs. You are there with help, direction, wisdom, and love. From that firm foundation, you can build your child up.

The building is the structure of who the child becomes, what they learn, and how they behave in situations. It is who they become as an adult. Through your guidance, they become a structure that can stand the tests of life.

When your child is 8, 10, or older when they come home, their trust foundation is uneven or may be non-existent due to their past parental relationships. You—as the parent—get the privilege of helping develop their foundation as well as their structure, but in less time. Despite missing the younger years, you need to establish a firm foundation while simultaneously building a stable, sturdy structure.

It is hard.

How do you build a foundation and the structure simultaneously? You love despite the response. You do not take negative behavior or responses personally. You fully expect a “push-pull” relationship where they pull close to you for a period of time, then push away from you.

Did I say you do not take responses personally? Yes, it is hard not to bring your personal feelings into the situation. But it is necessary to best be able to respond to your child.

Adoption Resources

By | Blog

Are you or someone you know considering whether adoption is right for their family? These blogs offer a variety of topics to consider in the decision making process.

Interview with Christa
Adopting out of Birth Order
Maximizing Success in Transracial Adoption
Supporting Children in the Home
Rehoming: A Dark Place in Adoption

Are you specifically considering older child adoption?
Helping an older child adjust to your home
What I wish I had known in OCA

Also find out book on older child adoption
Wisdom from Adoptive Families: Joys and Challenges in Older Child Adoption

Improving Long-term Outcomes in Older Child Adoption

By | Blog, Conferences, Resources, Wisdom

This month we had the opportunity to contribute to the National Council for Adoption’s monthly publication, Adoption Advocate. You can read it here.

We wrote about pre-adoption education needs of families unique to older child adoption. Further, we wrote about post-placement support families need to be successful. We closed with recommendations for professionals to considering when approving families to adopt older children.

We would love to hear your thoughts!

Rehoming: A Dark Place in Adoption

By | Blog, Challenges, Parenting, Wisdom

A few years ago I did a post on Ending an Adoption where I provided tips on what parents can do before deciding to end an adoption.

Since then, I’ve heard of more families who have dissolved their adoption and placed their child in another family. Some utilized an agency while others did not.

In this post, I want to talk about how we can support families who feel ending their adoption may be their only choice and the best decision for their entire family.

In some situations, removing a child from the adoptive home is necessary. There may be safety concerns for other children in the household. There may be medical and psychological needs that cannot be met in the family.

No parent in this position takes the decision lightly. It is an incredibly stressful, difficult situation. The parents are in a lose/lose position.

No parent dreams of a day their home is not safe for one (or more) of their children. Nor do want to have to choose one child over another.

But sometimes…there is no choice.

Sometimes parents have to do what is best for every child in their home.

And sometimes that means removing a child from their home. Perhaps to get that child the medical and psychological care they need. Perhaps to restore a safer environment for another child.

What Can a Friend Do?

Pray for the family. Generally, parents do not come to this place from one small behavior/event. They have experienced a series of events and a progression of behavior. They need clarity and peace in their decision making.

Listen without judgment. It is difficult for parents to fully describe the state of their household. The stress. The challenges. The environment. The pressure. The decision. Do not assume you understand. Do not determine whether you believe they are making the “right” decision. Only they are experiencing it. Only they can decide.

Offer help. Bring dinner. Mow the yard. Babysit all the kids so the parents can take a break. Or babysit one child so the parents can focus on another. Do they express help to research options? Maybe help research therapy, respite, or doctors in your area.  

Families on the verge of dissolving have many needs. They need friends. They need understanding. They need love, care, and grace. 

And who knows? Maybe your open, non-judgmental friendship will help them through this dark time and they choose to continue to parent their child. Or maybe your support will be a comfort as they make the hardest decision of their life.

Parenting in Hard Seasons

By | Blog, Challenges, Parenting, Resources, Wisdom

It has been a challenging year. Parenting is stressful, but parenting in a hard season can push one to the brink.

For most, school is a time of respite for both parents and children. Kids get a break from their parents and parents get a break from their kids. However, with school closed this spring, parents moved into the role of parent and teacher. You were with your kids 24/7. Your stress level may have increased as your time away diminished (or vanished completely).

And now school is out; summer is here. (Am I the only one who felt like summer break started back in March?) Goodness, it is going to feel like a long summer.

So if you are struggling, here is a list of resources to help you survive what may be the longest summer break in history.

Overcoming Exhaustion
Parenting Survival Guide
Loving your Child When it is Hard
Strengthening Your Support System
Adjusting Your Expectations

How do you cope in hard seasons?

Family Game Night Ideas

By | Blog, Parenting, Resources

Are you looking for some new ideas to have fun with your kids without screens? Here is a list of family favorite games from who have regular family game nights.

A qualifier for the games on this list was whether the game required a knowledge of language and/or culture. Many kids who moved around often in foster care or are new English language learners have gaps in their education. Typically, these kids struggle with games requiring spelling or vocabulary.

The games are listed by category to make it easier for you to determine what might work for your family. For many of the games, I have linked a video explaining how the game is played to help you determine whether or not it would be a good game for your family. The game links are affiliate links, but the videos are not.

Dice Games

Chicken Foot (How to play)
Farkle (How to play)
Left Center Right (LCR) (How to play)
Mexican Dominoes (How to play)
Nada (How to play)
Tenzi (How to play)
Rummikub (How to play)
Yahtzee

Card Games

Dos (How to play)
Egyptian Rat Screw (How to play)
Exploding Kittens (How to play)
Kings in the Corner (How to play)
Hearts (How to play)
Skip-Bo (How to play)
Spades (How to play)
Throw, Throw Burrito (How to play)
Uno

Board Games with Minimal Reading

Blokus (How to play)
Forbidden Island (How to play)
Guess the Mess (Description of the Game)
Sequence (How to play)
Ticket to Ride (How to play)
Tsuro (How to play)

Games Requiring Spelling and/or Vocabulary

5 Second Rule (How to play)
Alias (How to play)
Balderdash (How to play)
Bananagrams (How to play)
Blurt (How to play)
Pictionary (How to play)
Rory’s Story Cubes Several versions available (How to play)
Scattergories (How to play)
Scrabble

Check out connecting with your family and other game sites for more ideas. What your family’s favorite games to play?

Supporting Children in Your Home

By | Blog, Parenting, Wisdom

This post written by Dr. Kris and Dr. Kelly was originally posted as a guest post on AdoptUsKids.

As a parent adopting a child from foster care, it is your job to provide stability in the midst of transition and help all members of your family—including the children already in your home—bond and find a new normal.

This can be easier said than done! With that in mind, we offer a few suggestions for nurturing the children who are already in your home as you welcome a new addition to your family.

Make time for your other children. Schedule regular time with each child individually to do something they enjoy. Allow your child to be honest and ask about things that are important to him or her. Make sure all of your children feel heard and loved.

Be willing to listen. Emphasize that you want your children to share their concerns and frustrations with you. Allow space for your children to honestly share their frustrations about the new sibling without shaming them for expressing their discontents. However, make sure you don’t spend too much time talking negatively about the newly adopted child.

Help improve their perspective. Encourage your other children to try to see things from the newest child’s frame of reference. Parents can do this without sharing too many personal details. For example, “It would be scary to live with people you do not know. We are almost strangers to your new sister.” Or “Your new brother has not lived with people he knew could take care of him. It might be hard for him to remember that he is in a safe place now.”

Recommend positive coping strategies. Offer ideas to help your other children cope with the new child’s personality traits and behaviors and other changes your family experiences. Introduce them to stress relieving techniques, such as mindful breathing exercises. Provide resources and private space for them to do something they enjoy, such as reading, coloring, drawing, exercising, or creating with Legos, yarn, art, or crafts.

Grant a break if needed. Your children may need a sense of normalcy with others they know well and a break away from the stressful changes at home. Give them options of visits or sleepovers with safe friends or family.

Present counseling options. Frequently parents think about the new child’s challenges, but forget that their other children experience difficulties as well. Provide opportunities for your other children to participate in counseling if you think it might help.

Part 1 on Helping Older Children Adjust to your Home can be found here.

Preparing Older Kids for Adulthood

By | Blog, Challenges, Parenting, Wisdom

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with The Adoption Connection to talk about how to prepare older kids for adulthood.

We wanted to share this conversation with you as well. I share information as a mom who recently launched a child. But I also share stories from some of the families we interviewed for our book. We hope you find this information to be helpful on your parenting journey!

You can also find additional helpful tips on my recent post Launching your Child into Adulthood.

Helping an Older Child Adjust to Your Home

By | Challenges, Parenting, Wisdom

This post written by both Dr. Kris and Dr. Kelly was originally posted as a guest post on AdoptUSKids.

When you adopt a child, it’s easy to focus on their immediate needs: home, food, routine, education, people, etc. These are all important, and your child certainly experiences significant changes that require patience, love, and understanding from you as they adjust to their unfamiliar life. But there are other areas of focus that can help an older child adjust as well.

Be trustworthy. Your child may not have experienced trustworthy adults. Tell the truth. Keep your word. Be predictable. Guard your child’s business carefully. When you make a mistake, admit it, apologize, and seek ways to make things right. Remember that it will take time to build trust if the child has experienced significant broken promises in the past.

Communicate expectations. Your household rules may be different from what your child experienced. Your child may not be used to the structure and schedule of your family. Think about changes you might make based on what the child is used to and most comfortable with. Consider posting your schedule so everyone knows what to expect, but prepare for moments when a family member needs flexibility in the schedule (more down time or additional one-on-one attention, sensory activities, rest time, etc.).

Encourage honesty. Let your child be honest without taking their words personally. Give them opportunities to express thoughts and feelings without responding as though your feelings are hurt. Allowing them to be heard will encourage communication.

Give them alone time. Your child may express a desire to be alone, or you may sense that they want alone time. If you ask them and they say “yes,” then you should provide a safe space for the child to be alone. The child may need some time to relax; have some peace and quiet; or want to express sadness, anxiety, anger, etc. in private. Alone time can also be good for reading a book, listening to music, or drawing. You may need to balance some alone time and time bonding with the family.

Be open-minded and accepting. Your child may have traditions or habits that seem odd or unacceptable in your family, such as eating fast, chewing with an open mouth, or using inappropriate language. Do not attempt to change every habit that you think needs changing. Prioritize relationship-building first and then, over time, address the most significant behaviors (perhaps safety-related) and leave the rest for later.

Let them be a kid. Your child may have faced more responsibilities and concerns than other kids their age, including having been in a parenting role and caring for younger children. They may not know how to play independently and may need to be entertained. Give them opportunities to be a kid and express needs or interests of a younger child. This might mean letting your teenager play with dolls or toy cars, allowing them to play dress-up, or letting your preteen snuggle with you and read picture books. Parent to your child’s needs, rather than the date on their birth certificate.

Serve familiar foods and make food available. Your child may have eaten different foods than your family regularly eats. Have some of their favorite foods on hand. You might serve something familiar at every meal or include familiar food in their regular meal plan rotation. Consider the needs of your child first and then make it work for your family. Some children had limited access to food and may worry food will not always be available. For children with food insecurities, it is especially important to have snacks readily accessible.

Plan for a good night’s sleep. Some children may never have slept in their own room. Consider making a cot on the floor by your bed to help your child adjust to your home. Some children may want to sleep with the overhead light on, or they may want a nightlight or small lamp on at night. Some may feel safer and sleep better with toys arranged a certain way and left untouched by others.

Provide opportunities for therapy. Depending on their age, talk with your social worker about incorporating Theraplay, play therapy, filial therapy (an empowering form of family therapy), art therapy, or equine therapy into your child’s routine. Family therapy may be beneficial in promoting collaboration and connection as well. Group therapy can be beneficial for several reasons, including letting your child hear from other children.