Positive Coping Skills for Kids

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I’ve missed a couple of “Wellness Wednesday” opportunities so I wanted to share a few more strategies or positive coping skills for kids – that may be useful to you as a parent – particularly if you have a child who may be struggling behaviorally or emotionally. I shared about dietary changes & kids, here.

Here is what helped us . . .

Essential Oils

I bought my foster son this essential oil necklace. I thought the “Superman” symbol was fitting. He loved it! As I mentioned in my previous post, I engaged him in the decision making process about what he would take with him to school.

I showed him his options and he picked this {my first choice too}. I also let him try out different essential oils so he could pick the ones he liked most. While I had a blend with Peace & Calming in it, he was not a fan at all. While he switched it up sometimes, he usually wanted lavender, lemon, and sweet orange or  lavender and lemon. He used to say that his friends would ask to smell his necklace sometimes. 🙂

This is the brand we used most consistently. You can read more about my essential oil journey, here.

We also diffused essential oils at night. My foster son’s favorite blend for sleep was lavender and Texas Cedarwood. We rarely missed a night – especially through the spring and summer months of 2018 as he adjusted to being away from one of his siblings.

Breathing & Mindfulness

This book gives kids great visual images to help them understand how to take it slow, breathe deep, and to be mindful about what’s happening inside of them, emotionally. This was a huge help to my foster son during first grade. I am grateful his teacher was working with him on these things.

Use of these techniques at school resulted in us using them at home. Because he loved to laugh and joke – we eventually joked about it at home – when he needed a reminder that he needed to slllloooowww down when he was getting anxious or bouncing off the walls.

I’d ask him, lightheartedly, “Do you need to go to your Zen {a word he used first} place?” He’d usually laugh, smile, or simply respond, “YES!” That was usually enough of a break in a challenging moment, that I could then remind him of his coping strategies. Eventually he got to a point where he’d just tell me, “I need to go to my Zen place.” And I’d ask what would you like to do – reminding him of some of the things that relaxed him.

When a child is melting down – or catches himself/herself on the way there – it’s so important to give them some of the power back as they think about how to cope with whatever has presented.

Now . . . there will obviously be those times when you have to intervene and your child no longer has choices {i.e., now you’re in time out}. But, my biggest goal with my foster son was to give him some power and choices – within the confines of our rules and safety, of course.

He’d lost all of that in his life. He felt he had no power. And no choices. Giving him the ability to make choices was powerful and contributed to drastic, positive changes in our home.

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Find these, here.

Reminder/Affirmation Cards

My foster son struggled in school. It was rough. And while 2nd grade was significantly harder than 1st, one of the strategies that helped him in 1st grade and early in 2nd grade, was to provide him with visual reminders of some of the coping strategies that helped him collect his thoughts. Think lunchbox note but bigger . . .

As an example, we used laminated index cards with:

A Bible verse

Breathing reminders

Encouraging sayings

Reminders to pray

Reminders to go to his “Zen” place

In 1st grade he was allowed to keep the card on his desk which made a huge difference. He had the ability to see it there all of the time. It went a long way to helping him stay on track or find ways to get back on track.

Behavior Chart/Rewards

My foster son was very competitive with himself and the “color” system at school, while not a favorite of some teachers, was a huge motivator for him. I created a chart – similar to this one:

We used clothespins to move up or down the chart. If he woke up in the morning, on blue, due to getting through this nighttime routine on the best behavior, he got a “jewel” for his “jewel jar.”

We used these blue stones and put them in a cup – labeled as “__________’s Jewel Jar.” When he filled the cup with jewels, he could pick out a prize.

 

He loved having multiple visual reminders of how he was doing. His cup was on the counter so he could see it. His chart was on a cabinet in full view. There wasn’t any confusion for him – about what he was working toward and how he was doing. I know children who are responsive to consequences. That didn’t work for my kiddo. I had to approach everything from a direction of positivity. We had to talk about wins more than losses.

The more I focused on successes and good choices, the better things got. I know this may not work for every child. But with my foster son’s history and background – it was a huge deal.

While the spring/early summer of 2018 had been rough, by the time we got into a routine midway through the summer, there were multiple days in a row his clothespin didn’t move much from blue/green. When his behavior was increasingly getting more and more positive, I increased the stakes. Getting the prizes took a little more time and his “jewel jar” was changed into a small vase.

Note on color/behavior charts: I made a decision not to move him to yellow or red for a bad day at school, unless his behavior had been particularly egregious. He knew that even if he’d had a rough day at school, he would get a fresh start at home. This was important for him.

On days when he found himself in the yellow or red area – we would work on ways to get back to green/blue – employing the other coping strategies that we worked on at other times.

Routines

My son lived and breathed by routine. It wasn’t just that I kept up our routine – it’s that he craved that routine and would remind me, when we slipped up, of where we’d gone off track.

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This was what his room looked like after bath time. 🙂

The difference between my son when we followed our nightly/morning patterns and when we didn’t, was tremendous. He knew what to expect and when to expect it. He knew that if he got out of his bath on time, he’d have time to play with this trucks & cars {his favorite toys} before we read & prayed. He knew that if he got off track – he’d lose that. He knew that when the timer {he often set it himself} went off after dinner, it was time to go upstairs and take a bath/get ready for bed. Setting expectations {hello, even we need a little expectation management in our lives} and following routines was enormously helpful {even when I didn’t feel like it}.

These are just a few of the things we worked on, so they became habits, to help my foster son learn positive coping skills.

What are some of the strategies you have used, in your home?

The Kid’s Room

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From an Instagram post last night:

The door to the “kid’s room” has been closed quite a bit. I’ve been trying to keep Abby from adopting another bed as her own. This week has been a long week. I haven’t been feeling well for days. By the time I got through Thursday evening’s first walk-through for foster care licensing, I was spent.

I have a list of to-do’s that seems sort of overwhelming. I have things to buy that I hadn’t quite planned on buying (rookie mistakes). And I’m trying to complete, in what feels like a rushed timeline, everything needed within the next couple weeks.

By this afternoon, after unsuccessfully searching for a solution to the double-locking storage I need for things like medication, I was just tired. Like have an existential crisis over Christmas cookies I wanted to make for work, can’t find a locking storage cabinet (that’s not ridiculously expensive and/or ugly), “falling down into weepy tears” (name that movie), meltdown.

Guys…it was stupid. But somehow a stupid locking cabinet and my inability to muster the desire to bake oodles of Christmas gifts for work, caused me to stop in my tracks yet again. What is all of this for? And why am I doing it? Certainly not to get a pat on the back for my beautiful furniture (that is also locking storage mind you) that fits into my dining room like it stepped off my Pinterest boards.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:27

So after a wake up call, and praying for peace & wisdom, here I am…planning to buy an ugly, plastic locking case because no one needs my house to be Pinterest perfect to be safe, cared for, and loved. The door to the kid’s room will stay open from now on. Because every time I see it, I’m reminded of why I’m doing this.

Foster Care Adventures – Part Two

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October 2015, a little guy hung around at work, for a week or so. On Wednesday of that week, he “helped” me work. He sat on my lap, we hung out with friends, and then he played with my calculator & drew with my pens. He feel asleep there at my desk, in my arms, and I worked around him {not so successfully}. I lost my heart. I think about him all the time. Mostly because he was part of the journey {part one anyway} that I finished tonight as my foster parent training classes came to a close.

He was a reminder of everything I’ve always known about who I am and what I was put on this earth to do. He was the happiest boy. I saw him the following week and he “talked” all about the book he had with him. I will never forget this sweet boy. And I’m grateful for how God used him to remind me of what I’ve always known.

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Throughout the last 11 weeks or so, I’ve grown more confident that though there is more work to be done, there isn’t anything I’d rather do more than provide a loving home for kids.

So with part one complete, I’m on to the next part of this crazy adventure. I don’t know who my first placement will be. I don’t know his or her age, name, or background. But God does and He’s already put me on this path to cross his or her path.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” James 1:27.

Home Sweet Home

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When I last wrote, I was still struggling through the home search process. Why is that so stressful, ya’ll? But I found the house, finished packing, and last Saturday, moved in! So thankful that process is over!

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The new neighborhood is so quiet. I love it. My kitchen, my favorite room in the house, is perfect. It’s huge. This house is everything the last house wasn’t. The biggest bonus of all is definitely the kitchen. I’m in love.

I’ve given my mom a couple of rooms so she can stretch out a little while she works and plans and dreams for her own place. For now, the plan is for one kid’s room. Someday, I may be adding a second kid’s room but for now, mom is using that for her Etsy business and craft stuff. The kiddo room is painted blue and has a crazy planets ceiling fan. It’s pretty boy friendly.

As I think about the kiddo that might stay there, first, I’m contemplating changing the ceiling fan. I’ve spent some time on Etsy looking for gender neutral {all ages friendly} rooms so that may be the first thing to go. But more on that later . . .

Back to the heart of the home. Did I mention I love it?

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I’m looking forward to cooking in it! It was definitely the first room to be unpacked and organized. The other rooms are coming together. But the kitchen has definitely been my focus.

The yard will take a little work. The patio is super small and there’s no shade. But thanks to Pinterest I have some ideas for fixing that, too. But I still love it. It’s awesome to have a privacy fence again after a year with a chain link fence and nosey neighbors and loud dogs.

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IMG_4627 Abby approves. She adores this yard.

After one full week in this house, I can honestly say that all of the stress was worth it. I’m so thankful to be getting settled. I am dreaming and hoping, with joy, at what lies ahead.

My foster parent orientation is on August 3rd – just a few days away. I can’t wait to meet the first child that will call this place home.