Blog: Other People's Children®

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Effects of Childhood TraumaApril 4, 2024

One Belief Essential to Healing from Childhood Trauma

Our new understanding of childhood trauma is wonderful in many ways, but I’ve also seen some disturbing downsides. As we try to help our child trauma survivors overcome the effects of their experiences, it is essential to avoid the twin evils of (1) making a child’s traumatic event the central focus of their life, and (2) believing that they cannot overcome the effects of that trauma...

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Effects of Childhood TraumaApril 2, 2024

What is Childhood Trauma and Why Does the Definition Matter?

When I first started foster parenting more than 30 years ago, no one had heard of trauma-focused techniques. Now, the phrase is everywhere. In fact, it’s become so popular that it’s hard to know what the word “trauma” means these days. The first step in parenting children who have suffered trauma is to know what we’re talking about...

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Building RelationshipsMarch 21, 2024

6 Important Tips When Our Kids Make Bad Decisions

One vexing part of parenting is watching our kids make decisions that we know will turn out badly for them. Children who have suffered trauma seem to be particularly prone to making problematic decisions. How do we respond when our children insist on making life decisions that we simply cannot support? Below are some thoughts about how to keep lines of communication open with our children when we can’t agree with their decisions.

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Building RelationshipsMarch 19, 2024

10 Ways to Deal with Toxic Foster or Stepchildren

We’ve discussed principles for parenting kids who reject you, but sometimes that rejection can be so deep that any sort of healthy relationship is impossible. What do you do when your relationship with your foster child or stepchild starts feeling toxic? How can you live with that child and still preserve a healthy blended family? There are no simple solutions, but there are some principles that can help you get through the challenges of parenting a child who insists on a toxic relationship...

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Building RelationshipsMarch 14, 2024

4 Important Principles for Treating Our Kids The Same

Once we’ve thought through what treating our kids the same means, we have to know how to communicate to them that we care about them equally. It’s particularly difficult when we are trying to blend step-siblings or transition a foster child into our home. The non-biological children are extremely sensitive to favoritism, and often see it when we don’t think it exists. They also tend to interpret any different treatment as unfairly letting someone else get away with breaking the rules. So we need to figure out how to communicate to our kids that they are a part of the family just as every other child in our home. As with most parenting challenges, there are few hard and fast rules, but there are some important principles that can guide us...

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Building RelationshipsMarch 12, 2024

5 Principles for Knowing What It Means to Treat All Our Kids the Same

One mantra we hear as foster and stepparents is to treat all of our kids the same. It’s also much easier said than done. Stepchildren and foster children often will accuse us of treating our biological children as our “favorite.” It’s not a complaint we can counter with words. We have to live it out and let our kids see that we love them equally. But first, we have to look at ourselves and understand how to think about the problem...

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Building RelationshipsMarch 7, 2024

What to Do When You Don't Like Your Foster or Stepchildren

It's easy to talk about building good relationships with foster and stepchildren, but what if you don't like your kids? It's very difficult to find the motivation to build a close relationship, or even a marginally good relationship, with someone whom you don't like. This dilemma is a more common situation that we want to admit, but we shouldn't be surprised when it happens. I was fortunate in that my stepchildren were generally delightful, but I have parented foster children that I had to struggle to like and care about. While I never found a magic solution, I was able to find several principles that helped us move toward a more positive relationship...

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Building RelationshipsMarch 5, 2024

Building Healthy Relationships by Giving Kids Space

One of the biggest challenges to parenting other people’s children is establishing a good relationship with them. One important foundation in forging a healthy relationship is to give our children plenty of space. I like to think of that space in terms of emotional space, physical space, and a space of their own, all of which I have found to be essential to any solid family relationships. This month, as we discuss principles for our relationships with our children, let’s start with how to give them that space...

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Building RelationshipsFebruary 27, 2024

Stepparents Can Access School Records, Sometimes

One question that I have heard recently is whether schools can provide educational records to stepparents. The answer is, “Sometimes.”Different states have different rules, but almost all public schools and any private schools...

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Mental Health ChallengesFebruary 22, 2024

Science Says the Best Treatment for Depression is Exercise

Depression among young people has become a serious problem, particularly during and after the COVID lockdowns. The problem is compounded for children who have suffered trauma, and those of us parenting those kids need as many tools in our toolkits as possible. There’s good news for our kids, a recent survey of international studies found that exercise can be one of the most effective treatments for alleviating depression...

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Building RelationshipsFebruary 20, 2024

How Stepparents Can Find Their Lanes

One recommendation that stepparents hear frequently is “don’t overstep your bounds,” or “stay in your lane.” It’s an important principle to remember, but it can be frustrating because it’s rarely clear where your lane is. Furthermore, as your relationship with your family deepens, and especially as your children get older, that lane changes. So how do we as Plan B parents figure out where our lane is at any given time? This week, let’s discuss some principles for figuring out where we fit into our unusual and challenging families...

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Foster Parenting Special TopicsFebruary 15, 2024

5 Tips for Being An Awesome Single Foster Parent

Today is Singles Awareness Day, an unofficial holiday apparently designed to counteract the emphasis this week on Valentine’s Day. I’ve never been a big fan of the holiday, even as a single person, because it always seemed to me to have an artificial “make lemonade out of lemons” vibe. But it’s a good time to revisit a common question I hear, which is whether and how single people can be foster parents. I can say with no hesitation that it’s a challenging task, but raising other people’s children as a single person can be a wonderful and profound experience...

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Building RelationshipsFebruary 13, 2024

Five Tips for Learning to Appreciate Our Imperfect Spouses

Given that Valentine’s Day is coming up, this week is a natural time to focus on appreciating our spouses. But sometimes we don’t feel very appreciative, particularly during the difficult journey of parenting a blended or foster family. One of my closest friends once confided, “I need a Valentine’s card this year that says, ‘I love you, even though you are absolutely completely wrong about our last argument.’” Many married couples can sympathize with that sentiment...

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Building RelationshipsFebruary 8, 2024

Navigating Healthy Boundaries with Biological Parents

One of the most important ways to avoid conflict and strengthen your marriage in a foster or blended family is to agree on clear boundaries with your child’s biological parents. Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries is essential for all of you. Boundaries support healthy relationships between your children and their birth parents, give your family members security and structure, and help avoid conflict in your marriage. In this blog post, I’ll explore why we set boundaries and which ones to set...

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Building RelationshipsFebruary 6, 2024

Areas of Agreement Essential to Keeping Your Marriage Strong

An important, even essential, part of protecting your marriage in a blended or foster family is to be certain that you and your spouse have agreed on ground rules in several common problem areas. Managing (and minimizing) these conflicts requires clear communication and solid agreement between the adults in the family. In this blog post, we'll explore the most common areas of potential conflict where parents need to be on the same page in order to cultivate resilient family relationships and get through difficult times...

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Setting and Protecting Your PrioritiesFebruary 1, 2024

Four Important Reasons You Need to Prioritize Your Marriage

Last month, we discussed why self-care is an important foundation for a strong family. This month we’ll discuss why our next most important priority needs to be our marriages. Those of us with foster and bonus children need to make having a successful marriage a top priority, even ahead of our children. This principle goes against our instincts and our current child-centered culture, but it is the right thing for our families on many levels...

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Encouraging ResilienceJanuary 30, 2024

More Evidence That We Matter in Our Children’s Lives

A recent study is a great reminder that those of us raising other people’s children can have a strong positive impact on our children. The study followed over 2000 young individuals for more than 15 years, examining their perceptions of family and mentor relationships, self-reported stress levels, and diagnosed depression and anxiety...

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Setting and Protecting Your PrioritiesJanuary 25, 2024

How Foster and Stepparents Can Set Important Boundaries with Kids

One of the most important things those of us raising other people’s children can do for ourselves is set clear boundaries of how we expect to be treated. Setting boundaries within foster or blended families can be difficult, but it’s an essential part of mutual respect and a healthy relationship with our family members. Furthermore, setting and enforcing personal boundaries can be an excellent way to model for our children the self-respect that they need in order to grow into resilient and happy adults...

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Media/Podcasts/SpeakingJanuary 23, 2024

Join Us on a Podcast: Parents Navigating the Teen Years

I had a great discussion on the Parents Navigating the Teen Years podcast. The host, Ed Gerety, and I talked about how to not take things personally from our kids, give them space to adjust to their reality, and help them recover from trauma. Join us...

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Setting and Protecting Your PrioritiesJanuary 18, 2024

Parents Need Mentors, Too — How and Where to Find Your People

One of the most important things foster and stepparents can do to take care of themselves is to build a strong network of supportive adults, including good mentors. Up to 50% of foster parents quit within the first year. According to some estimates, more than 2/3 of second marriages fail, and one big reason may be the difficulties of blending two families. If we are going to have any hope of keeping our relationships with our kids together, we need wise friends to help us navigate the minefields. So make it one of your self-care priorities this year to find your people...

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Media/Podcasts/SpeakingJanuary 16, 2024

Join me on Someone You Should Know

Stuart Sax invited me to be on his broadcast, Someone You Should Know, and we had a wonderful time talking about foster care and stepparenting. We discussed...

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Building RelationshipsJanuary 11, 2024

How to Make Family Suppers Part of Your Parenting Toolkit

I love offbeat special days, and noticed that this Sunday is National Sunday Supper Day. Isabel Laessig founded it as a way to bring families together for a time of discussion and building relationships. According to the Family Dinner Project, family dinners boost self-esteem and resilience, while lowering the risks of depression and substance abuse in children. It definitely is worth trying to find a time for regular dinners in your family to see if the time can help strengthen your relationships...

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Setting and Protecting Your PrioritiesJanuary 9, 2024

5 Reasons Why and How Parents Can Learn Self-Compassion

One important, and very hard, self care skill for foster parents and stepparents is giving ourselves the same compassion that we give to our kids. Parenting any child is difficult, but stepping into a child’s ongoing story has its own unique set of stressors. Raising other people’s children is difficult, and we will not do it perfectly. Getting through the difficult times will require us to learn the art of self-compassion...

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Setting and Protecting Your PrioritiesJanuary 4, 2024

Five Reasons Foster and Stepparents Need Self Care

Heading past the holiday season into the new year is a good time for parents to strengthen an essential skill for caring for our blended and foster families, specifically taking care of ourselves. Self-care sounds like the opposite of self-sacrifice, but it’s actually an important foundation for that trait. Here are five important reasons to use self-care as an important tool in our parenting skill set this year...

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Media/Podcasts/SpeakingJanuary 2, 2024

A Podcast to Start 2024

I discovered a wonderful podcast, Survivors - Stories of Hope Live On, when host Amanda Blackwood invited me to talk about parenting children who have suffered trauma. Start your year by joining us...

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Foster Parenting Special TopicsOctober 26, 2023

One Easy Way to Start Helping Foster Families

Earlier this month, my TED colleague, Tom Rawlings, and I spoke at the Christian Legal Society national conference about ways that local churches can help solve the foster crisis. We emphasized the fact that, while not everyone can be a front-line foster parent, community groups such as places of worship and service organizations can provide a lot of back-up support for foster parents. One relatively easy lift would be to offer “Parents Nights Out” for foster families...

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Building RelationshipsOctober 24, 2023

The Most Important Rule for Kids Trying to Figure Out Who They Are

I’ve been talking recently to older teens who are struggling to find their identity. It’s a common question for that age group, trying to figure out where they fit in the world. I’ve been struck by the common thread in most of the advice they’ve repeated to me, specifically that they need to figure out who they are before they can have a healthy relationship or accomplish goals in life. I think that advice is exactly backwards. In my experience, young adults find their strongest identity in serving and caring for other people. In other words...

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Building RelationshipsOctober 19, 2023

Ten Ways to Teach Our Kids the Art of Respectful Disagreement

This week is Free Speech Week, celebrating our country’s unique rights to express our opinion. Perhaps because I’m a lawyer, or perhaps because I’m just argumentative, I think the right to freely discuss ideas is an essential foundation of a free society. Unfortunately, much of our society uses that freedom to yell angrily at each other, and schools seem to actively encourage students to demonize some opinions.. It is more important than ever that we parents teach our children how to respectfully discuss their point of view with people who have a different opinion...

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Mental Health ChallengesOctober 17, 2023

How to Help When Your Child Acts Like a Bully

I've been traveling out of the country, so I'm republishing one of my more popular blogs in honor of National Bullying Month. I'll be back later this week with fresh content. Another problem that we can face with traumatized children is that they can become the bully in a given situation. Children who have...

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Mental Health ChallengesOctober 12, 2023

How to Help Your Child Who Is Being Bullied

I have been traveling out of the country, so I am republishing one of my more popular blog posts in honor of National Bullying Month. October is National Bullying Prevention month, so we will hear a lot about the topic over the next few weeks. If we parent children who have suffered trauma, our children are at high risk of being bullied. Their trauma...

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Mental Health ChallengesOctober 10, 2023

Is There a Difference Between Conflict and Bullying and Does it Matter?

I have been traveling out of the country, so this week I'm re-publishing one of my more popular blog posts in honor of National Bullying Month: Bullying is an ongoing problem for many of our kids, and with the focus of October as National Bullying Prevention Month, we’ll see a lot of suggestions about how to prevent bullying. Contrary to what many parents (and children) think, not every insult or disagreement is a bullying situation. Sometimes...

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Building RelationshipsOctober 5, 2023

Three Reasons Why and Six Ways How to Pick Your Parenting Battles

I’ve written earlier about how challenging it can be to step into a child’s already-existing story, which is what we stepparents and foster parents do. One of the best principles I’ve found for making that transition work to any degree is to learn how to pick your battles. We don’t need to correct every mistake that our children make (assuming that the actions really are mistakes) or join every argument. Most times...

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Encouraging ResilienceOctober 3, 2023

Strong Relationships May Be the Key to Resilience After Childhood Trauma

A telephone survey of more than 4600 people in Great Britain offers an important data point for those of us parenting children who have suffered trauma. The survey asked people about their history of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and various health factors, both before and during the pandemic. The survey found that...

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Finding and Enforcing Logical ConsequencesSeptember 28, 2023

Why and How Logical Consequences Can Help Provide Structure for Our Kids

My last blog post explained how we need to concentrate on nurture ahead of structure for our kids. However, structure is important. If our children don’t have a sense of strong structure in our family, they won’t have enough emotional security to grow and learn. Balancing that need to provide both nurture and structure has usually led me to the principle of letting my kids suffer the logical consequences of their decisions. That technique both keeps my fingerprints off the consequences and lets kids learn in the way that they learn best...

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Building RelationshipsSeptember 26, 2023

Why Our Children Need Nurture More Than Structure and How to Provide It

Being a stepparent or foster parent is a challenging task for many reasons, but the highest hurdle may be knowing how and when to provide strong structure for our children. There is no doubt that structure and predictability are important foundations for families. However, there are many reasons we need to make nurture a higher priority for our relationships than enforcing structure...

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Media/Podcasts/SpeakingSeptember 21, 2023

Join Me at the CLS Conference

I’ll be speaking at the Christian Legal Society National Conference in Boston about how churches can support foster families. If you are in the area on October 7, 2023, please come by and join the conversation.

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Foster Parenting Special TopicsSeptember 19, 2023

Five Important Principles for Single Foster Parents

I often hear questions from single people who are interest in being foster parents, but who are worried about whether a single parent can realistically foster. My experience is that single parents can be excellent foster parents. I started out as a single foster mom, and then after I married, I again fostered with my husband...

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September 14, 2023

Recent Research: Most Child May Know Their Online Abusers

Most of us who worry about online grooming of our children think of strangers lurking in the shadows reaching out to our children. This prevailing narrative matches the earlier "stranger danger" model of in-person abuse. However, a recent meta-analysis, which reviewed 32 studies covering thousands of minors, suggests that, just like in-person abuse, we need to help our children be aware of overtures from people they know. According to these researchers, most children know their online predators...

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Encouraging ResilienceSeptember 12, 2023

Seven Reasons to Help Children Master Small Tasks

I am a sucker for off-beat holidays, and yesterday was National Make Your Bed Day. It reminded me of Admiral McRaven’s 2014 commencement speech advising UT Austin graduates how to change the world. His first piece of advice was...

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Building RelationshipsSeptember 7, 2023

Our House Rules Need to Focus on What Matters

An elementary school in Massachusetts has adopted a well-intentioned rule that serves as a cautionary tale for us as parents. The new rule advises students that any discussion of...

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Media/Podcasts/SpeakingSeptember 5, 2023

Join Me on the Money Nerve Podcast

I had a wonderful time on The Money Nerve podcast discussing foster care and finances. Bob Wheeler "gets" foster care and had some outstanding insights. Listen to the conversation here and...

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Encouraging ResilienceAugust 31, 2023

Why and How We Should Quit Taking Responsibility for Our Kids’ Happiness

I’ve been thinking through the study I mentioned earlier this week, as well as previous research showing that children generally need less adult involvement in their decisions. Yet we are heading into a season where our instincts and current culture will take us in the opposite direction...

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Encouraging ResilienceAugust 29, 2023

The Latest Science Says Our Children Need Less Adult Supervision

Modern parenting styles have increasingly revolved around safeguarding our children from potential risks and dangers. While this protective instinct is natural and well-intentioned, it may inadvertently hinder our children's ability to develop independence and self-reliance...

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Encouraging ResilienceAugust 24, 2023

Six Important Ways to Help Our Children Learn Resilience from Failure

Last week, I discussed how to help our kids develop problem-solving skills. This week, I want to dig a little deeper into one of the principles I mentioned, specifically letting our kids learn from failure. Letting our children risk failure is one of the most difficult and most necessary ways to help our kids develop resilience. The principle is just as important, or perhaps even more important, for kids who have suffered childhood trauma.

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Media/Podcasts/SpeakingAugust 22, 2023

Catch Me on Dr. Paul’s "Family Talk" Radio Show

Dr. Paul Reeves "Family Talk" show is replaying my interview. Catch us tomorrow, August 23, at 11:00 am here.

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Encouraging ResilienceAugust 17, 2023

Growth Mindset Study Reveals An Important Lesson for Parents

A fascinating study from Tanzania has some interesting possible lessons for parents. The study stemmed from entrepreneurship training by a group that wanted to figure out why the training wasn’t more effective. Researchers discovered through interviews that the problem...

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Encouraging ResilienceAugust 15, 2023

12 Great Principles for Encouraging Problem Solving Skills in Children with Trauma

As the school year starts, we know that our children will face numerous challenges. School can be particularly difficult for children who have suffered from traumatic events, and the structure and social interactions there can be just another source of chronic stress. It is tempting to try to help our kids by laying out a blueprint that we know will make life easier for them, such as...

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Media/Podcasts/SpeakingAugust 3, 2023

Discussing Resilience with Positive Talk Radio

I had a great time discussing foster care and resilience with Kevin McDonald of Positive Talk Radio...

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Encouraging ResilienceAugust 1, 2023

15 Principles for Helping Children With Trauma Succeed in School

The new school year is looming for our kids, and we need to help them get ready for it. School usually is a place of failure and stress for children who have suffered a traumatic event. Whether the trauma is from a car accident, a natural disaster, or something as targeted as sexual abuse, young people with trauma usually struggle with school. Fortunately, there are some things we can do to help them find success that will build their self-esteem and resilience as they navigate this school year...

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Mental Health ChallengesJuly 27, 2023

Our Kids May Need Therapy That Doesn't Concentrate on Memories of Trauma

One of the most important things we can do when parenting children who suffered trauma is find a good therapist for them. As part of that task, we need to find a good fit between our child, the therapist, and the type of therapy. A new study gives us some new data to consider in finding that fit...

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Being the Person Who Is Not Supposed to Be ThereJuly 25, 2023

How to Be The Person Who's Not Supposed to Be In Our Kids' Lives

Like most foster, step-, or adoptive parents, one of my biggest challenges has been knowing how to respond to my children's bone-deep sense that I was not supposed to be in their lives. Children are hard-wired to want a biological parent, and only biological parents, as the foundation of their families. There’s...

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Media/Podcasts/SpeakingJuly 20, 2023

Great Visit with the Toddcast Show

I had a great visit with Todd Murat of the Toddcast Show. It was one of the most wide-ranging interviews I've ever done, as we discussed how I got into foster care, his lack of solid family relationships, and how fortunate I was to have an ordinary upbringing. I saw...

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Media/Podcasts/SpeakingJuly 18, 2023

Christian Counseling Podcast

I had an excellent time talking to Jocelyn Jones about her Christian counseling principles and parenting children who have suffered trauma...

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Media/Podcasts/SpeakingJuly 6, 2023

Check Out My Visit with Digital Voices

I was happy to be on the Digital Voices broadcast with Beau Tiffany. We discussed the negative experiences that he and his foster brothers had in foster care, how most of them have had...

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Seasonal PostsJuly 4, 2023

Have a Wonderful Fourth of July!

Have a wonderful Independence Day holiday today! If you have any free time, browse through some of my earlier posts about lowering stress in family vacations, using history to help our children...

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Media/Podcasts/SpeakingJune 29, 2023

Join Me on the Writing and Editing Podcast

Wayne Jones interviewed me on his Writing and Editing podcast recently. Listen to it here. We discussed...

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Effects of Childhood TraumaJune 27, 2023

New Research Suggests An Important Principle for Helping Children Deal With Trauma

A recently-published neuroscience study indicates that our brains interpret current events by accessing memories of prior happenings. Previous research had shown the replay effect in spatial navigation, but this study indicates that replay also underlies our ability to make sense of narratives...

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Power of Plan B ParentingJune 15, 2023

In Praise of Overlooked Foster and Stepfathers

This week before Father’s Day is a good time to look at the importance of stepfathers and foster fathers in families. It’s very easy to overlook the important role that father figures play in children’s lives. Stepmothers get a national day, but stepfathers don’t. We need to remember...

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Seasonal PostsJune 13, 2023

Seven Important Principles for Enjoyable Blended Family Vacations

As summer starts, many of us start thinking about a family vacation. Meshing schedules for blended families can be challenging, not to mention asking all of the kids to get along. Our family loves to travel, and we have often taken a collection of younger relatives and friends along with us on many trips. Here are some techniques that...

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Media/Podcasts/SpeakingJune 8, 2023

Check out Part 2 of My Interview with the Outstanding Dr. Paul Reeves

Join me for the second part of my discussion with Dr. Paul Reeves at Parenting 101 Plus. Dr. Reeves is an educational consultant, longtime teacher and principal, and the author of “A Principal’s Family Principles.” We discussed unconditional commitments...

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Media/Podcasts/SpeakingJune 6, 2023

Excellent Discussion on the Parenting 101 Plus Podcast

I had a great conversation with Dr. Paul Reeves at Parenting 101 Plus. Dr. Reeves is an educational consultant, longtime teacher and principal, and the author of “A Principal’s Family Principles.” We discussed...

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Media/Podcasts/SpeakingJune 1, 2023

Listen to a Great Interview on The D-Shift Podcast

I had a wonderful time on the D-Shift Podcast with Mardi Winder-Adams. We discussed the importance of being there for kids and always having their back - especially during times of divorce or when they are in foster care...

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Foster Parenting Special TopicsMay 30, 2023

How to Help Kids Aging Out of Foster Care

The last day of this month, which has focused on foster care, very appropriately is National Aging Out of Foster Care Awareness Day. It’s a day to consider the almost 23,000 kids who age out of foster care every year, many of whom have no safety net. They can’t go back to family for various reasons, and they haven’t connected to a foster family...

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Building RelationshipsMay 25, 2023

Four Important Principles for Letting Our Kids Bounce Off Us

In my last post, I discussed why we need to let our kids emotionally bounce off us. In this post, I discuss how to do that. Here are some important principles that I have learned for dealing with kids in the moment...

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Building RelationshipsMay 23, 2023

What It Means to Let Our Kids Bounce Off Us and Why It's Important

One essential and hard-to learn skill is knowing how to respond when our kids are angry, unhappy, having a meltdown, or simply reject us. Children who have suffered trauma are particularly liable to react in all of these ways. The best thing we can do as parents of those children is...

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Mental Health ChallengesMay 18, 2023

Is Less Supervision the Solution to Childhood Depression?

The Journal of Pediatrics recently published an article arguing persuasively that a major cause of the current epidemic in childhood anxiety and depression is that we supervise our children too much. With the best of intentions, the authors argue, we are depriving our children of important opportunities to become self-confident and independent...

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Building RelationshipsMay 16, 2023

How To Keep a Good Relationship with Adult Children Still Living at Home

As the school year ends, many of us will face the conundrum of high school graduates who don’t plan to continue in school or college graduates who come back home while they search for a career. On the one hand, most graduates are legal adults, with the right to manage their own lives. On the other hand, few young adults in...

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Seasonal PostsMay 11, 2023

Five Ways to Deal with Being Overlooked on Mothers’ and Fathers’ Days

When raising other people’s children, it’s easy to start hating Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day. It’s a bit like being single on Valentine’s Day. All of the attention goes to biological parents, and foster parents or stepparents are left on their own. Fortunately, there are some helpful ways we can prepare ourselves to avoid disappointment...

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Foster Parenting Special TopicsMay 9, 2023

Foster Parents Often Feel Alone, But Three Ideas Can Help

As we consider foster parenting this month, one rarely-discussed problem is how lonely the challenge can be. Raising another person’s child carries unique obligations. Your friends who have not dealt with the complex needs of foster children and...

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Encouraging ResilienceMay 4, 2023

An Object Lesson in How to Prepare Children to Handle a Crisis

One story that has been all over the Internet recently is the 7th-grader who safely stopped a school bus after his bus driver passed out. Some background that hasn’t been getting a lot of attention are the skills that may have come into play when he needed them...

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Foster Parenting Special TopicsMay 2, 2023

Four Important Reasons to Be a Foster Parent

May is National Foster Care Month, and a good time for me to answer a question I hear a lot, namely why anyone should become a foster parent. Raising other people’s children is a challenging, often frustrating, task, but it also can be incredibly rewarding. This week...

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Encouraging ResilienceApril 27, 2023

Three Ways to Help Our Kids Learn Work Skills

Today is “National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day,” and a good time to think about what we can teach our kids about work skills. Schools can teach them content, but we may be the only people who can teach them the attitudes and soft skills they need. There are several important steps we can take to let...

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Foster Parenting Special TopicsApril 25, 2023

Three Ways to Find Mental Health Help for Foster Kids

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing foster parents is finding help for our kids’ mental health challenges. One study estimates that up to 80% of children in foster care have mental health issues. The American Academy of Pediatrics says, “Mental and behavioral health is the largest unmet health need for children...

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Building RelationshipsApril 20, 2023

The Power of Hanging Out With Our Kids

Schedules are crowded these days, and most of our kids have their days structured from bedtime to bedtime. It’s easy to forget the power of just hanging out together. I had a strong reminder of that point recently. These days, my husband and I are taking a break from foster care in favor of mentoring young...

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Media/Podcasts/SpeakingApril 18, 2023

The Counter Culture Mom Show Looks At Commitment, Boundaries, and Unconditional Love

Tina Griffin has a phenomenal website at, as well as a dynamic podcast. Join us as we discussed commitment, boundaries...

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Working with Biological FamilyApril 13, 2023

Three Ways to Cope with Toxic Biological Parents

A big challenge for many blended families is dealing with toxic biological parents. I didn’t have conflicts with my stepsons’ biological mother, but I had a lot of conflict with my foster children’s parents. I have never had the good fortune of being able to be friends with any of them; I was simply unable to look beyond...

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Building RelationshipsApril 11, 2023

Four Ways to Encourage Step-Sibling Relationships

One of the hardest parts of blending families can be getting two sets of children to form a family, or even be willing to try. Few, if any, blended families find themselves in “Brady Bunch” territory. Fortunately, a few important principles can increase our odds of having our kids get along. This week of National...

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Encouraging ResilienceApril 6, 2023

Six Ways to Help Our Children Stay Hopeful

In my last post, I discussed hope as a way of looking at life, and specifically a trait that we can learn and develop. Today, I want to consider some ways that we can practice that trait, as well as helping our kids be more hopeful...

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Encouraging ResilienceApril 4, 2023

Three Destructive Myths About Hope and How to Counter Them

This week, Passover starts, Christians are looking forward to Easter, and the weather in most places is turning towards spring. It’s a time of hope and looking forward to new beginnings. Hope is essential for people parenting other people’s children. This week I want to think about how to understand and find hope in...

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Building RelationshipsMarch 30, 2023

Why and How to Have Difficult Conversations With Our Children

Therapists and other relationship experts talk a lot about the importance of communicating with our kids. Experienced parents who aren’t mental health professionals (like me) agree that open communication is important. It can be very hard to do that, though, particularly when our kids tell us something that we...

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Strong Commitments and Healthy BoundariesMarch 28, 2023

Why We Need to Love Our Kids Unconditionally and Set Boundaries for Them

One of the most important things we can give our kids is unconditional love. They need to know that, whatever mistakes they make, we still love and care about them. At the same time, we have to establish clear boundaries for them. Knowing how to offer unconditional acceptance while enforcing boundaries for...

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Building RelationshipsMarch 23, 2023

The Best Reason To Keep Trying With Our Kids

This Saturday is Tolkien Reading Day, so it’s time for my annual look at what one of my favorite authors can teach us about raising other people’s children. This year, I’ve been thinking about how to stay optimistic in the face of all of our and our kids’ challenges...

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Media/Podcasts/SpeakingMarch 21, 2023

Check Out My Conversation with Family Twist

The Family Twist podcast and I had a grand time discussing foster parenting, how to explore starting as foster parents, and what to expect.

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Effects of Childhood TraumaMarch 16, 2023

What If Our Kids' Bad Habits Are Actually Out-of-Place Skill Sets?

An incredibly frustrating part of parenting children who have suffered trauma is understanding why they do some of the wrong-headed and counterproductive things they do. We work to provide an emotionally safe environment, and then they lie to us. We try...

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Mental Health ChallengesMarch 14, 2023

A New Study Suggests The Best Solution for Teen Depression Is Exercise

A recent social science study adds a new wrinkle to what we know about the importance of providing structure for kids. This analysis suggests that people who faced high levels of uncertainty or trauma as children had a higher level of health problems as young adults...

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Mental Health ChallengesMarch 7, 2023

More Research Recommends Exercise as the Best Way to Battle Depression

On the heels of the CDC survey showing the incredible rise in teen depression and anxiety, we have a new comprehensive study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showing that the best treatment, at least for adults, is exercise. The researchers analyzed 97...

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Building RelationshipsMarch 2, 2023

How the 80/20 Rule Can Strengthen Your Family Relationships

We know that strong family relationships are important for our children, and we hear constant suggestions about how to build those. Yet the day-to-day responsibilities of parenting children with trauma take a lot of time. So how do we find time in our busy schedules to build a healthy relationship with our kids...

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Media/Podcasts/SpeakingFebruary 28, 2023

Listen to My Conversation with Rich Heller on Rich in Relationship

Relationship coach Rich Heller invited me onto his podcast, and we had a great conversation about how to be the person who is not supposed to be in a child's life. Llisten to it on any major podcast platform, or on Rich's website here...

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Mental Health ChallengesFebruary 23, 2023

What Research Teaches About How to Help Our Children Struggling with Depression

I know from experience that of the biggest challenges in parenting is knowing how to help a child who suffers from depression. The recent CDC report about our teen mental health crisis shows that more and more us are facing that challenge. Young people who...

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Media/Podcasts/SpeakingFebruary 21, 2023

Listen to My Conversation with Debbie Henne

I had a great conversation with Deborah Henne on her podcast Sounds Like Freedom...

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Finding and Enforcing Logical ConsequencesFebruary 9, 2023

How to Motivate Our Children to Do Household Chores

In my last post, I discussed research showing how household chores benefit our kids. Regular chores can teach them new skills, the importance of a work ethic, and how to tackle the unpleasant tasks that are an inevitable part of life...

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Finding and Enforcing Logical ConsequencesFebruary 7, 2023

Why Our Kids Need Responsibility for Household Chores

One of the best ways to help kids grow past their trauma is one that our society no longer values and many of us forget. Research overwhelmingly shows that our kids need to do chores, whether self care (such as doing laundry) or family care (setting the table for...

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Finding and Enforcing Logical ConsequencesFebruary 2, 2023

Why Do I Have to Constantly Repeat Myself With My Kids?

Today is Groundhog Day, a holiday that because of one of my favorite movies, has become forever linked with repeating the same day over and over. That’s a familiar sensation to parents. No matter how many times we warn, lecture, teach, or predict, our kids keep making the same mistakes over and over...

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Building RelationshipsJanuary 31, 2023

Our Teens’ Brains May Be Hard-Wired to Ignore Us

Every parent knows that young teenagers start ignoring most of what we say. It’s part of normal child development, and child psychologists explain it as part of a teenager’s growing need for independence. According to a 2016 neurological study (only recently published), the shift may be due to biology as well as...

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Building RelationshipsJanuary 26, 2023

Do You Feel Like Your Household is Chaotic? Here’s How to Cope!

Thinking through how my daughter and my friend could have such different views of the family, I realized that they were looking at different things. My friend was looking at the packed schedule and long to-do lists. My daughter, on the other hand, was looking at the family relationships. Yes, they were all busy...

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Foster Parenting Special TopicsJanuary 24, 2023

The Plight of Kids Aging Out of Foster Care

Mentoring young adults who have aged out of foster care has brought home to us many of the unavoidable glitches in the foster care system. Most teenagers age out while living in group homes, which means that they have had little experience in making independent decisions. Even those in independent living...

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Being the Person Who Is Not Supposed to Be ThereJanuary 19, 2023

Four Ways to Be the Mentor, Not the Villain, in our Children's Stories

It’s retro-Thursday, with the second in my earlier series about how to step into the lives of children who have joined our families. For a thorough exploration of the topic, download my free ebook (and sign up to get these blog posts in your Inbox) here...

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Being the Person Who Is Not Supposed to Be ThereJanuary 17, 2023

Figuring Out Where We Fit In Our Children's Stories

I’m fighting a virus this week, so I’m recycling two of my earliest posts about stepping into the history of a child who has joined our family, either through foster care or forming a new stepfamily. For a thorough exploration of the topic, download my free ebook (and sign up to get these blog posts in your Inbox) here...

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Encouraging ResilienceJanuary 12, 2023

Why We Need to Resist Letting Our Children Think of Themselves as Victims

As we think this week about helping our kids find lasting happiness, I want to discuss what I see as one of the biggest barriers our kids face. The current philosophy of encouraging our children to think of themselves as perpetual victims is extremely dangerous to our kids, especially those who are trying to...

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Encouraging ResilienceJanuary 10, 2023

How to Empower Our Children to Create Their Own Happiness

I ran across some wonderful parenting advice in an article that has nothing to do with parenting. The curator of a model railroad museum explained that hobbies can “really bring that extra spark, the extra ingredient to bring that fulfillment. When you have that, that is a happiness you earn and that is the most...

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Building RelationshipsJanuary 5, 2023

How to Accept that We Cannot Control Our Children's Decisions

As we start a new year, it’s a good time to think about how to evaluate the multitude of advice that we get about parenting children who have suffered trauma. We hear about attachment theory, trauma-focused parenting, and a multitude of other ways of parenting from just as many experts. Having parented...

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about Debbie

I have spent most of my life parenting foster children and stepchildren. My speaking and writing describe the lessons that I wish I could have learned from a parenting manual rather than trial and error.

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