Blog: Other People's Children®

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Parenting TechniquesFebruary 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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Parenting TechniquesJanuary 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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Parenting TechniquesJanuary 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 CareJanuary 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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Parenting TechniquesJanuary 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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Parenting TechniquesJanuary 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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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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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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Parenting TechniquesJanuary 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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Parenting TechniquesJanuary 3, 2023

Five Principles for Parents to Regroup and Recharge for the New Year

The new year is a popular time to plan a new start, but setting lots of goals for yourself is rarely the most effective way to move forward. Being a parent is hard work, and parenting other people’s children is particularly hard. Setting all sorts of new goals for yourself may just be setting you and your family up for...

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Parenting TechniquesDecember 22, 2022

Take Time to Enjoy the Opportunities We Have With Our Children

All too often, the holiday season can feel like nothing more than making it through a long list of places to be and things to do. In the process, we can miss out on the joy of the unique moments that we have right in front of us. This year, try to find some time to stop and savor the miracle that we experience from having...

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StepparentingDecember 20, 2022

Feeling Lonely as a Stepparent is Common, and There Is Help

One rarely discussed issue with being a stepparent is how lonely you can feel in your new family. When you become a stepparent, you join your bonus family’s story halfway through. They already have a shared history, with customs and stories and family jokes that you do not (and cannot) share. Their bonds as...

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Self CareDecember 15, 2022

The Importance of Taking One Step at a Time

One struggle we all face, especially this time of year, is how to find the strength to keep up with all of our tasks. Sometimes the problems our kids face can seem insurmountable. The sheer magnitude of the trauma they have suffered, and sometimes what...

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Parenting TechniquesDecember 13, 2022

Five Things Theater and Movies Can Teach Us about Dealing with Family Drama

One of the most difficult challenges of parenting bonus or foster children is dealing with all the drama. Our kids’ lives are not what they want, and many of our kids have trauma reactions that can be hard to manage. It also seems that, even when our kids are...

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Step-parentingDecember 8, 2022

20 Holiday Traditions to Try With Your Blended Family

One common suggestion for blended families during the holidays is to create new family traditions. That’s usually easier said than done, particularly when it comes to thinking of new traditions. Below are some suggestions that I’ve found for blended family traditions, including some that I wish I had known about...

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HolidaysDecember 6, 2022

How To Cope When Your Children Reject You

The holiday season puts pressure on us to be the ideal happy family enjoying each other’s company. So, what do we do when one of our children just doesn’t accept us? How do we deal with those feelings of rejection? Here are some principles to help get through those rough spots. Putting these principles into...

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HolidaysDecember 1, 2022

How Communities Can Help Foster Children Cope With the Holidays

We’ve discussed before how the community can help foster families. This time of year, there is an even greater need for community support. Foster parents have the same holiday to-do lists as every other family. In addition, they have to find time to help their...

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HolidaysNovember 29, 2022

Three Important Things to Remember About Christmas Presents for Your Child's Biological Parents

One never-ending controversy during this most difficult time of year is whether and how to help our foster children and stepchildren buy presents for their biological parents. As a single foster mother, I never questioned that I needed to help my children strengthen...

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HolidaysNovember 22, 2022

Why and How to Help Your Kids Stay in Touch with Biological Family During the Holidays

As we navigate through these holidays dedicated to family ties, let’s remember that many of our kids may have a different family — a biological family — that they are tied to emotionally. If you and your spouse have custody of your stepchildren, those children will have strong ties to their non-custodial parent. Your...

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Media AppearancesNovember 17, 2022

Discussing Bonus and Foster Families With Circle 31

Ayana Robinson Dixon and I had a wonderful time discussing foster care and step-parenting on the Circle 31 podcast. The Circle 31 International Women’s Ministry is a Christian organization where women share their experiences and encourage each other. Listen to...

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Media AppearancesNovember 16, 2022

Discussing Resilience and Gratitude With the Transacting ValYou podcast

The Transacting Valyou podcast looks at how important values can help you navigate various challenges. Josh Porterhouse and I discussed how resilience, gratitude, and appreciation fit into parenting foster and stepchildren. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to him...

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Foster ParentingNovember 15, 2022

Why and How to Help Our Kids Deal With the Unavoidable Loss in Adoption

In the midst of celebrating National Adoption Month, we need to also remember the heartbreaking journeys that brought our kids to this point. It is good to celebrate new beginnings, but we shouldn’t forget that our kids are available for adoption only because they...

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Parenting TechniquesNovember 10, 2022

Seven More Ways to Manage Holiday Stress

In my last post, I discussed seven ways to lower your family's holiday stress this year. In this second part of the series, I’m including some more great ways I’ve heard about to avoid conflict and stress. There really are no "best ways" to navigate the holidays; each family has its own unique source of stress. These...

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Parenting TechniquesNovember 8, 2022

Seven Ways to Help Manage Stress Over the Holidays

Somehow, all of the normal stresses of raising other people’s kids seem to combine and hit us all at once during the holidays. Whatever disagreements we have with biological parents pop up worse than ever, and our foster and bonus kids have a hard time navigating all of the family tensions. Whether it’s school...

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ResearchNovember 3, 2022

Supportive Parenting Styles Correlate with Warm Relationships with Adult Children

A new study has some optimistic news for parents. Researchers surveyed more than 1600 young people starting in 6th grade and following them to age 22. They found that children whose parents followed supportive parenting styles reported closer relationships at age 22. The parenting styles with the highest...

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Parenting TechniquesNovember 1, 2022

Why and How We Need to Manage Our Expectations for the Holidays

We’re headed into one of the most stressful times of the year for blended and foster families. Winter holidays can be a constant reminder for our kids that their world is off-kilter and different from what they want it to be. There’s nothing we can do to change our kids’ perception of the holidays, but we can take steps to

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ResilienceOctober 27, 2022

More Research about Family Traits that Help Foster Resilience

There’s no doubt that families are an important resource for helping children recover from trauma, but there has been little research in exactly which characteristics are important. Researchers looking at that question recently analyzed 31 studies surveying more than 8600 children, many of whom had been...

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ResilienceOctober 25, 2022

7 Things You Can Do if Your Child is Suffering from Anxiety

Our children steadily are becoming more anxious and depressed. Even before the pandemic, anxiety disorders and depression increased by 27% and 24% respectively among children. By 2020, 9.2% of kids studied had been diagnosed with anxiety problems and 4% had been diagnosed with depression. During the...

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ResilienceOctober 20, 2022

How to Build Our Kids' Resilience By Helping Them Change Their Self-Defeating Narratives

Resilience is one of the most important skills we can teach our kids, as well as one of the hardest ones to instill. One big hurdle is the narrative that our kids tell themselves about their lives. We want them to believe that they can accomplish anything. They often see themselves through the prism of whatever...

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BullyingOctober 18, 2022

Is There A Difference Between Bullying and Conflict and Does It Matter?

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 a dispute...

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Parenting TechniquesOctober 11, 2022

7 Ways to Teach Our Kids to Be Self-Reliant

Parenting is unique in that, if we do it right in the long run, we work ourselves out of a job. Our most important responsibility is to teach our kids how to develop into adults who don’t need us. Yet, in today’s protective culture, it can be hard to teach our foster or stepchildren the essential trait of self reliance. It’s a...

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Foster ParentingOctober 6, 2022

25 Techniques for Foster Parents Who Work Full Time

One common question I hear is whether people who work full time can be foster parents. The short answer is emphatically “yes.” You don't even need flexible schedules or part-time work in order to foster full time. Those accommodations can be helpful, but they aren't essential. I have spent my entire foster...

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Parenting TechniquesOctober 4, 2022

How to Parent Children From Different Faith Traditions

This week is Yom Kippur, one of the most holy days in Judaism. I am not Jewish and know little more than what I have learned from the Internet. Religious holidays are a good occasion, however, to visit the challenges in parenting a child of a different faith than ours. As the winter holidays approach, some of us...

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Foster ParentingSeptember 20, 2022

Five Principles for Successful Single Foster Parenting

I often hear questions from single people who are prospective foster parents, but who are worried about whether a single parent household could meet the needs of children placed there. I started out as a single foster mom, and then I later fostered with my husband. Both being a single mom and fostering as part of...

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Self CareSeptember 15, 2022

How Healthy Boundaries Can Be Your Best Self-Care

One essential part of self-care is setting clear boundaries of what we expect from each other. It can be hard to do that, especially when we know as foster or bonus parents that parenting our children requires some level of self-sacrifice. However, if we sacrifice too much of ourselves the relationships become toxic.

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Self CareSeptember 13, 2022

Five Principles of Effective Self-Care for Foster and Bonus Parents

I sat with my arm around my foster daughter as she tearfully recovered from an emotional meltdown. I knew that I should have seen the warning signs and helped head off the triggering event. The fact was, I had accepted this placement too soon after my previous placement had ended rather explosively. I hadn’t

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Mental HealthSeptember 8, 2022

Are We Prescribing Too Many Medications for Normal Teen Problems?

Most foster parents and many stepparents have to help our kids through bouts of anxiety and depression. Inevitably, the question comes up of whether to opt for medication and how much of it to agree to. Often it seems that therapy isn’t helping, and that medication is the only option. Some articles that I’ve seen...

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PodcastSeptember 6, 2022

Join Me on the Precarious Parenting Podcast

Marie Arymar graciously introduced me to her audience at the Precarious Parenting podcast. We had a grand time discussing how to be the person who is not supposed to be there, how to establish healthy boundaries, and how to build relationships while we are parenting other people’s kids.

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Foster ParentingSeptember 1, 2022

Foster and Adoptive Parents, Join Us at the CAFO Summit

Join me (and thousands of other orphan care advocates) at the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) Summit in Atlanta, scheduled for September 28-30, 2022. On those dates, thousands of foster and adoptive parents, orphan advocates, students, pastors, and leaders from every U.S. state and more than 30 nations...

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ResilienceAugust 30, 2022

Why Accommodations Should Lead to Success, not Excuses for Failure

“I can’t and I don’t have to,” my foster daughter announced. “I have a diagnosis, so I don’t have to do all of my homework if I don’t want to. I’m no good at school, and that’s just the way it is. Your nagging isn’t going to change anything...

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Parenting TechniquesAugust 25, 2022

Four More Ways to Help Children Struggling with School

In my last post, I discussed some important techniques that we can use at home to help our kids find more success in school. In this post, I’ll discuss three more important principles for helping our kids who show symptoms of anxiety or excessive worry about either school or life in general. As with all parts of...

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Parenting TechniquesAugust 23, 2022

Good Ways to Help a Child Struggling With School

While we are working with the school to help our kids adjust, we can’t forget the rest of the time that our children spend with us. After all, while they spend a lot of time in school, they spend more time at home. That fact raises the question of what we can do to help our kids succeed in school. Some of our kids will...

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Parenting TechniquesAugust 11, 2022

38 School Accommodations for Children Who Have Suffered Trauma

In my last post, I talked about the importance of explaining trauma to our kids’ teachers and school administrators. Knowing what accommodation to ask for can be an essential part of a trauma-sensitive classroom. Here are some practical ideas for creative accommodations for kids who are dealing with the impact of...

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Parenting TechniquesAugust 9, 2022

6 Principles for Advocating for Trauma Sensitive Teaching for Your Kids

 I have heard this pattern countless times from foster parents and stepparents. It’s become almost a foregone conclusion that kids who have suffered childhood trauma will also struggle in school. When I first started working in foster care back in the day, the professionals and I had no idea how these responses...

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Parenting TechniquesAugust 4, 2022

One Important Alternative When Your Teens Struggle With School

As we head into the back-to-school season, we need to remember that for many of our kids, particularly foster children, school is a place of failure and added trauma. Not all of our kids are suited for academics, and we may not be helping them by forcing them into that mold. For older kids who struggle with school...

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Parenting TechniquesAugust 2, 2022

Five Things to Remember When You Can't Do It All

When I had kids at home, the back-to-school season was the hardest time of year for me. Changing from the summer schedule to the structure of the school year was hard for all of us. In addition, I had to field all sorts of well-meaning advice from education experts about how to get my kids ready for school, set up a...

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Parenting TechniquesJuly 28, 2022

How to Let Our Kids Know We See Them Clearly and Love Them Unconditionally (part 2)

In my last post, I discussed why it’s important to let our kids know that we see them clearly and love them unconditionally. In this post, I’ll discuss four more of the best ways to let our kids know that, even if they make mistakes, we will keep loving them...

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Parenting TechniquesJuly 26, 2022

How to Let Our Kids Know We See Them Clearly and Love Them Unconditionally (part 1)

Shortly after our marriage, my husband gave me a ring that his mother had worn for many years. A few years later, I misplaced it. As I frantically searched for the safe place where I had put it (and promptly forgotten), my husband kept telling me that everything was OK.

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Step-parentingJuly 21, 2022

Why It's Easy to Repeat the Cycle of Trauma and How to Stop

I ran across a story about a very sad and dysfunctional stepfamily that illustrates the problem of repeating cycles of trauma. It’s from a famous Reddit forum, and the person posting was a 16-year-old who says that his stepmother requires him to cook for himself as he’s...

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Foster ParentingJuly 19, 2022

Five Ways that Your Organization Can Support Foster Families

An article from PBS illustrates what I see as currently the largest need in foster care — the lack of sufficient support for foster parents. The article begins with the story of Isela Perez, who “estimates she moved more than 20 times among group homes, mental health facilities...

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ResilienceJuly 7, 2022

The Best Way We Can Encourage Resilience and Build Self-Esteem

A pattern that shows up very often in studies of resilience is a high correlation between resilience and self-esteem. It would be very easy to conclude that, if we help children develop self-esteem, we can also increase their resilience. It’s a small leap from that conclusion to trying to rise our kids’ self-esteem with positive...

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ResilienceJuly 5, 2022

How to Encourage Resilience Through Emotional Support

Anyone who spends enough time looking at the effects of trauma on child development easily could conclude that our children are doomed. Current research in child welfare connects trauma to everything from obesity to significant increases in anxiety and depression. Fortunately, there is a growing recognition in the...

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ResilienceJune 30, 2022

We Can Build Resilience By Providing Social Support

A recently-published research study from Canada found that children who witnessed parental domestic violence had a higher incidence of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse than children without that exposure. Among a sample of more than 17,000 people responding to a survey, 326 had been exposed to...

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ResilienceJune 28, 2022

How to Build Resilience by Encouraging Our Kids to Take Risks

One of my youth organization clients once had a three-year-old child sneak out of the facility, cross a busy road, and visit a toy store. Fortunately, he was not hurt, and the store owner called my client to come get him. I helped my client figure out where their system had failed and where it needed to be shored up...

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PodcastJune 27, 2022

Join Me on the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast

I had a great conversation with Melissa Ebken on the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast. Join us and learn more about her amazing podcast...

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ResilienceJune 23, 2022

New Study Says Risky Play May Be Good for Our Children

A fascinating new study from the UK found that children who engaged in risky play were more resistant to mental health problems during the COVID lockdowns. The researchers looked at two data sets, one with 417 parents and the other with 1919 families. They identified adventurous or risky play as “child-led play...

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Speaking EngagementsJune 16, 2022

Join Us at the National Foster Parents' Association Virtual Conference

I'm thrilled to be a presenter at the National Foster Parent Association's virtual 2022 Conference. They have a dynamite lineup of workshops. I will be presenting on the topic, "We Are Not The People Who Are Supposed To Be There, and That's OK." Join us and add to your store of knowledge about foster...

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June 14, 2022

How and Why Fathers are Important to Our Kids

Father's Day is coming up, and it's a good time to think again about the importance of fathers in children’s lives. Numerous studies show that involved fathers have positive effects on their children's development. Children whose fathers take an active role in their lives have better grades and fewer behavioral problems...

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Speaking EngagementsJune 9, 2022

Join Me (Virtually) at an International Conference

Next week, I will be speaking at the European Conference for the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. I will be helping my law partner, Tom Rawlings, present a workshop on "Establishing a Safety Culture" in youth organizations. There are virtual tickets still available, so if you work with...

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Childhood TraumaJune 7, 2022

A Common Reason Why Your Kids May Reject You

I tried to stifle my exasperation as I glanced over at my foster daughter in the passenger seat. She had run away — again — a few days before, I had picked her up at her case worker’s office, and we were on our way home. After a few moments of small talk, I finally broached the topic that was on both of our minds...

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Parenting TechniquesJune 2, 2022

5 Important Things to Remember about Our Teens and Summer Jobs

One of the best ways to teach teenagers the life skills they will need as adults is to help them get a summer job. One of the silver linings of the current Great Resignation is that more employers than ever are willing to consider hiring teenagers. Now is a good time to help our teens take advantage of the job market...

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Parenting TechniquesMay 31, 2022

5 Principles for Teaching Teens to Be Independent

With school graduations coming up or already behind us, one topic that I often hear is how to teach teenagers to be independent. It can be frustrating knowing that our children will soon be legally independent, but wondering if they will have the skills they need in time to be functionally independent. It can be...

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Childhood TraumaMay 26, 2022

Positive Childhood Experiences Can Boost Resilience and Help Heal Trauma

An interesting study recently looked at the competing effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and positive childhood experiences (PCEs). There are quite a few research articles about the effects of ACEs and PCEs on individual health, but this one took a different tack in surveying the effects on family health...

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Parenting TechniquesMay 24, 2022

Lowering Our Expectations May Be the Best Way to Lower Our Kids’ Stress

The CDC recently released a study showing that teen depression and suicidal thoughts have risen by more than 40% in the last ten years. At the same time, the American Psychological Association published a meta-analysis of various studies indicating that parental expectations may be the biggest driver of unrealistic...

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Foster ParentingMay 19, 2022

How the System Loses Good Foster Parents

A Massachusetts judge has dismissed involuntary manslaughter charges against two foster parents, Matthew Tucker and Cassandra Barlow-Tucker. The district attorney charged them after an infant in their care died from strep throat and pneumonia. The DA based her case on a belief that the foster parents failed to...

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Foster ParentingMay 17, 2022

How Foster Parents Can Protect Themselves Against Unfounded Allegations

One unfortunate part of being a foster parent is knowing how to protect yourself against false or unfair allegations. When you sign up for foster care, you sign up for increased scrutiny from your state’s child protective services. Foster children are more likely than biological children to make accusations, out of either...

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Foster ParentingMay 12, 2022

Why and How to Become a Foster Parent One Step at a Time

In my last post, I talked about entering foster parenting with realistic attitudes. In this post, I want to talk about how to actually start. Agencies will offer training, but you need real life experience. I recommend getting that experience a little bit at a time. Parenting other people’s children is a skill, and just like any other...

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Foster ParentingMay 10, 2022

7 Important Things to Consider if You Are Thinking About Becoming A Foster Parent

With the emphasis this month on foster care, we will hear a lot of appeals for people to become foster parents. The pull to provide a family to children who need one is strong, but parenting traumatized children can be difficult and messy. Even experienced foster parents sometimes find themselves wondering what they...

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Parenting TechniquesMay 5, 2022

Why and How To Keep Our Kids Connected to Their Biological Parents

Mother’s Day is one of those holidays that always creeps up on me. After my mother passed away, and I had no obligations to anyone, I stopped paying much attention it. It is a holiday that can cause a lot of stress in foster and blended families. I’ve written before about how one of the best ways to lower the stress is...

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Foster ParentingMay 3, 2022

Five Ways You Can Help Foster Parents

This is National Foster Care Month, and today is National Foster Care Day. Not everyone has the resources to become a foster parent, but there are many other ways to help. Here are some ways that you can help a foster child short of parenting them. Some contributions don’t take much time, while others require...

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Speaking EngagementsApril 28, 2022

Join Me at the Renew Retreat in Raleigh, NC

In two weeks, I will be speaking at the Renew Retreat in Raleigh, NC. I will be part of an amazing lineup of speakers helping foster and adoptive parents find “Grace for the Journey,” the theme of the retreat. I will be discussing the challenges unique single parents and blended families. If you are in the area...

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ResilienceApril 26, 2022

Boys Who Have Suffered Trauma May Be Less Resilient Than Girls

A study from Australia indicates that boys who suffer from abuse are less resilient than girls. If these findings hold true in the United States, then those of us who parent children with trauma need to pay particular attention to the boys in our care. Our culture tends to treat boys as defective girls, and we need to...

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ResilienceApril 21, 2022

Embrace the Power of Being Our Child's Plan B

One of the hardest parts about raising other people’s children is overcoming their sense that you aren’t supposed to be there. We are only in their lives because they lost their first choice, an intact biological family. All of my children are part of my family only because I was their Plan B parent. Fortunately, being...

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Speaking EngagementsApril 19, 2022

Join me in Wisconsin on Saturday

I’ll be speaking Saturday (April 23) at the Wisconsin Foster and Adoptive Parents Association Spring Conference. I’ll be covering several important topics, including...

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Parenting TechniquesApril 7, 2022

How to Remain Sane When Your Adult Children Still Live at Home

One frequent question that I have heard recently is how to maintain your sanity with adult children living in your home. Sometimes these are kids who have never left, sometimes they are children who circle back for one reason or another. Over the years, I have had a variety of adult foster children and stepchildren living...

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PodcastApril 5, 2022

Listen to Living The Dream, Where We Discuss the Joys of Plan B Parenting

Check out my conversation with Timothy Douglas on his podcast, Living the Dream. We had a great time talking about how being a child’s Plan B parent can be a wonderful and rewarding job...

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ResilienceMarch 31, 2022

Why Empowering Our Children is Not the Same As "Blaming the Victim"

One well-known problem in the child welfare field is that children who suffer abuse are at much higher risk of being victims of violence later in life. For parents of abuse victims, it is extremely important to empower our children and help them avoid becoming repeat...

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Parenting TechniquesMarch 29, 2022

Why We Should Give Kids More Control Over Their Lives and How to Do It

One thing that’s easy to forget as adults is how little control children have over their lives. That fact is particularly true for foster and stepchildren. We are in their lives because of decisions that adults, sometimes family and sometimes strangers, have made and over...

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Parenting TechniquesMarch 24, 2022

What Hobbits Can Teach Us About Being Good Mentors

In my last post, I talked about the importance of being mentors to our kids. Tomorrow is Tolkien Reading Day, and Tolkien’s works are a good reminder of the power of stories in our lives. The Lord of the Rings has become a cultural touchstone for many reasons, but primarily because it is a superbly crafted story...

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Parenting TechniquesMarch 22, 2022

Why Raising Other People's Children Requires That We Become Good Mentors

One of the toughest parts of parenting other people’s children is recognizing that we are not the people who are supposed to be there. As I’ve explained before, from a child’s perspective, we are not supposed to be in their lives. They have an almost primal sense that, if the world worked the way it should, they would not...

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Parenting TechniquesMarch 17, 2022

Four Things to Remember About How Teens Search for Identity

I often hear from parents upset because their teen or pre-teen has suddenly developed a whole new personality, complete with teen “attitude” and cynicism. The vast majority of the time, those changes are developmentally normal and temporary. If we just wait, our kids will eventually grow up and revert to their old...

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Parenting TechniquesMarch 15, 2022

Three Principles for Helping Children You Don't Understand

I have often felt that I just don’t understand the children that I am parenting. Their impulses often don’t make sense to me, and I can’t figure out why they make such bone-headed decisions. Most of the frustration comes from the fact that we have different personalities, and it takes work to understand each other...

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ResilienceMarch 10, 2022

Resilience or Self-Esteem -- Which Comes First in Recovering from Trauma?

A pattern that shows up very often in studies of resilience is a high correlation between resilience and self-esteem. It would be very easy to conclude that, if we help children develop self-esteem, we can also increase their resilience. These studies, however, only measure correlation, not causation. Furthermore, other...

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Parenting TechniquesMarch 8, 2022

Does It Matter Whether Our Kids Can't or Won't Behave?

One of the most frustrating aspects of parenting children with trauma is knowing whether they won’t make good choices or whether they can’t make them. The only answer I have found is that we rarely know which it is, so we have to approach every situation with humility and a large measure of grace....

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Parenting TechniquesMarch 3, 2022

How to Start Planning for Spring Break

As we head into warmer weather and spring holidays for school, we need to start planning how we are going to handle those holidays. I know it seems a bit early, but there really is no such thing as early with you are dealing with the complications of biological family or rules for foster children. Down time from school...

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ResilienceMarch 1, 2022

More Encouraging Evidence that Positive Experiences Can Counteract Traumatic Experiences

A recent study analyzed the extent to which positive experiences helped counteract adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and found some important and encouraging protective factors. The study looked at more than 3400 teenagers, and used a logistic regression analysis to compare factors (full disclosure: I do...

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ResilienceFebruary 24, 2022

How to Use History to Help Our Kids Learn Resilience

This week we celebrated President’s Day, and we’ve seen all the usual handwringing about what terrible and unenlightened people our ancestors were. Our modern culture seems to be intent on tearing down almost every well-known person in our history, believing that no one had any moral authority until we came...

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Foster ParentingFebruary 22, 2022

Why Respite Care is An Important Resource for Foster Parents

In my last post, I discussed the importance of having a support network for single parents. One of the least understood and most important parts of that network is having access to respite care. Taking care of someone else's children can be exhausting, especially when you layer on the child's trauma history, government...

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Foster ParentingFebruary 17, 2022

Important Ways to Meet the Challenges of Single Parenting

Earlier this week, we celebrated Valentine’s Day, and the holiday prompted memories of my service as a single foster parent. I wouldn’t trade the experience, but I can’t deny that it posed its own unique set of challenges. Some of you may find yourselves forced by circumstance to be a single parent, while others may be...

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PodcastFebruary 15, 2022

Join Me on Mothers of Misfits Podcast

I was thrilled to be on one of my favorite podcasts, Mothers of Misfits, discussing the challenges of being a foster parent and helping traumatized kids. Check out my interview and follow the podcast (@emilymelious and @mothersofmisfits) to hear excellent practical advice from guests with a lot of experience.

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Speaking EngagementsFebruary 10, 2022

Join Us at the Renew Retreat in Raleigh

I will be speaking at the Renew Retreat in Raleigh NC, scheduled for May 12-14, 2022. If you are in (or can make it to) the Raleigh area, join us! It promises to be an exciting weekend for foster and adoptive parents...

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Parenting TechniquesFebruary 8, 2022

Why and How to Help Our Children Find Groups They Enjoy

One of the most important things we can do for our children is get them involved in groups outside school. Doing this is not easy, especially when it loads extra chauffeur and chaperone duties onto our already-long lists. If we can manage it, however, the benefits...

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ResilienceFebruary 3, 2022

Study: Positive Childhood Experiences Can Counterbalance Adverse Ones

A recent study provides more evidence that positive relationships in childhood may mitigate the effects of adverse experiences. The study was small, only 113 women, and it combined self-reporting with physiological measures. Nevertheless, it adds a bit more...

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Parenting TechniquesFebruary 1, 2022

How to Help Our Children Change Bad Habits

For many years, I never paid any attention to the holiday of Groundhog Day. Then the movie came out, and I was captivated. Now I try to mark the holiday every year by watching the movie again. One year, I even coerced my adorable and long-suffering nephew into...

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Foster ParentingJanuary 27, 2022

What I Wish I Had Known About Foster Parenting

Every so often, I think back to when I started service as a foster parent and how little I know about what I was getting into. I certainly don’t regret being a foster parent, and the fact that I know more now is a good sign that I am capable of learning. For newer foster...

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Parenting TechniquesJanuary 25, 2022

Four Ways to Limit Parenting Stress

One challenge in raising other people’s children is handling the sheer volume of difficult behavior and advice about how to deal with it. One of the best things we can do for ourselves and our children is to start limiting the number of issues that we try to control and...

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Foster ParentingJanuary 20, 2022

Check Out the Latest Review of My Book

One of the very helpful websites that I follow, A Fostered Life, recently posted a review of my book, Raising Other People's Children. Check out the review and then check out the book. Then let me know what you think!

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PodcastJanuary 19, 2022

A Conversation with Justice for Orphans

I had the opportunity to talk to Sandra Flach of Justice for Orphans on her podcast. She adopted 5 children, including kinship care and international adoptions. It was inspiring to compare notes with her about raising other people's children. Join us!

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Parenting TechniquesJanuary 18, 2022

Why and How to Help Our Kids Find Mentors

One of the most important things we can do for our kids is help them find mentors. Numerous studies show that a child’s having a positive relationship with an adult other than his or her parents is the most common factor connected to resilience. If we can be that person or help...

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Parenting TechniquesJanuary 13, 2022

Case Study: We Need Boundaries to Protect Our Entire Family

I recently ran across a news story that illustrates why we need strong boundaries when caring for traumatized children. A teacher found herself sentenced to jail after a jury acquitted her of a sexual relationship with a student, but convicted her of pursuing an illicit relationship. The verdict...

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