How can you help you child succeed at school? We talk with Heather Forbes, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the owner of the Beyond Consequences Institute. She specializes on the impact of trauma and is the author of Help for Billy and Classroom 180.
In this episode, we cover:
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Welcome, everyone to Creating a Family talk about adoption and foster care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am both the host of this show and have been now almost 15 years, oh my gosh, I can't even believe that. And I am the director of the nonprofit creating a family.org. Today we're going to be talking all things back to school with foster and adoptive kids. And we'll be talking with Heather Forbes. Heather is a licensed clinical social worker and the owner of the Beyond consequences Institute. She specializes on the impact of trauma and is the author of several books. Welcome, Heather to creating a family.
It's great to be here. Thank you. Well, this
is back to school time. So we're going to be talking about all things back to school. So what are some of the specific issues that parents of foster and adoptive kids need to consider when their children go back to school?
Well, I think this is such a different year because of the pandemic that I want to just step back and maybe reflect on how challenging it has been for the last two years. Because I think considering that is going to be very important as we then move forward. Because as we've all experienced that we've lived a life for the last two years where it's been unpredictable, there's been a lot of inconsistency, a lot of not knowing just not knowing, are we gonna go to school today? Oh, no, we're remote? No, no, we're back in place. No, no, no, we're, we're gonna go for about an hour hybrid, back and forth, back and forth. And if you have a good neurological system that is equipped to be able to handle that kind of stress, because it is stress, then you're going to be pretty good. But for so many my kids have been impacted by trauma. This has only heightened their level of insecurity is heightened their anxiety. And so coming back into school, I think that we have to recognize that even though we think it's all going to be fine. Our kids and I honestly, we don't know. But especially for our children, they don't know, am I really gonna be in this classroom? Or am I gonna get pulled out there is trauma from March 2020. We have to recognize it that was super traumatic. I mean, a lot of the students, they went to school, and then teachers were like, okay, see, on Monday, there was no Monday, and everything changed. That's trauma, because you expect one thing to happen, and it doesn't happen the way you want it to happen. And you don't know what's going to happen next, and everybody's in chaos. So I think we're especially again, doubling that on our children's backgrounds to recognize that they're going to be pretty stressed out. And we can reassure him, but we just have to go in that with an open heart and say, Yeah, this is tough. It may feel like it's kind of normal. But you're right. We don't know. So I think the conversation is when his child says, you know, I'm a little hesitant or I'm scared. And that instead of us just automatically trying to fix it. No, no, you're fine, we're gonna be okay, it's gonna be a different year is gonna be great. That's our tendencies. Try just to fix it. I want us to step back, allow our kids to process a little bit, allow them to feel that allow them to sort of find their own balance, and we're there to support them there to love them or to guide them. But remember, this is not a quick fix. This has been two years plus the trauma that our children have already had.
Yeah, it's a good point two years plus. Yeah. So outside of the outside of COVID. What are some of the other issues, that children who have experienced trauma in by definition, any child in foster care who came through foster care has experienced some degree of charm? So what are some of the issues that that school presents?
Well, especially if it's a new school, recognize that it's a new environment, when you experience trauma, you automatically assume that any environment that you go into, that is new is going to be deemed unsafe, that's just the way our children operate is that once you've gone through a traumatic event, you sort of tried to prepare yourself for the next one, that's going to happen, because the first one you were caught off guard, and now you're like, I'm never going to be caught off guard again. And so our children are going to automatically think that this is unsafe place. So it's a new environment.
Yeah. And let me also say that in addition to a new school, a new teacher, which most of our children at the beginning of the school year are going into a new class, and even though it's the same school, perhaps, it's still a new teacher, oftentimes, very often new children, new environment. So I think that I think the newness, and we have to assume even though we're going Oh, good, haven't you been in the school for three years? You know, you know that I know, all of that staff, you know, everything. Not from our kids necessarily.
You're absolutely right. Yeah, there's been a lot of teacher turnover in the last couple of years. So So yes, knew just from him. By the word knew that that's going to automatically be deemed unsafe, and they're scared. And so to sort of help them through that, I really advocate for making sure our children have a nice transition. And that's another word that is so prevalent in children that are impacted by trauma is that any type of transition is going to be hard. So that beginning of the school year, notice, you will probably notice their behaviors becoming different. And then first two weeks even before school starts. Because there's that, that excitement, remember, excitement is also stress. And our children have a hard time being able to modulate and to be able to regulate excitement in any type of stress. So I would if it's a if it's the school, you already know, I want you to drive by the school, I want you to drive the route and bus will take I want you to walk to the school, even if no one's in the school yet. I want you to walk around the school, I want you to play in the playground, if they're younger students like you want to do as much as you can those first two weeks to start building that transition. What I always did with my own children was I would call the school ahead of time. And instead of waiting for open house, which is when all the kids are there, and it's very chaotic, and there's lots of excitement, I would ask the principal to say, Would it be okay during that first week of school, when the teachers are back, and they're just setting up their classrooms for us to come by, and to be able to meet the teacher then. And she was always just lovely about that this is something in an elementary school, that I did this, but I also and we're still able to let me finish. That's part of the story. So we would go to the elementary school when none of the kids were there. And we'll just walk through the hallways and be able to meet the teacher one on one without all the excitement and the buzz of the new year. And that really helped them. I remember when my son went to high school, we download a map with the high school because he was so scared of getting lost. And so we we colored the map we he was pretty good at reading maps, obviously, some children may have a child, that hard time with that. But we will then walk through the map where he would go and we did the same thing. We take the map to the school we went before the kids were there we walked the school, we walk the hallway, she want to give them as much practice, right practice in their mind, I practice on a transition practice, where they're going to go practice where they're going to well practice where the morning routine is. So this is a lot different than your sort of traditional child where you're just like, Okay, let's go back to school. And here we are. And we'll see you have a great day, there's gonna be a lot of I think necessary prep time.
I'm so glad Yeah, that you're talking about transitions, because one of the things that we know is that even even neuro typical children sometimes have trouble with transitions. But we certainly know that neurodiverse kids and kids who've experienced trauma do. So let's talk about some other things we can do to transition, I love the tips you've just gave, would another one be to start shifting our schedule, because we've been in the summer routine. So what or would it help to start shifting our schedule into a school routine sooner rather than later?
Absolutely done. And I think before you shift the schedule, I want you to have that what I used to call a town hall meeting where you're with the children and you sit down and you talk about the schedule, and you give them a little bit of a voice. And making sure our children have a say in how their lives unfold, especially children that are in foster care, because they've had no voice if you think about, one of the biggest things of of trauma that is taken away is the voice, a lot of times the voice is taken away during the trauma. And then afterwards, when children are moved, they don't have a voice on where they're going to go, who's going to take care of them what school they're gonna go to, they've had nothing. So you really want to make sure that they have a voice and they have a little bit of power as they see it. Obviously, you are the last decision makers because if they say, Well, I think we should stay up till midnight, you know, obviously, you're going to have a little bit of say in that but, you know, set up, set the schedule up, have that whiteboard out, be able to align things and how much time do you need for this and, and again, practice on the timing of it so that they have a little bit of buy in. And that's gonna be really important. So I'd love your idea of shifting your schedule ahead of time, but then making sure that they have had a little bit of say in what that schedule looks like.
Great idea, anything before we move off a transition, any more tips for transitioning into the to the new year.
You know, try to stay in the home environment as consistent on other things like even simple things like food because again with our children and foster care, that's that so many food issues that you want to be consistent with. If you traditionally have spaghetti on Monday, then I want you to keep having spaghetti on Monday like don't just change it up just because you got a whim, like the normal routines that you already have established around food and just where you go, and the things you do keep that as consistent as possible, I think the one thing we have to recognize is that predictability and the consistency is so grounding for our children. And when other things are changing, if we can at least keep those in place, the better off you will be.
Alright, and this is a question we often get from parents at the beginning of the year, should they be proactive or reactive? And specifically, what I mean, is it better to address potentially sensitive issues up front before they happen, when they might not even happen? Or should you wait to see if it comes up and address it then? And now let me start with an example of the family tree assignment? Or, yep, does, let's just start with that one. I mean, because you kind of don't want to go in with your guns blazing. And you don't want to go in and start assuming that the teachers are going to do things. But on the other hand, it's better to nip things in the bud before they happen. So what are your thoughts on that?
I think it is important to be proactive, rather than reactive. And, you know, I had my training and social work. And I will tell you in my field, I think I had 10 minutes of that professor talking about adoption. That's it. And I know that teachers have no background on this either. And so they don't know for many of the, especially the new ones, or that just just it's a lack of awareness. And so I think it's important before that family tree assignment comes out to have that conversation. And I think in general, we're kind of afraid to say anything, because it's our child's private information. And then I understand that, but you know, what, I think it's really important from the aspect of the teacher as well, that she or he understands the background of this child, this is going, we'd like to think, oh, no, our kids are just going to be quote, normal. No, they have had experiences that have shifted their nervous system, and has shifted their perspective. And so these, these aspects are need to be addressed. Because our kids are going to respond differently, they're going to behave differently, and the teachers not going to understand and in traditionally, a teacher will automatically assume oh, that's bad behavior. Oh, that's a child that's non compliant. That child is being disrespectful, all these behavioral words we put on top. So here's what I would recommend. Like you said, you don't want to go in there with guns blazing. What you want to do is go in there with your heart. And what I mean by that is that you go in and you have that conference, and you say, you know, I want to help you. And it's always about how you can help that teacher rather than you coming in and saying, Well, this is my child, this is what my child needs. You want to be in this team, collaborative approach. And you say, This is what I have found. And I want to help to make sure that you, you also have this information, I don't want you to go in this without this background. And you say, it's kind of like when a child comes into your classroom, and they have like a broken arm or a broken leg. And you know, a parent would let the teacher know. And I would say these words. And I say what I want you to know is when Billy comes into your class, it's not a broken arm, it's not a broken leg with Billy has a broken heart. And I literally want you to get that personal because you know what? That is true. That is so true. Our kids have broken hearts, they've lost their family, they've lost everything. They don't believe that they're lovable. They don't believe that they're okay. They don't believe they're smart. And so they think they're the bad kid. And so when you can talk to that teacher and say, you know, sometimes Billy is going to be scared, Billy is going to react really is going to look like Billy has some bad behavior. And I want you to what I've done is to see that that's the reaction that a child has when they have a broken heart. Yes, I want you to hold Billy accountable. Absolutely. I want you to teach the life lessons. And Billy needs to learn what are appropriate behaviors. But really can't do that with you, Billy would not respond well with fear billing, it's just like, you wouldn't ask a child that is with a broken leg to go out and run the mile around the lap. You know, like, you would ask a child like that. So Billy is going to need a little bit. So I don't know. You know, that may seem a little bit weird, but it's the truth is the honesty. It's where Billy is you don't have to give Billy's full background and have all the information. So I would start there. And the other thing I would add to that, and I like this phrase because you don't have to give all the diagnosis. But what you can say is along with that broken heart really has a high sensitivity to stress. And that little phrase sort of captures at all, whether that child has ADHD or whether they're been diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, all these alphabet soup acronyms that we have. The reality is that comes down to my child has a high sensitivity to stress. And so when Billy gets stressed out what that is going to happen, you're going to see some negative behaviors that may be outward behaviors, it might be inward behaviors, and this is what I have seen happen. And this is what I see is helpful is to build that relationship with my child, because that's how Billy can be able to be helped in through love and through connection to hold those boundaries and to hold that, that the accountability, but you take out the threats, because you know what our kids, they put their heels in the ground, and the minute you go into a power struggle, if you give me a threat, Billy is going to say, I'm going to one up you and then I'm going to one up you and then all of a sudden things are lost. So I think it's really understanding that you have to back out of the power struggle, because Billy is a survivor.
You know, in addition to going in, and I liked what you said about not having to share all the all the details, you can say everything you just said without additionally saying, Well, you know, his father is in jail for this, or his mother was a prostitute. So he saw a lot of men and men coming in and out that some of the details are not met might be necessary, but chances are good, the details aren't necessary. The information you're taught your teacher needs is how Billy responded, and how Billy is currently processing. The other thing I would say is that also lead with his strengths or her strengths. Because you know, we so often when we have children who are struggling, it's it's human nature for both for professionals and parents to focus on the problem. But these kids also have strengths. And and I think that helps to point it out to the teacher to let's make a plan for being able to showcase Billy strengths or Betsy strengths or whatever, because that ultimately their strengths are going to carry them. So I will share that as well. Yes. Let me pause here for a minute to tell you about a free educational resource that is available thanks to our partners that jockey Bing Family Foundation, we have 12 free online courses available, go to Bitly slash JB F support to get to them that's bi T dot L y slash JV F Sport. They're courses that are directly relevant to making you or helping you be a better parent to your kid. For example, one of them is taking care of yourself when parenting harder to parent kids. So we encourage you to go to Bitly slash JBS support and check out these free courses they can count towards if your agency accepts them, which I imagine they would towards your foster parents see if you need see if you don't need more to help you be a better parent. All right, what are some other potentially triggering school assignments? I mentioned the family tree. And these are obviously for foster and adoptive as well as kinship kids.
You know, I think also just look academically where this where the challenges are. And traditionally I have seen that with trauma does and I say trauma because that's what foster carers that is what adoption is. I mean, our kids have some level it's gonna vary in degrees. But what I typically see is the children have a hard time with the processing. And with anything that takes a lot of coordination like like even like writing in a journal for our younger kids are big assignments for our older kids, or they have to do a book study where you have things long timeframes, and the library kids don't have a sense of time. That's another piece would that impacts our children is is that they don't have a sense of time. So I think it's not really a trigger, like so much the family tree. And I guess I'm talking more on what are the struggles that you may see is that again, a lot of kids are like, Yeah, I can set the schedule, I'm good. But she's trauma happens in such a flash. So Tom, so many times trauma happens in the memories and fragments, and you don't get a full picture of it. So what that does to our children is they don't have a good sense of time. And so when you say Hey, Billy, you know, this book report is due in four weeks, four weeks things like, okay,
good, I don't have to worry about it.
I'm good. And then if you even if you check in with Billy and say, Hey, how's it We'll look forward, come and be like, I'm fine, I'm fine. Within the night before the book report, there's going to be an explosion in the house because the reality is set in. So I would definitely check in with the sense of time, again, from whatever age you're working at. As far as triggers though, it's gonna vary for every child because their experiences are different. It can be that they just see someone walk in the school that looks like their abuser, and then they fall apart. So be aware of just those kinds of dynamics. You may not know them ahead of time. But when something does happen, let's say you get the phone call the dreaded phone call from the front office. It says hey, Billy's in the office. I need you to come pick them up because of some entity Then, instead of automatically getting frustrated that I want you to really go in there and go, Okay, was there? Was there a trigger? Was there something that happened, because it can be a smell, it can be just someone that looks like somebody, it can be such little things that we don't know about. So besides the obvious of, you know, the family tree assignment, and just not feeling that, you know, if there's a grandfather day, and well, Billy doesn't have a grandfather, or grandmother or grand Grandparents Day, I should say, then, you know, just talk about that and recognize that and pull in a mentor. And those any assignment has anything to do with family, I think you just put a big umbrella around that and say, red flag red flag, and find ways to not just fix it, but to to integrate it the Belize, I think that's the biggest word I want to use on that answer is that it's not about resolving it, it's not about fixing it as well, okay, let's integrate it. Billy doesn't have connection with the grandparents or the parents. But how can I then help really talk through that? And then may we pull in our next door neighbor, who is kind of like a grandfather kind of like a grandmother? And have them be a part of that. So you want to adjust and modify, but don't do it in a way that is just to replace that person? You have to make sure you process the losses, not their, quote, real grandfather? Because that's what really feels but to say, No, I understand that. How about we do this and just for the meantime, as a temporary solution? And so I guess that's the way I would answer that question.
You know, and I'm thinking of some other potentially triggering, or particularly problematic type assignments that are there. So typical, what especially well, especially in the younger years, bring in baby pictures. Well, you may not have it number one adopted kids who are adopted in old age and have it right, foster children, they may have had pictures, but you as a foster parent don't have them. So there are some creative ways to, to work around that. Another thing that to be aware of as a foster parent, is to clue the teacher in as to what the child how the child refers to you that the teacher may well refer to you as a mom, or a dad. But the if the child doesn't perceive you and doesn't say your tax, she is not my mom, she is not my he is not my dad, that it's important for the teacher to know. Johnny calls us by our first name. And when he's referring to us, he refers to us as his caretakers are his foster parents are as helpers or whatever it is that the however you're doing it so the teacher can realize it did not refer to you in a way that that Johnny that just isn't it's not appropriate for for Susie. Right? Absolutely. Okay. Excellent. You know, we hear a lot right now. Or maybe it's because of where I'm at. But I hear a lot about trauma informed schools. From your perspective, what does that mean? And why is it important? is a huge question,
because that's all I do right now. And I'm so excited to be able to do that. I am working with schools to help them to recognize it. So many of our children just do not respond well to traditional behavioral approaches in the sense that it's really helping to understand connecting with students were through strong relationships. Understanding that it's not about the havior, so to speak, is really about regulation. And let me give you a little bit of understanding of that is that when we look at when we look at children from a regulatory lens, what we see then are two words I like to use is that and I use the word Billy Billy is just my coverall name for any child that has challenging behaviors. And so if we see Billy and Billy is acting appropriately, Billy is sitting still and focused. It's not the abilities being quote good. It's the ability is regulated and all of us have times in our lives hopefully that we are regulated like right now. I had breakfast I'm talking to you. I feel regulated by sitting this chair for three hours, I'm gonna get what I call dysregulated. And so when you see them Billy acting out, and being fidgety and being ornery and being non non compliant, disrespectful, again, all those words we can add on, then what I want us to see it's not just the behavior, but to go deeper and say why? Well, Billy is dysregulated Billy is not in a place of calm, really is not in a place that he feels grounded and ensued and calm. And so using those two words is a game changer for educators. I honestly I did a training here in Boulder a few years ago, and I had a 45 minute presentation and two of the words I used were those words and I really help the teachers to understand administration did to change our perspective. And I went back a year later, and I said, How's it going, and the vice principal said, everything has changed. I said, I was only here for 45 minutes, she said, we started to see that not from behavior, but from regulation. Because you see, if a child is acting out, and they're being disrespectful, and they're being nasty, and they're giving you the stink, die, you know, you automatically kind of get agitated, you get irritated, and your response back isn't very loving. But if you see that those behaviors are just a manifestation of a child who is dysregulated, it kind of says, Okay, well, then my role as the adult here is to help that child move from dysregulation to regulation. So helping them classrooms, to be able to build an environment, where children, when they start getting dysregulated, they have tools, they have strategies to be able to move their state, like just you and I talking here, you know, if I take a sip of my coffee, I'm going to be a little more regulated, if I take a deep breath, I'm going to be alone regulated, I have these coping mechanisms, but our kids don't have any of these, and especially our abilities is that they need a little bit more support around being able to find their balance finding or calm. So I would say, when looking at that trauma informed approach, or trauma form platform for schools, the two main things are looking at building strong relationships with students, and then helping to see students from more from a regulatory lens and helping them our students to be empowered to know if they're angry, not just to hit the person next to them, but how can they learn to ask for maybe a break, you know, to be able to go to the calm corner and be able to do it's just a relaxation before they go back to their desk. And so this is working on preschool all the way up to seniors in high school, of working with this approach. And it's really about teaching kids how to how to deal with stress, which is it's a lifelong part of that.
Yeah, absolutely. It sounds like it's shifting the perspective from this child is good or bad to this child is regulated or dysregulated. And if we, and that shift, it's because if our attitudes are different towards the child, good or bad or bad in particular, that we approach a child who is bad in a specific way, because we think that they can learn to be better. And that we can affect change by giving them a consequence, or punishing them or whatever, to make them better. But if we view what their struggles are as being unregulated, then we approach it differently. We help them get regulated as opposed to punishing them or imposing facts. Right. Yeah, that makes sense.
Let me let me add to that, because sometimes people misinterpret that and they're like, well, they need to be held accountable. So punishment is not accountability. Punishment is a fear based disconnect from relationship. It is about discipline, but discipline is to teach. And so I really advocate then for schools to have discipline and empowerment, meaning maybe that child does have after school detention because they did something that's the accountability part. But the discipline the teaching part, is that what happens in that after school detention, well, then they get together with the the person in charge, and you're they do they practice their social skills, they practice their regulatory skills, they they do some some talking and processing about how they're feeling they learned to express themselves through words rather than through behaviors. And so it's a different approach and making sure that we're giving our children new coping mechanisms aren't. Our kids have been through trauma and the situations that they've been through the behaviors that were modeled by some of the adults in their lives. That's all they know. And so then they're getting in trouble for it all they know. And then they don't know anything different to do they get in trouble again, you have this big cycle. So to break the cycle, is to definitely have accountability, but to have the teaching with relationship, and to horror children in a space where we can give them alternatives and to teach them what to do in those moments that they are getting very dysregulated. What can parents
do to help their school and their child's teacher become more trauma informed?
That's a great one. And sometimes, sometimes administration will listen. Sometimes they're kind of cut off from that. Sometimes teachers will listen, sometimes they won't listen. Yeah, I think that my my biggest strategy is actually what what I'm advocating in the schools for teachers to do is to build relationships. And so I want to sort of transfer that over to parents. What I want you to do then, if you're a parent, is to build relationship with your teachers, or your child's teacher or teachers and the administration. The more that you can build strong relationships and then you come in with a book or a handout or an idea. They're going to listen a little bit more. So if you get frustrated, and you're just reading active and you go in, you know, they're gonna put their fists up to, and then you're gonna be right back in a power struggle. So, you know, as a parent, I tell you, it was, it was a lot of work, I had to advocate for my children, I had to attend meetings where I was the only person surrounded by 15 to 20 other educators in that room. And I want parents to realize that listen, you have a voice Do not get intimidated, I've been there and I their first meeting I ever sat and I was like, shrinking down in my chair, because I was like, I'm, I just, I'm just a parent. And I have to excuse me, but hell no, I am the parent, because I know my child, and sort of walk in there with confidence. And the they may or may not listen to you. And but you, the more that you present yourself in a loving, connected, not aggressive, maybe assertive sometimes, but in a way that says, I'm here to help, I'm here to to collaborate, I am a team player, that is the best place to start. And then, of course, I'm biased, I would hand them my book, but
give us the name of your book
is the two that I working with the schools, the first one is called Help for Billy. And that, of course, is where the name really comes from. That's a very foundational understanding. It's simple read, it's a, I've had teachers, I think you I've had teachers write me back and say change everything about my classroom, we're giving them you know, the time to read, it's an audio book as well. And then the other one I that I just came out with during the pandemic is called Classroom one ad. And that book is all about creating a trauma informed classroom. And it gives much more of a, it's more of a manual with strategies and tools and how to evaluate yourself on how you're doing with that. So anyway, I would, and there's a lot of stuff on my website that parents can go and download, and just some basic articles, some basic concepts. There's some webinars on my website, as well. But I will say there's three things if you want to teach trauma informed. The first is what I talked about just now the the idea of regulation versus dysregulation. The second I talk about the window of stress tolerance, and that's unhealthy ability, just one chapter, you can just pull that chapter out. And it really is a visual to understand why our traditional children, the kids without any trauma versus ours, are going to be very different. It's simple visual. And then the third is understanding the brain science. Now, you don't need to have an in depth discussion on that. But there's an I don't want to go into the whole lesson on that. But there's basically three parts of the brain and when you're regulated, you are in the part of the brain that you can focus that you have good judgment that you can do sequential thinking that you can make good decisions, right or wrong decision. But then when children are dysregulated, they're in another part of the brain, which is the emotional brain. And that part of the brain is where we live in the next 15 seconds. Meaning that if I'm in that part of the brain, I don't care that my book report is due in a month from now, I don't care that I can't go to fun friday, because right now is all that matters. And so that part of the brain is guiding children who are dysregulated. And they don't think clearly in that part of the brain, they don't process language in that part of the brain. It that part of the brain is about win or lose. That's it, whatever it is. And so when you can understand the brain. So those three factors, I think, are really important when we're talking to educators to see those three parts. And that really starts making sense. That, okay, wow, I've had people kind of like that, like go home, you know, now that makes sense why this student can't be like the other student. There's there's, there's physiological factors, there's a brain issue going on here. There's a, there's a regulatory issue that's been compromised because of the trauma. And so it's not an excuse. It just really builds a deeper understanding and the ability then to not get so frustrated with our children, but you see them in the light and the reality in that heart center place that they really are.
Is this something you said earlier, I think is so important, is that I think there's a knee jerk reaction, oftentimes when we talk about trauma, or we talk about that, that our kids behaviors are impacted, is that it is easy to think that what we as parents are professionals are saying is that our kids are allowed to do whatever they want, that we're not asking for accountability. And I think that sometimes after when we're talking with teachers is acknowledging that that out front saying this is not what I'm saying. I'm not asking for my child to have no ramifications or no consequences for their action. What I'm saying is I want you to understand where that comes from, and what type of consequences would work and which ones simply aren't going to work and they may be the ones that you're used to using. But here are some examples of things that I know my child will respond well to, you know, so that we address their concern because it is a common one that we are. Well, we're helicopter parents are we are overprotective parents are we are, we don't have a clue what it's like to work with a group of, you know, 20 kids or 25 kids or whatever. So addressing their concerns upfront, and let them know that that's not what you're asking, can sometimes make them more receptive to what you are saying, because they feel like, okay, they're not asking me to do something that I just fundamentally don't believe in.
Right. And I think that the difference is that with our children, our children are not just learning how to behave and how to be socially appropriate. It goes deeper, our children are finding a way to heal. And so I always like using those words, it's not about changing behavior. It's about helping our children heal. And it's healing to learn to trust people, again, you know, our, every one of every single child that has been in foster care and has been in foster care has had an adult in their life hurt them as the bottom line. And it even adoption, even it's a birth, they've lost an adult in their life, like they've had this huge grieving experience. That's a challenge because it comes out as behavior. So if you treat it just as behavior, you're not giving that child a chance to find healing. And our kids don't trust adults, you can be I tell teachers, you can be Mother Teresa, you can be Gandhi, you can be Martin Luther King, Jr. and that child will not trust you. I don't care how nice and beautiful you mean, teacher the year, it's their perception, which is their reality. And so what we have to help is to guide them and love them through that, that struggle of coming back, to be able to trust again, they're so scared of getting hurt. And so that's why discipline does need to look a little bit different. Because if you give the traditional fear based discipline, you automatically set up this me against you scenario. And Billy's already coming in, in the class like that. And you know, I've had, I remember one teacher said that they had a child that's in foster care, the kid comes in the classroom with his hands on his hips and goes, you're not in charge me I am. So where do you learn that that's not something you learn from Barney, that is something you learn from your life experiences. So that obviously is a child that if you say, Well, yes, you are gonna respect me, I am a teacher, you're automatically setting yourself up for a bad year. So it's a matter of understanding. And you know, the other thing I wanted to add to that, is that I think is appropriate to make sure that our children have the accommodations that they need, is maybe our child does not qualify for an IEP plan. But do they qualify for a 504? I would say absolutely, yes. Every child, again, that has had impacted by has been impacted by trauma will qualify for a 504 advocate for that. A lot of schools don't want to do that. Because it's more work. It's more funding, and they don't have that they don't have especially now they're so short staffed. But you know, you go in there with support and you say, what can I do join the PTA do the things you can do on your end, just support and give back a little bit. But every child needs five or four. And I'll give you an example of my daughter that I just I think this speaks volumes to especially the teacher that she had. My child had my daughter she was I think this is about second or third grade. And she had a very, very hard time with homework, every time when she would come home and she would I mean, we would go through tantrums, we would go through pencils being broken, we'd have you know, paper printed up and thrown across the room. We would have chairs being thrown over a 10 minute assignment like four hours later, I'd be like, What is going on? And so I finally figured out and she finally took everything. I can't tell you the number of like interventions I tried. I finally went last night. I was laying in bed with her. I'm like waving the white flag as a parent. And I said, Honey, what is it? And she looked at me like I was like an alien. And she goes, Well, Mom, if I don't get my homework done just right. I won't go to fun friday. So her whole stress all week long was if I don't get my homework done, I won't go to fun friday. Now for again, your neurotypical child that's like incentive for her. It was like this big black cloud around her. It stressed her out so much that her brain just turned to mush, that the stress of not going to fun. Friday was so big. She couldn't focus on the paper. So I took a deep breath in that next day I went I visited with her teacher and I said look, I am asking for one accommodation for her. I'm not asking for anything else just as one please. I say can you take away the threat of not going to fun friday? I said listen, if she doesn't do our homework, I'll spend all weekend doing it. And you know what? I think that right so that he or she got her homework done every single night within like 10 minutes with, besides one night like, she never had the problem again. Hmm. And so I wasn't asking that all the kids not have that it just wasn't working for her. And thank goodness that she had a good relationship. She listened to me and it completely solved the problem.
Yeah, and and that, but you had to establish that that collaborative relationship from the beginning. And that hence why it's important to as much as possible to assume that the school cares about your child to assume that the teacher wants to work with you, and you vice versa want to work with them, so that when you ask for that, look, I realize that this is incentivizing for most kids, but for my kids, it's it's paralyzing. So can we just take that off? And let's see, let's see how things if she doesn't get her homework done, then we'll reassess. Yeah, exactly. If you are not a subscriber yet, to our monthly newsletter, please subscribe. It is a great resource, it's free. Once a month in your inbox, you can go to creating a family.org/newsletter to sign up, you will get our free downloadable guide. And it is parenting a child exposed to trauma when you do and then you will get our great content delivered right to your inbox monthly as well. You know, right now creating a family is in the process of creating trainings, a three part three session trainings for teachers on recognizing prenatal exposure, the impacts are children who may have been prenatally exposed, and then best practices for helping these kids thrive. And it made me when you were talking about the brain part. That's something that we certainly know that number one, we know that children who have had prenatal exposure to both alcohol and drugs, those it alcohol and drugs create brain damage, they altered the physical structure of the brain. The second thing we know is that children in foster care or in kinship care, as well as children international as in some domestic infant, have a significantly higher rate of prenatal exposure than the general population, particularly children in foster care, or kinship care. So let's talk about the ways how does this exposure, impact their education in time at school
is a huge impact. I actually was just in Northern California doing a visitation and a school's an alternative school. And I was talking to the principal and I would say probably 60 to 70% of those students had exactly what you're saying. And so they're at the alternative school because they it's just so hard to function in a mainstream classroom with so much stress, I think that we have to recognize it. I think stress is one of the biggest word to put on a day to day understanding of what that does to our children is that, especially as it's not just the drug and alcohol exposure, if you look at their the lifestyle that maybe the mother when she was pregnant, she was probably under obviously a lot of stress and the drugs and so you have a baby that has drug exposure, and then also a high exposure to cortisol, which is the stress hormone. And so you have a baby with baked and drugs and baked in Corazon. And so this is a child then that is just when they are born, they are revved up, they are charged up and their nervous system cannot handle huge amounts of stress. Well, school is very stressful from pre K all the way up to 12th grade. And, and so putting in some measures to understand how do we support this child to decrease their level of stress, don't expect this child developmentally to be on track. And what I mean by that is that if chronologically, the birth certificate says, Okay, this child is 12, I want you to back up developmentally and say, You know what, because of everything that's happened, especially because of the drug exposure, you probably have a child is maybe operating for years younger, and again, I just kind of pulled that number out of the air is gonna be different for every child, when there's going to be below, you're not going to have a 12 year old, you're gonna have a child that is well below that number. And so you want to then make sure that that child even though they might be in like seventh grade, they're like an eight year old, maybe they're like a nine year old. So you have to put in the supports because developmentally they're gonna be far behind. And they're not and as far as when we look at the brain, I correlate that to like a hard drive. And then a computer you basically have a hard drive that's got some sectors on the hard drive that are bad. And our children have to learn to compensate. They learn to lay new neural pathways they they are challenged because what comes naturally to one child to them, it's when they dropped onto that bad sector, the hard drive, they're not going to remember their memory is challenged. So I really recommend when the best things you can ask for And again, you may have been really advocate for this is that you get a very good psychological examination done. If you can do that with a, like a good neuro psych, you're going to have someone that can be able to test this child and really break down what parts of the brains are functioning, what parts of the brains are behind which parts are not, that need some help. What's really important, especially when our children before they hit the teenage years, is that if you can really have a good map of that brain, I mean, like a good psychological examination that is able to identify how that brain is functioning, you can put in some really good interventions, now is the time do not wait till later, I really recommend especially for our younger kids, that they have that done because you can then look to see how can we do the interventions that will then help to compensate for that part of the brain. Even if our children are teenagers, you can still do it, it's obviously a little bit harder. But the more interventions you can do the ones that are spot on for where that brain is operating. Now, the more you have the chance for that child to be able to build their functionality and when they are adults, so important when our brain is so malleable, and is still wiring new neural pathways that this is I just I could just go off and on this one because sometimes I see that the interventions aren't done. And they're like, No, we're just going to wait and see No, don't wait and see. I want to know how that brain is functioning. And then what are the interventions to compensate for the for the the areas that are lacking?
Excellent. Thank you so much, Heather Forbes, founder of the Beyond consequence Institute and author of help for ability and classroom 180 Thank you so much.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai