Life after “He’s Always Been My Son”

Since HE’S ALWAYS BEEN MY SON was released I have been traveling to promote my book, share my experiences of raising a transgender child, and educate about gender. During my travels I have had the pleasure of meeting the most wonderful people.

One family drove an hour to attend my book talk at a bookstore in Corte Madera. They had heard about the book and wanted to meet me. They sat in the front row. When it was book signing time they were among the first in line. The young man of the family was beaming through his bright blue eyes and a flashing wide smile as I signed his book and chatted with his mom. When I looked up at him he looked me right in the eye and said, “I’m transgender!”

He said this with such pride! I thanked him for telling me and his mom and I shared a glance, a “momma pride” glance, that made my eyes well up. (If the family I am talking about is reading this please contact me, I’d love to share a photo that someone took of us together at the book signing.)

I had a very different, but no less meaningful encounter at another book talk. Sadly, this was not a “feel-good moment” like the one I had shared with the prideful transgender boy. The person who approached me this time was clearly nervous and his voice was filled with emotion. He told me it was difficult for him to listen to my talk as he has always felt very confused in regards to gender. He said he had long wished that he didn’t have to be defined by gender—he just wanted to be a person. He said that while growing up he did not have any understanding of his inner feelings, and he wished that the world had been different. He was reticent to read my story as he felt it might be too upsetting to read about someone who was so lucky, someone such as my son who had the support and understanding needed to navigate his gender journey and transition at an early age.

I listened and offered support as best I could, but I could see that he was conflicted. Sometimes, even with all the best of intentions, people can feel left out. This person said he feels it might be too late for him to “go there” and explore his gender identity at this point in life. I suggested some books written by trans people who transitioned late in life, and also some written by people who have chosen not to transition. I acknowledged that each person’s journey is unique and I thanked him for taking the time to tell me his story. I hope that my listening helped him in some way.

This is why I do my work. I hope that sharing my family’s story and educating people about gender will lead to greater understanding and acceptance. And I hope that one day all transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people will feel supported, respected, and understood. May all beings be as comfortable and proud of their gender identity as my young friend with the big smile and bright eyes.

Janna Barkin

PDA Action Day – Positive PDA

PDA day

The PDA Society are encouraging everyone to mark today, 15th May, as PDA Day! The theme is ‘Positive PDA’ and in keeping with that, they’ll be focusing on success stories, recognising all those who are making great contributions to the PDA world, highlighting some of the positives of living with PDA and showcasing the accomplishments of adult PDAers. As well as this, you’re all invited to get involved by fundraising, sharing stories, or joining their peaceful protest.

We’re joining in by sharing some of the resources we’ve published over the years, and a sneak peek at what’s coming up throughout 2018. PDA has been a big focus for JKP this year, and will continue to be as more is learned and understood about the diagnosis, and more stories are shared. So, take a look through our old, new, and upcoming books on PDA.  Continue reading

Focusing on Children With an Incarcerated Parent by Judi Goozh and Sue Jeweler

Judi Goozh is a retired award-winning speech-language pathologist. Sue Jeweler is a retired award-winning, Who’s Who listed teacher. Judi and Sue were nominated for the 2013 White House “Champions of Change” award. Their books, Tell Me About When Moms and Dads Go To Jail and Tell Me About When Moms and Dads Come Home From Jail come out on May 21. For more information or to purchase your copies, click here.

Our educational experience taught us to “get to know the whole child” in our work.  As teachers, we found children struggling academically, socially or emotionally as a consequence of their family situations.  If there was a divorce or death or deployment, the school counselor always provided us with resources.  Unfortunately, there were no materials for children if they had an incarcerated parent.  Thus began our mission to create books that would support these children, their families, and the professionals who serve them.

Children, who are victims of their parent’s crimes, are often afraid and confused by the changes in their own lives.  Research showed us that children with an incarcerated parent are impacted socially (acting out behaviors, friendship problems, communication), emotionally (depression, anger, confusion, feelings of abandonment), and academically (attention, concentration, learning issues, poor grades).  We learned that on any given day more than 7 million children may have a parent in prison or jail or under parole or probation supervision and that, without effective intervention strategies, as many as 70 percent of children of incarcerated parents may become involved with the criminal justice system.  We also learned that parental incarceration is associated with a two-fold increase in risk for mental health problems in affected children and that multiple issues face families when the formerly incarcerated person returns home.

Our book, TELL ME ABOUT WHEN MOMS AND DADS GO TO JAIL, presents a scenario about a child who witnesses the arrest of a parent and includes questions that are asked by the child and answered throughout the process from arrest to incarceration.  The second book, TELL ME ABOUT WHEN MOMS AND DADS COME HOME FROM JAIL, tells a different story about a child who finds out his dad is arrested and, after spending time in jail, is coming back home.  The child has many questions about what will happen and, throughout the story, his questions are answered.   Even though the stories are about a child and his dad, the same story, questions, and answers are true for a child whose mom is arrested and, after spending time in jail, comes home.  Both books include activities for children and tips for parents and professionals on topics including: jail visitation guidelines, handling conflict, communication strategies, and a list of resources and further reading.

 

In addition to writing the books, we have given presentations to educators, counselors, psychologists, social workers, criminal justice personnel, pediatricians, child welfare personnel, foster parents, public librarians, and White House senior staff members.  We help audience members recognize the fact that they may have contact with children and families through their jobs but also as neighbors and even within their families.  Our message includes actions we all can take to make a difference for these children:

  • Re-think our own preconceived ideas and stereotypical attitudes about crime, the incarcerated parent, the family and the idea that the child will probably follow in this downward path.
  • Educate others.
  • Be compassionate.  Help break the cycle – do not assume nothing can be done.
  • Make sure that children who have an incarcerated parent are properly assessed and supported.
  • Give appropriate support during the initial period of adjustment and throughout the process of reunification.
  • Prompt open discussions with either the parent or the child in a safe, caring, and confidential way and have the child or parent talk about their experiences, and help them to deal with the emotions and consequences that follow incarceration.
  • Encourage the parent to come to the school to tell the counselor, the principal, the teacher or the case manager that his/her spouse has been arrested.  In addition, it is important to get the parent to give permission to talk to the child.
  • Encourage and investigate cross collaboration among different agencies in the community such as social service providers, pediatricians, and other mental health agencies.

It has been said, “A man’s family serves his time with him.” Our goal has been to build awareness and sensitivity to the situation that children of incarcerated parents find themselves in, through no fault of their own.

Visit our website to learn more about this issue and our work:

http://www.creativefamilyprojects.org

 

Fifteen Things They Forgot to Tell You About Autism

Co-editor of the not for profit parenting magazine, AuKids, Debby Elley has now written her first parenting guide, Fifteen Things They Forgot to Tell You About Autism: The Stuff That Transformed My Life as an Autism Parent. Here on our blog, she describes the book and its aims in her own words. 

I’ll let you into a secret. It’s not really fifteen things, it’s a lot more. My son Bobby calls it Fifteen Things YOU TOTALLY MISSED About Autism, but the thing is, you’d be forgiven for missing them. No-one tells you what it’s important to know. You sort of find out the hard way. That is, with time and effort and sometimes a few tears.

Fifteen Things… is the sort of book that I could only write having amassed a decent body of evidence from my own experience of raising twins. It’s now 12 years since they were diagnosed and I’m one of those parents who can look back with the benefit of hindsight and tell myself where I went wrong. That’s no fun at all, so I thought that I’d prefer instead to tell those at the beginning of this learning curve where they can go right.

Fifteen Things

Continue reading

How art therapy can help with children’s sleep patterns

art therapy children sleep patternsElitsa Velikova, the author of Art Therapy Cards for Children, writes about how art therapy can help with children’s sleep patterns and shares some ‘creative’ ideas on how to help little ones feel safe and secure before bedtime.

 

Nightmares BEFORE bedtime
by Elitsa Velikova

Mom is tired. She is thinking “one more hour and the children are going to bed”. Then she will finally have her cup of tea, spend time with her husband, talk to a friend or just switch off and relax.

 So, she helps her children brush their teeth, puts their pyjamas on, and off they go to bed ready for a bedtime story!
“Mom, can we please have one more story?”
“Mommy, can I have a glass of water?”
“Mom, I have to pee!”
And so on, until finally, an hour later, mom is sleeping in their beds, while they are still wide awake.

Why is falling asleep such a difficult task for many small children?
What can we do to help them feel relaxed and safe?

Many parents tend to lose their patience when their children start their demands when they are just about to fall asleep. They often think the child is on a mission to torture them, but what they might not realise is that the child can perceive sleep as a ‘separation’ from the parents and can consequently feel anxious. Continue reading