Life after “He’s Always Been My Son”

Janna Barkin is the proud mother of a transgender son, and a passionate transgender youth rights advocate. She writes regularly for the Huffington Post and on her personal blog, He’s Always Been My Son.  Here Janna talks about how her life has changed since her book published August 2017.  For more information or to purchase your copies, click here.

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


To learn about other books from our Gender Diversity list, click here.

You can also join our mailing list to learn more about forthcoming titles, just visit us at https://www.jkp.com/mailing

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

 

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

“Lap Therapy” Time by Beth Powell, LCSW

Beth Powell, LCSW, is owner of Beth Powell’s In-Family Services, an outpatient psychotherapy private practice specializing in trauma informed care. Her new book, Fun Games and Physical Activities to Help Heal Children Who Hurt publishes this month.

Bye-Bye Baby Bunting.

Daddy’s gone a hunting.

To catch a little rabbit skin,

To wrap his Baby Bunting in.

                                       Mother Goose

When I was a small child being cared for by my aunt, she sang this song while rocking me to a slow 60-beat-a-minute rhythm.  My aunt took over my care when my mother’s mental illness made it unsafe for my sister and me to be with her. What a contrast in care! My aunt’s rhythm, voice, words, touch, and smell were so much more soothing than my mother’s.  With my aunt, I could relax. I didn’t have to struggle to get away or dissociate into a floppy, non‑moving, barely breathing, pretending-to-be-dead little girl.  My aunt exuded safety and calm that soothed my restlessness.

Resting against my aunt’s chest, I felt the slow, consistent beat of her heart.  I relaxed into the protection of her arms wrapped gently around me.  Her voice, vibrating from her chest into my ears, awakened the proprioceptive neural impulses in my face that told me where I was in time and in space.  Grounding me with her body, she held me so I wouldn’t fall.  Wrapped in her loving arms, I felt safe enough to close my eyes.  The sweet smell of my aunt’s skin pleasured the lower, emotional center of my brain, enticing me to lie close and be still just a little bit longer.

The more my caregiver sang and rocked me, the more her song and her rhythm calmed and relaxed her.  As she calmed and relaxed, so did I.  We shared a pleasurable experience.  We connected in a happy, healing way.  My receptive language was developing.  Her words and touch assured me that there was someone much bigger and stronger than I was who had my best interests at heart.  She was unafraid and confident in her ability to nurture.  She put me first.  By her loving actions, she was forming a template in my brain of safety–security–protection–trust in a higher power through a concrete, much-bigger-than-myself human being.  The safety and security I felt in her arms paved the way for my future belief and faith in a loving, abstract, not-of-this-earth higher, heavenly power.

Adults create healthy, secure attachment in children through positive “real” non-virtual, physical interaction with them.  Caregivers are able to instill in children safety–security–protection–trust because loving, protective adults instilled it in them.  My birth mother couldn’t instill that in me.  But my aunt and uncle, my grandma, and my first‑grade teacher, Miss Beetles, could. They were the human caregiving angels God sent my way. Thus, in spite of the hard beginnings I had, the template was established, in childhood, for the “me” I am today because of caregivers like them who somehow understood what I needed and were able to provide it when I needed it.

Internalized safety–security–protection–trust is the base from which self-esteem, self-confidence, self-responsibility, self-strength, and altruism develop. It is the support upon which mature character or the internalized Fruit of the Spirit must build.  Without an internalized secure base, children develop anxiety and self-deception.  When a child has a secure base in childhood with positive attachment to a preferred, stable, protective, and physically present primary caregiver, then a healthy relationship with God, whom we cannot see, is much easier.

Insecurely attached and developmentally traumatized children often succumb to unhealthy control, anxiety, mistrust of those who love them, and abusive behaviors.  As adults they either become their own God (unhealthy narcissism) or they may find God in substances or toxic behaviors. Reversing unhealthy belief systems is difficult but not impossible. It’s work that is definitely not for the faint of heart, nor for parents who take a child’s antics personally, as if it is “them” whom the child is out to get by interpreting their“can’ts” as “won’ts.”

Therapeutic caregivers of hurting children seek the sources of the unpleasant symptoms that they see, and they address those sources from a psychological, neuro-behavioral, socio-emotional and spiritual growth perspective.  Children need to trust that adult caregivers can and will protect them.  This trumps any other socio-emotional need in childhood.  This is the base upon which the quality of the relationship with self, with others, and with God is built.  A child who has experienced significant neglect, abuse, loss, and chronic and acute stress has an even greater need for safety-security-protection-trust experiences with loving, mature, and stable adults.  They have a harder time developing trust because it has been broken, sometimes again and again.

Below is a therapeutic activity that caregivers can share and enjoy with the children in their care to help them establish an essential base of safety–security–protection–trust.

Caregiver–child rocking chair time to help calm brain and body

It’s not just about rocking infants any more.  Larger children who hurt can benefit from rocking, too.  And so can the caregiver.  This comforting act helps regulate children when they are fretting and need help regulating themselves.

It also provides caregiver–child quality “love and bonding” time.  How comforting rocking feels for both parties involved.  Caregivers can even rock themselves when they feel out of sorts, and it helps to re-set their brain.

Rocking caregivers should add a slowly-sung comforting song, hum something spiritually soothing, or just gently make a “shush” sound with their lips and tongue while taking slow, long, and deep breaths to not only better regulate themselves but to give the child something to match.   A regulated parent helps regulate a child.  The drawn out “shush” sound and the slow, rhythmic rocking replicates the sound and the movement the gestational infant at least should have received in utero.  This movement and sound helps the baby’s lower brain develop in a healthier way to better manage stress.  It also helps the older brain do the same.

Caregiver-initiated knee-bouncing games to help install rhythmic synchronicity and nurture trust in children

One of my favorite close times with the adults who loved and enjoyed me as a child was to “Go See Mr. Brown.”  I’m not sure where this knee-bouncing game originated, but it could have been passed down generationally through my South Mississippi maternal ancestors.

To perform this adult-activated activity, the child first sits, facing the adult, on the adult’s knees.  It’s important that the adult’s face and body language convey confidence and fun with lots of facial expression and eye contact.

The adult securely holds onto the child while the child securely holds onto the adult. Then the adult bounces the child slowly and consistently up and down on the knees in synchrony with the words and the 60-beat-a-minute rhythm of the following song:

Mr. Brown went to town

Riding a goat and leading a hound.

The hound barked; the goat jumped.

Threw Mr. Brown right down on a stump!

Surprise! The child does not tumble onto the floor.  Instead, the adult gently, slowly, and securely tilts the child backward as far as the child can comfortably tolerate without showing signs of anxiety and fear.  Then slowly, the adult returns the child to a sitting position on top of the knees.  The adult then asks the child, “Who kept you from falling on that stump?”  “You did!” is the desired answer.  “And I will every time!” can be the adult response.

As the child grows in trust that the adult performing the activity will keep him safe from falling, and will stop if the activity scares him, then the adult may gradually increase the speed and the depth to which the child is tilted back.  In the situation of a hyper-vestibular child (child fearful of too much movement), that may not be by much because the part of the brain which reads and adjusts to movement isn’t working as optimally as it should.  Heed the expression on the child’s face and take notice of resistance in the body to the tilting back movement.  Ask children if they are ready to tilt back.  Don’t force a child to tilt back farther than he or she is ready to go.  That doesn’t build safety-security-protection-trust.

“Lap therapy” time is supposed to be pleasurable and bonding.  It should be mutually enjoyable with lots of eye contact and joyful, loving facial expression on the part of the caregiver!

Autism: A Journey of Discovery as a Parent and Psychologist

Raelene Dundon is a parent, a psychologist and the author of  Talking with Your Child about Their Autism Diagnosis: A Guide for Parents. In this piece, Raelene tells her personal story of how she came to write this book, and what she hopes it will achieve. You can also read an edited extract from the book on our blog, here

Looking back on where this book really started, I would have to say that it was 10 years in the making. It was about 10 years ago that my son Aaron was diagnosed with Autism, and I was launched into a world of speech therapy, behavioural intervention, visual supports and questions – lots of questions.

parent autism

I was already a registered Psychologist at the time, and had been working with children with Autism and other developmental disabilities in an early intervention program in Melbourne, Australia. While with hindsight I can honestly say that my experience of being a parent to a child with Autism has been a challenging but overwhelmingly positive one, I can still remember the moment I was told that Aaron had Autism and my reaction was one I have since seen many other parents go through – fear, sadness, and confusion.

Continue reading

Our bodies’ hidden strengths – Resilience and love

This blog was written by Hidden Strength’s Children’s Series co-author C.C. Alicia Hu. The books are available November 21, 2017 for therapeutic use with children ages 4-10 who have experienced trauma or a frightening situation. Read more about each title and pre-order below:

How Little Coyote Found His Secret Strength

Bomji and Spotty’s Frightening Adventure

How Sprinkle the Pig Escaped the River of Tears

by C.C. Alicia Hu

Before we can say “no,” our legs kick and set boundaries.

Before we can say “more,” our hands pull and grab for what we need.

Reclaiming our bodies’ hidden strengths empowers all of us.

Nevertheless, in our modern society, we are often disconnected from our bodies. We turn our body-mind into a machine, like a “car” or a “computer,” so we can control or manage our self for performance enhancement. Maybe we “perform” well, yet, we pay a price.

In the field of psychiatry and psychotherapy, for a long time, we labeled many of the body’s innate defense strategies as “symptoms” or “problems” – our capacity to disconnect and dull the pain, a symptom of “dissociation.” Our ability to quiver and shake to discharge the muscle intensity is a sign of weakness or anxiety.

Bring our bodies’ hidden strengths to enhance our resilience

In the Hidden Strengths Therapeutic Storybooks, three intertwined stories and four major animal characters show how our bodies’ possess the hidden strengths to protect our self. In addition, three adult-like characters demonstrate how to provide companionship that won’t overwhelm the major animal characters’ vulnerable nervous system that resulted from traumatic stress.

In each book, after the therapeutic story, there are two sections designed to provide structural prompts for adults to engage in dialogue and exploration with the child. This “expressive phase” is the key to facilitating the child in communicating their own feelings and creating their own stories. What makes our books unique is that we include embodied play activities to help the child process the stories on the basic sensory-motor level.

Using the metaphorical animal characters for teens and adults

These stories are not only therapeutic tools for children ages 4 to 10. These stories can also be used as metaphors to communicate with teens and adults.

Last week, I was presenting part of the story, “Bomji and Spotty’s Frightening Adventure” at a local grassroots, peer-support recovery center. Adult audiences in recovery from mental illness and substance abuse intuitively got the idea that, inside, we are Bomji the Rabbit, who tend to freeze, as well as Spotty the Cat, who tends to fight.

One participant shared that “sit on ready” is an important coping skill in African American culture. The capacity to be vigilant without moving helped her to survive her childhood.

The metaphorical animal characters made it easy for teens and adults to develop compassion toward their inner child. As children, we oftentimes act without thinking like Spotty the Cat. We are still and invisible to avoid danger like Bomji the Rabbit. We cry like Sprinkle the Pig and we overwhelm our caregivers. We submit like Wimpy the Coyote in order to fly under the radar.

Love: self-compassion toward our hidden strengths

From children to teens to adults, one key element in recovery is to cultivate self-compassion. In the Hidden Strengths Therapeutic Storybooks, we hope to help all readers embrace their bodies’ hidden strengths as a way to enhance self-compassion.

Once, I shared a draft of Bomji the Rabbit and Spotty the Cat with a Vietnam veteran who still suffered from the shame of freezing and wanting to run away in a major battle. In reality, he successfully executed his duty; however, he had a hard time forgiving the “weak” part of him. Understanding that motionless defense (e.g., freeze and collapse) is just as natural and valuable as active defense (e.g., fight and flight) brought him a tremendous sense of relief.

Another time, I shared the same story with a teen girl who engaged in self-cutting as a way to cope with inner turbulence. She was able to identify how she also froze when her external environment became too overwhelming and out of control. She was then able to find her own metaphor for her own fearful, vulnerable part without engaging in blaming.

Helping the reader to accept all the different parts of themselves is what we want these books to achieve, through revelation of the development of self-compassion. Before we can accept our angry fighting part as well as our frozen fearful part, it is helpful if we start seeing these natural capacities as our bodies’ hidden strengths. The act of self-compassion includes recognizing the diverse, creative survival strategies in our bodies. Yes, we are fundamentally resilient, even when we are young and small. Our bodies have always possessed these hidden strengths!

For more information, author events, and to follow the Hidden Strengths Series, check out the authors’ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnneWestcottandAliciaHu/

 

 

 

 

EXTRACT – You Make Your Parents Super Happy!: A book about parents separating

You Make Your Parents Super Happy!

‘Hey! I think you should know that there is nothing your parents are more proud of… than YOU!’

You Make Your Parents Super Happy!, written and illustrated by Richy K Chandler, is a comforting graphic story that helps children whose parents are separating feel better. The book gently explains why some parents have to live in different places, and reminds the child how special they are to both parents, reassuring them that both parents will keep looking after them, and love them just as before.

Getting to the heart of what children need to hear in what can be a confusing time, the story lets your child know that they are loved and safe, and that this will not change. Ideal for children aged 3-7.

Click the link below to get a feel for the book.

Click here to read an extract from You Make Your Parents Super Happy!

You Make Your Parents Super Happy!


If you would like to read more extracts like this and get the latest news and offers on our children’s books, why not join our mailing list? We can send information by email or post as you prefer. You may also be interested in liking our Special Ed, PSHE and Early Years Resources Facebook page.

Sally Donovan reflects upon her journey as an adoptive parent and discusses adoption’s place in the future

adoption futureSally Donovan, bestselling author of No Matter What and The Unofficial Guide to Adoptive Parenting, recounts how her journey as an adoptive parent has changed and shaped her as an individual, and discusses adoption’s place in the future. Her article is taken from 30 Years of Social Change which gathers together over 30 leading thinkers from diverse disciplines to reflect upon how their fields of expertise have evolved during those years.

Thirty years ago, as Jessica Kingsley Publishers was being formed, I was 18 and about to embark on my first experience of parenting. After finishing sixth form college I took the Eurolines coach to Paris and started work as an au-pair for an Anglo-French couple. He was a floppy-haired British banker who had something of a blonde Hugh Grant about him and she was a beautiful Parisian who spoke English like Princess Diana. I lived with them in their rented house just off Place Charles de Gaulle and cared for their 1 year-old son Pascal. It was kind of normal back then to go to a foreign country, move in with people you knew virtually nothing about and, with no experience, look after their precious child. Continue reading

Video – What are continuing bonds and how can they be used to help bereaved parents through the grieving process?

Bereaved Parents and their Continuing BondsIn this video Catherine Seigal talks to Sue Nuttall about her book Bereaved Parents and their Continuing Bonds. For bereaved parents the development of a continuing bond with the child who has died is a key element in their grieving and in how they manage the future. Using her experience of working in a children’s hospital as a counsellor with bereaved parents, the author looks at how continuing bonds are formed, what facilitates and sustains them and what can undermine them. Using the words and experiences of these parents, and drawing on current theories of continuing bonds, this book offers insight into the many and varied ways grief is experienced and expressed and what is helpful and unhelpful. It is an original and valuable guide for both professionals and parents.

Watch the video on our YouTube channel.

Bereaved Parents and their Continuing Bonds: Love After Death by Catherine Seigal is out now. Order your copy from www.jkp.com.

For news about our books and authors, why not join our mailing list?

What is Theraplay® and how does it help children with attachment difficulties to connect with their parents and carers?

TheraplayVivien Norris and Helen Rodwell discuss what Theraplay is, how it works and why it is such an easy yet powerful tool for helping children with attachment difficulties to emotionally connect with their parents and carers. This extract is taken from their new book, Parenting with Theraplay®, and is preceded by a foreword from Dafna Lender, Programme Director of The Theraplay® Institute. Their book is a simple guide for parents which explains everything you need to know about Theraplay, with practical tips to apply it to everyday family life.

Click here to read the extract

If you would like to read more articles like Vivien and Helen’s and hear the latest news and offers on our Adoption and Fostering books, why not join our mailing list? We can send information by email or post as you prefer. You can unsubscribe at any time.