One of the questions we get a lot when we ask parents how they are doing on self-care is, "Where do I find someone qualified to watch my kids?"
In fact, this is probably the number one reason parents find it difficult to attend Parent Training events which they desperately need. Children from backgrounds of early harm have self-regulation and problem solving issues that are beyond what a typical teenage babysitter can handle.
In order to feel confident in the child-care providers you hire, we at Parent Intervention & Training recommend that you train your own in Trust-Based Relational Intervention. If you aren't familiar with this model, check out video at the end of this blog.
Once you've become skilled at Trust-Based Parenting, in order to stay emotionally healthy and able to implement it for the long haul, you will need some respite. Dr. Karyn Purvis often reminded us, "This is a marathon, not a sprint." Individual self-care and if married, time with your spouse, are vital to keeping your family sane. Safe, trusted adults to give you a break are a must.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
1) Start with adults you know such as church friends, teachers, counselors, or child-care providers. Ask who they know who might be interested in being trained to watch your child who has early risk factors. Be honest about the types of behaviors that are typical of your son or daughter, and explain that you will train them in a model with a high success rate.
2) If you are new to the area or don't know many people, some of our families have reached out to local colleges and talked with the psychology, counseling, and special education departments where you will find students with an interest in working with children with learning differences or emotional/behavioral challenges.
3) Once you've found someone, set them up for success by training them in the strategies that you've found to be most effective. I recommend that before they are left alone with your little (or big) ones, the child-care provider spend time with the kids while you are still there. Let him or her watch how you interact and the ways you empower, connect, and correct using the TBRI strategies. Having them there with you will help build a relationship and trust before you leave the children alone with them.
4) Be sure you emphasize that a harsh tone or punitive strategies will cause survival, fear-based responses and will increase behavioral escalation in your child. Teach them how to de-escalate a meltdown with calming strategies that you've found to be most helpful. Most children don't have the severity of meltdowns with a care-taker that they do with their parents, however, you want to err on the side of caution and preparation.
5) For large families or extremely high needs children, you will need to hire two adults. Let's face it, even Jesus sent the disciples out in twos and what we are asking of the child-care providers is often more than one qualified person can manage alone. I've trained some child-care providers from my church to babysit for adoptive families, and we felt sending them in pairs was also a protection for liability issues as some children with insecure attachment have been know to falsely accuse adults. Having a witness is a safety precaution.
6) In some cases, the "divide and conquer" method is necessary. Split the kids up and have them cared for in the adults' homes to reduce sibling issues or for children who require one-on-one care.
7) For overnight getaways or mini-vacations, some of our parents who attended our Parent Training Cruise last year used one child-care provider or relative for the day and someone else at night. This gives the workers a break and reduces the fatigue that can lead to more irritability in the adult - which the child will pick up on in a heartbeat! Children with early harm are hypervigilant and highly sensitive to feeling that someone is not happy with them. Shame drives a host of maladaptive behaviors, so it is important to practice felt-safety and being emotionally present with them.
Does this sound like a lot of preparation and expense? Yes, it is.
But... it is worth it!
My husband, Alan, and I quickly learned that on a hard parenting journey, we could train and pay on the preventative end or on the "train-wreck" end! We had quite a few train wrecks before we figured out that our effort and money was much better spent Pre- rather than POST! Medical and relational secondary effects of parenting a high-risk child are quite costly.
My prayer is that you will find trust-worthy people who can make your journey easier. I also hope that as churches promote adoption ministries, they will train competent adults to help meet the many and complex needs of the families who are bringing home children who've experienced tremendous loss and grief.
What have you found helpful in finding safe and qualified child-care?
Blessings on your journey,
P.S. Wanna join us for a Parent Training Mini Vacay? We're heading to the beautiful Rocky Mountains in Lake City, CO this July and would love for you to join us. Refer another couple who registers and SAVE $100 on your trip! ($50 for a single registration)
Also, we still have some scholarships available thanks to the generosity of great folks at Billy's Hope Fund/Miriam's Heart/Lifesong for Orphans.