The purpose of our “Caregiver speaks” space is to remind, you as a relative caregiver, to stay connected to your needs and personal wishes. I have been given this opportunity to speak about the experience of being a kinship parent and describe what I did to keep going in spite of. I want share ideas to uplift, perhaps give direction in your struggle as you be this specialized parent and still have a satisfying life for yourself.
And to this end, I will be sharing my experiences and the lessons learned as a Relative caregiver. Having been one for 31 years.
I call it specialized parenting, cause it is parenting for the second time. And, because we make the choice to become a parent to a child, be it one from our family or that of a friend. We take them in, to include their needs amongst those we are already doing our best to satisfy. It being our wish to keep them with us, and not be sent away into the system. We bring them in most times unaware of the trauma they may have gone thru. We desire to heal, to protect them from harm. At times not knowing how, when our attempts are met with angry uncooperative reactions. We commit our hearts, our energy to the life of this child, in our way promising to be there as a parent for them… for life.
Yes, being a relative caregiver does reward us with great satisfaction. But the joy I speak of, the joy I learned of, is the satisfaction felt at time spent doing what I enjoyed. This is the replenishment of the spirit of “keep on keepin on.” In my experience I have found, if I maintained what gave me joy, I remained alright. For example…
In very year before I got the kids, I had signed up for fall classes at City College. I was going to fulfill my dream of being an entertainer and a fashion stylist. I signed up to take Ballet and Tap, a beginning acting class, and a fashion image consulting class. The classes were to start in September, the children were mine in August.
This is a dilemma, I believe, we all find ourselves in at the time of that decision in some way or other. How do we continue what we are already doing? Follow thru on some future plan we had, such as a vacation, or even retirement. Learning while we do, what we must do to include the needs of the children? Can we do both? And, it’s usually our plans which get sacrificed.
So, it was for me at the time. I soon had to give up my job, too. I laugh at that now. It was to have been my pension job. I had worked mostly part time most of my life and Time had come and I had to decide to get a full time job with a pension which is why I found myself behind the desk at the DMV. Yes, the DMV. That was my income life insurance policy.
Before I got the kids, I had been working there for three years and was in a space, where I had the time to go to school, so off I went to register. Ten days before school started, I became what is called today a relative caregiver. My son and his wife arrested. I had a 5 day old infant, an 11 month infant, a two year old toddler, and an 8 year old.
Oh, of course, at first, someone volunteered to help. That lasted for a week. I was desperate. Without help, I began to question how was I gon do this? Or, what had I got myself into? Could I continue to work? How was I going to manage an income?
Now, without income or support. Family members still in shock, unable to come to my aid. I imagine, while deciding and agreeing to the permanency of kinship parenting, and all that means and comes to mean, those questions have arose for you, too.
I decided I couldn’t do it, meaning continue to work. My office manager was at kind enough to let me take a leave. Even to work some weekends. But as I lived the life I had chosen, I knew I could not do it all. Well there I was without my dream and without a job. What could I do? After my savings were gone, I became a needy payee. I was on welfare. Thank goodness for the foster care check. We managed.
Then, the Grandparents Who Care, entered my life. This was before it was called Kinship. I found support. I learned of ways to work within the system to find the assistance I needed. I was given the encouragement to become an advocate for the children and myself. In the group I found other women doing what I was and who understood, who listened to me and who told me, in my first meeting, when I began to cry, “It’s alright to cry.” “Go on and cry.” Those words are why I am with the kinship program today.
You see, whether it be known, our support group, “Grandparents Who Care” became the national model and it has transformed itself into the Kinship program. Making our needs known and meet was not an easy process. It began as we spoke to lawmakers in Sacramento, urging them to create the necessary legislation which would recognize our need the support as we cared for children, who would have gone into the system.
We spoke to the social services and helped them to define the kind of program and services which would serve our needs. We wanted them to understand we represented another kind of need for support. We wanted to get them to see the role we were playing and how it was affected us. We wanted to show them how by accepting our grandchildren it was also helping them.
Being a member of the group, gave me the courage to move out of my comfort zone. By doing so, I was able to find the opportunities for them. Scholarships to private schools, free summer camps.
The program for Kin taking care of Kin has changed over the years and I’ve been a part of as it changed. What was Grandparents Who Care, has become what is now called Relative Caregivers. No longer just grandmothers, but sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and at time just friends of the family.
This gives me the historical recall to determine what I learned and how I used it to cope. This is my wish to share. The key to remaining strong and resilient is the importance of maintaining self-attention. It’s “the what” I continue to do for myself. The life about me I can maintain.
By that I mean those activities and enjoyments you have always enjoyed, before you became a kinship caregiver. Those you can continue doing in spite of the additional responsibility. Yes, sometimes, as I have found, when we do take that time, someone or something, may go undone, someone may feel neglected. I had to learn how to find a balance between that caregiver I am and the care I give to myself.
There were times I was up to it and there came times I wasn’t. You see being a member of the group, gave me the courage to move out of my comfort zone. Each week I could go to the meeting and hear how others were coping and then share how I was not coping. This group of sisters, was a gift of healing. It kept me strong in my faith… believing in me…”I can do this.”
As, I look back at those times and their consequences, like most of us, I tended to focus on the results with unwanted outcome. This focus left me on my case feeling I was not meeting their needs. Now that they are grown I see I left out those which created confidence and self-awareness within them.
Because I have raised my grandchildren and can look back, if I could have comforted myself in some way, I would have said to myself, “Lois, you can only do want you can do.” And for me not to be on my case, thinking, I was not all I thought I needed to be. I would have said to myself, “Think about what all you are doing and who you are doing it for.” I would have check out their results to evaluate, the outcome and the effects my efforts. To decide which will have my best interests in mind, too. I would have asked myself, “Are you still doing what brings you joy?” “What are you doing to replenish the energy you are giving out?”
I would have paid more attention to how I was managing my personal health and wellbeing. I would have remembered to grieved my lost my lost too. Recognizing the lost I felt too, I would have given myself the space. Living with the consequences of not allowing myself to take the time for myself. As I look back, as I made the decision, I would have insisted, I take into consideration, the reality of my lifestyle, of my health, my financial status and my personal state of mind, when I accepted this challenge. Not that I would have not made the same decision. I would have been more compassionate with myself.
So, the bottom-line lesson, I learned is as I parented my grandchildren… I must remember to take care of me too.
This brings us back to the reason for “Caregiver Speaks.” It acts as a reminder to think of ourselves as we parent. To remember we must not put off doing what maintains our well- being, doing what brings us joy as we care for our family. We need a feeling of personal achievement. A smile inside just for ourselves.
Just what is stress anyway????
There are check in questions we use to start our caregiver meetings and the question this month was:
“Besides spanking, what are some of the ways you discipline your kinship children?”
We, facilitators asked ourselves, if a new caregiver asked this question of us, how would, we answer. We decided it was important to start with a foundation which outlined family rules and household expectations. These are our ideas answers.
1.Explain your house rules on day one, along with their consequences. Make sure they are simple and directed toward the infraction. Allow them to ask questions and may be suggest changes which will accommodate them, also.
2.Be consistent about the rules and consequences. Refuse to give into face to face opposition. Remain the parent doing your job…preparing them to be responsible for choices they make and for the resulting consequences.
3.Come to know each child as an individual. This will determine the expectations you will have of the child and those you have for yourself.
4.Accept you may need to update parenting skills. Ways to parent a traumatized child. Ways to parent as the traumatized person you are too.
5.Put into practice ways to include the child in the household decision making process. Maybe to include them in the what, it takes to maintain their home and their responsibility in it.
We would say to any new kinship parent, put in place an expectation of behavior and of cooperation in the beginning, they will help you manage any future stress, which comes with parenting a kinship child.
My Hello to you the Kinship Caregiver from Caregiver Speaks...
In the last month I have been given several opportunities to talk about what Kinship is. So, I thought I would write down my thoughts to share.
Taking in and personally caring for a family member or friend’s child.
Making them a part of your personal family. Giving them the same love and attention you would give your own.
Making a commitment to what feels like and which sometimes becomes, a life-long responsibility for their well-being.
Kinship is another word for what began as the support group, “Grandparents Who Care”. A support group for grandmothers who stepped up to be there for their grandchildren. The name has since changed to Relative Caregiver, which now includes all relatives, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and sometimes just friends of the family.
What does it mean to be a Relative Caregiver?
It means I stepped up, when my heart heard the voice of the child.
I went took them in my arms, into my heart and brought them home with me.
It comes as a willing sacrifice.
I am altering my life to include this child.
I am accepting these new responsibilities which comes with caring for this child.
I put aside myself, again to raise a child.
I remember my moment.
Both parents unable to parent. I sat with the children of my son along with the ones he had accepted to be a father too. That night I promised them, ‘I would take care of you and that everything going to be alright.” It was a scary moment because, in reality, I did not know how, but I knew somehow I would. My mind was alive with ideas of what I could do to make that promise come true, along with my willingness to do them.
To say you will, your intentions do not always match, with what you must handle in order to keep promise made. Like they say "Life gets in the way." Finances change. Your health comes to be a factor. Support is not always there. Children come to you angry and resentful. Somehow seemingly to blame you for the failure of the parents. With them, slow to and sometimes, not able to recognize the difference, it is hard to take at times. We can't always find a solution that will ease the pain they act out and that we feel ourselves. And then there may come a time, we will sometimes throw up our hands and want to give up. Those times do pass and regardless, we learn love and faith can conquer despair and frustration. So as Kinship parents, despite the changes and the emotional obstacles, we keep on keeping on.
This is then is what Kinship is to me: a love that keeps on keeping on.
It’s called Resilience.
Resilience …Is the strength of spirit to recover from adversity.
When we experience disappointment, loss, or tragedy, we find the hope and courage to carry on. Humor lightens the load when it seems too heavy. We overcome obstacles by tapping into our deep well of faith and endurance. At times of loss, we come together for comfort. We grieve and then move on. We create new memories. We discern the learning that can come from hardship. We don’t cower in the face of challenge. We engage fully in the dance of life.
Be Blessed. Stay Strong. Say to yourself...
"I am doing the best I can. I cannot be all things to all people all the time.
Be grateful give yourself recognition for each time you...pick yourself up and keep doing."
I am looking forward to our conversations this year, as we practice what it takes to be a parent, a caregiver and still make sure we take care of ourselves at the same time. Our conversations will range from ways to establish and maintain our health, our personal lives, to those possible parenting issues that come up from time to time. Becoming aware of those habits, those strengths we use to get what we do done. And still find ways to give ourselves time, space and peace.
I want to start off this year with what the New Year has come to mean. It’s the time when we all look at ourselves and find something we want to change. We make promises to ourselves that are called resolutions. I thought about this process and realized I rarely followed thru on these promises and promised myself I would not put myself thru it this time.
I came across the suggestion to pick a word which symbolizes an action I want to take and let it become my intention for the year. This seemed like a good idea. I want to share it with you.
By choosing this word, all I would have to do, would be to give it my full attention. Being persistent and acting on what it would take to make it happen. After thought and consideration I came to my word. It is… Rest.
I want you to come with me as I learn what this will mean for me. Discovering what I have to do to make this happen for me? And just has I have, pick a word for yourself so that we can travel this road together. As we share our obstacles, we will also support each with our own overcomes.
Now I had decided to REST, I had to define it for myself. I actually had an experience which showed me what it is for me. One day, I was caught in conflict over whether or not I would stop to rest even as my body was telling me, “I need to rest.” “But you got so much to do” my mind told me. As the reality of what was happening to me physically, slapped me on the side of my head, I heard myself tell me, “Girl, sit down and rest.” And I sat down. I rested.
In time as I thought it thru, I have come to see what Rest is for me…
“It’s When You Stop to Take the Time
to Do What’s Best for You at the Time.”
Therefore it is not just a physical happening. It can be something in any area of life, which is keeping me from acting in my best interests.
So in my way I made my list of what comes to my mind to put to rest. I will share it with you.
… I will no longer fix.
… I will no longer jump to solve without request.
… I will stop rescuing.
…those who can fix, solve, or rescue themselves.
These behaviors I will put to rest.
I have come to see these choices I make which are sometimes not in my best interest, are habits to be put to rest, as I learn to put my body and mind to rest too.
So I encourage you to try this way of setting a goal for the year. Pick a word which represent the action you want to achieve this year. Once chosen simply do it each time you have a chance to. Keep in mind change takes time and we will have those times of live thru.
Till next time
Thoughts to use on our journey to strengthen our resilience.
First: YOU DO YOU!!! Or is it…” I will do me.”
Become comfortable with doing what you think is best for you.
Every day our life changes. Changes happen because of the choices we make, good and bad. Change happens, of which we have no control. Those are the changes that can sometime leave us feeling hopeless. But we cannot give up on hope.
Hope is like a tree. The tree will bend but it never falls. It holds on to its roots and stands firm against the storm. Like a tree our hope lies in the roots of hope, the foundation of faith within ourselves and in our fellow man we have. In this storm of uncertainty, let’s attach ourselves, like the tree, to these roots and hold on. Bending, swaying, losing a limb or two, but never breaking never failing. Hope keeps us whole, keeps us from breaking under the pressure of these times.
So, when I find myself saying to myself…”I do not know how I will survive with so much stress in my life.” When searching for an answer to take away the hopelessness, I become strong when I say to myself…” I will maintain hope. I won’t lose it. I will not give into pain, anger or fear. I will hold onto it. Hope helps me when nothing is left. With hope I can survive also strive. It frees me. Hope is the word which saves me, keeps my journey in life anew.
Hope is a word that speaks to my belief in me and in my fellow man. Hope gives me the inner strength to carry on! So, I will not leave hope behind no matter where I find myself. I will keep hope alive for myself for that is the only way for me to live.” Lois.
To begin our new year of creating a Wellness program we are going to pay attention to our strengths. strength we all have within us. If we didn’t we could not be doing what we do…raising children for parents who are unable to parent at this time. This commitment takes what we call being strong, which by another name, is called Resilience.
Resilience is Our Strength We Use to Overcome
- Cope well with high levels of ongoing disruptive change
See it in you. Accept its presence within yourself as you give witness to its results. Become aware of how you use it to get over and to get by.
Be grateful for the times when those around you, who watch you do what you do, remind you by saying to you, “You are strong.”
Resilience then is just you being stronger than the situations, by not letting those day to day happenings overwhelm, take over your state of mind, causing you to neglect the what there
is for you to do to keep you and yours going. Its when you just keep on keeping on regardless.
We are continuing our conversation about creating our own self-peace. We will need the tools and techniques to maintain our self-peace once we have connected to it. The first tool I suggested was the creation of an organized mind and its importance in keeping us aware of our world and our efforts to keep it together. Those efforts make to provide ourselves with some ease as we live day to day. How have you done? Have you come up with your own definition of what is self-peace for you? Have comments or suggestions, please share.
This next the tool I want to suggest is…paying attention to our “self-talk.” Self-talk is about what we say to ourselves about ourselves. Self-talk is powerful because we use it as a window by which to hear and see what we are saying to ourselves, as we react to what happens to us day to day.
There is a technique I call “Just Noticing.” It’s a method we can use to find out just how we are talking about ourselves. It’s paying attention to what is happening to us and anyone else involved because of what we are saying or have said. It’s listening to what is being said to us, by us and about us. It’s being aware of what is done by you and to you and “the” what you do and are doing about it.”
It’s catching yourself “do what you do” “act like you act” “say what you say” in response to what you are going through and with who at the time. And, then taking the time to listen to hear what you are saying to yourself and saying to others about it as we choose to respond. Noticing does not mean “you have to make changes”. It simply means becoming aware of your words as you speak and what they mean in order to know what needs changing and if you want to change it. Keep in mind to change is a choice.
I want to challenge you to listen to yourself during the month of January. Listen to hear, for how you talk to yourself and about yourself. Listen for the words you use. Pay attention, also to your tone of voice as you speak. And if you would, share your experience with us so that we may all grow from our shared experiences.
I want to thank all of you who were able to attend our "Family Resource Day" on last Saturday. We had a marvelous time exchanging resources and stories. While in conversation sharing these stories we realized the need and the importance of the support you can give to each other.
And, for those of you who were unable to attend, I want say we missed you, but want you to continue to remember, we are here to support you. And, when you cannot attend the events. Use our website, ikinship.org to keep in touch with what is going on, to seek assistance and to give feedback to us as a way to help us improve.
I particularly would like us to begin building a conversation via “Caregiver Speaks” the caregiver’s part of the ikinship.org website. It is there as an additional way of support for you. Where we can share ideas, ask for support in areas we are not sure about, and bring up topics you need to know more about…for example parenting skills. I know it’s been slow in its development, but it is well on its way now. I will be looking forward to our chats.
I, do wish to encourage you to attend our events. As a caregiver I can remember the feeling of "it’s one more thing to do and I just don't have it in me to get myself there." Sometimes it seems easier to sit home and feeling to just deal with it alone. Letting opportunities to support ourselves pass by. But, doing this does nothing but cause us to become more and more isolated, having little or no adult conversation or acknowledgement. Can leave you feeling all alone and unsupported.
I want to share with you, this feeling did not leave me until I started attending the support group, where I was able to share my "everyday" with others who were going through the same "everyday". The burden seemed to lighten once I walked out of my first "Grandparents Who Care," support group. When I left I knew I was not alone. Someone had understood my pain and encouraged me to “keep keeping on”. That was in 1989 and maybe the kind of support group needed for Kinship Caregivers as we are called today, has changed, but the need for it hasn't.
Again, I encourage you to come out and meet your fellow Kinship Caregivers, living in your community build a support system for yourselves. Above all keep in mind these events are for you. They are reminders of how important it is to take care of yourself and they are, also there to help you strengthen your ability to be the best parent you can be as you manage your family through these difficult times.
The one question we did discuss and where would like to include your input...
What services would be most beneficial to you and your children? Please let us know so we can be even more supportive of you in the way you need.
Till next time.
Hello Kinship Caregivers! This week I have a message about trying to keep everything as peaceful for ourselves as we can. Yes, no matter what is going on around us we can try and keep ourselves peaceful. As a caregiver I had to remember this lesson as I dealt with schools, jobs, courts, and other things. Here are some things that I do: 1) Appreciate myself every morning. 2) Make a daily to do list 3) Say no to things that will over extend me or to things that someone else can or should be responsible for 4) Do something healthy everyday 5) Tell my grandchildren that they are beautiful and I love them 5) Call a friend 6) Give my grandchildren chores to do.
If you have some things that you do feel free to give me a call or send me an email and I will put them up.
Have a blessed day, Lois.
Welcome to this space for relative caregivers. Please say hello and tell us something about yourself. Where do you live? How many kin children are you caring for and anything else you'd like to share?
Welcome to Kinship Wellness Forum. This month let's talk about how an organized mind leads to peace of mind. An organized mind is important to caregivers because it puts you in touch with everything that's going on in your life. It helps you recognize that you are the center of everything that's happening in your world. It helps you recognize where you should put your energy and not focus on those things you cannot control.
Peace of mind is the absence of mental stress and anxiety, a state of mental and emotional calmness with no worries, fears or stress. The mind is quiet and you can experience sense of happiness and freedom. The question is how to bring more peace of mind in our lives and how to experience it in times of difficulties.
Peace of mind is found as the self-satisfaction you find in what you do and how you live your life to include you. We all have our ways of achieving peace of mind. Share yours with us. Please comment below and let me know how you achieve peace mind for yourself and if you have any advice or words of wisdom of all of us.
My name is Lois Kincy and as an experienced relative caregiver I facilitate groups, circles and trainings for other relative caregivers. I've been down that road already, and though it is a joyous road, sometimes us travelers need support from each other.