FOCUS on Foster Families - For Providers

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4. Overcoming tough emotions and being your own advocate


SESSION TIME: 60 minutes

  1. To introduce emotion regulation skills and coping when experiencing upsetting emotions
  2. To provide them with effective communication skills to be able to communicate with others in a non-defensive manner in order to get the support they need
Materials for the Participant’s Folder:

  • General welcome and facilitator introductions
  • Introduction of today’s topic on building trust and a secure attachment
  • If conducting in a group format, ask each member of the group to share the following:
    1. Name
    2. Children’s ages
    3. Are you fostering or adopting the children? If adopting, where are you at in the process?
    4. One parenting goal the group member has for today’s session (Note: The facilitator should give a few minutes to think about the goal before asking them to share)

Say: Being a foster (or adoptive) child can be challenging at times. The purpose of this group today is to help you manage these challenges as they come. We are going to start today with one challenge that many of you may have faced while in foster care – being moved around to multiple homes. Today we will hear from the perspective of other foster children who have shared similar experiences as you and learn how they have managed these experiences in order to reach their goals.    

  • SaySarah, a first year UCLA Bruin Guardian Academy student and foster youth, describes how moving from home to home can be difficult. Let’s watch this video together and see what Sarah has to say about her experiences.
  • AskWhat is it like hearing Sarah describe her experiences of moving? Do you relate to her experiences? Do you agree with what she had to say about it?
  • SaySarah had to move from home to home. When Sarah first found out she had to move, she may have experienced a range of emotions. This is a Feeling Thermometer. It provides a visual for identifying and communicating your emotions on a scale of comfortable (green) to uncomfortable (red).
  • AskLet’s brainstorm together some situations that would be in the green zone (yellow zone, orange zone, red zone). Ask participants to identify feelings words that are associated with the situation (e.g., if a participant says “I was in the orange zone when I got in a fight with my foster sister.” Write this on the Feeling Thermometer, then say “Great example. What’s a feeling that you were experiencing?” Provide examples if needed or use a feelings chart).
  • AskWhere do you think Sarah would be on the Feeling Thermometer when she found out she had to move? Where would you be on the Feeling Thermometer if you were Sarah? What are some of the feelings you would have?
  • SayWhen we are in the red zone, it is difficult to communicate to others what we are feeling. It is difficult to even understand what we are feeling because we are feeling SO many feelings! Sometimes all we see is red in the red zone!
  • AskIn order for us to advocate for ourselves and communicate with others, we need to bring ourselves to a calmer level on the thermometer – somewhere around yellow or orange. [Facilitator can provide personal example if necessary of a time they were in the red zone and couldn’t communicate with others so they had to find a way to bring themselves down to the yellow/orange zone]. What are small things you could do in the moment to bring yourself down the thermometer?
    • Examples include: Watch a funny video on Youtube, take a deep breath, look through pictures on my phone, listen to music, look out the window, take a break away from the situation
  • AskWhat are other things you could plan to do to help you feel better?
    • Examples include: Go for a hike, call your best friend, write in a journal, drink some hot chocolate, or eat some ice cream!
  • SayThis Getting to the Green handout includes things you could do to help bring yourself to the green zone. Sometimes we call these activities “self-care” activities. It is important to take time to figure out what things help us feel better and take care of ourselves. Take some time and look through this list. Circle the ideas you have already tried and put a star next to the ones you would like to try. Feel free to write in additional strategies as well.
  • AskWho would like to share one of the Getting to the Green strategies they would like to try this week? Let’s plan a day and time to make sure it happens!
  • SayIt can be difficult to describe to someone how you are feeling when you are in the orange or red zone. For example, when Sarah in the video told that she had to move, it may have been difficult for her to advocate for herself and her needs as she had to simultaneously process the news. Emotions can cloud our judgment and make it difficult for us to speak our truth. That’s why we talked about “Getting to Green” strategies today. Now you know things you could do in the moment to help you feel better. We also want to teach you communication skills so you can speak up for yourself and get the support you need.
  • SayThe Value of “I” Statements worksheet is a valuable tool that you can use to convey your message in a clear, non-defensive manner. When used properly, “I” statements help you communicate your needs and feelings without assigning blame, while also helping others understand your perspective.
  • Demonstrate: Here is an example of Sarah NOT using an “I” statement with her social worker after she found about the move.
    • Sarah: You are ruining my life by moving me around! You are the worst and I am so over this.
    • Ask: What could be improved? 
    • Ask: What do you think that was like for the social worker?
    • Ask: Do you think the social worker will help Sarah next time?
  • (Perhaps because it is the social worker’s job, but she may not have a good impression of Sarah because of her tone and attitude)
  • AskWhat do you think Sarah was trying to communicate?
  • Demonstrate: Here is a good example of how Sarah could express herself using “I” statements:
    • Sarah: I see that I have to move and I feel frustrated and sad by this news. I wish I had known this news earlier so I could have had more time to process it, but I trust that next time you [social worker] will give me more of a heads up if you can.
    • Ask: What did Sarah do right here?
    • Ask: What do you think that was like for the social worker?
    • Ask: Do you think the social worker will help Sarah next time?
  • Think, Pair, Share: Let’s pair up and practice “I” statements. Please identify alternative “I” statement Sarah could have used.
  • SayWe are going to wrap up today with an incredible message from Justin that sum up what we have learned today. Justin will discuss the importance speaking up for yourself in order to get the support you need. Now, with these skills, we hope that you can communicate your emotions and advocate for yourself.
  • AskWhat are your thoughts about Justin’s message? How do you think the skills we talked about today will help you be your own voice?
  • Remind the child of the key takeaways of this session:
    • There are moments in life that take us to the red zone, and it is important for us to find ways to bring ourselves down to the yellow/green zone in order to communicate effectively with others and get the support we need.
    • Strategies like hiking or listening to music seem mundane, but actually help us feel better when we are upset. Find out what works best for you and make sure to incorporate it into your weekly routine!
    • It is important to use “I” statements when communicating our needs to others because others will listen to us when we express ourselves in a non-defensive manner
    • Utilize the Feeling Thermometer, Getting to the Green, and The Value of “I” Statements in order to advocate for yourself
  • Ask the child to set and share a personal goal to practice during the next week
  • Ask the child to discuss one thing they will take away from today’s session