The holidays can bring stress to any family. But when children with behavioral or mental health issues are involved, the challenge is on a whole different level.
Connie Kroksh understands that well. She's a mother to two teenage girls, whom she and her husband took in as foster children at the ages of five and seven. They adopted their girls three years later and have loved them as their own ever since.
"(But) they've had some struggles which have caused some family struggles," she said of the girls, now 15 and 18.
"I always try to push my luck with things. It's kind of a limit testing,” admitted 15-year-old Melody.
The problems tend to get worse during long school breaks. "Anytime there are extra people around or just extra activities, sometimes if you're out of your normal routine, that can throw kids off,” said Kroksh.
Stephen Bauer, Program Director for Nebraska Family Support Network said this is a difficult time of year for families dealing with mental health or behavioral issues. And there are some warning signs of trouble brewing. "Just kind of nitpicking with things that are going on in the house, siblings, arguing with each other,” he said, “general defiance." He encourages parents to call on professional resources to help them through the trying times, and to learn how to better diffuse situations before they escalate.
Through Nebraska Family Support Network, families can learn about resources available or attend support group meetings with other parents who are struggling with the same types of issues. Services out of their office, just north of Dodge on 35th Street, are free.
One thing parents can do right now to help ease the strain of the holidays and having too much free time, is to schedule activities to fill the void. It may be a winter camp at a local museum or the zoo, or it could be something more functional like cleaning house or shopping.
Making it visual, Bauer said, by writing ideas on a calendar, will help give children something to look forward to. "A large part of it is talk to your kids because kids will have ideas on what they want to do."
What Melody said helps her get back on track, is, "just knowing that i have parents who care and who take care of me." It’s unconditional love, patience and support.
Kroksh said her family couldn’t do it without the help of outside resources, like Nebraska Family Support Network. “Don't be afraid to ask,” she said, “because we can't always do it on our own."
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