Whole Child Connection Point Archive
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Developed by Whole Child Initiative, Connection Point is a newsletter designed to encourage and equip caregivers with resources to help them effectively care for the children in their lives.
Content created by Lauren Strickland, LICSW, PIP, Director of Whole Child Initiative
Caring for the Whole Child: Meeting Nutritional Needs
Our goal this year is to share more about the importance and impact of Whole Child’s core principle: The Whole Child. Each article will explore one area of development in the life of the whole child, which includes:
- Physical development
- Emotional development
- Social development
- Educational development
- Spiritual development
Children whose story includes adversity and trauma have particularly unique needs in all areas of their development – physical, emotional, social, educational, and spiritual. Each of these areas influences and is influenced by the other. The more insightfully we see the unique needs of our children, the more effectively we care for them.
As you may recall from January’s Connection Point, educational well-being is vital for academic success. Children who feel supported, safe, and connected are better able to learn and grow. Paying attention to and addressing each child’s unique needs better equips them for success both in the classroom and beyond.
This month, we’re addressing physical needs of children, centering our focus on nutrition. We’ll share some foundational concepts related to nutrition and trauma and provide a few strategies to ensure children’s nutritional needs are met while helping them to develop a healthy relationship with food.
We hope that as you reflect on each article this year, you will grow to see more clearly the unique needs of children in care and feel equipped with strategies to meet those needs insightfully and responsively.
As you look ahead to this new year, what are your hopes for the children in your life? How do you most want to see them grow in 2023?
Have you ever given much thought to how Jesus grew as a child? We don’t know much about our Savior’s childhood, but the Bible tells us Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52).
When we at Whole Child Initiative think of 2023, we are praying the children connected to this organization will grow like Jesus did — that God would bless them with knowledge as they learn in school and wisdom as they learn in life. We hope they grow strong physically as they learn to practice healthy habits. We hope they grow spiritually—coming to know Jesus more deeply than last year. We also hope they grow healthy, supportive relationships with peers and adults.
To sum it all up, we hope these children grow in faith, wisdom, and healthy relationships! We know you are praying for that, too.
We believe God has ordained every experience in the coming year to encourage and inspire growth in each of these areas. Every aspect of a child’s development (social, emotional, educational, physical, and spiritual) is interconnected. Each influences and is influenced by the other! Every experience in 2023 is an opportunity to help our children grow.
How do we, as the parents, teachers, and mentors of our children, ensure we make the most of the opportunities God gives us to help the children in our lives to grow in every way in the coming year?
God is working in the lives of children in every single stage and area of their development. It’s our job to find the evidence and connect the dots for our children. We cannot force growth this year, but we can ensure fertile soil for God to work in the everyday lives of our children. As 1 Corinthians 3:6 reminds us, we can plant and water the seeds—and trust God to bring growth!
We plant and water seeds when we meet each child’s unique needs with insight and compassion. Children’s needs are best understood and met in the context of a child’s whole story. To meet the needs of the children in our life, we must understand where they are coming from. We must seek to understand the life experiences they had prior to coming into our care and how those experiences shape their development, beliefs, and behaviors. Children whose story includes adversity and trauma have unique needs in each area of their lives: physical, emotional, social, educational, and spiritual. The more insightfully we see the unique needs of our children, the more effectively we care for them.
To help guide you to care for the children in your life this year, each Connection Point in 2023 will center on Whole Child Core Principle: The Whole Child. Each article will explore one area of development in the life of the whole child (physical, emotional, social, educational, and spiritual), consider unique needs, and provide tips and resources for meeting those needs insightfully.
This month’s Connection Point addresses educational needs of children in care. We’ll share some foundational concepts of educational well-being, and you’ll have the opportunity to hear from Whole Child Partner and Palmer Home Educational Specialist, Andre Crafford.
Find Grace. Give Thanks. Experience Joy this Thanksgiving.
The tattoo on my wrist reads, “Eucharisteo.” Recently, while in conversation with a 17-year-old girl, I was asked a familiar question, “What does that word on your wrist mean?” I told her that in Scripture, Eucharisteo is a word for thanksgiving. In Greek, it means “to be grateful, to feel thankful, to give thanks.” She listened, huffed sarcastically, and after a brief pause quietly said, “that’s hard.”
Yes, it can be.
Navigating difficult family relationships can be particularly challenging during Thanksgiving and Christmas, and this young woman had come to see me because of the immense anxiety she felt about the upcoming holiday season. Her story, like so many of the stories of the children we serve, is filled with hard things. Each day seems to deliver a new twist, turn, pain, or loss.
Feeling grateful and giving thanks while experiencing difficult circumstances is hard for all of us. This is why I love the word and wanted it tattooed on my wrist as a permanent reminder to “give thanks in all circumstances…” (1 Thess. 5:18).
Eucharisteo is used 39 times in Scripture. Each time it is used, we find people noticing evidence of God’s tangible grace and giving thanks to God in all sorts of situations, offering gratitude for His goodness, provision, and faithfulness in their lives.
What’s most meaningful to me about the word Eucharisteo are the two root words imbedded within it — charis, which means “grace” and chara, which means “joy.”
Eucharisteo: Thanksgiving. Grace. Joy.
Giving thanks for God’s grace each day brings joy. As people of faith, we know this to be true! Secular research on gratitude and good health supports this. Studies show that people who practice gratitude are less angry, anxious, and depressed. They have lower blood pressure and stronger immune systems. Thankful people are happier, healthier people.
Noticing goodness and giving thanks to God is good for the whole child, but for the children in our care, this may be especially challenging. Gratitude must be modeled and taught — it’s not innate. Children who have experienced harm or loss may struggle to identify the good things in their everyday lives. You may have to help them find evidence of God’s grace right in the middle of all the difficulty around them, and this might be a long process. Give them time to learn.
Thanksgiving is a perfect time to pause and reflect on God’s goodness in our own lives and help the children entrusted to us begin to see His goodness in their lives too. But it shouldn’t stop with this holiday! Ultimately, we want our children to learn from us how we believe God is faithful every day. We must first believe this ourselves to teach it to them!
Below are two simple ways you can help your children begin to grow in gratitude this month.
Actively show the children in your life what it means to notice and name the things in everyday life for which you are thankful. Express your gratitude for them! Live a life of thanksgiving in front of them.
Provide regular opportunities for children to name the people and things in their everyday lives for which they are thankful. Ask them why they feel thankful for those people and things. Build this practice into your family’s daily or weekly rhythm, perhaps at dinner time around the table or during a bedtime routine.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!
– Psalm 107:1-3
Whole Child is incredibly thankful for you! Thank you for partnering with us to bring hope and healing to children and familes. This holiday season, we pray that you find grace each day, give thanks for it and experience the kind of joy that only comes from the Lord.
Over the last year, we have had the awesome opportunity to train many new partners through Whole Child Initiative Training. We have been inspired by your desire to provide superior care to the children and families served by your organization.
In this feature of Connection Point, we would like to provide an in-depth look at Whole Child Initiative’s three core values and share a few simple strategies for each that will ensure children in your life feel safe with you, connected to you, and supported by you while in your care.
We hope this resource reminds you of your training, and that you will feel equipped and empowered as you continue to care well for the children in your life.
Blockbuster Family Time
The summer box office is known for its incredible lineup of new hits, favorite remakes, and highly anticipated sequels. This year is no exception with movies like Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Sonic 2, Jurassic World Dominion, Lightyear, Minions: The Rise of Gru, Thor: Love and Thunder, Top Gun: Maverick, and DC League of Super-Pets all hitting the big screen.
Blockbuster movies offer opportunities for blockbuster conversations with the children in our lives.
Good stories sweep us off to other places and periods in time. They challenge us to see the world and other people in new and different ways. Big ideas like love and faith, family and friendship, grief and loss, courage and fear, good and evil, and identity and purpose all come to life in a good story, creating opportunities for wonder, reflection, and life application.
Some of the most impactful conversations we have had with our son have unfolded following a good movie. In the months after the pandemic began, we realized the need to introduce a few new rituals into our family rhythm. We took a lot of jeep rides, played a lot of Monopoly, and watched a lot of movies!
Family Movie Night was one of our favorites. Over time, we introduced our son to a few of our favorite stories; The Lord of The Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and more recently, Harry Potter. Each of these stories — with their powerful plots and complex characters — brought about new questions, thoughts, and ideas to explore with him. They provided opportunities to revisit familiar questions, thoughts, and ideas in brand new ways. They also helped us to reinforce life lessons he was already learning off the screen.
Most all our Family Movie Night choices were books before they became blockbuster hits and some readers may wonder why we chose to watch, rather than to read them together when reading with our children is incredibly important!
As a mom of a dyslexic thinker, I understand how important reading is for children. We have learned however, that visual input often helps him to organize information immensely, freeing him up for reflection, conversation, and application in a way that words on a page often do not. So, we read a lot at our house. We also watch a lot of movies!
Whether reading or watching, every experience with our children provides an opportunity to connect relationally and teach them something about themselves, others, and the world around them. The key is intentionality. Watching movies together is fun and can even be powerful when we strategically lean into the movies we watch together; take those big screen ideas and explore them with our children to teach valuable lessons about relationships and life.
Where to Find Age Appropriate Movies for Kids & Families
Need some blockbuster movie ideas? Below is a list of sites to help you navigate movie choice according to age and stage of development, life situation and parental preference.
- Kids In Mind
- Parent Previews
- Plugged In
- Common Sense Media
- Christian Spotlight on Entertainment
As you consider what movies may be best for your family, keep in mind themes that may be uniquely difficult for children in out of home care, or for children who were adopted. Many great movies involve themes around family loss and consist of characters impacted by residential and foster care or adoption. It will be important to consider these themes and be prepared to navigate the questions and conversations that may surface following a particular movie.
To help you do so, we have included a list of discussion starters (adapted from CBOQ Children and Families) to help guide after-movie conversations. These questions will help to ensure Blockbuster conversations with the children in your life.
This summer, head for the theater on a hot day or grab a bucket of popcorn and a soft blanket, pile up on the couch and enjoy a good movie, together. Later, intentionally circle back and invite your child into meaningful conversation about the movie.
Listen first to learn about how your child experienced the movie. Get curious about their perspective on the characters, plot and big ideas; then impress important life lessons on your child’s heart, reinforce values, inspire hope, and instill courage. Help them to take the lessons you learn together from the big screen into their everyday lives.
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