Public News Service
OMAHA, Neb. – October is Children’s Health Month, and with the new school year just underway, Nebraska Children’s Home Society is encouraging parents, teachers and communities across the state to take steps to improve children’s physical and mental health.
Briana Woodside, the society’s pregnancy, parenting and adoption program director, says wellness starts before children arrive, so her program’s first priority is to make sure expectant parents are connected to a health care provider.
“Making sure that they are seeking prenatal care, and that they have the supports in place to get to those regular doctor’s appointments; and that they’re making healthy choices, for themselves and for their child,” she explains.
The Children’s Home Society also offers pregnancy counseling to help new parents navigate difficult decisions and complex emotions, and to develop strong bonds with their child before and after the birth.
Woodside adds especially as children reach school age, it’s important to check in on how social relationships are going, and make sure kids feel supported when they’re struggling.
Children who experience loss – for example, by being separated from their birth families – can face challenges that include rejection, guilt, shame and grief.
Woodside says the society offers programs to support children in foster care and throughout the adoption process and adds it’s important for children to know that they are in charge when it comes to deciding when and how to tell their own stories.
“Adoption is private,” she states. “When you think about all of the pieces of their story, that’s their story.
“So it’s really important for them to have those tools and have all the information to know how to handle some of the questions or inquiries that might come from other people.”
Woodside explains adoption is just another way to form a family, and says Nebraska communities also have a role to play in maintaining children’s mental well-being.
To avoid assumptions that can make children feel singled out or isolated, she encourages people to learn more about how to support children touched by adoption, online at NCHS.org.