Archive for the ‘Blogs by Gayle Swift’ Category

Some Questions Don’t Deserve Answers

Wednesday, July 18, 2018 @ 05:07 PM
Author: admin

All families need healthy boundaries, especially adoptive families because we encounter rude incursions into our private business with greater frequency than non-adopted families. People are curious about us, our bonds, our children and our “stories.” They yearn to know the inside scoop. And their interest is not always out of compassion. Sometimes people’s prurient curiosity seeks “dirt” not facts. Some people may have a genuine desire to understand how adoptive families are formed and how they grow to be a loving family unit but may fail to recognize how private and personal their questions are.

Regardless of their motives, when inquisitive folks ask questions they often pose them at inopportune moments or places and/or fail to consider if we would want to share the information they seek. Equally offensive, they may ask questions in front of our kids–questions that would be inappropriate or hurtful to discuss in our children’s presence.

We must train ourselves to remember this: some questions do not deserve an answer. They deserve only a return question: Why would you want to know? If we decide we want to respond, we should first get clarity on the questioner’s motives. Are they interested in becoming adoptive parents themselves? Or are they just nosey? There are times, places and people who are available to provide the information being sought. It isn’t always us, isn’t always at the moment they ask, and isn’t always information we care to share. AND THAT IS OKAY!  We have the right to withhold an answer. In some cases, we have an obligation to hold our personal boundary and decline to answer.

We must develop well-honed skills both in defining and holding boundaries. As Intentional Parents, we must model this skill so that our children can observe the process in action. Throughout their lives, they will encounter people who feel free to ask intrusive questions and/or offer them unsolicited and inappropriate advice. They must be taught how to respond in ways that preserve their privacy and their self-esteem.

So when someone asks us a personal question within earshot of our kids, treat it as a teaching moment. Imagine being on-stage at Carnegie Hall, spotlights aimed right on us. Think carefully about how and what we say and stay conscious not only of our words but also our tone and our body language. Each of these factors is an important element in our response and helps how it will be received. And it will color what our children will infer about our reply and how it reflects on them.

Although the children may appear to be unaware of the conversation, typically they are alert observers in such a situation. Feigning preoccupation with their own activity serves as camouflage for vigilant attention that takes note of the interaction in meticulous detail. This is our moment to demonstrate how to stand up for oneself, one’s privacy, and one’s boundaries. It can be done with courtesy and still be effective,

After the encounter, it’s essential we debrief our children. Make sure they understood what happened and why we responded the way we did. Point up how the person violated a boundary of common courtesy. Teach the distinction between private and secret. We should share private information only with those whom we trust and whom we know will respect and honor our trust. We don’t give personal information to strangers or casual acquaintances. Share details only with those who meet both the trustworthy test and who also have a genuine need to know. Our children’s information belongs to them; be very, very certain that this person needs to know it. Once shared, the information cannot ever be “unheard.”

Avoid telling children information is secret. This suggests it must be hidden because it is shameful. Adoptees are predisposed to feel shame about being adopted; they don’t need another reason to feel it. Labelling information as secret also teaches kids that it is okay to keep secrets. We don’t want either of these outcomes.

Children tend to think from a self-oriented point of view. In adopted children, this commonly results in their falsely believe that somehow they caused their adoption. So it is vital to ensure that children realize that any annoyance we displayed toward a rude questioner was aimed at that person and that it is not the children’s fault in any way.

It is vital that we never allow our need to please others or avoid awkwardness and confrontations to bully us into answering inappropriate answers. Rude questions deserve a response that clearly holds our personal boundaries. We can be pleasant and still be assertive, confident caretakers of our family’s boundaries and personal information.

Teaching our children how and why they should stand up for themselves is an important life skill. It molds them into compassionate people who respect others and who are capable of standing up for right instead of remaining mute in the face of bullying of themselves or others. Courage is something that benefits from practice. Acting with courage in the small moments of life help prepare and strengthen us for life’s big challenges.

https://wp.me/p4r2GC-20Y

Fireflies, S’mores and Star-filled Skies: Making Family Memories

Wednesday, July 11, 2018 @ 01:07 PM
Author: admin

fireflies-smores-and-star-filled-skies-making-family-memoriesAs adherents of Adoption-attunement, we believe that having fun together as a family is an integral factor in building successful connection and attachment. It is far too easy to get hyper-focused on the education and discipline aspect of parenting and to lose sight of the priority fun needs to serve. Summer offers a perfect time for reprioritizing our focus.

Ensure that the memories your family shares include far more happy times than times of anger and disconnection.

How can we best bring joy into our daily family life? Get outdoors! We all know that spending time in nature benefits us in both body and spirit. Children crave being outside curling their bare toes in the sand, digging in the mud, climbing trees and running with the sheer pleasure of being alive.

fireflies-smores-and-star-filled-skies-making-family-memoriesIf ultra-high temperatures dissuade you from getting out, why not try some twilight of after-dark activities? Remember the delight of catching fireflies? Here are just a few ideas:

Spread a blanket and admire the stars.

Have a picnic supper.

Set out a dessert bar and indulge. Let kids pile on the ingredients. (Resume healthier eating on the next day.)

Make s’mores, play squirt gun or flashlight tag.

Take a night-hike around the neighborhood.

fireflies-smores-and-star-filled-skies-making-family-memories

Dig deep into your own childhood memories and rediscover the simple activities you loved to share with your family and then update them for your own kids.

Please share your ideas and family traditions so we can all have more fun being family.

https://wp.me/p4r2GC-20E

 

 

The Emotional Connection between Speaking and Listening

Wednesday, June 27, 2018 @ 12:06 PM
Author: admin

the-emotional-connection-between-speaking-and-listeningEven without a caption, we can infer that the dad in this photo clearly wants his son to listen. This graphic explodes with emotion. Negative energy stirs within ourselves as we look at it. It awakens memories of similar conversations where emotion overwhelmed reason. We can hear our own personal “inner” soundtrack replaying the audio from our own experiences.

When yelling occurs, it supersedes communicating. Both persons involved in the “conversation” feel overwhelmed, angry and “injured” to some degree. Neither is listening. Resentment and anger amplify; each person focuses on the righteousness of his own position. This hyper-focus tends to negate or invalidate the opposing viewpoint. When emotion hijacks* our intellect, little or no communication occurs.

Effective communication requires mutual respect and openness.

As Intentional parents, we will want to practice ways to ratchet down emotionally charged conversations. Develop strategies for addressing frustration and anger in the moment. These skills take time and practice to master!

We must regularly remind ourselves of this intention. Save the earnest discussions for times when parents and children are not in meltdown.

the-emotional-connection-between-speaking-and-listening

The second photo, on the other hand, conveys the polar opposite emotional content from the first. Both father and son appear engaged and attentive to one another. They are emotionally open and available to hold a meaningful conversation. For most of us, the picture triggers personal memories of feeling heard and validated. It is in these types of interactions that communication and connection occur.

The point of this post holds true for all of our conversations, not only those between parent and child.

How will you use the insight gained from this blog to help you improve your communication at home and out in the broader world?

https://wp.me/p4r2GC-20k

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51MkFTvog0L._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
*For more information about emotional hijacking, read Daniel Goleman’s seminal book, Emotional Intelligence

Notice and Narrate Instead of Offering Praise

Tuesday, June 12, 2018 @ 04:06 PM
Author: admin

Notice-Narrate-instead-Offering-Praise-I-love-you-ritualsAttention is the currency of human connection. We all yearn to be noticed, to be seen for our authentic selves. It’s human nature. As parents, we regularly experience our children’s desire for us to look their way. Watch me, Mommy! Look at me, Daddy! Sometimes their need for attention can feel like an insatiable hunger. Effective parents recognize attention-giving as an effective parenting tool. They utilize their children’s need for attention by heaping attention on desirable behaviors and by ignoring behaviors they wish to extinguish.

Unfortunately, the need for attention can devolve into a desperate need for approval. Kids can fall into the habit of excessive approval-seeking. Self-satisfaction, the pride of accomplishment, the pleasure of learning all can fall victim to the over-weaning need for approval. How can Intentional Parents avert this undesirable result?

Imagine our child calls out for our attention. This requires us to pause what we’ve been doing, note their action and make them the focus of our attention. If we do this, we’ll fulfill their need to be seen. This will enable us to make a connection by spending something far more valuable than money: our extremely valuable “undivided-attention currency.” Their goal to feel “seen” will be filled.

What results accrue to our side of the equation? What benefit will we get? Is it the one we truly want?

If we constantly offer attention that has a judgment attached–either positive or negative–we’ll vest our kids on obtaining our approval and/or avoiding our disapproval. They will perform for us. But is that the true goal of our parenting?

Don’t we really want them to mature into self-motivated thinkers, who will follow family values, make choices and engage in action because it is what they perceive as the “right” thing to do based on their own internalized, moral compass?

We believe there’s a better way of expressing our attention, a way that helps kids feel noticed without “addicting” them to praise. Dr. Becky Bailey, originator of the Conscious Discipline theory and author of several books offers many practical and emotionally positive strategies. Although her main focus is the classroom, parents and caregivers can learn a lot from her strategies. She suggests that adults notice or narrate without adding an element of judgment or praise.

Instead of I think you did a great job!

say, You worked and worked until you finished it! 

Instead of, I love it! It’s an amazing Lego© construction!

say, You spent a lot of time working on that!

Instead of,  That’s a terrific drawing! It’s a…house, right?

say, You used lots of color in that drawing; tell me about it.

Instead of,  I’m proud that you helped Michael.”

say, You noticed Michael needed help and you helped him. In our family, we all try to help.

Feel the difference between the two sets of comments. Notice that the focus is on the child not on adult opinion or evaluation. The narrator-style comments still provided the child with the attention he sought. They centered on traits the adult wishes to nurture or help the child notice about themselves. Each time they have a noticing experience, these values and traits become more deeply internalized.

Psychotherapist Linda Graham, MFT., reminds us that,

“The brain learns from experience always and it learns best when those experiences are little and often.”

With this method, our attention focuses on reinforcing their skill sets and inner qualities. It’s about what we see and what they think. And we do want them to be thinkers. And tryers, creators, practitioners of our family values. Big distinction. Kids who are overly invested in praise and approval, fall into a pattern of doing things only when they have an audience. Or, the corollary of this, they become sneaky and only observe the rules when they think they might get caught. Some develop an inability to make decisions because they’re overly focused on approval or other people’s opinions instead of their own inner moral compass.

Being able to trust themselves, to learn good decision-making skills and to engage in life as a “learning Conversation.” It helps kids build internal resilience because they know parental approval and acceptance are not conditional.

As a grandmother who has the opportunity to care for my grandson several days each week, I have had the opportunity to observe the power of this shift in adult/child interaction. It is stunning. I can also say, that turning off the autopilot of praise is challenging but so worth the effort. Changing deeply ingrained habits takes effort and persistence.

I love it when I ask him, “Who’s a tryer? A helper? A hard worker?” and he names himself in reply followed by the names of the rest of our family. Barely three and he has internalized the belief that he belongs to a family that values effort and compassion!

Intentional narration offers another teaching strategy: add a soundtrack to your own efforts. It’s a great way to correct a common misconception that kids have about adults: that life is effortless for their parents, that they don’t have to work hard at things, that they are magically proficient at stuff, etc. So how might this sound? Here are some examples:

Daddy is going to school tonight. Even though he’s tired, he’s going to learn how to do his job better.

I don’t know how to do that, so I’m reading this book to learn.

I want to feel healthy, so I’m doing my yoga practice every day.

I’m learning ______, so I need to practice it every day.

This task is hard. I’m going to keep working at it until I figure it out.

In this family, we help other so I’m watching Susan while her mother goes to the doctor.

In this family, we always try, so I’m going to try again.

Those are just a few ideas. When we allow kids a peek into the times that we are being persistent, determined, tackling stuff even though it is hard, we offer them an observable model from which they can learn.

 

 

 

 

Interested in learning more about Dr. Bailey’s work?

Check out other titles on her website

 

Admitting Hard Realities and Holding Difficult Conversations

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 @ 07:05 PM
Author: admin

Admitting Hard Realities and Holding Difficult ConversationsThose of us touched by adoption understand what it is like to feel “othered” or different. Many of us have adopted transracially and therefore, have a particular interest in ensuring equality for all. We get a closer look at the impact of racism, bias, micro-aggressions, and invalidation that happen to our families. Current events awaken us to the tragic inequities and actual dangers which threaten our kids. We recognize another sad but very real truth:, our children experience a more intimate relationship with the consequences of racism when they are outside of the sheltering protection of being with their white families.

We want to support, prepare and protect our children. To do that, we need to know what is happening in their lives and we need to talk about it. Yet for a variety of reasons, they may not be entirely forthcoming about the challenges they face in this arena. Perhaps it makes the ugliness too real. Perhaps, they want to forestall our worrying, perhaps they feel diminished by even giving the topic voice, perhaps they fear we won’t “get” it–some, or all of these factors may be true.

It is absolutely essential that we have the difficult conversation, talk about the dangers, the unfairness, the cruelty and the small-mindedness that drive bigotry. We cannot afford to wait for our kids to raise the subject. It’s too vital and too dangerous to postpone or ignore. Yet, as parents, we know how notoriously difficult it can be to get kids to open up. So, what can we do?

Our children are products of the internet era. Why not

Use kids’ preference for, & comfort with, all things tech? Suggest watching this video together (Hey, I saw this on Facebook and wondered what you thought of it?) Then talk about it. 

Click To Tweet

Read this companion article by Erin Canty who “grew up black in a very white neighborhood in a very white city in a very white state.” Erin says it captures her experience quite well. Titled, 7 Things Black People Want Their Well-meaning White Friends to Know to Know posted on UpWorthy. I don’t know if she is an adoptee. Perhaps she is. Perhaps she isn’t. However, her post is very relevant in any racially-diverse family whether formed through biology or adoption.

https://wp.me/p4r2GC-1Zh