Archive for the ‘Difficult Discussions’ Category

Reweaving Connection: Think Globally. Work Locally.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017 @ 04:10 PM
Author: admin

Reweaving Connection: Think Globally. Work LocallyReweaving connection…so much of life depends on our ability to accomplish this. Families built via adoption live this reality in a unique life-redefining way! We understand the effort and importance involved.

Whether a relationship breach exists between spouses (or significant others,) between/among friends or, among larger social groups like classrooms, offices, communities and countries, repair is an essential part of keeping relationships alive and healthy. Relationship repair takes work, requires accountability, cooperation and, commitment. It is challenging to admit we’ve messed up, fallen short or, failed. While not easy, it is worth it.

The many horrific weather events that have confronted the world recently, remind us that working together smooths the pathway to rebuilding damage. It is impossible to do it alone. We need every skill set. Every contribution is valuable. None of us can sit back and do nothing. Each of us can contribute something.

Sunday night in Las Vegas redefined ghastly. Evil.

When moral and social values completely collapse–as in the case of this massacre–we reel with shock, despair, anger and helplessness. However, we must not succumb to these emotions. Yes, they have their place and time. We must move beyond the outrage and DO SOMETHING. Channel the anger and frustration into productive directions.

Contemporary society focuses too much on difference, division, and viewing other people as obstacles to our goals and happiness. While practical steps are essential, we must recast the conversation of negativity, disrespect, hate and “othering.” We must upend this destructive paradigm and embrace a world view built on respect, cooperation, empathy and common purpose. We must resist petty distractions and focus on doing what is right instead of what is easy or comfortable.

Reweaving Connection: Think Globally. Work Locally.How can we become part of the solutions? Sending donations and writing checks certainly helps, but we must do more. The adage “Think globally. Work locally.” must guide us. Family is the most “local” place on which to focus our attention. Do an honest gut check about how well we are exemplifying and teaching our children our values. Then, expand our assessments into other layers of our lives: work/school, community, country, etc. Let us be brave enough to ask the hard questions and acknowledge the reality. This allows us to identify shortfalls or disappointments and then focus on creating the change we desire.

Here are a few questions to consider.

Do I practice the “Golden Rule?”

Do I speak and interact with respect?

Do I welcome and absorb feedback without arguing why it is wrong?

When I offer feedback, is it free of any hidden agenda or petty emotions?

Do I encourage and acknowledge the efforts of others without tacking on criticism?

Do I respect differing viewpoints?

Do I listen to understand without formulating a rebuttal?

When expressing my own viewpoints do I allow space for divergent positions?

Can I disagree without making it a personal attack on the other person?

Do I work to improve the inequities around me?

Do I feed conversations that inspire and encourage?

Do I disparage and complain, dismiss the struggles of others as their fault or not my concern?

Do I look beyond overt differences to see the common humanity of others?

Am I amplifying convesations that reinforce hate and anger?

Am I advancing conversations that build solutions instead of simply venting anger?

 

 

 

 

Money Talks: The Connection between Spending and Values

Thursday, February 2, 2017 @ 03:02 AM
Author: admin

Money Talks: What Is Yours Saying?Americans have a cultural belief: Money Talks. What is yours saying? How strong is the connection between our spending and our values?

After tracking your spending for a week–or more–what useful information emerged? Dissect the information with a Learning Eye. instead of a critical or judgmental one. Using this neutral approach reminds us to look for leverage points for change and to step away from any inclination to fault-find or judge. (Information is power–and our friend–when we allow it to be so.)

In today’s post we will consider several questions. We’ll examine the data that shows how our cash was actually spent versus how we’d assumed and/or intended. Get ready to discover “golden nuggets” to which we’ve been previously blind. (Imagine that.) So …

What did your spending over the last two weeks say? First, the appearance of a disparity between expectation and reality is neither a good or bad thing. It is simply information. So, if your chart reveals this kind of gap, the next step is to identify what drove the financial decision. Was it a response to an immediate but unexpected financial priority to which you intentionally appropriated money? Or, was it an impulse expenditure.

If the latter, dig deeper to identify what drove the choice: stress, hunger, time constraints, loneliness, pressure from family, friends or co-workers, community or world issues, etc. By identifying the reason, the leverage point for creating better decisions in the future becomes clear.

Money Talks: What Is Yours Saying?How well did it embody your Core Values? This can be a more challenging inference to accept. Has habit led us to spend money in a way that does not reflect our Core Values? Which spending choices revealed an abandonment or weakening of our values compass? Examine each choice separately. Get as clear a mental picture of the factors that occurred at the time you spent the money. List who was present. Recall your emotional state as well as any other details that you can. How did that group of factors make it easy to veer away from your values?

When the chart indicated that an expenditure aligned well with your values, ask the same questions as above. This will help identify the thoughts, circumstances and systems that help keep you aligned with your values.

What role did impulsivity play?  Let’s face it. Modern life is BUSY. We never seem to have sufficient time, energy or money. Sometimes it is easier to spend spontaneously without first calculating if it is prudent or not. Once we’ve noted the factors that led to spontaneous (un-Intentional) spending, we can use that awareness to decide with more Intention in the future. Revealing the specific influence opens the door to new strategies.

For example, daily stops at Starbucks can add up quickly. What is this expense accomplishing for you? Perhaps it a dash of needed self-indulgence. How else might that be accomplished in a less costly way that also aligns with your values? Or it might be a way of denying that money is tight because “It’s only a few bucks” so of course it’s okay. It could be a reflection of many possible factors, e.g. poor time management, unhealthy eating habits, hunger, or a behavior that is part of a group-identity. Whatever the reasons, they provide valuable insight. What opportunities for change did it highlight?

Money Talks: What Is Yours Saying?

To what extent did Intentionality govern your spending? Again, look at the factors and circumstances that supported your decision-making. Identify how you can create those factors more often. Note which relationships and circumstances support your values-based living as well as those which divert you. What can you do to moderate any negative influences in a way that honors your Core Values, yourself and your family? How can you avoid or limit the occasions that draw you off from your commitment to your values?

What will be your first action step in response to this exercise ?  How will it benefit your family? How will you involve the entire family in raising awareness of the connection between your Core Values and your spending habits?
Money Talks: What Is Yours Saying?

Adoption Stereotypes and Cultural Misperceptions

Wednesday, October 19, 2016 @ 03:10 PM
Author: admin

9c28f02d-ce00-4e72-9517-377fe0f8c1d9

How do cultural misperceptions and adoption stereotypes affect our children, ourselves as parents, and our family dynamics? When movies or books paint adoptees as a “bad seed” or unwanted inconvenience, how does it impact us emotionally and shape our relationships within our own families and beyond our inner circle out in our communities? When thoughtless folks ask demeaning questions it both shocks and offends us.

Let me set the stage. Like most adoptive families, we discussed adoption with our kids from an early age. They knew they’d been adopted. With the naive innocence of little ones, they’d absorbed the story with little appreciation of the complex realities of adoption that would evolve as they matured. They felt no need to hide their adoption. Their circle of friends and classmates all knew this fact about them.

Until…

Orphans, Adoption Stereotypes and Cultural Misperceptions bullyingI recall when my now-adult son reported being teased by his first-grade peers because he had a small birthmark on his face. His intense distress felt significant. I sensed this was a Big Deal Moment, not routine. When I pressed for more details, I learned his classmates asserted his birthmark resulted from his being abandoned by his birth mother (untrue) and left out on the street (untrue) where he became so dirty he could never become completely clean. Let me repeat that.

He. Could. Never. Become. Clean. 

The inference he drew left him feeling, dirty, inferior, rejected. In addition to any personal adoption-connected loss and grief issues the friends whom he had trusted with his story betrayed him in a way that cut deeply. He absorbed their words on several levels. Felt judged. Ugly. Rejected. Hurt. Othered.

For years we dealt with the fallout from this–and unfortunately many similar incidents. Like all bullying and mean-spirited words, they could not be  “unheard” and remained deep within his memory. Part of him feared this hateful message might be true.

Where had his “friends” picked up this message about adoption? At home? Through the media (TV, film, books)? By absorbing cultural myths about adoption? Regardless of the source, we had to deal with the fallout.

adoption is a family affairParents currently raising adopted children, what do your children’s friends and classmates believe and “know” about adoption? Their attitudes will determine how they will treat your kids. (Also, be aware of the attitudes and biases of extended family and friends. Unless you’ve educated them in adoption-attuned awareness, they will rely on what they subconsciously “know” from cultural messages and biases. Consider sharing Patricia Irwin Johnston’s book, Adoption Is A Family Affair.)

This raises another important caveat. How to  teach adopted children how to respond to these kinds of conversations. Parents must be pro-active and must not wait until a child has been blindsided by adoption-ignorant. bullying talk.

Explain that many people do not understand adoption and might question the real-ness of their family or might imply that adoption was their fault. (Unfortunately, kids are pre-disposed to believe this already. They assume something must be wrong with them because they can imagine no adequate reason for their birth mother to have opted not to raise them.)

Portrait of girl with finger over mouth

Teach kids the distinction between private and secret when it comes to their adoption. Remind them not to share the specific details of their history. Instead help them internalize a generalized response. Distinguish between private which is a boundary issue versus secret which implies shame.

Arm them with responses that enable them to feel strong, worthy and assertive. Practice so they can stand in a position of strength not vulnerability. For example,

Birth moms have adult problems that prevent them from raising any baby, etc.

My parents worked very hard to bring me home.

No, Miss Hannigan did not run my orphanage….

Sisters.FotoliaComp_71760083_JKiXLxv8FZf7nRxgAvzOLIdVV1Tks7z1_NW40If your adopted child has been affected by a classmate’s or friend’s comment, or even something on the news or TV, make sure you stay attune to his feeling and needs when you discuss this issue with him/her.  Let him/her express what they feel without adding your own feelings or outrage.  Validate their reactions. Avoid minimizing or intensifying them. Once they have completely expressed themselves, share your own reasons for your thoughts or positions without trying to persuade them. Simply offer your side of things with an eye to show as we discussed last week that multiple points of view can co-exist, be contradictory and be simultaneously true.

In summary, parents must be mindful of the media messages that your children encounter regarding adoption. Vet  films and books ahead of time so you can identify potential triggers. Talk, talk, talk about adoption when everyone is relaxed; don’t wait until it’s a “situation.”

gayle-swift-logoWriting to Connect reviews books through adoption-attuned lenses. Most of the titles are not directly about adoption. The intent for these reviews is to identify talking points from every day literature which naturally evolve into important adoption-related conversations. Find suggestions for books that contain a theme that might help you address specific issues with your adopted children.

adoption-at-the-moviesConsult resources like Adoption at the Movies  for tips on films that contain adoption themes or triggers.

Repairing Relationship Breaches

Wednesday, June 15, 2016 @ 02:06 PM
Author: admin

Illustration ScheidungWe all strive to get along well. But, conflict, breaches and breakdown inevitably touch every relationship. This is especially true within families, the home of our most intimate relationships. Here we are most deeply invested, most passionately committed, most thoroughly vulnerable and most frequently engaged. In the parent/child relationship, we add the extra pressure of loving and educating while simultaneously disciplining.

In our previous post we explored how parents might use our personal experiences of confronting challenges, developing strategies and handling obstacles as a teaching tool that our children can use as a template for their own lives. This post will focus on strategies to repair relationships after they have been breached, threatened or, damaged.

hands in heart.fotolia.gift1. Acknowledge that a break in relationship occurred.

Why is this important? If we say nothing, admit nothing, the entire family must engage in a game of denial. We reinforce family taboos, declare subjects off-limits and leave each family member to flounder on their own. With this approach no one wins. No one learns to do better. No one feels better.

Admittedly, some parents find it difficult even inconceivable to admit mistakes to their children. To them, such a confession is unthinkable, unappealing and/or unwise. Perhaps parents fear looking weak, ineffective, out of control. Perhaps parents believe that if they admit imperfections their children will cease to see them as worthy role models or will doubt their parents’ ability to steer the family ship through stormy waters and thus children might feel unsafe.

 

Committed to relationshipBut Intentional Parents do not buy into this line of thinking. They recognize the importance of truth in relationships. They own their failures and use them to better themselves and their families. Intentional Parents admit when they’ve erred; they and their families benefit from that honesty. The children benefit also from the parents’ expression of vulnerability, and will learn the vulnerability is not a weakness but a strength.

2. Deliver the acknowledgement with calm, and untainted by any attempt to minimize, deflect, or, project fault to others or circumstances. (A half-hearted, excuse-laden apology makes things worse not better.) How might this type of an acknowledgement sound?

Last night things got rather ugly…

3. Take ownership of your contribution to the breakdown

I said some hurtful things and doled out some disproportionate consequences…

I didn’t listen and just kept yelling…

I continued to argue long after any of us were rational enough to listen or compromise.

Notice that the statements reflect what I did, not what you made me do. Identify how you influenced the event–what you said or did. Include your non-verbal involvement: eye rolls, huffing and puffing, hands on hips, sneers, etc.

Let's talk4. Allow other family members to identify their parts in the breakdown. The challenge her is to resist telling them what their part in the breakdown was. For it to be meaningful, it’s got to come from inside themselves. They get to identify and own it using “I” language. Children may opt to remain mute, offended, parked firmly in the point of view that sees themselves as innocent and the parents as guilty. It takes time and practice for they are willing and feel safe enough to catalog their contribution to the breakdown.

5. Engage in solutions This is where parents express both their resolve to improve on their Intentionality, calmness and to better utilize their tools. Commit to calling a Time Out that gives all parties breathing space to calm down.

Revisit any consequences that were doled out in the heat of anger. We’ve all been there, engaged in a lunatic dance fueled by anger no one is rational. We furiously threatened that if they say/do one more thing we’ll double, triple the consequence. No one listened. No one benefited. No one backed down. No one learned to do do better, be better.

Keep in mind that the intent of discipline it to educate not to punish. Reassess consequences for fairness, proportion and appropriateness. Redraft them if appropriate. But distinguish between being a push over who gives in to whining and being willing to admit that anger clouded judgement. To avoid encouraging an expectation that consequences are always changeable, when making any adjustment clarify why.

If the children are old enough, let them partake in determining what the consequence should be.  Chances are, if you have made amends, their consequence could be similar, perhaps more stringent than yours.  You do not have to agree to it, consider it as an option. They will connect with their voice, gain practice in using it, and appreciate having it heard. What is important here is that the relationship is being repaired and you are taking steps in rebuilding it.

Oops! There Goes My Carefully Laid Plan

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 @ 02:04 PM
Author: admin

Family mother with children at burning house backgroundFor most of us the carefully wrought, precarious balance of our family systems depends on everything operating as expected. But what happens when an event smashes that equilibrium?  Last week I had a come-to-Jesus encounter with that kind of disruption.

I have mentioned previously that I care for my terminally ill spouse and I watch my eight-month-old grandson three days a week as well. These responsibilities are both a cherished privilege and require a great deal of time and energy. Don’t feel sorry for me; I’m a natural caregiver and truly find myself spiritually nourished when I am in service. My job is eminently flexible and allows me to fit everything in. Still, I do get tired, need some solo time and value my own priorities (like writing, coaching, advocating for better adoption practice, and spending time with friends and colleagues.) Sometimes accomplishing all of the pieces of my pie—my Have Tos as well as my Choose Tos—threatens to crash the entire system.

So when I had an unanticipated health event, reality tore down the fragile balance of the responsibilities I juggle. As I lay in bed, thoughts ricocheted through my head: Who can I call? Can the VNA send immediate round-the-clock help? What if I need to go the hospital? Would my DIL lose her job if she had no child care? I’m the healthy one, the hub of the wheel that keeps everything functioning.  Fear and worry careened my mind into many directions. I’m sure you can easily relate.

Fortunately the situation resolved positively. Once the crisis past, my daughter and I had a long overdue, Difficult Conversation of the highest order: What to do if... She now knows who to notify, who to call on for help, and how to pay for everything, etc.

Abstract design made of gears, clock elements, dials and dynamic swirly lines on the subject of scheduling, deadlines, progress, past, present and future

This made me think about parenting in adoption. Beyond the “normal” challenges of raising a family, working and sustaining a marriage (or significant-other partnership,) adoptive families have additional roles, relationships and challenges to juggle. We get used to handling mind-numbing stresses and living life as the ultimate roller coaster ride. But… What if you or your spouse suddenly got sick? If you totaled your car, lost your job, or one of your kiddoes came totally unglued, what emergency plan do you have?

I’m guessing that few of us have a really detailed blueprint of whom to call upon for help. Perhaps we have casual agreements: My sister would take the kids; My Mom would come and stay; Joe could carpool, etc. Are you and your spouse (partner,) on the same page? Have your resource people actually agreed? Or is your plan based on assumptions? And we all know where assumptions land us, right?

The middle of a crisis is the worst time to be scrambling for resources and the assistance that you need. Do yourself a favor and brainstorm with your partner now and persist until you’ve developed a specific plan. Have those Difficult Discussions; if there’s anything adoptive parents know, it is that life does not always go the way we plan. Actually, make that two plans: one for short-term problems and one for long-term. Be sure you have written things down. Have notarized permissions that allow others to access healthcare for your kids—and you—if you are unable to make those decisions. Compile a file that has their medical information, physician’s names, numbers, etc. Have a legally binding agreement that specifies who would care for your kids if something happened to you and/or your spouse (or partner.) What if neither of you could communicate?

While these events are unpleasant to confront, it is an act of love to ensure that you provide care and custody for your kids with people who would welcome and love them (as opposed to agreeing to it because they feel they “should.”) Review your plans periodically; people and their circumstances change. Your choices may have to be adjusted to reflect those changes.

take the first step concept:running person and arrow

Schedule that conversation.

Create the plans.

What’s your first step?

Take it.