Archive for the ‘General Discussion’ Category

Walking in Our Children’s Shoes

Wednesday, March 7, 2018 @ 01:03 PM
Author: admin
Walking in Our Children’s Shoes.hunger to knowDuring the previous two weeks, we focused on building relationships by intentionally scheduling conversations with the sole purpose of speaking the deep feelings in our hearts. Instead of relying on the assumption that our families “know” how we feel about them, we committed to speaking those feelings aloud.
This week let’s take a different angle on relationship building. We challenge you to stroll down Adoption Lane with one twist: Answer 7 “trigger” questions from “curious” (rude) people as if YOU were an adoptee. Consider only one question per day. Sit with the question; Do not give an autoresponse reply. Really think about it throughout the day. Determine how fully you can answer each one. What is known/unknown? What is knowable/unknowable?
Answer “trigger” questions as if YOU were an adoptee. Consider only one question per day. Sit with the question; Do not give an autoresponse reply. Really think about it throughout the day. Determine how fully you can answer each one. What is known/unknown? What is knowable/unknowable?
What kind of parental support would you want? What might you be tempted to conceal from your folks? Determine what else would you need to now. What else would you want to know? What else would you fear to know? What would you want your parents to know about your attempt to reply to the “trigger” questions?
What kind of parental support would you want? What might you be tempted to conceal from your folks? What would you want your parents to know about your attempt to reply to the “trigger” questions? What would tempt you to hide your struggle?
What will you do with the insight you gain through this exercise? What actions will you take? What conversations will you initiate? How did this exercise deepen your understanding of your child’s need for information and empathy?
Daily Question
Day One: A friend tells you her mom has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her grandmother died of breast cancer at age fifty. You’re sixteen and were adopted after being abandoned as a newborn. What is your response to her? Within yourself? How does it make you feel about yourself?
Day Two: A new teammate asked if you have any brothers and sisters. In your adoptive family, you are an only child.
Day Three A “friend” comments that you look enough like your boyfriend that you could be brother and sister. How do you reply? How does it make you feel?
Day Four: You were adopted internationally. During a discussion about immigration policy in your Civics, someone asks, “What are you?”
Day Five: An acquaintance asks how you would know if you might be dating a relative.
Day Six:  Your Health class teacher assigned your class their turn with the “Robot Baby.” (A mechanical doll that simulates the behavior of an infant. Students are graded on the quality of parental care they deliver over an entire weekend.)  A classmate asks what you know about your birth parents and why they didn’t want you.
Day Seven:  Your adoptive parents and your brothers (their biological children) are all exceptionally tall. You barely reach five feet. You are their only daughter. You overhear someone “joke” to your parents about how they had to “resort” to adoption to get a girl. How do you feel? What do you say?

Changing Intentions, Changing Behavior: An Uphill Climb

Wednesday, February 28, 2018 @ 05:02 PM
Author: admin

Changing Intentions, Changing Behavior: An Uphill ClimbLast week we challenged you to set time aside to have deeply connected and vulnerable conversations with the people you love. We titled it “Before It Is Too Late.”  Our intent was to encourage some positive change regarding the mood of negativity, anger and, violence in America. We believe we must focus on connection as a prime priority.

Creating genuine feelings of belonging and connectedness are the solution to anger and isolation, not the after-effect.

A loving relationship is the soil from which our family bonds grow. We plant the seeds of trust, caring, forgiveness and, acceptance. The growth process takes time and attentive nurturing.

Change of this magnitude requires a combination of intention, commitment and, execution. It is definitely an uphill climb that demands persistence, powering through failure, forgiveness, encouragement and, acknowledgment of every tiny increment of success.

So … back to last week’s challenge. Did you actually make time to have the conversation in which you told them you love them? How many times did you do? if not, what distractions, habits and behavioral patterns got in your way? Pause for a moment to listen to your inner dialogue as you considered the previous questions. How “accountable” were you? What rationale (excuses?) did you invoke to justify not taking the time for the challenge?

Step back. Now ask yourself, if a spouse, friend, coworker or, child used similar reasons for not following through on a Big Intention would you call “baloney” on them? Would you think it but not share the thought?

Now imagine yourself as the “listener” hearing your reasons for not acting on your intention. Do the words ring true? Great. How can you overcome those obstacles to create a different outcome this week? What are you willing to do to make sure you make the time to connect? What reminders might serve your goal?

If you judged your “reasons” as insufficient, are you ready to move beyond these distractions, obstacles or, excuses? What will you have to think, do and say differently?

Intimacy requires us to be vulnerable with one another which means it leaves us open to being hurt. Risk it. Start the conversation. Lead by example and speak from your heart. Reciprocity may not come but the words will have been heard. Even if the message didn’t take root immediately, repeat the process until it does. When family members do respond, listen, totally, with heart and mind. That is a daring act of love which transforms, hearts, lives and, worlds. This is how we attune and it is through this attunement that we interact in ways that benefit the entire family.

The time for these conversations is now. #LoveRadically

Before It Is Too Late

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 04:02 PM
Author: admin

Before It Is Too LateTo be successful, parenting requires love–deep, abiding, patient, forgiving love. Yet, because of the responsibilities parenting includes, it is often the locus of conflict between parent and child, between needs and wants, between growing independence and parental inclination to keep kids close and safe. These dueling priorities can lead to dramatic confrontations, angry words, isolating silences and deep feelings of disconnect. Each side embraces a potent sense of righteous indignation and conviction of the other’s faults, errors and unwillingness to listen and/or compromise.

Certainly, this explosive state of affairs is far from constant. Nonetheless, I’m betting conflict is familiar territory for us. We’ve all lived through the exhaustion, despair and, frustration. As intentional parents, however, we recognize that we must remain focused on our purpose–to build lifelong bonds as a family– and not be distracted by any temporary conflicts. Sometimes it takes a metaphorical wake up call to remind us of our priorities.

Last week’s horrific shooting was one of those events. I’m not going to wade into the gun issues; although a vital conversation, lots of others are shining a light there. Instead, let us choose to learn something powerful for our families. I’m sure those families were just like us. They probably had their points of connection as well as differences. I’m also sure that they all believed that they had plenty of time ahead of them to work through their conflicts and come to a connected, respectful resolution … eventually.

But as we all know, for seventeen Stoneman Douglas families, time ran out. For kids huddled in hallways fearing for their lives, there will never be another hug, another argument, another apology, another resolution, another vacation. All that remains is the memory of whatever final words or texts they shared as well as all the things they wished they could say but now remain forever unspoken. In their final moments, kids recognized what was really valuable to them: their families. Horrified parents who waited in fear for news of their children’s fate scrambled to reach them, prayed for their safe return and then wept as they learned the worst had happened.

Stay focused on the opportunity as intentional families to wake up, to step out of the quicksand of frustration and failed expectations regarding kids behavior and disconnect those negative emotions from the central focus of our mindset. It is so easy for us as parents to crumble under the weight of the arguing, of watching kids break family values, of kids pushing up against boundaries–all that is exhausting and distracts us from “seeing” that we do really care about one another.

Yes, it is important for us to strive to change or improve what is not working. BUT,  we cannot afford to overlook what is working. Take time to acknowledge it. Give it the attention and appreciation it merits. Kids and relationships flourish under the sunlight of attention. It is through those parts of the relationship that are working and connected that more good things come.

As the country struggles to find ways to keep our schools and communities safe, we all agree that “somebody should do something.” In fact, each and every one of us can do something; it does have to be grand or even part of a larger movement. We can start where we care the most. Today. Tonight. Reduce the negative energy in our own families in our own work relationships and friendships. Nurture feelings of belonging. It is a fundamental human need.

For us, there is still time. Why not make the most of it? Please consider this challenge:

Imagine how powerful that could be for the entire family. Two truisms: Family conflict is inevitable and time is finite. Focus on what really matters: love and connection.


Believing Hearts, Hurtful Words, Healing Words

Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 11:02 PM
Author: admin

Believing Hearts, Hurtful Words, Healing WordsLife-affirming people make us feel better after being with them. The way they speak and interact resonates, refreshes & supports us. Through their words and demeanor we feel heard, seen and, validated. They listen attentively and respectfully. We feel the difference. They believe in us and thus remind us to believe in ourselves. They roll up their shirtsleeves then dig in and help. We blossom within this type of rare and blessed relationship.

As adoptive parents we have the opportunity—the obligation—to create this level of communication within our families. Since adoption is the most significant factors that make our families unique, the way we communicate around adoption occupies center stage in our family dynamics and family cohesion.

Believing Hearts, Hurtful Words, Healing Words

It is a truism that adoption brings together disparate individuals and grafts them into a family. Unlike a cake mix where simple stirring blends the ingredients sufficiently, adoption requires a unique life-long commitment to understanding how to best fulfill the needs of adoptees. It also mandates that we maintain an understanding about how our own grief and loss issues contribute to the complexity. We cannot afford to deny that these raw spots exist. To do so would require that we build a false façade that dooms the entire family to role-playing instead of genuinely connecting.

Both parents and children have emotional hot spots—triggers—which can be easily detonated causing hurt feelings and damaged relationships. This blog will focus on only one of the many contributing elements: the role language plays in shaping family relationships. We cannot afford to be cavalier or haphazard with our words, nor can we default to cultural phrases and assumptions about adoption. We must dig deeper, be intentional and use language in a positive, almost therapeutic way.  We must maintain a scrupulous awareness of how we use language.

Believing Hearts, Hurtful Words, Healing Words

Nature/Nurture Conundrum

The push/pull between the influences of nature and nurture is undeniable in adoptive families. Both forces operate in a constantly changing balance. The differences that exist between ourselves and our children contribute as much as our commonalities to shape who we are as individuals and as a family.

All families have differences. We are after all, not clones but individuals. Adoptive families are even more likely to have areas where preferences and inclinations don’t quite synchronize. The way we talk about—or ignore this challenge—impacts our relationships and attachment-building process.

Most of the time we appreciate the zest and spice that our children’s differences add to our families. Sometimes, however, their aptitudes and inclinations challenge us. A family of sports nuts, for example, may be utterly confounded by their child’s total disinterest in things athletic. Or, a family whose generations have been steeped in the arts, music and dance may be frustrated with their child’s refusal to engage while they prefer to focus their complete attention on sports.

As Intentional Parents we strive to respect the spectrum of the entire family’s aptitudes, successes and struggles with mutual respect. We choose to consciously honor, nurture and encourage their unique—and different—interests and abilities. We scrupulously avoid sending a message that we wish they were different—code for “more like us.” It is essential to release our children from the straitjacket of expectations limited to historical family patterns. Language counts in this regard. So does silence.

Believing Hearts, Hurtful Words, Healing WordsOnce we adopted, we entered a new world, one that includes substantial differences. We must embrace this infusion of difference and never convey disappointment or resentment or imply that who their DNA has designed them to be is not quite good enough. Most especially, we must not imply that our children should stifle their natural talents and subjugate them to our family’s “traditional” patterns as the unspoken cost for acceptance into our families.

Our children struggle with the weight and challenge of the inevitable differences they feel as they walk through life and accomplish the task of becoming themselves within the context of our families. This is not an easy job. They must in essence, “build the bridge as they are walking across it,”[1] and figure out how to straddle their dual identity of biology and biography.* They need our guidance and encouragement and the words we use to express our support matters.

When our child pursues an activity which we find dull, uninteresting or even not “worthwhile,” the judgmental part of our consciousness may undermine our best intentions. For example, a sports nut mom may find it excruciating to listen to her child drone in minute detail about a piece of music or favorite film. She might make an auto-pilot comment like, “That’s interesting.” That phrase commonly operates as code for BORING. At best it damns with “faint praise.”  

Often our body language conveys our authentic feelings: eyes roll or avoid contact, mouth gapes open or we remain focused on our own task rather than fully engage with our child.

(The message is clear whether vocalized or not.) Although the adage says, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” we all know the truth that contradicts this old saw. Some words cut to the core, flay the spirit, and destroy self-esteem.

Believing Hearts, Hurtful Words, Healing Words, toxic wordsOnce spoken and heard, such toxic words cannot be taken back, “unheard” or forgotten. Forgiveness may follow, but the memory of such verbal poison and the emotional message they convey, will linger. The scar will remain as memory of a painful experience and a permanent part of their inner audiotape.

The quicksand of harsh words can damage our children. Adoption has its roots in loss–for parent and child–and this reality can leave us vulnerable to feelings of shame, self-doubt and, inadequacy. As the saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people.” In other words, when people feel hurt, they tend to lash out in response. It is helpful to remind ourselves of this when our kids dish out hurtful or rejecting comments. The heat of the moment is not time for a rational discussion.

Prepare for these conversations ahead of time and remember though the words are directed at us–and may be intentionally hurtful–they’re usually  our child’s effort to unload pain and to shift it to parents. The reality is that their words can land on very raw and tender emotional hot spots within us. At some unconscious level, all adoptive parents wrestle with fears that their children will never fully bond with them. Many adoptive parents unconsciously fear that their children might prefer their biological parents. Others worry that their children might not have enough room for both their adoptive parents and their biological parents. These fears can lead  them to place subtle—perhaps even overt—pressure on their children to choose between their first parents and their adoptees.

Being mindful of this vulnerability, parents must commit to holding an absolute boundary regarding certain toxic, emotionally devastating phrases.

As the saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people.” In other words, when people feel hurt, they tend to lash out in response. It is helpful to remind ourselves of this when our kids dish out hurtful or rejecting comments. The heat of the moment is not time for a rational discussion.

We can prepare for these conversations ahead of time to remind ourselves that though their words are directed at us–and may be intentionally hurtful–they’re usually our child’s effort to unload pain and to shift it to parents. The reality is that their words can land on very raw and tender emotional hot spots within us, e.g., fears that our children will never fully bond with us, or that they might prefer their biological parents over us. Some of us may struggle to believe that our children might not have enough room for both us and their biological parents. These fears can lead us to place subtle—perhaps even overt—pressure on children to choose between their first parents and us. That’s a lot of fear on our side of the equation.

Regardless of the buttons kids may push or the emotional hand grenades they lobby parents must remain solid in their commitment to respectful, compassionate language. There is NEVER justification for the use of such “Black Box” phrases as:

“I wish we’d never adopted you.”

“You’re just like your mother (or father) [An insult is clearly implied]

“My biological children would never be like you.”

“Adopting you was a big mistake”

“You should be grateful we adopted you.”

“Maybe I’m not your real mom/dad but you’re not my real kid either.”

“You’re so puny, or such a big Amazon, or ____ (insert a phrase that attacks your child’s being.”

“You’re stuck with us; your parents didn’t want you.”

The preceding words do irreparable harm to the fragile bonds of attachment which require so much effort, time and intention to foster and strengthen and are, unfortunately, so easy to undermine an damage.

Here a few questions to consider.

What other toxic talk might be fatal to your relationships as a family?

When your kids say deeply hurtful things to you, how do you remain calm and “adult” and resist the urge to retaliate?

How might you model ways of “off-loading” pain in a way that does not hurt others?

Take the time to develop an arsenal of responses that support your child and your child who is experiencing an “emotional hijacking.” (This is when they are so inflamed with emotion, their thinking brain is shut down. They’re not thinking; they are downing in a tsunami of overwhelming and frightening emotions. Logic is useless. Reasoning is futile. The time for discussion, problem solving and consequences will come later, after the firestorm subsides.)

Here are some ways to respond.

It must be scary to feel angry enough to hate me. It sounds like “x” is really important to you.

I bet that feeling like I’m not your “real” mom (dad) must leave you feeling alone and unprotected.

I’ve never had to wonder who my real parents are; I think it must be both scary and painful.

Don’t expect miracles. Notice that these responses focus on meeting the child where he is, not in yelling at them to calm down, not in screaming back a laundry list of escalating consequences and not in trying to impose parental control. They focus on conveying empathy, not winning the argument. This response is about salvaging the relationship and reminding them that it is  something valuable. Bridge cross the crisis to connect and nurture the seeds of attachment. Remember when our kids are behaving in their must “unloveable” and unpleasant ways, it is usually when they need our love and reassurance the most.



Intentional Parenting, Adoption-attunement and Taking a Stand

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 @ 05:02 PM
Author: admin

Intentional Parenting, Adoption-attunement and Taking a Stand for OBC2020

Now that we are well into February , we’ve trained ourselves to write 2018 on our checks and correspondence. I find it kind of shocking to realize that January is already in the record books. It’s a poignant reminder of how quickly time passes. It calls to mind two questions: What happened to those New Year’s Resolutions? And, far more important: have we  taken the time to set a parenting intention for the year ahead? If yes, this week over a great opportunity to assess progress, redefine the goal or make an early course correction.

If 2018 has raced out of the gates without your pausing to determine some parenting goals or intentions make the time now. Step out of autopilot and launch your family on an intentional path with a few specific goals and practices. Choose —no more than three so you can focus your energy and create change.

Every family develops habits and patterns. They enmesh us as a cohesive unit and emerge from our lived values like honesty integrity health faith etc. In addition to our patterns as a group—like attending church together or the entire family pursuing a sport, etc—we also have patterns between each individual pairing. While we love each child equally, we relate to them individually. Each relationship is unique. Ideally, we are independent human beings who choose to be interdependent on one another, within the family setting, for each other’s mutual growth and support.

From a position of neutrality assess which goals and resolutions you quickly relinquished or postponed. Identify which patterns continue to be entrenched and then sort them out to determine which serve the family and which block your goals or weigh the family down. Which habits dog you, frustrate you but somehow, you just can’t seem to stop? Step back and analyze the subtle, probably unconscious ways that they “serve” you. In other words, how well have they worked for you? Are they continuing to work for you or causing undesirable results for others in the family setting?Consider how these habits might avoid change. (Sometimes familiar unpleasantness intimidates us less than unknown possibility or unchartered territory.)

Review conflicts—especially conflict that keeps repeating itself. Challenge yourself to be absolutely honest and identify the rubbing points with this friction. Decide what you can do to change that dynamic. Consider that this may mean adding or subtracting actions, attitudes, habits and, beliefs. Sometimes we hang onto beliefs that no longer serve us or our families and allow them to pressure us into patterns because of the weight of tradition. Our family always does it this way…for generations!)

The question of individual rights has been in the forefront of media in recent months, not only in terms of civil rights, national or religious rights but also in terms of adoptee’s rights to their original birth certificates. This movement was being advanced by the Donaldson Adoption Institute as OBC2020 and was dedicated to ensure that all adoptees, like all other Americans in the USA,  would have access to their original birth certificate at adulthood. Unfortunately DAI has closed its doors. The restoration of OBCs remains unfinished, vital business. As adoption-attuned families, we understand the importance of this change in policy and restoration of our children’s rights. Each of us has an opportunity to contribute to this effort.

During the month of February we observe several events: Valentine’s Day, American Heart Month, President’s Day. Make it the month that you challenge yourself to focus on Adoption-attunement in a profoundly committed way.