Archive for the ‘General Discussion’ Category

In the Face of Disaster, We See the Humanity of All

Wednesday, September 13, 2017 @ 09:09 PM
Author: admin

Disaster humanityTime and again we see Americans come together to help one another. In the face of disaster, we see the humanity of all and our perceptions of difference and otherness fades. When an emergency responder arrives, we don’t stop to identify their politics, race or religion before we gratefully accept their help. Let’s sustain this sense of cooperation and mutual respect.

Our last blog written in the wake of hurricane Harvey focused on preparing families for disasters. The United States is reeling from recent weather disasters. Fires in the Northwest. Apocalyptic flooding and hurricane damage in Houston. Now Hurricane Irma has pulverized much of Florida. Mexico–which responded to the needs of Houston area residents after Harvey–is now coping with the ravages of a major earthquake. All of these disasters occurred in less than thirty days!

I’m writing this blog from my home. Heavy aluminum panels still cover all of my windows. While this delivers a sense of security, it also feels, dark, walled off from neighbors, isolated. We are eager to remove the shutters, yet we hesitate because hurricane Jose is still spinning out in the Atlantic. Thirty-two days remain in the “peak” season (Historically, the most intense and damaging storms have occurred between Sept. 1 and Oct. 30. Installing and removing storm shutters is a days-long, arduous process. So, for a while, we’ll wait and watch, hunkered down behind our temporary fortress.

It appears that the horrifying video footage of Harvey’s aftermath motivated Floridians to prepare for the storm. Most forecasts predicted that Irma would race up the “spine” of Florida or hug the east coast. But Mother Nature is an unpredictable force; she had an unanticipated change of heart and veered west. Some played the odds. They resisted preparation and then found themselves scrambling at the last-minute, desperately trying to complete their efforts before Irma slammed into their neighborhoods. The horrible result is still unfolding. Cleanup and restoration will take months and in some areas, years.

What has my rambling got to do with intentional parenting? Once again we’ve been reminded about the benefits of being prepared. This is particularly important for people who have experienced trauma in their lives.

Thus, major disaster events like these strike our kids very hard. They need us to do whatever we can to soften the impact.

Our families depend on us to be proactive and buy the supplies. Before we buy non-essentials, we must make the difficult purchasing decisions, forgo some of the fun items and activities and instead opt to buy stuff we hope we never need.   Disasters often cause businesses to close—some temporarily, others permanently. By buying emergency supplies ahead of time, we can avoid spending money when incomes are most apt to be interrupted.

Review your preparations for the type of weather disasters which typically befall your area. Supplies can be costly. Pick up one item per week and then store them in a sealed plastic tub. Batteries die quickly; consider buying items that depend on solar or mechanical energy. (At the risk of mentioning the holiday season too early…a  well-stocked disaster box might not be the fanciest present you’ve ever given BUT it could be the most important—even lifesaving.) After all every part of our country has their version of challenging weather. Having the security of knowing one is prepared relieves tremendous stress.)

Some of our most vulnerable families struggle to provide food and shelter for their families. Please remember the needy. Support organizations that help. Imagine having to face an impending hurricane or blizzard or other major challenge without the resources to protect your home or to purchase fuel, water and non-perishable food. Heartbreaking… Let’s do what we can to help out. (Always vet any organizations to which you donate; unfortunately disasters also tend to bring out the scammers and crooks)

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Catastrophes Define and Reshape Us

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 @ 02:08 PM
Author: admin
Catastrophes Define and Reshape UsCatastrophe … we don’t toss that word out casually but it is exactly what is happening in Texas and along the Gulf states. When catastrophes befall us, they define and reshape us as individuals and families, as citizens and communities. They create opportunities for us, our communities and our nation to rise up and be our best selves.
As Intentional Parents we recognize the importance of being both prepared and compassionate.  First we attend to our own families then we reach out to others. While we can’t all head to the disaster zone, we can all help in both obvious and subtle ways.
Donations of cash and supplies always help IF they are sent where they can be effectively distributed. Before donating, verify that the recipient entity is authorized and can get the materials where they are needed.
Become part of the solution in other ways. Here are some examples
  • Support policies and conversations that lobby to help folks in need.
  • Support charities and other outreach agencies (Vet them first!)
  • Let legislators know if you want national policies that guarantee help will be available to Americans whenever/wherever disaster strikes.
  • Call for policies that prepare regional infrastructure to withstand the vagaries of Mother Nature.
  • Demand that your area design evacuation policies to help all residents so the poor can survive as well.
  • Prepare a Disaster Kit for your family so that you can be self-reliant

While Texas and the    Gulf state region face the full force of Hurricane Harvey’s power, even those of us who live elsewhere will have to help our children parse what it means for them. The storm will certainly raise questions about what would happen to them, our homes, families and schools, cities and towns, etc., if similar circumstances occurred for us. As we reassure our kids that we’ve placed our proverbial ducks in a row, double check that proactive plans are in place, that supplies are stockpiled. Share with  kids, the plans you’ve made for each kind of emergency that can occur: fire, flood, wind storm, etc. 

Consider discussing  that sometimes things will happen that we thought we were prepared for, but may be too big for even our preparation and that’s when we reach out to neighbors and the government. Then tell decide as a family how you will be that helping hand now for the people crushed by Harvey. Make sure whatever is said is age appropriate and truthful based on their age. Listen to their concerns and answer them in the best way that you can). 

Disasters, by their very nature, happen unexpectedly, with little or no warning. And they can happen to any one of us, in any region (each part of our country has its own flavor of natural disasters to fear.) Preparation not only helps ensure that we can survive and endure a disaster, the very existence of a plan compels us to think through details, identify weak points,  and reassures kids that we parents are doing our best to keep them safe. Be sure to include a plan for alerting family who live in different part of the country. Consider sharing copies of your important documents with them.

An Eclipse Can Blind Us

Wednesday, August 23, 2017 @ 02:08 PM
Author: admin

challenges-of-parenting-can-blind-us-to-the-joysThe recent total eclipse captured our national attention and provided a refreshing point of unity for all Americans regardless of their political beliefs. It offered an experience of staggering beauty and reminded us of the fragility of this planet which we all share. For all of its mesmerizing beauty, an eclipse can blind us if we stare at the sun’s brilliance without adequate protection. Sometimes the challenges of parenting can similarly blind us and cause us to lose heart.

All parents know that in addition to the exquisite heart-touching, soul-altering joys of parenthood, it also includes challenges that can break the heart or cause us to question our capabilities as parents. The hard work of parenting also includes a healthy dose of drudgery: the heavy lifting of inculcating and enforcing family values and the important responsibility of teaching children how to learn from their mistakes.

Adoption imposes additional challenges to our parenting tasks. In addition to the same tasks which all children face, our kids also must discern how to blend a dual heritage from their birth and adoptive families. Make no mistake; their job is far from easy. It takes courage and persistence, support and encouragement. Most of all it takes time. Lots and lots of time.

This extended period of dependency can exceed our expectations; it also can exceed our patience. Sometimes parenting can feel utterly overwhelming and endless. We look at our friends (who are raising kids by birth and not through adoption.) We envy their kids’ seemingly effortless ability to fledge the family nest and make it on their own. We’re ready for the next stage of life.

Sometimes, we can fall into feelings of despair and wonder if our kids will ever pull themselves together. We fear that we are not up to the task. We mistrust our skills and inner strength. We tire of the conflict that simmers between us and children who are struggling to solidify their identity and enter adulthood. We crave a break from the stress and worry–for a moment, a day, a week… We pray for reassurance that things will work out well.

Shift vantage points. Imagine what it is like to be in our children’s shoes. They can’t step away around these obstacles. Their only pathway forward is to leap over these hurdles. They must forever manage the two planets of their lives: birth family and adoptive family. It’s a lifetime burden on their shoulders. As fatigued as we are by the shadows adoption casts into our family life, their stress pales by comparison.

As Intentional parents we must remind ourselves that our kids are tired of the conflict too. They too, crave the relief of resolution. We know behavior is the language of trauma and that their behavior speaks volumes. They’re probably afraid they’ll never figure themselves out. They sense our worries and fears and these emotions magnify their own self-doubts, feelings of inadequacy and fears of rejection.

Our exhaustion and impatience tells them we aren’t up to the challenge of standing with them until the crisis passes. That’s scary. It’s a primal fear like primitive man experienced when an eclipse wiped the life-giving sun from the sky and they wondered if it would ever return. Our kids need to know that we can handle them, their “stuff,” their anger and their fear.

Unless we can hold that space of acceptance, security and hope, we’ve allowed ourselves to become blinded by the glare of the conflict because it is so close, so hot, so intense. But like the eclipse in which the moon succeeds in totally obscuring the sun which is four hundred times larger, the result occurs because of the perspective and proximity. Eventually the planetary alignment shifts, the moon continues on its orbit and our reality returns to its “normal.” As people of this century, we have this knowledge and that bedrock of security neutralizes our fear of the darkness.

It’s scary until the light returns and begins to shimmer around the edges of the current problem. We must hold hope in our hearts with the sure knowledge that we can be the safety lenses that enable our kids and ourselves, to look right at these two things and learn how to establish a balance. In spite of any self-doubts or moments of weakness, we do have what it takes. Sometimes a shift in perspective can make all of the difference. Staring too directly at the fiery glow of the “problem” can blind us to the choices that will unfold in the near future or those that currently remain obscured by the too-close light. How will you use your “safety glasses to look at the challenges ahead? How can you serve as safety lenses for your children?

Intentionality and Parenting in a Time of Social Unrest

Wednesday, August 16, 2017 @ 02:08 PM
Author: admin

Intentionality and Parenting in a Time of Social Unrest-bullying-social unrest

The tragic events in Virginia this past weekend have left the entire country reeling. Violence has taken root in America at a degree never previously seen. As a country we are at a crossroads. Each and every one of us must determine how he or she will respond. Distinct from any one political stand, the current turmoil offers an opportunity for parents to practice Intentionality.

As Intentional parents we commit to pro-activity instead of reactivity. We must decide how we will walk our families through these challenging days, weeks, years. How will we interpret these events to our children and help them understand what it means for them, our families and our communities?

What will we do to ensure that our country reflects our personal values? The obvious first step is to clarify the values by which we choose to live. Then we must inculcate those values in our children.

We do that in two ways. One is through our words. Language matters, has emotional “weight.” When chosen well, language can bridge divides. It can also damage relationships, intimidate and incite violence. Language can be balm or flamethrower, be gentle or cataclysmic. Life-giving or life-taking.

We get to choose and our choices serve double duty. Not only do our words convey our stance to our kids, they provide them the vocabulary to talk about it with others. Our family discussions will provide a forum for them to learn, to test and to question. These explorations will prepare them to hold conversation with others outside the family. Knowledgeable, intentional conversations. That is a good thing.

Intentionality and Parenting in a Time of Social Unrest.Dad talks to sonThe other way we hold and work for our values is to take action. We must move beyond platitudes and lip service. If we assert that health is a family value, the way we live, eat and, exercise must reflect that. If we espouse respect for the earth, our household habits must embody that.

Whatever values we espouse, people should be able to infer them from the way we live our lives. Our actions form the most effective curriculum for teaching our kids and for shaping our country.

Let us take time to pause, reflect, and assess our “job performance” on teaching/living our values. Where are the successes? Where are the best leverage points for change? What will be the first step? What has to stop? What has to begin? What will be the evidence that the adjustments have been effective?

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Coping with Transitions …

Thursday, August 3, 2017 @ 12:08 AM
Author: admin

Adoption-attuned Coping with Transitions ...

Anyone connected with adoption knows that transitions can be challenging for adoptees. Some posit that it echoes the primal loss of their being separated from their birth families. Regardless of how they connect to this profound loss, transitions do operate as trigger points for many adoptees. As Intentional parents we work to be mindful of this hot button and we use strategies to help our kiddos cope. Let’s face it, nobody enjoys a meltdown–not even the kids. These emotional events leave everyone shaken by the intensity and depth of the feelings which under gird them.

They also tend to trigger visceral responses within us. A combination of irritation, frustration, overwhelm, helplessness, impotence, confusion and, even fear all vibrate–in a symphony of dissonance that leaves all feeling spent. What are some steps that help families to move forward? Attunement offers one excellent path.

Acknowledge: Keep it neutral! Resist the temptation to match their drama with our own responses. Stay factual. I can see you’ve got big feelings about this

Witness: Move beyond the act of observing and choose to give witness. Just like in a courtroom, our words offer a perspective–ours–which informs how others understand the situation. Our testimony gives kids the language to express, describe and, capture their experience. Once kids have words to express their feelings and needs, they can begin to step off the hamster wheel of what Daniel Goleman calls an “emotional hijacking.” Language helps them label their thoughts, feelings and needs and gives some sense of being able to manage them. Much of the trauma which adoptees experience as a result of being separated from  their birth mothers, is held as preverbal memory. They need us to provide tools to cope. A broad “emotional vocabulary” empowers them to transform the feeling  that stressors are  infinite, unlimited and permanent and instead to impose some boundaries. It provides them a way to package it so they can examine, assess and manage it.

Affirm: Adult adoptees frequently report that some of their most painful memories center around feeling invalidated and invisible. This happens when their feelings and concerns are dismissed, trivialized or ignored. Many report they received powerful messages–either overtly or subtly–that adoption conversation could include only positives; that they were expected to choose undivided loyalty to the adoptive family and never refer to, or seek information about their birth families; that they needed to sublimate their natural talents and inclinations and follow the traditional patterns of the adoptive family; that discussing adoption distressed their parents. To avoid that they sacrificed themselves and learned to ignore their need for support in order to protect their adoptive parents.

Intentional parents have the opportunity to choose a more healthy and honest approach. Affirm the realities of adoption. Welcome discussions–even painful ones. The absence of an open forum forces children to wrestle with these issues alone and without the support they need to process them. Embrace a Both/And paradigm that makes space for adoptive and birth family; Don’t make them choose one over the other. They need both.

Adoption-attuned*Coping with Transitions ...Set boundaries: One thing parents fear is that if they try to “connect before correct” kids will grab the upper hand and the family will devolve into chaos. In reality, if we try to yell, persuade or punish a child who is in the stranglehold of an emotional hijacking, we engage in a lose/lose situation. Overwhelming emotions blunt the brain’s ability to think, limit the body’s ability to regain control and, completely focuses on a fear/flight/freeze response. Until those emotions subside, until the child feels safe,  they are unable to think logically and rein in their behavior.

So yes, connect. Connect so you can correct but delay the educating part of correcting until calm has been restored. Then correct. Reiterate the boundaries. Rehearse the better choices.  Clarify that it is the behavior that falls short, not the child. Nurture a sense of hope, capability, possibility and love for your child.

For more on the concept of Emotional Intelligence and emotional hijackings read Daniel Goleman’s seminal work, Emotional Intelligence. At GIFT, we move beyond the common idea that intelligence equates with Intellectual capability as measured by a high IQ and consider the concept of multiple intelligences. In addition to Intellectual Intelligence (IQ), we embrace Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence, (EQ,) and it led us to develop the idea of Adoption-attunement™–our theory of Adoption Intelligence (AQ.)

No Bohns About It