Archive for the ‘General Discussion’ Category

Parenting in the Polar Vortex of Trauma (redux)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 @ 07:01 PM
Author: admin

Adoptees and adoptive Parents understand that trauma is the gift that keeps on giving. To cope with and help heal trauma requires a multi-pronged approach. Both parents and children need to allow one another grace, empathy and understanding.We must sustain our hope, enjoy the balm of laughter shared and the relief of challenges shouldered together. This blog from our archives sheds useful light. Enjoy!

Parenting in the Polar Vortex of Trauma (redux)Adoptive parenting brings complexities that can  challenge and defeat the best of us. For families whose children had difficult starts and who must cope with the fallout of trauma, the course is even more arduous. Both parent and child benefit from thoughtful and adoption-attuned support and strategies. During the month of January, our blogs have focused on ways to address stress: meditation, humor, intentional  family fun. While each is worth trying, sometimes these techniques are inadequate. What additional options might work?

One of the greatest helps for me was connecting with other parents who faced similar obstacles, not in a misery-likes-company way but in a finally-someone-who-gets-it way. They understood that our parenting experience was vastly different from the norm because they were confronting the same reality.

First, we commiserated, even engaged in “You think that’s horrid? Listen to this.” We exchanged stories of parenting in the adoption-trauma trenches( which provided a relief valve,) shared some gallows-humor laughter, and encouraged one another. We became a “tribe” and discovered how comforting it felt to be seen and heard with empathy instead of judgment. This experience reinvigorated us and helped us reconnect to our dreams of being a committed, loving family.

Post adoption support is essential to adoption success. Gather as many Adoption-attuned (AQ*) resources as possible. Join a support group. Work with a coach. When necessary, consult a therapist . (Ensure that all professionals have a thorough understanding of adoption-attunement.) Educate family, friends, etc on the techniques and reasons for your (AQ*) parenting methods. Avoid people who do not “get” your approach, especially those people who try to undermine, criticize or dissuade you from the therapeutic parenting that your gut knows your children need.

Read Sally Donovan’s second book “The Unofficial Guide to Adoptive Parenting, the Small Stuff, The Big Stuff, and The Stuff In Between.” It is a welcome contribution to the reality of adoptive parenting. She knows what it is like to live in the “Polar Vortex” of parenting. She has faced  her fill of platitudes, criticism and rude questions. Reading her book is like finally finding a friend her really “gets” the journey of parenting traumatized kids. Sally has some practical ideas as well as incisive commentary that will make readers laugh as well as cry. Sometimes the “small stuff” is the “big stuff.” Sometimes it doesn’t matter and sometimes it does. The important things is to hang in there “No Matter What.”

Read it for her great–and practical–suggestions and for the experience and encouragement of “visiting” with a kindred spirit.

Sally has also written  No Matter Whata poignant and  honest peek into the challenges of parenting kids with a history of trauma and neglect. I posted this review on Amazon: Yes, love heals but parenting kids with trauma/neglect histories, requires so much more. Immerse yourself in this story of the fierce love of this adoptive family. Understand the day to day challenges as these children learn to deal with and heal from their past. Cheer on these parents as they are called on to muster every ounce of patience, determination and hope while they discover what their kids need emotionally, academically and socially and then work to provide it. Experience the heroism of both kids and parents who must confront the aftermath of abuse, learn to cope with and channel the anger, shame and grief. This story will break your heart wide open, expand your understanding of the life-long impact of abuse and neglect and educate you on how to be a better, friend, teacher, family member and perhaps call you to rise to the challenge of parenting kids with “tough starts.” At the very least, it will open your eyes and hearts and draw you in to view adoptive families with more empathy and less judgment. This is not a happily-ever-after tale but a true portrait of what it takes as a family to overcome such a disastrous beginning and to triumph. –Gayle H. Swift, author, “ABC, Adoption & Me: A Multicultural Picture Book, adoption coach, adoptive parent and co-founder of GIFT Family Services



Reflections on a Year of Intentional Parenting

Wednesday, January 3, 2018 @ 08:01 AM
Author: admin

We are about to conclude another year of Intentional Parenting. I invite you to take some time to review the year. What pops first into your mind? Was it a memory that conjured feelings of connection, warmth or pride? Or, was it something which reeks of regret, disappointment or anger? The answer reveals a lot about where our attention and energy has been drawn. If worry, fear, frustration, anger or rejections dominates the conversation, it will tilt our thoughts and beliefs in a negative direction.

Let’s revisit the question and this time, clear your heart and head. Use a lens of neutrality. Now what memories spring to mind? How did things shift?

How many are positive? How many of these memories conjure up moments of struggle or conflict?  Perhaps 2017 held many challenges and this negativity dominates your thoughts and feelings. Dig until at least some positive moments take center stage in the 2017 highlight reel of your life. Savor this perspective of celebrating what worked in the past year.

Notice how this intentional shift allows even more positive memories float to the surface.

As you review the highlight reel of the past year. Focus on the top three memories. Pause to enjoy them for a few moments. Which of those three memories bring the warmest feelings?


Choose three success to analyze. What factors contributed to successful encounters? Who was involved? How did each person influence the outcome? How might you increase the likelihood of similar positive interactions in the future? In addition to the elements that you want to include what should be eliminated? Keep in mind that the prime directive of Intentional Parenting is the nurturing the relationship. Unless it is healthy, parents will find it difficult, if not impossible, to influence  children positively and inculcate their core values.

Trifecta Redo

Contrast these elements of success with factors that inflamed conflict. What role did your family values play? Resist the temptation to tackle every item on your list of things to improve.  This creates overwhelm and reduces the likelihood that the desired changes will result. Instead, prioritize; select three items you commit to improving.

What flashpoints tended to trigger breakdown? It is a truism that we can only change ourselves. So, determine how you can interact differently when these types of conflict reappear. Get clear on who owns the “problem.” How do each person’s beliefs, attitudes, actions and, assumptions influence the conflict? How do entrenched patterns keep the family stuck?

Use the Well-formed Outcomes[1] approach to develop a strategy for change.

What do you truly want?
State it in the positive.
Can you initiate it?
Can you control it?
Chunk into manageable task size.
Determine evidence of completion.
Use sensory terms –see, hear & feel it
What must be included?
            Actions, places and people
What must be eliminated
            Actions, places and people
What’s the context?
            Who else? Where? When?
What are the current barriers?
What results will the goal yield?
            (Positive & Negative)
What resources are essential?
Set action Steps Specific/achievable.
What is the first step?
Create several ways to get result.
What time frames are involved?
Create systems to support outcome.

[1] Adapted from Resource Realizations

An “Unreasonable” Christmas Wish: A Family

Wednesday, December 20, 2017 @ 01:12 PM
Author: admin

An "Unreasonable" Christmas Wish: A Family

In the United States over 100,000 children in foster care need permanent families. Their most earnest Christmas wish is to receive a family who wants to welcome them into their hearts and homes and love them for a lifetime. There is no good reason that a child should have to languish alone, without the support of a loving, safe, permanent family. It is a tragedy beyond measure. We can and should do better by these children.

Love, sadly is not enough to heal their wounds, remediate their trauma and rebuild their ability to trust. Along with a willingness to love, the potential parents they dream about must have adequate preparation that provides them with the skills, understanding and commitment which will ensure that they have the stamina and capability to be the parents these children so desperately need and deserve.

To bridge these children across the divide of their grief, trauma and neglect requires more than good intentions. Through no fault of their own, these children have suffered great loss. That is their reality. Their truth. Their prospective adoptive families will need to be able to handle their truth, validate their emotions and walk with them as they journey to healing and regain their ability to trust. And love.

The journey will not unfold as a fairy tale. Rather it will reveal itself as a hero’s journey for both child and parent. This will take emotional, spiritual and psychic strength beyond measure—enough to sustain parent and child through the rocky shoals of the healing process. Prospective adoptive parents must be able to kick fairy tale expectations to the curb and deal with reality. This is the kinder, healthier and harder approach.

Happy, healthy families can emerge from this crucible as long as people pair their best intentions with the best Adoption-attuned* knowledge and understanding of the needs of children who fell into foster care. The deterioration of a family is neither pretty nor kind. It leaves scars, memories, self-sabotaging coping skills which—given the circumstances—they may be reluctant to release. Success will be hard won. Like all of life’s most valuable things, it will absolutely be worth the effort.

An "Unreasonable" Christmas Wish: A Family-P4P-Partnerships-for-PermanenceSally Ankerfelt, one of GIFT Family Services coaches had the opportunity to interview two young women who were adopted after being placed in foster care. (Click here to listen to the podcast.) These young ladies have pioneered a movement to help the next generation of foster kids. They’ve organized others like themselves, along with interested professionals to create Partnerships for Permanence* which is “an organization for former foster youth and adoptees coming together to raise awareness and actively work to improve the child welfare system.”

While their own personal experiences may have been imperfect, they have taken this experience and channeled it into a desire to help others. By sharing their personal insights about what helped and what failed them, they can improve the experience for children currently in the foster care system.

Their mission demands courage, resilience and commitment. They could have chosen to be bitter and resentful; instead, they have become committed and hopeful that they can repurpose their suffering to ensure a better experience for foster youth.

Please take the time to listen to their interview. Listen. Learn. Act. Then ask yourself, how has their story inspired you to adjust how you handle things within your family?

*Partnerships for Permanence is an affiliate of GIFT Family Services. They can work with families using the services of our coaches.