Archive for the ‘General Discussion’ Category

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

Families Matter: NACAC Conference 2017… Reflections

Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 03:07 PM
Author: admin

Families Matter: NACAC Conference 2017 ... ReflectionsLast week Sally Ankerfelt and I participated in Families Matter: Exploring Solutions in Adoption and Foster Care the topic for the NACAC Conference 2017. We also had the privilege of presenting a workshop on faith Communities as a Source of Healing and Connection. We observed firsthand that people hungered to learn more about this topic.

A few dominant themes emerged from the conference: the need to provide resources to families and to prevent foster care and adoption in the first place; the importance of preserving and encouraging first family relationships; the need to understand trauma and how it speaks in behavior; and finally, the need to listen to adult adoptees and foster care alumni who earned insights at a high personal coast.

Conferences require us to hold a learning frame of mind, to open our eyes, hearts and, minds to new ways of seeing, understanding and, responding. (Readers of this blog demonstrate a similar stance.) We all want to learn so we can parent/ serve children better. When we accept that life–parenting in particular–is a learning conversation, we set ourselves on a path of intentionality. This serves us and our families, because, let’s face it, nobody has all the answers.

Neuro-biology research continues to advance our understanding of how the brain influences and shapes behavior. As parents, it certainly helps us to discern the difference between a child’s unwillingness to address a behavior and his inability to demonstrate, adjust and/or, eliminate that behavior.

Many presenters referred to Dan Siegel’s work–especially his descriptive theory of “flipping one’s lid. This metaphor applies to both parent and child. And while the description is quite simplified, it is also a very powerful way to capture what occurs within the brain and makes it easier to respond in the moment. We listened intently as speaker after speaker mentioned how they’ve used this tool when working with kids and their families.

View this three-minute video to watch Dan Siegel elegantly explain this concept. Imagine sharing this simple tool with your kids which provides a framework that helps them understand and discuss what is happening within them internally. Envision how it might help them manage big feelings as well as request support when they need it. Consider how this tool can serve you as a parent as well as in general daily life.

Dan Siegel has written several books. I’ve read some but not all. Check them out to see what they offer you and your family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s conference time and GIFT coaches Sally Ankerfelt and Gayle Swift have traveled to Atlanta to attend NACAC’s Annual conference. They will be presenting a workshop: Faith Communities as a Source of Healing and Connection.

While there, they’ve been burning the midnight oil collaborating on their book  on the topic. Any adult adoptees wishing to share their thoughts and experiences regarding how  faith communities served or failed them can complete this on-line survey. ALL perspectives are welcome! (Responses can remain anonymous.)

GIFT coaches partner with adoptive families to provide support before, during and after adoption. Regardless of where your family is on your adoption  journey, we stand ready to help. In addition to being certified coaches, we are all also adoptive parents. We understand the complexities of adoption.

Call us today.

 

Adoption-attuned* Parenting Tips for Ages 0 – 7

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 @ 01:06 PM
Author: admin

Adoption-attuned* Parenting Tips for Ages 0 - 7

In their latest podcast, GIFT Coaches Susan David and Joann DiStefano offer tips on how to Adoption-attune your relationships with your child aged zero to seven. Three additional episodes will follow: Adoptees and the Middle School Years; Supporting Your Adopted Teen; No Longer a Child–Parent Relationships with the Adult Adoptee. Be sure to listen to the subsequent broadcasts as well. You’ll be glad that you did.

Success for any family is uniquely defined by the individual family. However, some elements appear almost universally in all families. Most parents aspire to raise happy, healthy, moral children who share the family’s values and contribute to the well-being of their families, communities and the world. Most adoptive families also include additional criteria: that their children successfully braid their dual heritage—birth and adoptive—into a healthy and functioning whole. (Writer and adoptive mom, Lori Holden calls this weaving “biography with biology.)

Adoption-attuned* Parenting Tips for Ages 0 – 7Adoptive parenting demands intense energy, patience, focus and Adoption-attunement* that sensitizes and alerts us to the unique needs of the entire family. Being a successful parent begins with an honest self-appraisal of the skills which we execute well and those which require additional time and attention. Some skill sets might only need tweaking while others may demand a complete reset of our parenting paradigm.

We awaken to the idea that adoptive parenting is different from parenting non-adopted children. We recognize that the methods we use to educate, inculcate values and teach discipline must always be selected through the lens of relationship building. We choose to be Intentional, to abandon autopilot parenting and instead commit to Adoption-attunement. At first this may sound like a huge mountain to climb. In reality, it is simply parenting from another angle with a fresh blueprint.

Adoption-attuned* Parenting Tips for Ages 0 – 7For example, in the early years of childhood from the years zero to seven, this means using “Time In” instead of “Time Out.” Listen to the entire podcast for many additional ideas of how to parent through an Adoption-attuned lens. Be brave enough to honestly assess your strengths as well as your greatest opportunities for improving skill sets. At this age children attend more to the examples which we model than to the words which we utter. Be intentional about how you relate with your kids. Keep in mind one question: Does this build connection with my child? As Dr. Karyn Purvis asserted: “Connect before you correct.” Relationship is the conduit to connection, attachment, family identity and attachment. It outstrips intimidation and yelling which instill fear and destroy relationships. Fear-based parenting elicits compliance in the moment not commitment.

When we do fall short of our lofty goal, Intentional Parents are quick to repair the relationship. This has a triple benefit: it shows children how to make amends, it demonstrates mutual respect and, it resists perfectionism. Parents and adoptees often incline to perfectionism—parents because they may feel the need to prove that they “deserve” to parent their child. Adoptees may fear a repeat of the biological parent’s “abandonment—so the ability to admit mistakes and make amends is a much-needed skill for all. Mastery comes through practice and life tends to serve up lots of chances to miss the pitch. It’s important that we show kids that we will take a shot at bat, again and again and again.

Adoption-attuned* Parenting Tips for Ages 0 – 7Susan and Joann have packed a lot of practical information into their thirty minute podcast. Tune in and check it out. Listen to the archived podcasts on our website. Episodes are brief and steeped in Adoption-attuned Parenting* concepts as well as Coaching Presuppositions. These strategies will help you build a strong family. Understanding the unique needs of our families enables us to parent smarter and more effectively.

 

“Parenting in the Eye of the Storm”: an Important Resource for Families

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 @ 12:06 PM
Author: admin

Parenting in the Eye of the StormParenting in the Eye of the Storm by Katie Naftziger, LICSW has written a readable and practical book. Katie is both a therapist and a transracial adoptee originally from Korea. Subtitled, “The Adoptive Parent’s Guide to Navigating the Teen Years,” her book offer insight, encouragement and strategies for families. Adam Pertman, President and CEO of the National Center on Adoption and Permanency in his introduction to the book , opines, “Whys wasn’t it [Katie’s book] around when my wife and I needed it. No Joke.”

I experienced a similar sentiment while reading it. While this book is widely applauded by seasoned professionals, adult adoptees also chime in to praise Katie’s book. Their perspective speaks volumes to me; who understands adoption better than the adoptees that are living it? As an adoption coach and a parent whose family weathered some extremely turbulent times, I can also add my voice to those who say that Katie has created an important book.

If you are parenting teens now, or will be in the future, this book offers a welcome resource for navigating the challenges of this stage of parenting. If your children are younger, begin now to master the skills she outlines. It just may smooth the path ahead for you and your child. Overwhelmed parents will appreciate both her clarity and practicality and also her brevity. Katie conveys her insights and strategies concisely. Parenting in the Eye of the Storm packs a lot of value into 160 pages. This is a book which parents will refer to again and again.

Among several premises presented in the book, Katie suggests that adoptive parents need to master four skills:

“Unrescuing” your adoptive teen  [Are you exhausted from being expected to be the EMT to the rescue at a moments notice? Want to nurture your teens capabilities–for their sake and yours? If so, this skill will interest you.]

Setting adoption-sensitive limits [Because you’re committed to Adoption-attunement and are trauma-informed, do you struggle to balance empathy with accountability, responsibility and respect? If so, this skill will interest you.]

Having connected conversation [Do you struggle to have conversations which create intimacy instead of eye rolls and annoyance? If so, this skill will interest you.]

Helping your teen envision their future [Do you sense that both you and your teen have some ambivalence about their “fledging the nest”? Does the history of grief and loss which has touched the family color your thoughts, beliefs and concerns–consciously or unconsciously? If so, this concept will interest you.

Do you see a pattern here? Katie understands what adoptees and their families are facing. She’s been there. Her insights offer hope and compassion not judgment. She presents her ideas in an inviting and approachable way. She’s not looking to scapegoat or criticize, she’s committed to increasing capabilities, awareness and nurturing healthy families. Respect and loving boundaries are an integral part of the structure of a steady family. Ironically, parents sensitized to adoptee losses and triggers, many times flounder in their ability to establish these important guard rails. The sample conversations offer insight and ideas on how to master this skill. The dialogs feel natural, not rehearsed or overly contrived–like words parents might actually speak and teens might actually “hear.”

Naftziger also highlights the importance of parents nurturing the natural inclinations and talents of their adopted children. We all know kids “listen to” and learn more from our example than our lectures. In the absence of direct information to the contrary, they may infer that the only acceptable future for them is one that mimics their adoptive parents’ path. This can create a significant double bind for them, especially if they’ve been adopted into a family whose talents and past patterns diverge from the innate talents and inclinations of the adoptee. If a family whose highest passion is sports adopts a child who inclines to the cerebral and abstract, there is a danger the child will feel that he can never meet the expectations of his parents. Even worse, he may never feel permitted to become his authentic self.

Naftziger asks adoptive parents to examine how well they are helping their child identify their innate talents and how clearly are they encouraging and valuing those aptitudes. We want our kids to know that we love and accept them for themselves not for some cartoon imitation of an idealized parental fantasy.

If we think back to when we were teens struggling to figure out how to carve a future for ourselves, imagine how much harder it would have been if our parents insisted–overtly or covertly–that even though we had zero interest in mathematics, we had to become an actuary–or some similar disconnect between our talents and our parents plans. It is certainly a parent’s duty to encourage children to plan for the future and work to bring that future to fruition. We must ensure that our child’s dream is genuinely their dream and not their interpretation of what they believe our dream for them is.

We often talk about being sure to take the time to care for yourself and your relationship with your partner. This book just might be a significant part of that self-care. Check out Parenting in the Eye of the Storm I believe you and your teen will be glad that you did. Marshal all your resources to prepare you for the parenting task at hand. The more prepared you feel, the easier it will be to stay calm and Intentional in the midst of the storm. In addition to reading pertinent books, attending workshops and chatting with other adoptive parents, partner with a an adoption coach (like GIFT) and/or an adoption therapist.