Posts Tagged ‘#adoptiveparenting’

Roots and Wings, Questions and Answers, Building Connections

Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 02:03 PM
Author: admin

Roots and Wings, Questions and Answers Love connects families across time and distanceBy the very fact that you chose to take the time to open this blog, you have demonstrated a commitment to being the best parent you can. Posts like this one help us identify leverage points from which we can better guide and connect with our children. Today as I write this blog, tragically, another school shooting has occurred. This is another reminder of the fragility of life. In recent weeks we’ve concentrated nurturing our relationships within our family context. Strong, connected relationships form the foundational bedrock of healthy families. They do not happen by accident. They grow from a consistent commitment of words and aligned actions.

As Intentional Parents we have committed to a goal: to parent in a way that reflects our deeply held values and which helps children grow into happy, healthy adults with strong “roots” and sturdy “wings.”

So, let’s consider a few questions.

(First, identify one specific attempt you actually made to reinforce your relationship connection members of your family. Then repeat this series of questions regarding at least one attempt you made to connect with each of the remaining members of your family.) Let’s explore what you can “data mine” about your efforts.

Roots and Wings, Questions and Answers Keep reaching until you connectHow well was it received? What did it accomplish?  How did their response affect your emotions?

How have you reminded yourself each day to ensure you fulfilled your intention to make a daily connection?

Did you think to consider taking advantage of each family member’s “love language?” (If you need a refresher, reread this blog.)

What did you notice within yourself as the interactions occur?

 What happened when those efforts “landed”?

If your effort was rebuffed, how did you respond? (Think of both your external reactions and your internal emotions and thoughts.)

What can you do to help identify additional ways of connecting? How can you make them more effective?

How did timing, location, and the presence–or absence–of others influence whether or not connection successfully occurred?

Now run an instant replay in your mind WITHOUT any soundtrack.

What role did body language play—yours and theirs? How did they play off one another?

Now run ONLY the soundtrack. How did word choice influence the result? How does your wording influence the communication, for example, when you speak saying “you” versus “I”?

What have you learned about yourself? What have you learned about individual members of your family?  Decide what actions you want to repeat and which ones need further revision or a totally new strategy. When unable to connect “in person” what other ways might you try? Notes? Text messages? Get creative. Instagram? Letters? (the snail mail kind!) The bottom line:

Sustain the intention and

Develop the effective strategies

Implement systems that remind you to follow through.

Approach this effort one day at a time. What will you do today?

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?

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.



Gifts That Endure: Time, Attention and Validation

Wednesday, November 29, 2017 @ 08:11 PM
Author: admin

Gifts That Endure: Time, Attention and ValidationAlong with the joys of family celebrations, parties and, charitable efforts, the holiday crush creates stress and pressure. Expectations soar into the stratosphere. Parents seek to create magical moments with our kids by buying their dream gift. We want to make our family and friends happy. We yearn to feel that warm thrum of pleasure when our gift brings joy to them.

(Feel a tinge of pressure in your gut?)

We want to show them that we care and know enough about them to pick the perfect gift for them. I suspect that as adoptive parents, there is often a subtle yet potent pressure to “prove” ourselves to our kids, perhaps an unconscious sense that we must make their childhoods glorious to compensate for any adoption-connected loss and grief.

(Feeling more pressure?)

We know we must balance finances with our desire to buy the perfect gift. Often this pushes us to stretch the budget. Perhaps even to the point where it bursts and we create real financial pain for ourselves. Before buying an item, ask three questions: Can we afford it? Is this gift purchase about me feeling good or about the recipient? In six months will this still be valued?

(Feeling the burn now?)

How do we walk back expectations, defuse the stress and make healthier choices?

Let’s step back from the ingrained pattern and consider something our hearts all know: the best presents are not “stuff.” This is not to deny the hardcore realities of our culture.  Yes kids dream of the “in” toy of the season or, the trendy clothing that will help them fit in with their chosen social group. They’ll get some pleasure from having their Christmas wish list fulfilled. But they don’t need everything they want. Help kids learn this life lesson.

Time and attention

By spending less time shopping, we can spend more time with our children and our partners. Make an opportunity to connect with each of them individually as well as collectively as a family. Be sure it is focused, undivided and connected. It does not have to be lengthy. Concentrate on truly being with one another. Here are just a few ideas.

  • Make cookies. (To save time even more time, buy the pre-made rolls of cookie dough.)
  • Walk—or drive—through the neighborhood to view the holiday lights. Enjoy hot chocolate—with marshmallows, of course. Bring it with you in insulated cups or share it when you get home.
  • Decorate the house together. Make it about the fun not about creating a perfect look. When the kids are older, those photos of the tree with most of the ornaments hung on the bottom will bring laughter. Resist the temptation to redo the children’s work to bring it up to adult standards. Kids will remember—and cherish—the experience if they feel like their contribution was accepted and didn’t need to be “fixed.” Conversely, they will feel diminished if everything they contribute is edited or redone by an adult. (Some families compromise and have a children’s tree and an adult’s tree.)
  • Participate in local holiday events like parades, tree lightings, community, school or, church music shows.
  • Find a charitable activity to do as a family
  • Have the children help you select an item to donate to a toy drive.
  • Watch a holiday movie together. Serve popcorn or holiday cookies.

Gifts That Endure: Time, Attention and ValidationValidation

One of the greatest gifts we can provide our children is validation. For adoptees the holidays can be complicated. Along with the excitement and anticipation which all kids feel, they can experience conflicting and distressing emotions. They can feel great longing and curiosity about their birth parents—even children adopted as infants. Validate that. Create a family tradition like burning a candle in honor of their birth parents or a special mention in the holiday blessings. (If the adoption is open, share an activity with the birth parents, perhaps replicating a tradition from the birth family. Keep it private without other family or friends. )

Ensure that you’ve created a space for children to be honest about their feelings. Be sure they know they can find support from you to help them cope, that you won’t be angry or hurt.

For children adopted through foster care, memories of other Christmases will be on their mind. At best it will increase their grief and loss issues; at worst it will remind them of painful memories, abuse and neglect, and a tangle of mixed emotions. Sadness, longing, regret, anger and, love will all swirl in their minds. Do not wait for kids to raise the subject themselves. Open the space for talking about these hard things. Let them know that it is okay to have mixed feelings about the holidays, Reassure them that you understand if they are missing their first families. Identify a signal for when they are feeling overwhelmed and need an exit. Try to learn the triggers that might distress them, for example, songs, foods, smells, activities, sounds, even locations. Do not force them to participate in large, extended family gathering where they may feel out of place. This only reinforces feelings of not belonging. Give them the time and space they need. You and they will feel better in the long run.


Family dynamics are complicated, often unpredictable and highly charged. As intentional parents we recognize that the emotional health of our nuclear family must be at the center of any celebrations. Sometimes the emotional needs of our children will require us to skip the chaotic extended family gathering because it is too much for them to handle. Our guts can sense this. Listen to them. Being the safety net for our children is the best gift we can give them.

Acceptance is a two-way street. We must also give ourselves the grace we need. Admit when it is too much pressure, then maybe just do a minimal holiday –something that could be added to each year.  Have no expectations, and if you feel you are heading for breakdown, take the cues from your child, and slow down the festivities to what can be tolerated–for them and you. Default to the lowest level of excitement–the one at which everyone can cope. Stay present and focus on what your intuition senses your family needs.

Blessings and peace.

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.