Posts Tagged ‘#adoptiveparenting’

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.

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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.

Acceptance

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.

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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Mirroring and Belonging: Building Healthy Relationships

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 @ 02:07 PM
Author: admin

Mirroring and Belonging: Building Healthy Relationships-© HaywireMedia - Fotolia.com

Last week we introduced the relationship pyramid and discussed how safety and security provide the foundation on which relationships depend. The more substantial the experience of feeling safe and secure, the stronger the relationship will be and the easier the transition to the increasing intimacy of the upper levels of the pyramid.

Until feelings of safety and security are firmly in place, the higher levels of relationship remain stubbornly out of reach. Efforts to teach, or discipline fall on deaf ears. Until kids feel connected, they don’t care or give much credence to what parents, ( or teachers, coaches, etc.) want.

Think about it. As an adult, the opinions of total strangers have little impact on your choices. Personal values, beliefs and priorities drive you, not the instructions of some random passer-by on the street. The influence of public opinion is minor compared to the sway of those about whom you really care and with whom you feel securely connected.  Kids too, listen to those they care about and to whom they feel connected.

Mirroring and Belonging: Building Healthy Relationships-relationship-pyramid-Mirror

The next level of the Relationship Pyramid focuses on Mirroring and belonging. Mirroring is interactive. It involves a “Serve and Return” loop. Mirroring occurs between parent and child; sometimes the parent leads the mirroring. Other times the child mirrors what the parent models.

In the former, a parent notices a behavior in the child and repeats it back to them–not in a mocking way. But in a way that says, I “see” you and accept you.

Kids need assistance in learning to identify and name the emotions they feel and to accurately recognize the emotions displayed by others.

(Events from their history may be causing them to “go on the alert.” Discover what these triggers are. Validate their perceptions and help them to recognize that in the past it was true that  when a person from their past looked that way/acted that way, it indicated danger.)

Be careful to maintain  congruency about your own emotions. If children infer that you are angry, and their perception is accurate, own your emotion. Validate the accuracy of their “read.” Do not deny your emotions; this only confuses kids and makes it more difficult for them to develop accuracy in reading social cues.

How can parents help kids develop a broad emotional vocabulary that will serve them well, enhance their ability to socialize and foster the sense that they belong? Teaching children to recognize and name emotions provides them the vocabulary with which to think about and communicate their feelings.

Mirroring-Belonging-Building Healthy-Relationships-Father and toddler son playingPlayfulness plays an important–essential–role in creating and strengthening  connection between parent and child. Parents can engage in silly face games which involve mirroring on a purely physical level.  Check out this link for several ideas for emotional literacy activities including puppetry, miming, mirrors and more. (Practicing these skill-building activities when parent and child are in a relaxed mood, not when  a child is in the middle of an emotional meltdown.)

For another fun, joint activity, take pictures of each other as you dramatize different feelings. Turn the photos into  a matching game (similar to “Concentration” a popular child’s “matching” game.) Have fun. Enjoy spending time together, knitting that bond that connects while simultaneously helping your child acquire essential social skills.

How do you consciously mirror your child’s emotions?