Posts Tagged ‘bonding’

Relationships: Making Time, Focusing Attention

Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 01:04 PM
Author: admin

Relationships: Making Time, Focusing AttentionHuman beings are genetically programmed to desire belonging and companionship, yet life is at its core a solitary journey. In response, each of us walks through life attracting and establishing relationships and deciding who and what is important. As adoptive families, one of our most important relationships—the one between parent and child didn’t happen by accident. We had to expend great energy, intention, and commitment to form our families.

As hard as we work to create relationships, often we fall short in dedicating the necessary energy to sustain them. One of life’s biggest challenges is disciplining ourselves to take the steps, make the time and focus the effort to sustain relationships. It’s not enough to build them; we must also nurture them.

During our recent retreat in Sedona, my GIFT partners and I acted on our intention to be partners, colleagues, and friends. This required us to adjust busy schedules, arrange coverage to fulfill any ongoing responsibilities during our absence, and create understandings with our families. Certainly, this took effort, but the goal—and the result were well worth it.

As Intentional parents, how are you carving the time, focusing attention and engaging in activities—or moments—that feed your spirits and strengthen your family ties?

Relationships: Making Time, Focusing Attention, sheepThink of specific choices that you made; which ones advanced your goal? Which ones fell flat? What patterns, assumptions, and complicating factors blocked your success? What habits kept you tethered to “old” outcomes? What “system” can you design that will best support you?

It might help to imagine this was a career or job goal; the same kind of strategies that serve us professionally can often be tweaked to serve us in relationships. (Remember to operate from the perspective of relationship not transaction!)

One simple practice which we used during our retreat was to set a daily intention. We each identified a single word to embody that intention, for example, forgiveness, serenity, joy, kindness, attunement, tranquility. Determine whatever word captures your intention and then walk through the day with that word as the framework through which you engage for the day. We chose to share our daily intention with one another. (Decide if you want to share yours with others.)

One of the most common impediments to goal achievement is lack of time and the stress that results.

Relationships: Making Time, Focusing AttentionPromise yourself that you will also identify what you would be declining. Take the time to weigh out the choices. Gain clarity, then choose. Feel the difference this makes in your decision process. How much extra time did it take? What benefits do you notice?

How might this practice–and the small pause it inserts–help avoid making decisions which are later regretted? How might it reduce stress? How might it improve relationships with others and yourself? How does it help you choose your priorities from a place of strength?

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Changing Intentions, Changing Behavior: An Uphill Climb

Wednesday, February 28, 2018 @ 05:02 PM
Author: admin

Changing Intentions, Changing Behavior: An Uphill ClimbLast week we challenged you to set time aside to have deeply connected and vulnerable conversations with the people you love. We titled it “Before It Is Too Late.”  Our intent was to encourage some positive change regarding the mood of negativity, anger and, violence in America. We believe we must focus on connection as a prime priority.

Creating genuine feelings of belonging and connectedness are the solution to anger and isolation, not the after-effect.

A loving relationship is the soil from which our family bonds grow. We plant the seeds of trust, caring, forgiveness and, acceptance. The growth process takes time and attentive nurturing.

Change of this magnitude requires a combination of intention, commitment and, execution. It is definitely an uphill climb that demands persistence, powering through failure, forgiveness, encouragement and, acknowledgment of every tiny increment of success.

So … back to last week’s challenge. Did you actually make time to have the conversation in which you told them you love them? How many times did you do? if not, what distractions, habits and behavioral patterns got in your way? Pause for a moment to listen to your inner dialogue as you considered the previous questions. How “accountable” were you? What rationale (excuses?) did you invoke to justify not taking the time for the challenge?

Step back. Now ask yourself, if a spouse, friend, coworker or, child used similar reasons for not following through on a Big Intention would you call “baloney” on them? Would you think it but not share the thought?

Now imagine yourself as the “listener” hearing your reasons for not acting on your intention. Do the words ring true? Great. How can you overcome those obstacles to create a different outcome this week? What are you willing to do to make sure you make the time to connect? What reminders might serve your goal?

If you judged your “reasons” as insufficient, are you ready to move beyond these distractions, obstacles or, excuses? What will you have to think, do and say differently?

Intimacy requires us to be vulnerable with one another which means it leaves us open to being hurt. Risk it. Start the conversation. Lead by example and speak from your heart. Reciprocity may not come but the words will have been heard. Even if the message didn’t take root immediately, repeat the process until it does. When family members do respond, listen, totally, with heart and mind. That is a daring act of love which transforms, hearts, lives and, worlds. This is how we attune and it is through this attunement that we interact in ways that benefit the entire family.

The time for these conversations is now. #LoveRadically

Best Gift: Confidence, Courage and, Capability and, Compassion

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 04:12 PM
Author: admin
Best Gift: Confidence, Courage and, Capability and, CompassionIn the previous two blogs we’ve explored an approach to the holiday season from the perspective of Intentional Parenting. We’ve striven to shift our focus from material presents and instead to concentrate on intangible blessings. Intentional families reinforce family values in both words and in action.
Like many others of my generation, I am a grandparent handling the day care responsibilities for my grandchild. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, it gives me an irreplaceable channel to forge life-long, solid attachments with my grandson. Second, the cost of quality day-care is prohibitive. My willingness to shoulder this responsibility allows my children to stretch their hard-earned dollars further.
With this first-hand opportunity to shape my grandson, I am able to practice much of the Intentional Parenting suggestions which I proffer here. I believe that helping to shape my grandson’s values in a positive way is one of the best gifts I can provide him. Each day during our time together, I intentionally sprinkle messages—comments that encourage, demonstrate and, reinforce our family values. I think of them as thought-seeds, ideas which I trust will take root and bear fruit throughout his lifetime.
Best Gift: Confidence, Courage and, CapabilityWhat ideas?
I remind him that he is loved by me, his parents and his extended family. Who loves you, PJ? I continue asking, And who else? Until he runs out of names. Then we reverse engineer the activity reinforcing that there is room for all of the people in his heart. This includes the members of his dad’s biological family who do love him deeply and whole-heartedly. At twenty-eight months, he’s familiar with this “game” and appears to enjoy it.
I also like to remind him that he is capable, that it is essential to try and try again until success is achieved. Nana is so proud of you for trying… I acknowledge when he accomplishes something especially when he’s worked hard to do it. When we are together, I also comment on my own efforts to try. I point out when something doesn’t work but that I’m going to try again. This models capability in addition to speaking about it. And it reveals that even adults must work to gain proficiency.
I think it is important for children to understand that adults do not achieve success every time and that it is a process for us also. If they overheard me speaking aloud, narrating our play like a toddler outsiders might think me crazy. But I believe it reveals important information to children which they might otherwise not notice. In fact, most kids infer that everything is easy for adults; they do not realize we’ve been learning for our entire lifetimes.
One other belief which I emphasize is the importance of helping others. I let him know that I noticed and admire his efforts to help. Then I mention that his mommy and daddy are wonderful helpers as well. Our family believes in helping. Similarly, I highlight how everyone in our family is a helper, tryer, sharer and, hard worker. This builds compassion as well as a sense that we should not only feel empathetic but that we also should feel called to action.
Often this requires courage, especially in the moments when it is difficult to speak out, stand up or, get involved. This kind of conviction emerges from a lifetime of reinforcement. We plant these seeds when our kids are young and then we nurture them as they grow. This benefits them and us. While teaching them we are reminded of what is important and why.
While this may sound overly preachy and moralistic, fear not. One additional value I teach him is that every day we must make time for laughter and dance. ( And cooking, we’re a family that believes when you love someone, you cook them good food. Like his dad, PJ already loves to cook.)
Whatever one’s family values are, they bind us together and forge a common belief system that will determine actions. Actions, in turn, become our contribution to the world and a legacy for the entire family. Although we can’t wrap it and place it under the tree, a clear family value system is a mighty special gift! One might even say it is the proverbial “pearl of great price.
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Dear Mother I Do Not Know …

Wednesday, April 5, 2017 @ 04:04 PM
Author: admin

Dear Mother I do not knowRecently, an adult adoptee shared with me a letter which she wrote when she was ten years old. It reflects directly on our recent blog regarding the need to listen deeply to adoptees and affirm both the positive and the challenging impact which adoption imposes on their lives. It began, Dear Mother I Do Not Know, and continued:

Can you be my ghost friend? I will write to you and talk to you. Since I am not related to anyone I know, I am practically alone. I was adopted. I don’t know who I am related to. 

This child was raised with a very open attitude towards adoption and yet, her pain is palpable. She still felt the angst of isolation, the yearning for connection to birth family, the desire to know someone who was related to her. The absence of any biological relationships left her feeling unmoored, rootless. For those of us raised in our birth families, this struggle is difficult to imagine, understand and to determine how to best respond. Her words embody what  Betty Jean Lifton, Ph.D discovered in her research: that adoptees’ inner world are inhabited by an entire kingdom of missing, broken or out-of-reach relationships.

Dear mother I do not know.Ghost kingdomTo help all members of the adoption triad, therapists must be able to see the ghosts that accompany them. These ghosts spring from the depths of the unresolved grief, loss, and trauma that everyone has experienced. They represent the lost babies, the parents who lost them, and the parents who found them. Too dangerous to be allowed into consciousness, they are consigned to a spectral place I call the Ghost Kingdom. Search and reunion is an attempt by adoptees to reconnect with the ghost mother and father, and live the alternate life.*

But as Intentional Parents, we can–and must–do something to help our children. We can create an atmosphere that invites–welcomes–discussion of adoption and which acknowledge the adoption-connected realities which our children face. We can welcome Open Adoption because of the benefits it imbues to our children. (While Open Adoption brings complications to our lives, the benefits it  offers our children make it worthwhile. Keep in mind that Open Adoption is a spectrum as clearly explained by Lori Holden in her landmark book, The Open-hearted Way to Open Adoption.)

The first step is to acknowledge what is. The second step is to intentionally work on our family relationships. Our crazy, hectic lives too often drive s to operate on autopilot. Family life can be hectic. Time and energy run out before everything gets accomplished. We can get so enmeshed in the “doing” of our parenting responsibilities that we forget to take time to create moments of joy, connection and  authenticity. Last week we discussed the importance of creating a relationship with our children that wraps them in an experience of being “seen.” What steps did you take to begin building this level of intimacy? Perhaps you intended to make a change or intensify your commitment, and life just got in the way. (Translation: nothing changed.)

Choosing a mindset is only the beginning. We must also set up a “system” that will gently remind us of our intention, but firmly and with regularity! How might such a system work? It could be as simple as a daily alarm on your phone or daily calendar entry. Icons work well. Here are a few examples: 🤗 ❤ 🐻 🍕 🏀 🏈 ⚽ ⚾ 🎼 🚲 ⛺ 🌠 👩‍🍳 📚.  It’s your system. It’s sole purpose is to remind you to squeeze in those important moments of connection. It can be a simple as asking your child what his current favorite song is and then listening to it together. Perhaps you’ve got a sport-minded child.  The icon could remind you to practice a skill, watch a game or, go for a bike ride together. Perhaps they’d enjoy cooking, reading a book together etc. Get creative. The activities need not be expensive or time consuming. They simply must

What will be your first step? How will you help yourself remember to do it?

*Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 30:71–79, 2010 Copyright © Betty Jean Lifton ISSN: 0735-1690 print/1940-9133 online DOI: 10.1080/07351690903200176

Adoption Matters; Talk about It

Wednesday, February 15, 2017 @ 01:02 PM
Author: admin

Adoption Matters; Talk about It

Adoption matters; Talk about it! For far too many years adoption was buried under layers of secrecy. People considered it a sensitive subject. Off limits.  Some parents kept adoptees in the dark. Families mentioned it only in whispers. Adoptees absorbed the subtle message that adoption was a subject which should be kept under wraps. Any discussion—when it occurred—should be unflinchingly positive.

This attitude had more to do with shame than privacy. Sealed files hid vital information from adoptees even after they achieved adulthood. A subtle cultural belief underpinned this: that adoption shamed the birth mother and by association, tainted the adoptee.

Another cultural belief held that it was the “perfect” solution! It solved three sets of problems with a single act. One, it relieved overwhelmed birth parents who could not undertake their responsibilities to parent a child. Two, it fulfilled the dream of potential (usually infertile) parents to have a child whom they could raise. Three, it provided a permanent, loving family for a child who needed one. Many adoption professionals saw adoption as a transaction, a life-changing  event that set all parties on a new path. They communicated this belief to both birth and adoptive parents. They advised everyone to get on with their new lives and fostered the expectation that all would be happily-ever-after.

Adoption Matters; Talk about It.magnifying-lens-AQAdoption Matters to FAMILIES; Talk about It Over the last few decades, a great shift has occurred in Adoption World. Openness has become the predominant norm. Birth mothers themselves often find and select the adoptive family for their child. The need, possibility or, desire for secrecy has diminished. Parents acknowledge that they built their families via adoption.

Still, the Fairy Tale of Adoption lingers. Too many adoptees still receive the message—transmitted intentionally or unconsciously—that when they mention adoption, the conversation must be upbeat and positive and that loyalty to the adoptive family should triumph over connection to birth family.

Adoption-attunement tells us that adoptive families must live a Both/And relationship. Both birth and adoptive families matter to adoptees. Both contribute important elements. Both influence adoptees and remain a permanent part of them. Unless families accept all parts of their children, then adoptees will continue to feel split in two.


Adoption Matters; Talk about ItAdoption Matters to ADOPTEES; Talk about It
Our understanding of adoption complexity has expanded dramatically. We recognize that adoption is a life-long journey not an event. Adult adoptees have awakened professionals and parents to the fact that adoptees never outgrow their biological connections. Biology is permanent and remains an integral part of who they are. Adoptees need all of their “parts.”

One does not replace the other. Adoptees must learn how to integrate their dual heritage into a healthy unity. Open adoption expert Lori Holden calls this the joining of biology and biography. At GIFT we refer to it as embracing a high AQ* (Adoption-attunement.) To accomplish this, adoptees need not only “permission” to discuss adoption but also must feel that the topic is “welcomed” by parents. Adoptees must experience validating emotional support for their complete experience of adoption not only the positive results and benefits.

When parents become this receptive force, kids can do the hard work WITH the loving support of parents. They are freed from having to pretend a one-sided, all-is-perfect role play. This enhances the attachment bonds within the adoptive families. Adoptees’ feel accepted for their authentic selves. In the absence of parental support and encouragement, adoptees must confront this intimidating process alone, without the comfort of the people whom they most need. 

Adoption Matters; Talk about ItAdoption Matters to ADOPTIVE FAMILIES; Talk about It As this Both/And paradigm takes root, parents and children can relate to one another on a genuine level which accepts the hard realities that exist in adoption-created relationships.

While conversations and relationships do not concentrate solely on the “hard stuff,” they do acknowledge and validate the existence of “hard stuff.” These conversations must always occur in age-appropriate conversations. And it is important that they begin when children first join the family. This allows all involved to become comfortable raising the subject .

Even more importantly, it avoids the quest for some future magic moment when parents think kids are old enough to start hearing about adoption. (Too often delay leads to the discussion never happening or to children hearing it first from someone other than a parent which is NEVER good and leads to intense feelings of betrayal and mistrust.)

Stay truthful. Avoid candy-coating while still framing conversations with compassion and empathy. Regardless of how painful the truth is, it is the child’s truth and they deserve to know it. Imagine how painful it is for late-discovery adoptees to learn that other people–even perhaps those whom they most trust and love–that these people kept the truth hidden. This type of information-hoarding  destroys relationships. It is the antithesis of healthy, honest communication.

Adoption Matters; Talk about ItAdoption Matters to EXTENDED FAMILIES; Talk about It Not only must the immediate adoptive family be steeped in Adoption-attunement, but also the extended family. We hear of too many examples where the acceptance of adopted children by grand-parents and other extended family is only on the surface.

Parents mistakenly try to “dismiss” or minimize this reality; It can be hard for parents to admit to themselves when their extended family is treating their children differently from other relatives. But when parents deny the painful reality of their extended family’s attitudes, their children suffer. Parents cannot “pretend away” the shortcomings of relatives and when they attempt to “pretty up” the truth, it undermines their children’s reality.

It subtly teaches kids not to trust their own judgment, experience and insights. This reality-contradicting expectation confuses them. It requires them to build their reality from quicksand and clouds and places adoptees on a shifting, unsteady foundation. This is the kind of stuff that increases adoptee feelings of not quite fitting into a family which is of course, the exact opposite goal of well-intentioned but misinformed parents who candy-coated or deny the actual facts. (Prettifying the truth doesn’t improve the issues.) It also magnifies fears–often unconscious but deep-seated– that unless they are “Good Adoptees” and don’t complain, they might risk the rejection of their adoptive family. (Mandating permanent rose-colored glasses does nothing to foster good mental health. Instead it requires adoptees to live in a permanent fantasy world. Life is far more complex, problems are quite real and wishful thinking does not actually solve problems. Reality-based action does.)

Adoption Matters; Talk about ItAdoption Matters to COMMUNITIES; Talk about It According to ChildWelfare.Gov, approximately 120,000 adoptions occur each year in the United States. Clearly, adoption impacts our communities–both secular and religious. Adoptees become members of communities where they will become contributors and where they will use services (like schools, hospitals, athletic facilities, etc.)

Consider the number of people touched by adoption, not only their immediate and extended adoptive families but also their friends, fellow students, teammates, etc. The number is significant. All will benefit from an improved understanding of adoption, as well as adoptee and birth parent needs.

Adoption Matters to COUNTRIES; Talk about It For many years Americans have adopted children internationally. Countries have changed their own positions regarding the adoption of their citizens. Economic conditions improved. Oversight intended to prevent human trafficking increased. Women’s rights have improved. These factors reduced the numbers of international adoptions.

Therefore, the predominant countries from which children have been placed have changed over time. China’s One Child policy, for example, contributed to large numbers of children (mostly girls) being adopted in the USA. This in turn, led to a shortage of female adults and changes in their adoption policy. Both nations have been significantly impacted. America gained additional children—and their talents and contributions. Outplacing nations lost these same individuals. All involved have been permanently changed. Those changes continue down the generations.

It is important that families embrace the cultures of their adopted children not simply in a week-long culture camp type of surface celebration, but in a family commitment that recognizes that their adopted child’s culture is now part of every family member’s life in a deep and abiding way.

Adoption Matters; Talk about It.AQ

Adoption Matters; Talk about It. Often.

In summary, adoption transforms lives, families, communities and countries. The significance of its impact cannot be overstated. Adoption deserves honest, open and continuing discussion to ensure that adoptees benefit as much as possible and also strives to ameliorate the negative impact on them. Particular effort must be dedicated to ensure that adoptees feel the totality of their adoption experience validated.

All parties must acknowledge, confront, handle and “own” their “stuff.” This nurtures integrity, empathy and connection. This perspective originates within the nuclear family and should be echoed within each expanding circle of influence: extended family, community, and country.
Imagine a world where this kind of accountability operated in families, communities and countries. Wouldn’t that be something worth talking about?

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This multi-award-winning book eases the way into vital adoption connected conversations. It approaches adoption from the child’s point of view and introduces complex ideas in a simple, child-friendly way. Set the ground work for making adoption a welcome and open topic for family discussion.

ABC, Adoption & Me: A Multicultural Picture Book appeals can be enjoyed by children from 5-11. Children’s understanding of the content will deepen as they age. Adoptive Families Magazine named it a Favorite Read in 2013. Includes a Parent Guide.