Posts Tagged ‘both/and’

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.

Both/And Parenting, Making Healthy Decisions

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 @ 02:08 PM
Author: admin

Both/And Parenting.hands in heart.fotolia.giftIn our blogs we focus on the essential need for a Both/And attitude in adoptive families. Both birth and adoptive parents. Both nature and nurture. Each has positives to offer. Each is a permanent and core part of the child. We believe everyone benefits from this inclusive approach which releases our children from the lose/lose expectation that they must be loyal only to us.

When we operate with a both/and presupposition, we free our children from the burden of an untenable choice: care about those who gave them life or care about those who raise them day to day.

We can also embrace a both/and paradigm  in other areas of our parenting to help nurture family harmony. Consider the issue of low level conflict. How might parents propose an approach that allows both themselves and their children to feel heard?

Here’s an example. Dad wants the lawn mowed–now. Teen wants to sleep in. What if they frame an agreement that lets the child rack up the extra zzzs as long as the lawn gets mowed by 6:00 p.m. (or other mutually agreed upon time of completion)? Instead of a battle royale, this could be a win/win situation. Both can get their goal accomplished and both can feel like they’ve “won.”

Both/And Parenting.Fotolia.GIFT.Asian dad son.lectureConsider how often we engage in power struggles with kids because we want what we want, when we want and HOW we want.  Emotions escalate. Parent and child each dig in their heels. Frequently the issue being debated is fairly trivial on the surface. The real point is control. Parents don’t want to lose it and kids want as much self-determination as possible. Both lose in this struggle since the relationship is threatened and no real control truly exist.

Let’s face it, none of us like to be told “No.” The world of a child overflows with refusals, postponements and “Not on your lifes.” To whatever extent possible, allow children choice. Avoid phrases like “Would you like to…” if “No!” is not an option. Deliberately create opportunities for children to practice decision-making. When they are little, it is easy to offer them two or three options–the red pajamas or the blue, orange juice, water or milk, bath or shower–any of which are acceptable. Get in the habit of offering these simple choices.

Be certain that you make a clear distinction between an option and an instruction. If there is not really a choice to be made but rather an instruction to be followed, don’t play “Russian Roulette” hoping they’ll choose the only option acceptable to you. That is not a genuine choice. This kind of deck-stacking damages a relationship. When the child chooses the “wrong” choice (the one included as a sham option but which the parent is unwilling to accept,) they will be angry when the parent breaks his word and overrides the child’s choice. The  phoniness of the transaction blindsides the child. The big lesson they learn is that the parent’s word cannot be trusted. That is definitely not the message parents want to broadcast.

Both/And Parenting.healthy decisionsAs kids get older allowing kids to make choices becomes a bit more challenging. The stakes increase and so does the learning. The only way to become skilled at making good decisions, anticipating consequences and avoiding poor outcomes is by making decisions, living with the results and learning from the process. It is far better to have kids learn the difference between a “good” and a “poor” decision when the life cost is trivial: a failing grade versus a juvenile court record; an ugly outfit versus a hideous –and inappropriate tattoo; an unsatisfying friendship versus an abusive one.

Failure teaches many lessons; it takes tremendous courage to keep trying. Parents must  help kids–and themselves–to focus on learning from the decision not on the expectation that every decision/attempt will satisfy or succeed on the first go around. Be there when your child fails, not with “I told you so” but with curiosity as to how it can be done differently.

Both/And Parenting..healthy decisions.child chooses book

How are you creating opportunities for your children to practice good decision-making?

What are you modeling about your own processes, attitudes, persistence and learning from failure?

Where are you most challenged in allowing your children the chance to self-manages and make decisions.

How careful are you to distinguish between options and requirements?