Posts Tagged ‘Connection’

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

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?

 

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.

 

Having Fun Yet?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 @ 01:04 PM
Author: admin

Having Fun Yet?Parenting is challenging work, probably far more difficult than you had anticipated. You might even find yourself wondering why nobody clued you in ahead of time. Think back, however, to the time when you were awaiting your child’s arrival. Most likely all you could anticipate was the joy and wonder of holding your child in your arms. Any caveats would have fallen on deaf ears or be filed under other people’s issues.

Once your child arrives and the initial ecstasy subsides, reality sets in. Oh boy does it ever! We discover that parenting—especially adoptive parenting— is not only beautiful, amazing and consuming. It is also complex, exhausting, overwhelming. For you. For your child. For your family. For his birth family.

Parents can easily fall into a “responsibility rut” and become over-focused on the work of parenting: teaching children to walk, talk and develop competencies; enticing them into eating healthy meals; preparing them for school; assigning age-appropriate chores; mastering Adoption-attunement … Over-emphasizing the regulatory aspects of parenting doesn’t exactly generate an atmosphere of warm, cuddly connection. Do you like to spend time with someone who constantly nitpicks, admonishes and routinely points out your shortcomings? Neither do our children. How can Intentional Parents address this?

Shared fun is the best antidote to the “work” of parenting. Blessedly, it is also a most effective and essential ingredient to building healthy attachment relationships. Fun builds joy. When joy exists within a relationship, it increases mutual value and respect and grows an interest in being together. Spending time together weaves a shared history. This creates a common story between parents and children which they all can enjoy retelling over the years.

Parents must also spend chunks of time setting boundaries, enforcing rules and imposing consequences. Shared fun provides an essential counter-balance to the “work” of parenting. While we want our children to grow into kind, successful and respectful family members and good contributors to the world, we also want them to yearn to spend time together as a family and to feel deep, abiding love and security. In the absence of fun and joy in a family, kids will regard parents more as “wardens” than as inspiring role models.

Authoritarian parents may elicit compliance and begrudging respect but most likely, that soul-deep unconditional love may be elusive. Children must be both inspired by parents and engaged by the values the family sets forth. This happens through days, weeks, months of shared interactions which include a healthy dose of fun, affection, discipline and encouragement. Intentional Parents understand that fun is not frivolous. It is integral to attachment and building family bonds.

How have you shared fun within your family? It need not be time-consuming or expensive but it must be consistent ingredient in family life on a daily basis. Try establishing a silly daily ritual. (Solicit ideas from your children.) Take an interest in your child’s interests. Teach siblings to do the same for one another. In addition to family grace, create a family handshake. Be inventive and have some fun!

Recall special memories from your own childhood. What made them memorable? Also be mindful of those times when you wished your parents had been interested in you and had opted to share in your daily life, not just in providing the essentials to you. Use that insight to inform the memory-building times you create within your family. How might your family benefit?

Out of the Ashes, a New Reality Emerges

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 @ 01:04 PM
Author: admin

Out of the Ashes, a New Reality Emerges Open AdoptionWe shared the recent Easter weekend with my son’s birth mother and grandmother. How apropos it seemed to be celebrating this holiday which focuses on resurrection and new life. After living a closed adoption for twenty years, twelve years ago my son and his birth mother reconnected. Their relationship has grown and deepened over the years. We have come to discover the blessing of expanding one’s concept of “family” to include his birth relatives. Because they are important to him, naturally, they are important to us.

We are navigating the unique territory of becoming acquainted on a deep level as we build history and forge connections that make our relationships meaningful and authentic. Over the last ten years our family has significantly dwindled in size. It gives me great peace of mind that my son now has many additional people in his life who truly love and care about and for him. Since reconnecting and meeting his family, he feels more grounded. Many of his passions and talents which were unique in our family, reflect familiar skills, talents and generational inclinations in his birth family. He finds it reassuring and validating.

I find it fascinating and also a bit sad. For him. For them. For all of us. However, our growing intimacy also increases awareness for all of us about the duality of adoption. (Our joy at his being part of our family exacted a great loss for him and his birth family. We all could see the great What Ifs. What If he’d been adopted within his biological family? What if he’d never been adopted?) Our experience has reinforced my appreciation for the benefit of open adoption. If we truly and unconditionally love him, how could we deny him the benefit of expanding his world to include so many additional people who love him? Can we ever be loved by too many? I think not.

It's Not About You

For further explorations about adoptee search, reunion and open adoption, read the anthology It’s Not about You: Understanding Adoptee Search, Reunion and Open Adoption edited by Brooke Randolph, LMHC. I wrote the first chapter and adult adoptees, adoptive parents and professionals shared their personal experiences in the remaining chapters. The book provides wonderful insight into what has and has not worked for many adoptees. Those currently parenting will find their experiences provide information based on personal experiences and not on supposition or hypothesis. It addresses when, why and how to tell a child they were adopted; reasons why adoptees search; benefits and challenges of open adoption and reunion. Intentional Parents will find this book provides a much-needed resource.

 

“The Donaldson Adoption Institute’s three-part online interactive curriculum is a critical resource to parents who are experiencing or considering openness in adoption and professionals who provide services in this area. Launched in November 2016, Openness in Adoption: What a Concept! is an interactive presentation where a narrator guides users through the curriculum. It includes audio and video clips, reflection questions, exercises and a comprehensive User’s Guide with important key concepts and terms.

We know openness is a healthier way to experience adoption but that doesn’t mean people always find it easy to navigate these new relationships in their lives. Without the right supports in place, families may needlessly struggle.

Starting today, we [The Donaldson Institute}will be charging a modest fee of $29.95 for this curriculum. Thank you for making openness and healthy relationship development a priority in your life.”