Posts Tagged ‘difficult conversation’

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.

An Eclipse Can Blind Us

Wednesday, August 23, 2017 @ 02:08 PM
Author: admin

challenges-of-parenting-can-blind-us-to-the-joysThe recent total eclipse captured our national attention and provided a refreshing point of unity for all Americans regardless of their political beliefs. It offered an experience of staggering beauty and reminded us of the fragility of this planet which we all share. For all of its mesmerizing beauty, an eclipse can blind us if we stare at the sun’s brilliance without adequate protection. Sometimes the challenges of parenting can similarly blind us and cause us to lose heart.

All parents know that in addition to the exquisite heart-touching, soul-altering joys of parenthood, it also includes challenges that can break the heart or cause us to question our capabilities as parents. The hard work of parenting also includes a healthy dose of drudgery: the heavy lifting of inculcating and enforcing family values and the important responsibility of teaching children how to learn from their mistakes.

Adoption imposes additional challenges to our parenting tasks. In addition to the same tasks which all children face, our kids also must discern how to blend a dual heritage from their birth and adoptive families. Make no mistake; their job is far from easy. It takes courage and persistence, support and encouragement. Most of all it takes time. Lots and lots of time.

This extended period of dependency can exceed our expectations; it also can exceed our patience. Sometimes parenting can feel utterly overwhelming and endless. We look at our friends (who are raising kids by birth and not through adoption.) We envy their kids’ seemingly effortless ability to fledge the family nest and make it on their own. We’re ready for the next stage of life.

Sometimes, we can fall into feelings of despair and wonder if our kids will ever pull themselves together. We fear that we are not up to the task. We mistrust our skills and inner strength. We tire of the conflict that simmers between us and children who are struggling to solidify their identity and enter adulthood. We crave a break from the stress and worry–for a moment, a day, a week… We pray for reassurance that things will work out well.

Shift vantage points. Imagine what it is like to be in our children’s shoes. They can’t step away around these obstacles. Their only pathway forward is to leap over these hurdles. They must forever manage the two planets of their lives: birth family and adoptive family. It’s a lifetime burden on their shoulders. As fatigued as we are by the shadows adoption casts into our family life, their stress pales by comparison.

As Intentional parents we must remind ourselves that our kids are tired of the conflict too. They too, crave the relief of resolution. We know behavior is the language of trauma and that their behavior speaks volumes. They’re probably afraid they’ll never figure themselves out. They sense our worries and fears and these emotions magnify their own self-doubts, feelings of inadequacy and fears of rejection.

Our exhaustion and impatience tells them we aren’t up to the challenge of standing with them until the crisis passes. That’s scary. It’s a primal fear like primitive man experienced when an eclipse wiped the life-giving sun from the sky and they wondered if it would ever return. Our kids need to know that we can handle them, their “stuff,” their anger and their fear.

Unless we can hold that space of acceptance, security and hope, we’ve allowed ourselves to become blinded by the glare of the conflict because it is so close, so hot, so intense. But like the eclipse in which the moon succeeds in totally obscuring the sun which is four hundred times larger, the result occurs because of the perspective and proximity. Eventually the planetary alignment shifts, the moon continues on its orbit and our reality returns to its “normal.” As people of this century, we have this knowledge and that bedrock of security neutralizes our fear of the darkness.

It’s scary until the light returns and begins to shimmer around the edges of the current problem. We must hold hope in our hearts with the sure knowledge that we can be the safety lenses that enable our kids and ourselves, to look right at these two things and learn how to establish a balance. In spite of any self-doubts or moments of weakness, we do have what it takes. Sometimes a shift in perspective can make all of the difference. Staring too directly at the fiery glow of the “problem” can blind us to the choices that will unfold in the near future or those that currently remain obscured by the too-close light. How will you use your “safety glasses to look at the challenges ahead? How can you serve as safety lenses for your children?

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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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?

http://wp.me/p4r2GC-1GL

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.

Adoptive Families Give Thanks

Wednesday, November 23, 2016 @ 02:11 PM
Author: admin

Thanksgiving, Gratitude & the Adoption Connection #RoomAtTheTableForAll

Thanksgiving centers on gratitude; that is the very reason for its existence. As adoptive parents we must be mindful of the hot button issue that often connects gratitude and adoption. Adoptees frequently hear that they “should” feel “lucky” that they were adopted and be grateful to their parents. This attitude/expectation ignores and trivializes the losses that co-exist with the benefits of adoption. Avoid commingling the desire to encourage gratitude with the burden of this misguided cultural expectation.

Yes, help them tally their blessings and observe the genuine spirit of Thanksgiving. As a family, join together to give thanks and share the holiday. Joyfully celebrate the genuine treasures of our lives: the people we love and cherish, good health, and commitment to one another. Remember those present and those at a distance. Make space for all the important relationships in our families’ lives, birth and adoptive. We are all in this together! We are family. For a lifetime.

Remember too, that November is National Adoption Month and the purpose of that observance is to highlight the need for permanent families for kids in foster care. For too many children in foster care family remains a dream. Hold tight to those you love. Teach them good values, nurture their talents, and teach them well.

thanksgiving-collageConsider sharing these Thanksgiving-themed books. They offer good opportunities for conversations about important themes like gratitude, history, truth-telling and the Promise that is America. For children adopted internationally, the  book “How Many Days to America” gently describes some of the forces that drive people to choose to leave their country and emigrate to the United States. Read the complete reviews on Writing to Connect.

podcast-graphic-templateRemember that GIFT’s newest free resource is now available on demand via  iTunes. We air a weekly fifteen-minute podcast called  “Essentials for Adopted-attuned Parenting.*” Listen to learn practical tips for building and strengthening your family. Podcasts will air for approximately 15 minutes. (They’ll be concise and to the point so you can easily squeeze it into your busy schedule!) The coaching and discussions will focus on real situations confronting adoptive families. Available on i-Tunes.
How often have you yearned for support from someone who understands adoptive family life who doesn’t judge you or your child for the struggles that you face? Wait no longer. Tune in and discover how it might help you and your family. Hear how other families handled similar situations. Experience a sense of judgment-free community, possibility, and hope. Click on this link and begin. How might this resource benefit your family?

Adoption Attunement.lighting the wayHappy Thanksgiving from all of the coaches at GIFT Family ServicesWe feel privileged to be your partner Growing Intentional Families Together.

“May your blessings be many, your sorrows be few. May the love in your hearts always be true.”

–an Irish blessing