Posts Tagged ‘difficult conversations’

Adoptive Families: Planning for the Unexpected

Wednesday, June 28, 2017 @ 02:06 PM
Author: admin

Adoptive Families: Planning for the UnexpectedWe ran this post last year and we think it bears a second look. 

For most of us the carefully wrought, precarious balance of our family systems depends on everything operating as expected. But what happens when an event smashes that equilibrium? This made me think about parenting in adoption. Beyond the “normal” challenges of raising a family, working and sustaining a marriage (or significant-other partnership,) adoptive families have additional roles, relationships and challenges to juggle. We get used to handling mind-numbing stresses and living life as the ultimate roller coaster ride. But… What if you or your spouse suddenly got sick? If you totaled your car, lost your job, or one of your kiddos came totally unglued, what emergency plan do you have?

I’m guessing that few of us have a really detailed blueprint of whom to call upon for help. Perhaps we have casual agreements: My sister would take the kids; My Mom would come and stay; Joe could carpool, etc. Are you and your spouse (partner,) on the same page? Have your resource people actually agreed? Or is your plan based on assumptions? And we all know where assumptions land us, right? Our children have already experienced a primal disruption in their lives when they were separated from their birth families and grafted into ours. We must ensure that we do whatever we can to ensure that if tragedy ever strikes our families, we have carefully outlined a plan that addresses such situations.

Adoptive Families: Planning for the UnexpectedThe middle of a crisis is the worst time to be scrambling for resources and the assistance that you need. Do yourself a favor and brainstorm with your partner now and persist until you’ve developed a specific plan. Have those Difficult Discussions; if there’s anything adoptive parents know, it is that life does not always go the way we plan. Actually, make that two plans: one for short-term problems and one for long-term. Be sure you have written things down. Have notarized permissions that allow others to access healthcare for your kids—and you—if you are unable to make those decisions. Compile a file that has their medical information, physician’s names, numbers, etc. Have a legally binding agreement that specifies who would care for your kids if something happened to you and/or your spouse (or partner.) What if neither of you could communicate?

While these events are unpleasant to confront, it is an act of love to ensure that you provide care and custody for your kids with people who would welcome and love them (as opposed to agreeing to it because they feel they “should.”) Ensure that the people you’ve chosen are willing to commit to the plan, are thoroughly educated on adoption realities and, embrace Adoption-attunement*. Compile a folder with pertinent resources. Include agencies as well as individuals, advocacy groups, on-line support forums, etc. Review your plans periodically; people and their circumstances change. Your choices may have to be adjusted to reflect those changes.

take the first step concept:running person and arrow

Schedule those conversation with your spouse and anyone designated in your “plan.” It just might be one of the most loving and important things you can do for your children. It’s a situation you hope you never face but if it happens, your kids’ will benefit from your pre-planning immensely. Create the plans– in detail.

What’s your first step?

Take it.     Today.

 

 

When Family Remains a Dream: National Adoption Month

Wednesday, November 9, 2016 @ 05:11 PM
Author: admin

When Family Remains a Dream: national-adoption-month-square-never-outgrowNovember brings to mind Thanksgiving. As adoptive parents we feel deeply grateful for the added blessing of our children. It feels particularly apt to observe National Adoption Month in November.

Note, however, that the original (and on-going) mission of National Adoption Month focused on finding families for kids languishing in foster care. When adoptive parents heard about National Adoption Month, they enthusiastically embraced the month-long observance through a lens which celebrated adoption. The adoption-as-amazing-blessing movement gained momentum and overshadowed the original purpose.

This resulted in two significant losses. One, the mission of finding families for foster kids fell to the periphery. Two and most important, viewing adoption through rose-colored glasses ignored—invalidated—the very real co-existing losses for adoptees, the persons at the center of adoption.

Several years ago, some very brave adoptees responded to the “co-opting” of National Adoption Month. They stood up and insisted that their voices also be heard. Loudly. Passionately. Yes, and sometimes angrily. Very angrily. After all, who understands adoption better than an adoptee? Thus the #FliptheScript movement arose. Courageous adoptees shared their stories, destroyed the fairy tale and replaced it with their individuals truths—warts, heartache, short-comings, and all. They acknowledge what worked and they refuse to suppress what did not. Some of their narratives fell heavy on our hearts. It pained us to listen.

But listen we must. It is imperative that we heed the lessons that #FliptheScript reveals. It is knowledge garnered at a very steep price and which will help us parent our children better. Read their posts with an open mind. Set aside any adoption-is-totally-awesome bias and consider their stories. Listen even if it makes us squirm. Prepare to be “triggered.” It may be the cost of discovering uncomfortable awareness of how our parenting might currently fall short. By listening deeply, authentically without any urge to refute or deny, we can understand our child’s needs better. And then we can parent them better. It empowers us to improve. Isn’t our deepest desire to be the best parent to these children whom we love so fiercely, and whom we yearn to protect?

If, because it is too painful to heed, we choose to plunge our heads in the sand and ignore #FlipTheScript’s perspectives on the unique needs and realities of adoption, we shortchange the children we love so much. None of us would willingly choose our own personal comfort over the very genuine needs of our children. Let’s Google the hashtag #FliptheScript, fasten our seatbelt, open our hearts and minds and listen. We just might discover precisely what our child needs and understand and embrace the need for reforming adoption practices.

Honor the mission of National Adoption Month by advocating for foster kids who need families now. Help make their dream of a loving family come true. Then yes, hug your kids a little closer. Enjoy a moment of profound gratitude and then set the stage for some important, ongoing conversations about the complex realities of their adoption experience and acknowledge the losses as well as the gains.

national-adoption-month-grid-2016-jpg-copy-2 Check out these book reviews to help you start. These books validate the adoptee’s experience and offer a wonderful way to discover what your child is thinking about his adoption. And believe me, they think do about it even if they don’t speak about it.

The best way to enter their interior world is to create a comfortable forum where they know their thoughts and feelings are welcomed. These books make it easy to have that kind of loving conversation. Prepare to listen deeply.

 

 

Oops! There Goes My Carefully Laid Plan

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 @ 02:04 PM
Author: admin

Family mother with children at burning house backgroundFor most of us the carefully wrought, precarious balance of our family systems depends on everything operating as expected. But what happens when an event smashes that equilibrium?  Last week I had a come-to-Jesus encounter with that kind of disruption.

I have mentioned previously that I care for my terminally ill spouse and I watch my eight-month-old grandson three days a week as well. These responsibilities are both a cherished privilege and require a great deal of time and energy. Don’t feel sorry for me; I’m a natural caregiver and truly find myself spiritually nourished when I am in service. My job is eminently flexible and allows me to fit everything in. Still, I do get tired, need some solo time and value my own priorities (like writing, coaching, advocating for better adoption practice, and spending time with friends and colleagues.) Sometimes accomplishing all of the pieces of my pie—my Have Tos as well as my Choose Tos—threatens to crash the entire system.

So when I had an unanticipated health event, reality tore down the fragile balance of the responsibilities I juggle. As I lay in bed, thoughts ricocheted through my head: Who can I call? Can the VNA send immediate round-the-clock help? What if I need to go the hospital? Would my DIL lose her job if she had no child care? I’m the healthy one, the hub of the wheel that keeps everything functioning.  Fear and worry careened my mind into many directions. I’m sure you can easily relate.

Fortunately the situation resolved positively. Once the crisis past, my daughter and I had a long overdue, Difficult Conversation of the highest order: What to do if... She now knows who to notify, who to call on for help, and how to pay for everything, etc.

Abstract design made of gears, clock elements, dials and dynamic swirly lines on the subject of scheduling, deadlines, progress, past, present and future

This made me think about parenting in adoption. Beyond the “normal” challenges of raising a family, working and sustaining a marriage (or significant-other partnership,) adoptive families have additional roles, relationships and challenges to juggle. We get used to handling mind-numbing stresses and living life as the ultimate roller coaster ride. But… What if you or your spouse suddenly got sick? If you totaled your car, lost your job, or one of your kiddoes came totally unglued, what emergency plan do you have?

I’m guessing that few of us have a really detailed blueprint of whom to call upon for help. Perhaps we have casual agreements: My sister would take the kids; My Mom would come and stay; Joe could carpool, etc. Are you and your spouse (partner,) on the same page? Have your resource people actually agreed? Or is your plan based on assumptions? And we all know where assumptions land us, right?

The middle of a crisis is the worst time to be scrambling for resources and the assistance that you need. Do yourself a favor and brainstorm with your partner now and persist until you’ve developed a specific plan. Have those Difficult Discussions; if there’s anything adoptive parents know, it is that life does not always go the way we plan. Actually, make that two plans: one for short-term problems and one for long-term. Be sure you have written things down. Have notarized permissions that allow others to access healthcare for your kids—and you—if you are unable to make those decisions. Compile a file that has their medical information, physician’s names, numbers, etc. Have a legally binding agreement that specifies who would care for your kids if something happened to you and/or your spouse (or partner.) What if neither of you could communicate?

While these events are unpleasant to confront, it is an act of love to ensure that you provide care and custody for your kids with people who would welcome and love them (as opposed to agreeing to it because they feel they “should.”) Review your plans periodically; people and their circumstances change. Your choices may have to be adjusted to reflect those changes.

take the first step concept:running person and arrow

Schedule that conversation.

Create the plans.

What’s your first step?

Take it.

 

 

 

Difficult conversations in Adoptive Families: Thirteen Tips

Tuesday, July 1, 2014 @ 03:07 PM
Author: admin

Father and son sit near car with opened boot and going to talk a

Starting a difficult conversation can be challenging whether it is with a spouse, friend co-worker, stranger or family member.

But holding adoption conversations with kids can be especially hard when the information being shared is painful or difficult to accept. To balance  children’s feelings, with their need to learn the truth requires special preparation. Be intentional about what information you will share and how you will frame it. How can you set the stage for success?

 

1. Think the conversation through in your own mind so you can explain the facts in an age appropriate way. Get comfortable with the facts so you can remain neutral as you discuss them.

2. Lay the foundation for the conversation when children are young. Expand the scope and depth of the story as they mature.

3. Choose your location. Because eye contact may overwhelm them, many kids find it easier to listen when they are not directly facing you. (How many times have your children initiated difficult conversations when they’re in the car and you are driving?) Get creative here. Look for activities that allow them to stay physically occupied but not resentful of the change in focus. Some places to consider:

While they are busy playing with paints, clay or sand

While they are stargazing

While you are sitting together on the sofa (before or after “their” program broadcasts)

4. Explore the topic in the third person. “Some kids wonder about…” or, “Some kids believe …” This avoids putting them on the spot for sharing their personal thoughts and feelings before they are ready.

5. Be alert to signs of overwhelm or an inability to face the topic. Always follow their cues. End the conversation with an invitation to continue it whenever they are ready or curious. Be relaxed and respect their readiness so they don’t feel judged for their inability to handle the topic at this moment.

6. Convey a willingness to share information and answer their questions but without forcing the issues. Encourage them to come up with their own questions about adoption in general not just questions that are limited to their personal history.

7. Project confidence in their ability to hear the facts of their story. It is their truth and they are entitled to know it.

8. Acknowledge the reality without minimizing or exaggerating. Convey empathy and strength, not pity or fear. (“I feel sad that you must face this.” Versus “I don’t know how you’ll cope with this.”

9. Many families benefit from having a pet. That unconditional love and nurturing relationship puts few demands on a child and returns their emotional investment many times over. At some level, it echoes the “adoption” relationship as a way of expanding the family. Include the pet in the conversation as an emotional cushion for big feelings.

10. Often reluctance increases along with curiosity and worry as children become teenagers. Be observant for behavioral cues as they may be hesitant and/or unable to voice their confusion themselves.

11. Avoid pushing the problem by suggesting everything is an adoption issue; this may make them more upset and may cause them to bury their struggles deeper. Concentrate on sustaining a strong relationship. Trust that they will let you know eventually, if adoption is the cause.

12. Clearly convey that you are capable of hearing their complete range of thoughts and feelings both the positive as well as negative, the happy as well as the sad. Do not expect them to adjust their ideas and emotions to ease your feelings. But be honest regarding your own discomfort simply assure them that they still have your support.

13. Readily admit when you do not know the answers. Honesty is essential; brainstorm together and discuss possibilities. Adoption is about permanent relationship regardless of the challenging facts of one’s history.