Posts Tagged ‘fears’

Change, Privacy, Attachment and OBCs: Living with Adoption

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 @ 11:09 AM
Author: admin

questions-privacy-attachment-and-obcs-living-with-adoptionReaders of this blog understand that change is difficult for many adoptees. It triggers feelings of fear, rejection and instability which are rooted in the separation from the birth mother. An adoptee’s predisposition to be hypersensitive to change makes sense considering their fractured life history.

My time-line reveals no similar cracks in continuity. Raised within the family into which I was born, I never feared that they’d “reject” or “abandon” me. I never wondered about the possibility of an alternative reality which could include different parents, siblings, names and, identities. Like a barnacle on a wave-tossed shore, I felt securely attached. I relied on family to witness, support and encourage me as I labored to handle any challenges and obstacles that came my way. I knew who I was and where I fit in the continuity of the family timeline. My people were survivors who understood hard work, difficult times, financial struggles and, the sucker punch that an unexpected health issue could deliver.

In spite of this time-tested sense of being reliably steadied by family ties, I’ve never been a fan of change. It unsettles me and sucks up energy and focus. I prefer the familiarity and security of routine. Plus, I’m an introvert, so I crave quiet and solitude to recharge my “batteries.” I also carefully guard my privacy and personal information.

All of these thoughts came to mind when an adult adoptee recently confided to me the angst and worry that a recent doctor’s appointment triggered within her. The medical history form which I find simply irksome to complete, slaps her in the face with a sharp reminder that she lacks the medical history knowledge which I take for granted. I know the significant risks in our family for heart disease, dementia, cancer, etc. Because I know the facts, I can take appropriate action in terms of diet, medication, and monitoring. I only have to worry about a specific set of facts.

My adoptee friend on the other hand, has to worry about the entire universe of medical risks. Unlike my health risks which are identified across generations, her fears are “unbounded” because anything is possible.Does breast cancer run in the family? Alzheimer’s? Melanoma? Heart disease? Diabetes? Multiple Sclerosis? The reality for her is she does not know. And so…she worries…a lot. She pleads for early screening for breast cancer.

And is denied.

And so she worries even more.

She suffers from an unusual array of health issues yet has no way of knowing if these symptoms are part of a family pattern or if they are indicative of genetics, stress, environment, occupational hazard, etc. Should she avoid certain things? Should she be engaging in other pro-active practices to help stave off the family risk? Who knows?

Not her.

Not her doctor.

She doesn’t think this is fair, or wise or, medically sound. She wants access to her family history, identity and people.  I agree. So does the Donaldson Institute who is spearheading a national movement #OBC2020. Check it out and join the movement to restore these basic human rights to adult adoptees.

Image result for #OBC2020

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.

Adoption Philosophy–Why It Matters

Thursday, December 3, 2015 @ 05:12 AM
Author: admin

Last week we explored one tenet of our philosophy of adoption. (The entire twenty-five point manifesto is posted on our website home page.) This week we turn to point four: 4. Support systems are vital in assisting families with the realities of living as an adopted family.

villageWhile the old adage, It takes a village to raise a child, is widely believed, the “village” serves an even more vital role in an adoptive family’s life. Support benefits all family members as each must learn to dance with the after affects that adoption imposes on them. When each person’s needs are adequately met, they are more fully available to connect with and support the rest of the family.

Appropriate support helps parents put the ghosts of infertility behind them, realign their expectations about parenthood from their fantasies to embrace the real children who are now a part of their hearts and families. Children receive much needed assistance in coping with their losses, integrating their biological legacy with their adoptive family heritage and in moving forward to a healthy adult identity that incorporates both their families.

This kind of well rounded support embraces adoption as a family experience that touches each and every family member. It avoids framing the adoptee as the only one with “issues” or “stuff” to deal with. When everyone acknowledges, accepts, confronts and handles their adoption-generated needs, it augments their ability to become an authentically High AQ* family that recognizes adoption as a life-long factor in their lives and enables them to use this awareness to benefit all of them.
rose colored glasses.smallInstead of burying the challenges, pain, and trauma which arises, well-supported families confront them. They remove the rose-colored glasses and evict the  “elephants” from the room. In partnership with their personally-adapted support system, they deal with their “stuff”. Most importantly, they do it together, not alone.

In the past many adoptive families misunderstood the depth of the change that adoption placed on the entire family. Rose-colored glasses persuaded them that all was well when in fact, parents still wrestled with the outfall of infertility; children fearful of offending adoptive parents struggled with unexpressed questions about themselves and their first families.

Families who admit problems exist and then get help, connect genuinely. They choose to move beyond the all-is-wonderful mask and instead choose to truly see who they are, what obstacles they must overcome and then do it together. In today’s world of open adoption, relationships are increasingly complex, varied and constantly changing. Emotions run high on all sides so a neutral support person can be invaluable. At the hub of this complex web of individuals is/are the child/ren we all love. Their best interest drives us to be authentic, vulnerable, persistent and brave. That is not easy.

Logo of Partners friends teamwork business concept in heart shape vectorMany of us never truly explore what lies beyond the mask we show to the world.  And once we are aware, we can create  a family built on intention, which is especially “of value” when the family includes all those that make up the adoption triad. Most of the time it take someone else–like a coach–to nudge us into this awareness.  Part confidante, part champion, she provides a sounding board, a neutral perspective,  and encouragement.

Who is part of your support system? For your children? How well informed are they on the realities of adoptive family life? How might an adoption coach stand with you as you journey through life as an adoptive family?


Graduation Joys and Worries

Wednesday, June 17, 2015 @ 04:06 PM
Author: admin

university graduatesJune brings to mind Brides, grads and dads. All are well worth celebrating. This week our blog will focus on graduations in the adoptive family context. Many grads finish school and turn eighteen in the same year. That creates a double whammy of stress. For kids with loss and separation histories, these changes and pressures resonate within the family and can create substantial dissonance.

Many factors impinge on this powder keg. By nature, parents are loathe to see their child hurt. They may find it difficult to let go, to trust that their child can survive and learn from their inevitable mistakes. Part of them may mourn the loss of their central role in their child’s life. Having had to fight so hard to become parents, it became the consuming desire of our hearts and the highlight of our lives. This commitment defined us for so long, we wonder who we will be now that the “active” period of our parenting is complete. We are simultaneously thrilled to be out of a job and in need of a new compass by which to set our sails. Another part of us may fear, suspect or even be convinced that our child is not ready to be the captain of his own ship.

Teens themselves may be plagued with both self-doubt and bravado which makes for a seesaw ride of emotions. They yearn for freedom but still need the security of structure and boundaries. Like all teens, our children share the same ache for independence and separation from parental oversight. At the same they must face the subconscious noise of separation anxiety. They insist on the independence for which they worked and to which they feel fully entitled. And simultaneously fear it. Graduation unfolds against an emotional backdrop that becomes dysregulated by resistance and fear of these changes. Increasingly, they look to peers for acceptance, guidance and connection. This creates potential conflict within themselves and within the family. Child and parent push and pull. Both are eager for the teen to become successfully independent, to fledge the family nest and soar. And both have their own doubts, fears, hesitations and needs.

AQ* (Adoption-attuned awareness) provides a compass to guide decisions and responses. They remember to view behavior as communication and become conscious of any conflicted emotions that may color interactions. Notice when any of your own “stuff” gets triggered by their words or choices. Put on an “emotional flak jacket” that allows you to stay out of reaction and remain supportive of their struggles.

Trauma, grief and loss issues may mean many of our kids’ emotional ages do not match their chronological ages. Hang on to that awareness so that you can remain the stabilizing anchor that keeps them from crashing on the hidden rocks of life. Find ways to support and reinforce competency in your child. Help them and yourself to update your internal views so that it reflects who they have grown to be. Our belief in them inspires their belief in themselves.

What do your children see reflected in your eyes?


Little girl sitting apart - feeling excluded by the others In last week’s blog we explored the Mirroring and Belonging level of the Relationship Pyramid and discussed how important it is for a child to learn an extensive Emotional Vocabulary. Having the ability to name and recognize various emotions in oneself allows a child to recognize similar feelings in others. This is the basis for congruent and harmonious interactions.

Mastering the subtle, non-verbal social cues is a daunting task. For kids with a less than smooth start in life, often this skill is poorly developed or is overwhelmed by hyper-vigilance. Unless children are taught how to read the “secret” messages of body language, some kids will never learn it. This will leave them confused and often can lead to social isolation.


relationship pramid.MirrorWhen they don’t speak the language of behavioral cues children remain on the outside of the emotional/social conversation. The subtle hints other kids give may quickly become far less kind and patient and become mean and lead to bullying. A growing gap will arise.

Without adequate social skills, a child will struggle to mirror the emotional states of others and may respond inappropriately to the overtures of other children and adults. Instead of feeling “mirrored” they may misinterpret other people’s responses and feel mocked and unsupported. Even worse, they may feel threatened which might trigger a complete meltdown, and/or a flight/flight/freeze response. This creates a disconnect in the Mirroring & Belonging level.

How can you assist your child in mastering the complex task of emotional literacy and the language of social cues?


Personal Space CampOne excellent resource is a marvelous book by Julia Cook titled, “Personal Space Camp.” With a deft sense of humor and zany illustrations by Carrie Hartman, this book tackles the complicated concept of personal space. Louis, the confused main character loves the world of outer space. But when it comes to personal boundaries, Louis is clueless. His frustrated teacher arranges for him to attend “Personal Space Camp.” This thrills Louis. He is surprised to learn that he will not be an astronaut exploring.

Louis is, however, entering unexplored territory: the world of personal space boundaries. “Personal Space Camp” is entertaining and informative without being preachy. It conveys important information that will assist kids that lack an understanding of social cues.


I Can't BelieveJulia Cook has written several other books that delve into the confusing world of social cues and interaction. One that is also quite helpful is, “I Can’t Believe You Said That.” (Illustrated by Kelsey De Weerd, it features multicultural characters.) The story helps kids discern the difference between saying something true:  ”You are fat,” versus something that is appropriate: “You are a good cook.”

Photo © Ilike –

For many additional book reviews from an AQ* perspective visit GIFT coach Gayle H. Swift’s website “Writing to Connect.” She is the author of the award-winning book “ABC, Adoption & Me.”