Posts Tagged ‘Gift Family Services’

Family is the GIFT of a Lifetime, One We Never Outgrow.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 @ 06:02 PM
Author: admin


Extend Family Circle

In our previous blog, we discussed the value of Love Languages and how this strategy can design more effective communication. Learning to “speak” in a channel other than our own preferred default style  requires Intentionality. As is evident from our name, Growing Intentional Families Together, we encourage and cultivate Intentionality in adoptive parenting. The acronym for our name (GIFT) also asserts our belief that family is the gift of a lifetime, one we never outgrow. Family is a life-long relationship on which we rely at every stage of life. It is where we turn to share our joys, divide our sorrows and work together to face whatever life throws at us.

Learning to communicate by utilizing the Love Language approach is one gift. Deep listening is another powerful and life-changing gift. When we listen with our entire mind and heart, without conjuring rebuttal or solutions, without minimizing or dismissing, without platitudes and denials, something magical happens. People feel seen and heard in a significant way.

As adoptive parents we yearn to provide loving families for our children, to grow healthy attachment and life-long bonds. We search for the best ways to accomplish this vital goal. What better source of information than listening to the voice on now-adult adoptees? Imagine learning from them the things that worked for them as they grew up and the omissions that left them feeling isolated, alone, or invalidated.

Family GIFT.2One group of adoptees has done that and has collaborated on a book, Adoption Therapy. It took courage for them to speak out,. Their stories are complicated, not entirely rosey and present their personal truth. Most of the stories are based on the Closed Adoption experience. But the lessons learned have great value not only for adult adoptees and their families but also for families parenting adopted children now. With raw honesty, the contributors reveal the painful costs of secrecy, shame and the disconnection from identity and birth family. They tell of loyalty binds in which adoptees felt compelled to choose their relationships with their adoptive families at the cost of denying their interest in their origins and birth families.

Some adoptees were fed outright lies. Adoptees tell how they floundered without adequate empathy, validation, or support for the profound demands that adoption placed on them. Absolutely, many benefits accrue to a child adopted into a loving adoption-attuned home. Equally true, all too real are the significant “costs” adoption demands of the adoptee. Parents and professionals delivered insufficient support. Choosing to see only the benefits adoption offered, they turned a blind eye and responded through rose-colored glasses. But the gains and losses coexist; they do not cancel each other out.

But too often, inadequate preparation, education and support was provided. As a result, these adoptees experienced great challenges in learning how to navigate life as an adoptee. Adoption Therapy unmasks the myth of adoption as the “perfect” solution AND offers insights and strategies for solutions. While the current trends in adoption practice move towards more openness, cultural resistance persists as well as cultural denial of the emotional and identity costs adoption creates.

This ignorance must be remedied. Parents, therapists, adoptive parents must become thoroughly immersed in the reality of adoption grief, loss/identity issues and the neurobiological effects that result from adverse prenatal experiences. All must commit to developing high AQ* (Adoption-attunement Quotient.) Our culture must wake up to the realities and make the appropriate changes to support adoptees, birth parents, and their families. Adoption Therapy offers a wonderful tool for opening, minds, hearts and spirits so that when adoption is the choice, it can be a gentler, more affirming experience for the adoptee.

How will you grow the gifts of: Intentionality, Love language, Deep listening, Adoptee voice?




Choose to Laugh , Love , Grow and Heal Together

Wednesday, January 14, 2015 @ 07:01 PM
Author: admin

GIFT.ScowlLast week we discussed  laughter as a way to practice joy as a family and to relieve stress. We are continuing our exploration today because we believe that sharing fun is essential for knitting families together.

Consider the illustration on the left. I’m betting you are too familiar with the feelings of overwhelm and frustration that it depicts. Our kids also experience these negative emotions as well. None of us enjoy such negativity. It is painful to experience and it is difficult to be on the receiving end as well.

Attitudes of detachment, negativity fear and anger can become habitual. Adults and children can become stuck seeing  life as a half-empty glass–or worse. Despair, discouragement, and desperation become the norm. Isolation, fear, blame and self-protection dominate and impede attachment, affection and positive engagement.


Surprised Asian girl

Most of us would prefer to leave fury behind and step into an attitude of calm. How much better might it be to feel joy-filled? Imagine embodying the mood of the second image. Most people would prefer it. It makes sense, therefore, to intentionally create moments of joy, fun and affection. What can be done to shift to this positive state?

One simple action is to choose your facial expression. Instead of a blank stare, scowl or frown, intentionally decide to sport a smile. This proactively generates the benefits of feeling happy and they also establish a pattern–physiological and social that embeds in our bodies. Why not make a smile your “default” setting instead of a scowl? Let go of the anger and the expectation that things will be bleak. Take a risk and choose to be vulnerable. Instead of expecting gloom and doom, decide to adopt an expectation of positivity.

There’s a reason that the adage of “Fake it until you make it” exists. At some level our physiology trumps our emotions. When we actively engage in laughter, it over rides the preoccupation with stress, negativity and anger. Habits are difficult to change but with intention, practice and patient, it is possible to adapt more positive approaches.

Try this simple exercise performed in a mirror. Perform each for fifteen seconds.

1.  Look at yourself with a neutral expression.

2.  Look at yourself with a broad grin.

3. Look at yourself with a neutral expression.

4. Look at yourself with an intense scowl.

5.   Look at yourself with a broad grin for 30 seconds.

What changes in mood or attitude did you notice? I predict that the intentional smile resulted in an improvement in mood. What benefits might ensue if intentional smiling became a daily practice for you and your family. What if you amped it up a notch and practiced intentional laughter? Commit to this regimen for thirty days. Track your results then share them with us.

Finally, here are two videos about laughter as a practice. Treat yourself to this delightful video as this baby laughs . Note your own response as well as that of the dad and little sister. Laughter is contagious and a beautiful thing to pass on!

The second video from the world-renowned Deepak Chopra demonstrates how to begin with a deep breath and move to a belly laugh. Notice how simple it is to accomplish once the inner critic is muted and the Inner Child comes through.

How might you and your family benefit from increasing the laughter in your lives?

Fingerprints: More than a Picture Book, a Unique Identifier and Genetic Link

Thursday, October 9, 2014 @ 11:10 PM
Author: admin

Forever fingerprint.EldridgeThe wonderful adoption classic, Forever Fingerprints by Sherrie Eldridge is being reissued by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. An adoptee and a staunch advocate for adoptive families writes, who LIVES the adoption journey, Sherrie connects with adoptees’ hearts and validates their experience. Forever Fingerprints, a picture book serves a younger audience than Sherrie’s other books.

Behind its simple story line, Forever Fingerprints models adoption-attuned* relationships. It speaks to child and parent. As an adoption coach as well as an adoptive parent, I know it is important for parents to clearly establish that adoption is a suitable topic for family discussion. While this may seem obvious, to children it is not. In the absence of expressed permission, kids will assume that adoptions conversations are off limits. They will fear that it might hurt their (adoptive) parents if they talk about their concerns, mixed feelings and sharing their thoughts about their birth parents. And so, many wrestle with heavy worries weighing down their hearts. Forever Fingerprints is an easy and enjoyable way for parents to talk about some of the “hard stuff” of adoption.

Forever Fingerprints, captures a common moment in an adoptee’s life—being blindsided by a routine event that triggers a young girl’s awareness of loss or difference which results from being adopted. Specifically, Lucy discovers that her aunt is pregnant. Lucy is tickled to discover she can feel the baby move when she taps her aunt’s stomach. It is easy to see how this leads Lucy to wonder about her own birth mother.

This story helps reassure Lucy that like all children, she too, was nurtured inside her birth mother’s body. And, just like other babies, she was born. Research has shown that many adoptees experience confusion around their origins. Some even imagine they were “hatched” or arrived by airplane. Forever Fingerprints presents offers a teaching moment that helps normalizes Lucy’s own origins. Parents can ask their children to share their ideas of their own birth. (Be prepared to be surprised by what they think!)

I like how Eldridge has used fingerprints to establish both the child’s uniqueness as well as her connection to her birth parents. I have shared this book with children who have no information about their birth parents and no possibility of communicating with them at adulthood. These children still have curiosity about and longing for connecting with their roots. They feel the weight of this void. Having the fingerprint link assisted them in feeling that they had a permanent reflection of their birth parents.

In Forever Fingerprints, Lucy’s mother is attuned to her daughter’s roller-coaster emotions. Mom validates Lucy’s feelings and helps her to see several ways in which her birth parents exist within Lucy. This serves as a wonderful model for both parent and child readers. Parents have an example of how to handle the situations. Children have an example that it is both safe and reasonable to have questions and feelings.

fingerprint treeI recommend this book because it helps both parent and child. Families can easily replicate the fingerprinting activity. On one of our GIFT Family Services retreats, we completed a similar project—a fingerprint tree. (View our creation at left.) Although very simple, we were all touched by the experience as we could see how each of our fingerprints enhanced the beauty of the tree.

This is a wonderful metaphor for the value of difference. How boring life would be if we were all the same! Even the “finger paint” cover art supports the metaphor. Remember how much fun it was to slide your fingers through the cool, squishy colors? Why not join your children in creating a fingerpaint drawing? Perhaps it can be the cover for your child’s life book.

“Forever Fingerprints” is available for preorder. Jessica Kingsley Publishers officially launches this new issue on Oct. 21, 2014. It will be available in both hardcover and Kindle formats.

sherry EldridgeSherrie Eldridge    Amazon Author page      Sherrie’s Website



Eldridge.20 things adoptees wish  Eldridge 20 things ... parents succeed Eldrdige Twenty ... Choices Eldridge Questions adoptees AskEldridge.Under His Wings


*Adoption-attunement—AQ—considers how adoption influences a child and includes:

  • Adoption-sensitive parenting techniques
  • Sound adoption language
  • Knowledge of the attachment process
  • Consideration of grief and loss issues
  • Respect for birth parents
  • Modeling healthy boundaries
  • Educating family, friends and teachers on adoption
  • Remembering that a child’s story belongs to him
  • Recognizing that adoption is a family experience
  • Encouraging playfulness and good humor as a family value
  • Integrating a child’s birth heritage


Reading between the Lines through an Adoption Lens Part I

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 @ 12:04 AM
Author: admin

Newborn Twin Girls Wearing Black Sheep and Lamb HatsAdoption related ideas pop up in the most unexpected places. While discussing some excellent novels—none of which had adoption themes— GIFT coaches came across quotes that placed them in an adoption frame of mind.

Consider these lines from Allegiant by Veronica Roth:

1. “I don’t know how it would feel to hate your own history and to crave love from the people who gave the history to you at the same time.”

We absorbed these lines through our joint identities as adoptive parents and adoption coaches. It brought to mind how adoptees spend a lifetime figuring out how their adoptions shape and define them. Part of that process is learning to find value in their genetic heritage. Many adoptees struggle with feelings of shame, anger and rejection because their birth parents made an adoption plan for them. Some adoptees blame themselves for this result. At the same time, they often yearn to be accepted and valued by the birthparents. Many struggle to balance these conflicting emotions. As parents, we must support their journey, as they find value in both their birth and adoptive families’ contributions to who they are.

Once we became parents, it became an integral part of who we are and how we view the world. Similarly, our children see the world through an adoption-influenced lens. Consider this next quote:

2. “I’ve lived too long with pain. I won’t know who I am without it.” Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.”

For kids with tough starts, their early lives are rife with challenge and trauma. How does that constant level of fight-flight readiness shape who they are? They developed beliefs and patterns, feelings and behaviors to cope with the abuse/neglect. What does it take to help them draw new templates, ones based on being loved, nurtured, and safe in their adoptive family?

As parents, we must convince them that it is safe to let down their guard, to trust that we will care for them consistently and love them unconditionally. They must come to believe that it is safe for them to be the child and for us to be the parents. This process takes time, repetition, and encouragement. And patience, lots and lots of patience!

It grows out of intentional AQ-informed parenting (Adoption-attunement Quotient.) As adoptive families, we must develop strong skills in three intelligences: emotional, adoption-attuned and academic. Think EQ, AQ and IQ.) Read more about raising your AQ in “ABC, Adoption & Me: A Multicultural Picture Book for Adoptive Families”  by GIFT coach Gayle H. Swift and her daughter Casey A. Swift.ABC.Award cover

The Catch 22 of Being Chosen

Monday, October 8, 2012 @ 11:10 PM
Author: admin

Would you consider it a privilege to have your legs amputated? Would you cherish your bionic replacements without yearning for your original limbs?  Would you be glad you’d been chosen for this honor? Absurd, right? No matter how wonderful your robo-legs were, part of you would wish that your body could have remained intact.

This illustrates one of the contradictions of adoption. Regardless of how love-filled and successful, adoption has its roots in loss. Although children are cherished by their adoptive family, the experience of “being given up” is a significant factor in their lives. Adoptees are not damaged goods but they are shaped by this loss.

Adoptees are frequently told they are Chosen Children (based on a 1939 concept in a book by Valentina Wasson). When they were young, my children resented the concept of the “chosen child.” It’s still a hot button for them as adults. They particularly reject the expectation that usually accompanies this euphemism: that they should be grateful they were adopted, that it was their good fortune.

I agree that the Chosen Child myth trivializes the genuine loss they experienced when they were uprooted from their birth families and grafted to our family tree. Our greatest joy — their arrival in our lives — came at a high cost to them.

The pervasive cultural attitude about adoption assumes that adoption is a perfect solution — one in which all parties win. Everyone goes off into the sunset to live “happily ever after” and never look back. The truth is more complex and far more painful. It doesn’t take long for adoptees to figure out that before they were “chosen” they were rejected. Before they were one family’s “miracle” they were another family’s “problem.” Talk about a mixed message.

The crowning insult is the unfortunate language used to explain adoption. They are taught from a very young age that loving equals relinquishment. I find myself thinking, is it any wonder many adoptees have trouble with commitment in relationships?

Yes, the intent is to reassure the child which is important. But we must explain adoption using language that isn’t so patently a Catch 22. Words are powerful. It is essential to use them with intentionality and understanding. Adoption occurs because of adult problems and the adults’ inability to handle them. Adult inefficiencies drive the decision. That should be at the forefront of any explanation. The birth mother’s love for the child becomes a secondary factor. The new equation becomes: Birth Parent inability to parent equals need for adoption plan.

Gayle Swift