Posts Tagged ‘language’

Coping with Transitions …

Thursday, August 3, 2017 @ 12:08 AM
Author: admin

Coping with transitions: the adoption connectionAnyone connected with adoption knows that transitions tend to unsettle 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 (most) adoptees. Transitions tend to trigger uncertainty which in turn connects to fear, insecurity and, a sense of amorphic threat or danger. 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 meltdownnot even the kids. These emotional events leave everyone shaken by the intensity and depth of the feelings which undergird them.

They also tend to trigger visceral responses within us. A combination of irritation, frustration, overwhelm, helplessness, impotence, confusion and, even fear all vibratein 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 perspectiveourswhich 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. Words offer us a way to express their inner turmoil. This provides us some sense of being able to manage the “overwhelm”. What happens when there are no words?

Think about it. When adopted as infants and toddlers, children have not yet mastered language. This means the trauma which adoptees experienced by being separated from their birth mothers is held as pre-verbal memory. This means it is not encoded in words. They experience the memory as a feeling without a script. Although “non-verbal,” the memory holds a deeply entrenched, consuming sense of danger, fear and, abandonment on a sensate, cellular level. Without words to recapture and revisit the memory, it is experienced as unbounded, ongoing and unending. And, because it lacks a perceived beginning or end, these undefined, unlimited feelings are easily triggered throughout life.

They need us to provide tools to cope. A broad “emotional vocabulary” empowers them to transform the misperception that stressors are infinite, unlimited and permanent. Language imposes 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 that they received powerful messageseither overtly or subtlythat 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. They chose to sacrifice themselves and learned to ignore their need for support in order to protect their adoptive parents.

Intentional parents have the opportunity to choose a healthier and more honest approach.

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.

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. 

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

Detoxing Language: Becoming Conscious of the Power of Words

Wednesday, April 6, 2016 @ 10:04 PM
Author: admin


family differences captionedAll families have differences. We are after all, not clones but individuals. Adoptive families are even more likely to have areas where preferences and inclinations don’t quite synchronize. Most of the time we can appreciate the zest and spice that our children’s differences add to our families.

Sometimes, however, their aptitudes and inclinations challenge us. A family of sports nuts, for example, may be utterly confounded by their child’s total disinterest in things athletic. Or, a family whose generations have been steeped in the arts, music and dance may be frustrated with their child’s refusal to engage while they focus their complete attention on sports.

As Intentional Parents we make an effort to nurture our children’s talents and interests. We strive to respect the spectrum of the entire  family’s aptitudes, successes and struggles with mutual respect. Sometimes we utter language that undermines our good intentions.

Little girl having a temper tantrum with her desperate mother in background

What happens then? Words have power, convey emotion and often carry unspoken judgment hidden between the lines. Consider the distinction between these pairs of words: slender or scrawny; lazy or easily distracted; assertive or bossy, confident or arrogant. Each conveys a different emotional tone–one accepts, the other criticizes. The listener is sure to feel the distinction. At best they receive a mixed message; at worst they understand and absorb the implied criticism.

Although the old adage says, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” we all know the truth that contradicts this old saw. Some words cut to the core, flay the spirit, and destroy self-esteem. Once spoken and heard, such toxic words cannot be taken back, “unheard” or forgotten. Forgiveness may follow, but the memory of such verbal poison and the emotional message they convey, will linger. The scar will remain as a permanent memory of a painful experience.

When our child pursues an activity which we find dull, uninteresting or even not “worthwhile,”  the judgmental part of our consciousness may undermine our best intentions. For example, a sports nut mom, may find it excruciating to listen to her child drone in minute detail about a piece of music or favorite film. She might make an auto-pilot comment like, “That’s interesting.” That phrase commonly operates as code for BORING. At best it damns with “faint praise.” Often our body language conveys our authentic feelings: eyes roll or avoid contact, mouth gapes open or we continue to focus on our own task rather than fully engage with our child.

Why is this important? In our families, we dedicate ourselves to s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g our family culture to include not only our generational patterns but also those which our children introduced. We commit to a higher standard of connection and communication with our children. This requires a conscious awareness of both the literal and emotional meaning to the words we share and a strict dedication to avoid outright toxic words and phrases. Adoption World is rife with potential hand grenade words.

toxic talk croppedIn an earlier blog about Toxic Talk we explored the quicksand of harsh words and the damage they can inflict on our children. Adoption has its roots in loss–for parent and child–and this reality can leave us vulnerable to feelings of shame, self-doubt and, inadequacy. As the saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people.” In other words, when people feel hurt, they tend to lash out in response. It is helpful to remind ourselves of this when our kids dish out hurtful or rejecting comments. The heat of the moment is not time for a rational discussion.

We prepare for these conversations ahead of time and remind ourselves that though the words are directed at us–and may be intentionally hurtful–they’re usually  our child’s effort to unload pain and to shift it to parents.


From GIFT coach, Sally Ankerfelt: “Slipping up” is bound to happen. Hopefully, the negative phrases mentioned in the blog  will not be part of the slip-up. But, our slip-ups can be an opportunity to model How to make an effective apology:
Effective apology.cf4ddf8a327ea4b93474122cf9b135e81. State specifically what was said or done that was wrong. (i.e. “I called you a name and that was very wrong.)
2. State the hurt you caused. (“I see by your reaction how that hurt you.”)
3. State how your actions made you feel. ( i.e. “I feel sick that I said that because that is not how I truly feel about you.”)
4. Explain how you will act in the future. (i.e. “Next time I get so angry, I am going to count to five and take five deep breaths. If I need
to, I am going to take a short walk around the house to calm down before we talk it out.”)
5. Be good on your word and follow through with the plan.
6. The final step is for us as parents not to dwell on or continue to beat ourselves up for what we have said or done. We have to forgive ourselves, too, so that we can move forward with confidence and be the parents we seek to be. This step, too, is very important for our children to witness so that they can learn self-forgiveness and moving on when they falter in their own lives.