Posts Tagged ‘relationship building’

Walking in Our Children’s Shoes

Wednesday, March 7, 2018 @ 01:03 PM
Author: admin
Walking in Our Children’s Shoes.hunger to knowDuring the previous two weeks, we focused on building relationships by intentionally scheduling conversations with the sole purpose of speaking the deep feelings in our hearts. Instead of relying on the assumption that our families “know” how we feel about them, we committed to speaking those feelings aloud.
This week let’s take a different angle on relationship building. We challenge you to stroll down Adoption Lane with one twist: Answer 7 “trigger” questions from “curious” (rude) people as if YOU were an adoptee. Consider only one question per day. Sit with the question; Do not give an autoresponse reply. Really think about it throughout the day. Determine how fully you can answer each one. What is known/unknown? What is knowable/unknowable?
Answer “trigger” questions as if YOU were an adoptee. Consider only one question per day. Sit with the question; Do not give an autoresponse reply. Really think about it throughout the day. Determine how fully you can answer each one. What is known/unknown? What is knowable/unknowable?
What kind of parental support would you want? What might you be tempted to conceal from your folks? Determine what else would you need to now. What else would you want to know? What else would you fear to know? What would you want your parents to know about your attempt to reply to the “trigger” questions?
What kind of parental support would you want? What might you be tempted to conceal from your folks? What would you want your parents to know about your attempt to reply to the “trigger” questions? What would tempt you to hide your struggle?
What will you do with the insight you gain through this exercise? What actions will you take? What conversations will you initiate? How did this exercise deepen your understanding of your child’s need for information and empathy?
Daily Question
Day One: A friend tells you her mom has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her grandmother died of breast cancer at age fifty. You’re sixteen and were adopted after being abandoned as a newborn. What is your response to her? Within yourself? How does it make you feel about yourself?
Day Two: A new teammate asked if you have any brothers and sisters. In your adoptive family, you are an only child.
Day Three A “friend” comments that you look enough like your boyfriend that you could be brother and sister. How do you reply? How does it make you feel?
Day Four: You were adopted internationally. During a discussion about immigration policy in your Civics, someone asks, “What are you?”
Day Five: An acquaintance asks how you would know if you might be dating a relative.
Day Six:  Your Health class teacher assigned your class their turn with the “Robot Baby.” (A mechanical doll that simulates the behavior of an infant. Students are graded on the quality of parental care they deliver over an entire weekend.)  A classmate asks what you know about your birth parents and why they didn’t want you.
Day Seven:  Your adoptive parents and your brothers (their biological children) are all exceptionally tall. You barely reach five feet. You are their only daughter. You overhear someone “joke” to your parents about how they had to “resort” to adoption to get a girl. How do you feel? What do you say?

Best Gift: Confidence, Courage and, Capability and, Compassion

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 04:12 PM
Author: admin
Best Gift: Confidence, Courage and, Capability and, CompassionIn the previous two blogs we’ve explored an approach to the holiday season from the perspective of Intentional Parenting. We’ve striven to shift our focus from material presents and instead to concentrate on intangible blessings. Intentional families reinforce family values in both words and in action.
Like many others of my generation, I am a grandparent handling the day care responsibilities for my grandchild. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, it gives me an irreplaceable channel to forge life-long, solid attachments with my grandson. Second, the cost of quality day-care is prohibitive. My willingness to shoulder this responsibility allows my children to stretch their hard-earned dollars further.
With this first-hand opportunity to shape my grandson, I am able to practice much of the Intentional Parenting suggestions which I proffer here. I believe that helping to shape my grandson’s values in a positive way is one of the best gifts I can provide him. Each day during our time together, I intentionally sprinkle messages—comments that encourage, demonstrate and, reinforce our family values. I think of them as thought-seeds, ideas which I trust will take root and bear fruit throughout his lifetime.
Best Gift: Confidence, Courage and, CapabilityWhat ideas?
I remind him that he is loved by me, his parents and his extended family. Who loves you, PJ? I continue asking, And who else? Until he runs out of names. Then we reverse engineer the activity reinforcing that there is room for all of the people in his heart. This includes the members of his dad’s biological family who do love him deeply and whole-heartedly. At twenty-eight months, he’s familiar with this “game” and appears to enjoy it.
I also like to remind him that he is capable, that it is essential to try and try again until success is achieved. Nana is so proud of you for trying… I acknowledge when he accomplishes something especially when he’s worked hard to do it. When we are together, I also comment on my own efforts to try. I point out when something doesn’t work but that I’m going to try again. This models capability in addition to speaking about it. And it reveals that even adults must work to gain proficiency.
I think it is important for children to understand that adults do not achieve success every time and that it is a process for us also. If they overheard me speaking aloud, narrating our play like a toddler outsiders might think me crazy. But I believe it reveals important information to children which they might otherwise not notice. In fact, most kids infer that everything is easy for adults; they do not realize we’ve been learning for our entire lifetimes.
One other belief which I emphasize is the importance of helping others. I let him know that I noticed and admire his efforts to help. Then I mention that his mommy and daddy are wonderful helpers as well. Our family believes in helping. Similarly, I highlight how everyone in our family is a helper, tryer, sharer and, hard worker. This builds compassion as well as a sense that we should not only feel empathetic but that we also should feel called to action.
Often this requires courage, especially in the moments when it is difficult to speak out, stand up or, get involved. This kind of conviction emerges from a lifetime of reinforcement. We plant these seeds when our kids are young and then we nurture them as they grow. This benefits them and us. While teaching them we are reminded of what is important and why.
While this may sound overly preachy and moralistic, fear not. One additional value I teach him is that every day we must make time for laughter and dance. ( And cooking, we’re a family that believes when you love someone, you cook them good food. Like his dad, PJ already loves to cook.)
Whatever one’s family values are, they bind us together and forge a common belief system that will determine actions. Actions, in turn, become our contribution to the world and a legacy for the entire family. Although we can’t wrap it and place it under the tree, a clear family value system is a mighty special gift! One might even say it is the proverbial “pearl of great price.

Creating Holiday Joy

Wednesday, December 6, 2017 @ 08:12 PM
Author: admin

Creating Holiday Joy Imagine strolling alone through a park, savoring the brisk winter air and enjoying a much-needed respite from work and family responsibilities. Overhead a picture-perfect sky arcs. You release a deep sigh and then … behind you a branch snaps. Your reverie breaks and reality crashes back on to the forefront of your consciousness.

Daily life overflows with this kind of distraction which draws our attention away from our intended destination, mission or, goal. At this time of year, many of us feel both the joy and the burden of the holiday season. It weighs on our minds and hearts. We get caught up in the cultural effort to create a “Hallmark” holiday.

As we explored in last week’s blog, the real meaning of Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, etc cannot be found in a box or gift shop. It lies in the steadiness of connection, the joy of shared laughter, the balm of troubles divided. We all know this in our heart yet, we still find ourselves pulled in other directions striving to fill cultural expectations. Imagine being able to interrupt this entrenched pattern of subordinating your Intentions. How might this refresh your family life?

To help you stay on track with your highest intentions, ponder these questions about the last week.

Use your answers to guide you to a richer fulfillment of your goals next week. Strive to approach this without judging or criticising yourself. For this week, the goal is simply to notice. Before we can change, eliminate or, tweak patterns, we have to first become aware of them.

  1. How did I connect with each member of my family?
  2. When did we share a laugh?
  3. How fully did I immerse in the moment and resist the urge to get back to “doing” stuff?
  4. When my kids needed help regulating themselves, what alerted me?
  5. When I needed a break, how did my body let me know? How did I respond?
  6. How and when did I ask for help?
  7. When the kids needed help, how did they ask for it?
  8. What was the highlight of the week?
  9. What presented the biggest challenge? How did I handle it?
  10. What do I want to create with my family during the upcoming week?

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?

Mirroring and Belonging: Building Healthy Relationships

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 @ 02:07 PM
Author: admin

Mirroring and Belonging: Building Healthy Relationships-© HaywireMedia -

Last week we introduced the relationship pyramid and discussed how safety and security provide the foundation on which relationships depend. The more substantial the experience of feeling safe and secure, the stronger the relationship will be and the easier the transition to the increasing intimacy of the upper levels of the pyramid.

Until feelings of safety and security are firmly in place, the higher levels of relationship remain stubbornly out of reach. Efforts to teach, or discipline fall on deaf ears. Until kids feel connected, they don’t care or give much credence to what parents, ( or teachers, coaches, etc.) want.

Think about it. As an adult, the opinions of total strangers have little impact on your choices. Personal values, beliefs and priorities drive you, not the instructions of some random passer-by on the street. The influence of public opinion is minor compared to the sway of those about whom you really care and with whom you feel securely connected.  Kids too, listen to those they care about and to whom they feel connected.

Mirroring and Belonging: Building Healthy Relationships-relationship-pyramid-Mirror

The next level of the Relationship Pyramid focuses on Mirroring and belonging. Mirroring is interactive. It involves a “Serve and Return” loop. Mirroring occurs between parent and child; sometimes the parent leads the mirroring. Other times the child mirrors what the parent models.

In the former, a parent notices a behavior in the child and repeats it back to them–not in a mocking way. But in a way that says, I “see” you and accept you.

Kids need assistance in learning to identify and name the emotions they feel and to accurately recognize the emotions displayed by others.

(Events from their history may be causing them to “go on the alert.” Discover what these triggers are. Validate their perceptions and help them to recognize that in the past it was true that  when a person from their past looked that way/acted that way, it indicated danger.)

Be careful to maintain  congruency about your own emotions. If children infer that you are angry, and their perception is accurate, own your emotion. Validate the accuracy of their “read.” Do not deny your emotions; this only confuses kids and makes it more difficult for them to develop accuracy in reading social cues.

How can parents help kids develop a broad emotional vocabulary that will serve them well, enhance their ability to socialize and foster the sense that they belong? Teaching children to recognize and name emotions provides them the vocabulary with which to think about and communicate their feelings.

Mirroring-Belonging-Building Healthy-Relationships-Father and toddler son playingPlayfulness plays an important–essential–role in creating and strengthening  connection between parent and child. Parents can engage in silly face games which involve mirroring on a purely physical level.  Check out this link for several ideas for emotional literacy activities including puppetry, miming, mirrors and more. (Practicing these skill-building activities when parent and child are in a relaxed mood, not when  a child is in the middle of an emotional meltdown.)

For another fun, joint activity, take pictures of each other as you dramatize different feelings. Turn the photos into  a matching game (similar to “Concentration” a popular child’s “matching” game.) Have fun. Enjoy spending time together, knitting that bond that connects while simultaneously helping your child acquire essential social skills.

How do you consciously mirror your child’s emotions?