Archive for the ‘Adoptive Parenting Skills/Tool’ Category

Navigating the School Year with Intention

Wednesday, August 15, 2018 @ 01:08 PM
Author: admin

navigating-the-school-year-with-intentionSchools have already reopened in my community which reminds me of the need for intentionality in how we guide our children through the school year. Parents and students all hope for a good year, one that is filled with learning–both academic and relational–and grows their ability to be in the driver’s seat of their lives. (After all, the point of parenting is to put ourselves out of a job: to raise kids that can succeed on their own.) So, how do we accomplish this vital goal? Operating purely on intuition is not enough; we need a plan–a map–that shows the route we intend to take.

To design any functional map, we must know two facts: the departure point and the destination. The shortest route would simply draw a straight line from point A to point B. But life is never that linear, that free from unexpected obstacles and delays. We must plan for contingencies, pack supplies for “emergencies”, and draw out alternate routes “just in case.” What landmarks (benchmarks) do we want our kids to achieve? Keep in mind that our actions make a broader impact than our words. “Do as I say, not as I do,” never works. Our actions must reflect and embody our words and expectations. Make a list of possible goals.

We must exemplify whatever is on our “wish” list. This provides the model and the proof of our commitment to it. What behaviors do we wish to see? How do we encourage/reinforce these behaviors when our children demonstrate them? How are we modeling the same behaviors? How do we extinguish undesirable behaviors? Remember the distinction between discipline and consequences. The first aims to teach; the second aims to punish.

What skills do our children want to develop?

It’s important that they participate in goal defining and setting. This is an important mindset and is a skill that benefits from practice. Clarity helps to focus their choices and it strengthens their commitment and desire. We must validate and understand their goals, dreams and motivations, then discern how we can help them define, refine, and accomplish them. 

What skills do we want them to develop?

Timeliness

Getting self up in the morning

Completing homework

Putting forth full effort

Learning from mistakes

Playing a sport

Being physically active

Managing tech time

Expanding their circle of friends

Being compassionate

Helping others

Showing respect for teachers

Create a work/life balance

Be accountable

Admit errors

Identifying their personal strengths as well as growth points

Seeing school as a tool that helps them accomplish their life goals

 

What values do we want them to embrace?

Confidence, competence, courage, resilience,

persistence, compassion, service, open-mindedness,

curiosity, conviction, self-discipline, delayed gratification,

 emotional balance, joy, conscience, morality, humor,

awareness, creativity, forgiveness of others and self,

respect for self and others, truth telling and truth seeking

What habits do we want them to internalize?

Good nutrition,

Adequate rest,

Recreation

Make time for self-reflection

       Exercise

When we demonstrate intentionality about our personal and family goals we show our children not only that planning is essential for success but also we prove it is a priority for us, it’s part of our approach to goal accomplishment. It also reduces the chaos of living with a seat-of-the-pants, handling brush fires as they come. Having a life blueprint alerts us to digressions that lure us off track; we can then decide if it is a welcome diversion or a distraction we choose to avoid. It’s important to note that our expectations may get “in the way” if they are not developmentally ready to achieve at the level we would like them to be. Staying “attuned” and in communication with our kids at all times is our ultimate goal. We must nurture the child before us and not expect him to be the embodiment of a “fantasy child.” that exists only in our imagination.

https://wp.me/p4r2GC-21H

 

 

 

 

Talk about the Hard Stuff Because They Are Thinking about It Already

Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 09:05 PM
Author: admin

Talk about the hard stuff; don't sweep it under the rug.In our two previous blogs, we focused on the role of the family adoption library as a way to facilitate important yet perhaps difficult conversations about adoption complexity. Books are one of many tools parents can draw upon to help them. The most salient point in these blogs was this: Hold the conversations and have them with enough frequency that everyone becomes comfortable with the topic.

Today I read a blog written by a seventeen-year-old adoptee. The post appeared on DearAdoption.com which “is a platform for Adoptees promoting authenticity and educating others by sharing a vast array of experiences as lived by those most affected by adoption.” The author wrote about his personal adoption experience. He affirmed that he loved his parents, felt connected to them etc. But…

And this is the “gold nugget” in his post: on the inside, he’d been struggling for years. Struggling to understand his ambivalent feelings, struggling to parse his gains and losses, struggling to protect his parents from his worry, struggling to fulfill his “obligation” not to upset them because it could be perceived as ungrateful.

That’s a lot for a youngster to handle without support. It is tragic that the parents whom he describes as loving him deeply have somehow missed the opportunity to walk with him through his struggles. It would appear that they have not succeeded in creating that open atmosphere of trusts, acceptance, and empathy that would reassure their son that they are capable of hearing not everything is perfect regarding his adoption.

Intentional parents create a safe & inviting space where difficult topics can be discussed. This level of communication provides a safety net so kids don’t believe they must hide or deny their thoughts and feelings or that they must struggle without parental support & guidance.

What have you done in your own family to build this sense of conversational security and openness with your children? What else might you do to further reassure them? How might you raise the issue of “withholding information” or “protecting parents from hard truths” directly? How would your family benefit from this type of intentional conversation?

https://wp.me/p4r2GC-1Z7

“Parenting in the Eye of the Storm”: an Important Resource for Families

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 @ 12:06 PM
Author: admin

Parenting in the Eye of the StormParenting in the Eye of the Storm by Katie Naftziger, LICSW has written a readable and practical book. Katie is both a therapist and a transracial adoptee originally from Korea. Subtitled, “The Adoptive Parent’s Guide to Navigating the Teen Years,” her book offer insight, encouragement and strategies for families. Adam Pertman, President and CEO of the National Center on Adoption and Permanency in his introduction to the book , opines, “Whys wasn’t it [Katie’s book] around when my wife and I needed it. No Joke.”

I experienced a similar sentiment while reading it. While this book is widely applauded by seasoned professionals, adult adoptees also chime in to praise Katie’s book. Their perspective speaks volumes to me; who understands adoption better than the adoptees that are living it? As an adoption coach and a parent whose family weathered some extremely turbulent times, I can also add my voice to those who say that Katie has created an important book.

If you are parenting teens now, or will be in the future, this book offers a welcome resource for navigating the challenges of this stage of parenting. If your children are younger, begin now to master the skills she outlines. It just may smooth the path ahead for you and your child. Overwhelmed parents will appreciate both her clarity and practicality and also her brevity. Katie conveys her insights and strategies concisely. Parenting in the Eye of the Storm packs a lot of value into 160 pages. This is a book which parents will refer to again and again.

Among several premises presented in the book, Katie suggests that adoptive parents need to master four skills:

“Unrescuing” your adoptive teen  [Are you exhausted from being expected to be the EMT to the rescue at a moments notice? Want to nurture your teens capabilities–for their sake and yours? If so, this skill will interest you.]

Setting adoption-sensitive limits [Because you’re committed to Adoption-attunement and are trauma-informed, do you struggle to balance empathy with accountability, responsibility and respect? If so, this skill will interest you.]

Having connected conversation [Do you struggle to have conversations which create intimacy instead of eye rolls and annoyance? If so, this skill will interest you.]

Helping your teen envision their future [Do you sense that both you and your teen have some ambivalence about their “fledging the nest”? Does the history of grief and loss which has touched the family color your thoughts, beliefs and concerns–consciously or unconsciously? If so, this concept will interest you.

Do you see a pattern here? Katie understands what adoptees and their families are facing. She’s been there. Her insights offer hope and compassion not judgment. She presents her ideas in an inviting and approachable way. She’s not looking to scapegoat or criticize, she’s committed to increasing capabilities, awareness and nurturing healthy families. Respect and loving boundaries are an integral part of the structure of a steady family. Ironically, parents sensitized to adoptee losses and triggers, many times flounder in their ability to establish these important guard rails. The sample conversations offer insight and ideas on how to master this skill. The dialogs feel natural, not rehearsed or overly contrived–like words parents might actually speak and teens might actually “hear.”

Naftziger also highlights the importance of parents nurturing the natural inclinations and talents of their adopted children. We all know kids “listen to” and learn more from our example than our lectures. In the absence of direct information to the contrary, they may infer that the only acceptable future for them is one that mimics their adoptive parents’ path. This can create a significant double bind for them, especially if they’ve been adopted into a family whose talents and past patterns diverge from the innate talents and inclinations of the adoptee. If a family whose highest passion is sports adopts a child who inclines to the cerebral and abstract, there is a danger the child will feel that he can never meet the expectations of his parents. Even worse, he may never feel permitted to become his authentic self.

Naftziger asks adoptive parents to examine how well they are helping their child identify their innate talents and how clearly are they encouraging and valuing those aptitudes. We want our kids to know that we love and accept them for themselves not for some cartoon imitation of an idealized parental fantasy.

If we think back to when we were teens struggling to figure out how to carve a future for ourselves, imagine how much harder it would have been if our parents insisted–overtly or covertly–that even though we had zero interest in mathematics, we had to become an actuary–or some similar disconnect between our talents and our parents plans. It is certainly a parent’s duty to encourage children to plan for the future and work to bring that future to fruition. We must ensure that our child’s dream is genuinely their dream and not their interpretation of what they believe our dream for them is.

We often talk about being sure to take the time to care for yourself and your relationship with your partner. This book just might be a significant part of that self-care. Check out Parenting in the Eye of the Storm I believe you and your teen will be glad that you did. Marshal all your resources to prepare you for the parenting task at hand. The more prepared you feel, the easier it will be to stay calm and Intentional in the midst of the storm. In addition to reading pertinent books, attending workshops and chatting with other adoptive parents, partner with a an adoption coach (like GIFT) and/or an adoption therapist.

Podcast Series: Questions to Ask before, during & after Adopting

Wednesday, May 3, 2017 @ 03:05 PM
Author: admin

GIFT coaches Susan David and Joann Distefano host a podcast called “Essentials for Adoption-attuned Parenting* If you haven’t tuned in, you are missing out on valuable tips, strategies and insights for navigating your family’s adoption journey. Susan and Joann examine issues from a coaching angle. This means that they help you determine how to handle what is on your plate by identifying leverage points for action, change, strengthening attachment or, muscling through a difficult situation.  (Like all of the GIFT coaches, they are both adoptive parents and certified coaches. They support families with judgment-free neutrality that understands the unique challenges and needs of adoptive families.)

While their particular experiences may differ from yours, they arise from actual adoptive family life. Real families. Real life.They understand what you are facing because they too, have confronted similar challenges. Their parenting  began over twenty-five years ago so they have seen prevailing thought, social norms and professional advice evolve over the past quarter century. They know what helped–or hindered–the functioning of their families. They believe their stories can help other adoptive families.

Their current series focuses on questions adoptive parents should ask “before, during and after adoption” and on the differences between adoptive parenting and parenting biological children. Some of these differences and needs are quite distinct and significant. Understanding these differences and learning how to handle them will benefit adoptive families.

Their discussions are rooted in the GIFT Adoption Philosophy and coaching presuppositions and the knowledge that Intentional Parenting, and a commitment to Adoption-attunement* will help ensure success for adoptive families. Joann and Susan emphasize one vital point: talk about these issues, concerns and choices. Make you decisions intentionally. Base them on accurate information, soul-searching and a commitment to the life-time success of your adoptive family. Step beyond the emotions that flood your heart and fuel your desire to adopt. Build a healthy foundation based on what is best for your child. The entire family will benefit. For a lifetime.

Subscribe to the podcast. Listen at your convenience. Amplify your Adoption-attunement* and prepare for your life to bloom and grow.

Some important distinctions to discuss with your partner and your professional team:

 

  Adoptive Parenting             Biological Parenting            
  Privacy     Shame
  Boundary Setting   Open Book
  Open Adoption   Closed Adoption
  Agreement   Compliance

 

Some important resources

Organizations:

NACAC (North American Council for Adoptable Children)

(GIFT coaches Sally Ankerfelt and Gayle Swift will be presenting a workshop at the NACAC Conference which will be in Atlanta, Georgia, from July 20–22, 2017. )

Donaldson Adoption Institute “is an independent and objective adoption research and policy organization that addressed the needs of all those touched by adoption – first/birth parents, adoptees and adoptive parents.” They offer an on-line open adoption curriculum.

DTFA “is a nonprofit organization that helps find adoptive homes for children in foster care across the U.S. and Canada … North America’s only national nonprofit charity dedicated solely to finding permanent homes for the more than 130,000 children in foster care.”

Books     Dear Abby-Gotcha-The Open-hearted Way to Open Adoption,GIFT’s resources pages include reviews of many wonderful books.

Check out the list to find valuable titles.

Two books that are essential for every family contemplating adoption are:

For children we recommend

  

(Again, our resource pages includes a more comprehensive list)

Dear Abby, We Need to Talk about Gotcha

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 @ 02:03 PM
Author: admin

Gotcha-Dear-Abby

For adoptive parents, the arrival of their children is a miracle beyond conception and an event which they love to celebrate. In a recent letter, Dear Abby extolled the virtues of “Gotcha Day” as a wonderful way to celebrate an important and life transforming event. As Adoption-attuned parents, we understand that adoption is a beautiful way of forming a family. But, the Both/And reality of adoption means it has its roots in loss and grief for each member of the adoption triad. Thus, as an adoption professional and an adoptive parent, I’d like to offer three reasons to rethink “Gotcha Day” and to provide some alternatives. Please click this link to read my complete essay which appeared on Lori Holden’s blog Lavenderluz.com author of The Open-hearted Way to Open Adoption.

For me, Gotcha Day feels a bit like a hair shirt. It’s intended to generate warmth but it itches like crazy and somehow doesn’t accomplish the job.

Gotcha-Dear-Abby-The Open-hearted Way to Open Adoption,