Archive for the ‘Adoptive Parenting Skills/Tool’ Category

Soundtracks Build Connection

Wednesday, February 13, 2019 @ 03:02 PM
Author: admin


The Grammys aired last night to honor musicians of every stripe and genre which made me think of the power that music wields. Music evokes emotion in ways deeper than words. It unlocks memories reminding us of people, places, times, and events. This is why film producers spend small fortunes blending the perfect soundtrack for their works. Most of us compile music collections on our phones and can listen whenever we wish, to whatever we choose. We care about music and even consider certain special songs as “ours.” As Intentional Parents, music offers us an important avenue for strengthening connection with our kids.

Much of what children think and feel remains locked behind a web of reluctance, embarrassment, and insecurity. We yearn for a way to touch their hearts and their spirits. Music can connect us even when words fail.

My kids who are now in their thirties, will tell you that I have a deep preference for silence and that when I do listen to music it is on a low volume. Like many young people, they like to listen at a higher volume, especially my son who listens at decibel levels equivalent to a departing jet engine. So, finding music which we can enjoy is a bit of a challenge. But when we do, it sure is fun! Moments of intimate connection like these are precious indeed.

Look for ways to create them, e.g., ask if they had any favorites amomg the Grammy nominees. If you just can’t stand their music selection, study the lyrics. Look for what draws your child to a specific piece of music. Start a conversation about what you notice. Remember to refrain from any criticism; that will immediately elicit a shutdown. Ask questions that are clearly neutral. Then listen for the Golden Nugget, the peek into what they think, feel, struggle or identify with. That insight, that connection is true treasure. Handle it with heroic care. Look for ways to find commonality.  You might also ask them which musical film score is their favorite. What do they like about it? How do they think it contributed to the film?

Be open but not overly insistent if they resist. If that happens, be attentive to moments that occur spontaneously. The next time they insert their earbuds, ask them to let you take a listen. Then see what unfolds.

What songs from your own youth drove your parents crazy? What made the music appeal to you? How did you feel when/if your parents dissed or ridiculed your music? What insight does this history provide to assist you in relating to your kids now?

Listen to our podcasts on Adoption-attuned Parenting.

Read these book reviews which are written with an
Adoption-attuned perspective.

Planting Relationship Success

Wednesday, January 23, 2019 @ 04:01 PM
Author: admin

I took a class this weekend to learn about native plants for the garden in my new house. The most basic rule the instructor stated was to choose the right plant for the given location. Consider the weeping willow and the cactus. While each plant is lovely, they could not be more different. One requires a very wet soil; the other thrives in extremely dry conditions. Each is beautiful in its own right. But neither could do well in the other’s preferred habitat.

Yet, most of us have heard the expression, “Bloom where you are planted.” It intends to convey a willingness to live in the now and appreciate what we have at the moment instead of pining for what we don’t have. Of course, we benefit from living through a spirit of gratitude and grace but we can also dig deeper to discover a presupposition which lurks behind the expression: that we can bloom anywhere regardless of circumstances. While it makes sense to appreciate what we’ve got and to live with contentment instead dissatisfaction, sometimes we must admit that we need a new set of circumstances in which we can truly bloom.

Consider our precious and beloved children, on some level, we could describe adoption as having transplanted them from their family to our. (Although it is certainly for more complicated.) Like plants in a garden, they have unique needs which must be met. It is folly to ask a willow to thrive in a desert or the cactus to thrive in a lily pond.

In our earnestness to meld our children into our families, we can unwittingly pressure them to fit our family mold. 
We may have unconsciously asked them to be like us so that they can belong to us. How might we determine this?

Consider these questions.

Have we scrupulously considered who their biology prepared them to be? Have we provided the appropriate environment and resources so that they can bloom into their best selves?

We want to embrace and nurture and value their differences as much as we treasure the ways in which they are like us. We also want to help them to be proud of their uniqueness and to find value in these differences instead of failure and a sense of not measuring up. We must provide them with the freedom to be their true selves. This is a powerful and loving gift which allows our children to be happy and healthy.

Yes, we want to honor and respect our family traditions and patterns,AND we want to expand the family template to include our children’s natural inclinations so they’re equally valued by us and by our extended families.

Children notice what we value, what triggers our enthusiastic appreciation and what fails to generate much of our attention. If they sense that we need them to fit the family mold, they will twist themselves into knots trying to be who they think we want them to be. They’ll also absorb the negative judgment of their differences. Often, their inner voice will repeat these internalized messages. This can cause them great distress and crush them between their genuine identity and an idealized version of their parents’ fantasy child.

So, how do we accomplish this message that our children are loved and accepted for who they are so they have the freed om to pursue their dreams?

*Notice the things that naturally interest your children, especially if it differs from traditional family patterns. Provide opportunities to nurture their talent or interest.

*Stay aware of your emotional response. Keep your encouragement genuine. Remember too, that kids notice family patterns. They’re aware if they “fit” or “measure up.” They may add their own sense of failure and fault to any hints of their being a “disappointment” which they sense from their adoptive parents and extended family. Make intentional efforts to reassure that you love and accept them just as they are.

*Choose to engage in the activities to which they are drawn–even if it isn’t quite your cup of tea. Your response models mutuality and shows that you’re willing to engage in their “world.”

* Verbalize your support of their differences. When they engage in their pursuit of “off-family-pattern” activities, give them genuine, enthusiastic attention. Because you value them, be interested in what interests them. This gives them tangible “proof” of your acceptance of them. Children crave that recognition. Being seen in this way is a powerful channel to connection and validation.

*Keep an attitude of enthusiasm and humor. Your shared participation is an important thread in weaving a bond of love and mutual respect. On the other hand, coming across as bored or annoyed undermines your relationship and conveys a message that says their place in the family depends on doing it the traditional way.

Imagine how your family might benefit from this commitment to one another. How will you begin this practice today?

Families: Building Bridges over Troubled Waters

Wednesday, January 16, 2019 @ 03:01 PM
Author: admin

The push-pull of modern life keeps us and our families under pressure and on edge. This tends to drive us apart into isolated cells delimited by our social media networks and devices. Often we turn to our cyber worlds for assistance, distraction and relief.

Through social media we identify resources, engage with like-minded people and access “witnesses” to share our stories. We tolerate nasty and unwelcome trolls as the “cost of doing business” because those elusive witnesses hold tremendous —and seductive—power.

Witnessing holds transformational power that is frequently underappreciated. Feeling witnessed can provide validation of one’s experience, hope in the face of devastating circumstances, and can fuel persistence when commitment flags. Is it any wonder that we turn to our devices to access this resource?


Instead of depending on our tech devices for this sort of validation and witness, imagine the benefit that might accrue if we created a healthy sense of witness and validation for one another within our families.

Hold that thought.

Imagine building a family-based sense of connection, validation, and witness. So how might we accomplish that?

Step 1: Listen. Listen with absolute neutrality and total attention. Resist the temptation to fix it—whatever “it” is. Simply be present, like a camera recording yet not intervening.


Step 2: To ensure accuracy, capture the essence of what they said using their words.

Step 3: Confirm that you got it right. Repeat the process until you do have an accurate restatement of their words and experience.

Step 4: Ask them, “How would you like me to support you?” Note that you are not assuming they need you to solve the problem for them. You are offering to work with them if they want it. They may not; they may prefer to handle it on their own

Step 5: Affirm three things: first, that you appreciate their opening up to you, second, that you know they can handle it, and third, you remain willing to help.

Intentional parenting depends on having goals, designing strategies and implementing action plans which we refine as we go along. Take time to consider how you can bear powerful witness to each member of your family.

What will be the first step you’ll take, the first change you’ll make to ensure that your family provides a safe harbor for one another?

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 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?


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,


Make time for self-reflection


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.





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 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?