This blog explores how Adoption-attunement (AQ) and intentionality provide a clear approach to follow, one that helps adoptive families to flourish. It is firmly rooted in a belief that adoption is complex and therefore recognizes the hard truths of loss and pain in which our families began. We Speak truth aloud: adoption is not all rainbows and roses. A family built on the separation of a child from his birth family is by definition rooted in grief and loss. We must not only speak truth, we must follow our words with action.

As families who are committed to Adoption-attunement (AQ)℠, we choose to Be honest and acknowledge this difficult truth.  We do not deny or minimize these losses; we have deep empathy for our children’s grief and loss. We create a safe, nurturing space where our children can talk about this reality and rely on us for the reassurance and support they need.

We gather up our courage and Talk about the tough stuff because our children need our wisdom, support, and love. They depend on us for strength and comfort as they work through the  Seven Core Issues of Adoption: Loss, Rejection, Guilt and Shame, Identity, Intimacy, Mastery and control, Grief. If we avoid the hard discussions, the challenges of these difficult issues do not go away. The challenges remain whether discussed or not and our children will have to cope with them alone.

Stuffing and suppressing difficult issues is like trying to hold a beachball underwater. Initially, we can keep it submerged. But eventually, it erupts with a huge surge of force. This year has provided a surplus of challenges and difficult issues that we have had to face --within our families and beyond. We have needed to muster courage, determination, and discipline.

The times have also presented us with a chance to Be kind — to ourselves, our families, co-workers, and neighbors. We have a chance to set an example for our children and to respond with patience, empathy, generosity, and kindness. We are all in this storm together yet we are not all in the same boat. Some of us have many more resources than others.

During this month, in what ways will you choose to embody kindness, honesty, and truth-telling? What Difficult Conversations will you choose to explore with family and friends?

GIFT Family Services -- Growing Intentional Families Together

"Your Adoption-attunement (AQ)℠ specialists

providing coaching and support before, during, and after adoption."

 

Read these books written by our coaches.

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Our families, our country, and the world at large is currently facing an unprecedented challenge. We are collectively facing a Difficult Situation of unparalleled proportions. The survival of many people directly depends on the collective actions of all. Each of us is challenged to think of the greater good when we decide how we will respond to this crisis. We have been asked to engage in social distancing. to stay as isolated as possible, to be vigilant about handwashing, and to subjugate personal pleasure, convenience, and interests and commit to actions that prioritize the collective good.

We face additional levels of challenge as parents raising kids who tend to be resistant to change, whose "radar is supersensitive to perceptions of danger, who move from "connection" to "protection" mode with lightning speed, and who worry about the permanence, safety, and security of their families. How can we persuade our kids of the necessity to accept the current limitations of social distancing, closed schools, and sheltering in place without setting off all of their inner alarms that might trigger their unconscious fears of loss, abandonment, and rejection?

First and most important, talk about the dangers—in age-appropriate ways. Silence exacerbates fears. Secrecy stokes our ability to imagine the worst. We must speak honestly with kids about our concerns without over-catastrophizing the situation. Help kids to understand how they can be part of the solution through simple yet effective and essential ways. Explain what is happening, what's expected of them, of us and of our communities. Help them visualize their behavior as an integral contribution.

As parents, we also have an opportunity to stay solution-focused. Yes, we have serious worries and fears because of this virus. These concerns are valid. Still, we have to plow through the current situation as well as possible. Our kids will be looking to us for reassurance and for an example of how to respond. Our most important task is to remain regulated ourselves and then to reassure our kids and wrap them with a sense of safety. Unless and until they feel safe, their thoughts and behavior will reflect and express their fears and worries. When fear flames, the thinking brain shuts down and the survival brain takes over. Their behavior will reflect this shift and it will be distressing for all.

Just as fear and worry impede our own ability to function, it makes it hard for our kids as well. If ever there was a need for Attunement, it is now. Academic work is important, however, sustaining your family relationships is primary. Many homeschooling parents have posted suggestions for those of us who are new to this endeavor. Most suggest establishing schedules to give the day structure. As much as kids may complain about schedules, most of them fare better with the structure and security that schedules provide.

Academic progress can be reestablished! Concentrate on nurturing connection and mutual concern. Look for opportunities to create laughter and fun as well as some quiet, calm time. Imagine this crisis is finally resolved, what will you be glad that you did with your family? What will you be pleased that you avoided? What will be the lessons you have learned together?

GIFT Family Services -- Growing Intentional Families Together

"Your Adoption-attunement℠ specialists
providing coaching and support before, during, and after adoption."

GIFT coaches are available to present workshops on-line.

Contact us to explore this possibility.

The coaches at GIFT work to help families acquire the skills and knowledge that will enable them to succeed at Growing Intentional Families Together. We believe in being intentional and conscious about the values and beliefs that guide the way we live and raise our families. Our parenting beliefs create a mindset and guide our actions so it is essential that we examine and carefully define them. Parents should identify areas of consensus as well as conflict and then hammer out a compromise.

Readers of this blog know we write with a consistent point of view that holds adoptees at the hub. We also recognize that adoption does not exist in a vacuum. It unfolds within a context of relationships between the adoptee and his parents (first/birth and adoptive) and the people he or she encounters in the world at large.

Our coaching primarily focuses on this relationship dynamic. We coined a word for this approach—Adoption-attunement—and incorporated it into our tag line: Your Adoption-attunement (AQ)℠ specialists providing coaching and support before, during, and after adoption.” AQ includes fifteen basic points.

(We also have delineated twenty-five foundational principles and beliefs of our adoption philosophy and this document is posted on our About Us page.

The coaches at GIFT Family Services are committed to educating and raising awareness about Adoption-attunement. Adoption-attunement℠ infuses all of our coaching whether is it done person to person, in a family/group or via podcast, video, webinar, conference presentations, workshops, blogs, interviews, articles, and books.  We firmly believe as people understand more about adoption complexity, they can update their ideas and beliefs about adoption. This empowers them to parent better, to build stronger connections within their families and to provide the support which their children so sorely need.

GIFT is dedicated to serving the adoption community regardless of an individual's faith, culture, or gender identity. We are also mindful of the strong interest of the Christian community in encouraging adoption and believed this would be an important arena into which we could introduce the Adoption-attunement principles. We asked ourselves how families can integrate their faith beliefs with Adoption-attunement (AQ)℠ in a way that honors both. Two of our coaches decided to write a book to answer this need.

The result is an award-winning book, Reimagining Adoption: What Adoptees Seek from Families and Faith. The premise is tilted toward the Christian community yet the fundamental principles would be useful to anyone connected to adoption. You can listen to Sally’s interview discussing the book with a Christian podcaster. Note: this particular interview represents a particular faith point of view.

GIFT Family Services -- Growing Intentional Families Together

"Your Adoption-attunement℠ specialists
providing coaching and support before, during, and after adoption."   

GIFT coaches are available to present workshops in person or on-line.

Contact us to explore this possibility.

 

podcast interview

luck & gratitude

During this month folks who are Irish—literally or metaphorically—celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Like many holidays, a non-sectarian sense of fun has overtaken the religious aspects of the day's origins. So what does St. Patrick's Day have to do with adoption? The "luck of the Irish" comes to mind. Luck...a term easily tossed around. And often hurled in the face of adoptees. They routinely hear, "You are so lucky you were adopted."

Regardless of the reasons that caused their adoption, the loss of their first family is significant, painful, tragic. Many have written eloquently on this absurd and painfully invalidating notion.

This expectation of gratitude is often coupled with equally offensive "Shoulds." Adoptees are told they should:

From the day our first child was placed in my arms thirty-five years ago, I believed I understood the tragedy at the roots of our joy. As the years have unfolded, however, I realize that the enormity of this life-long loss cannot be parsed by anyone who is not actually an adoptee or birth parent. When cancer destroyed my ability to conceive, no one ever suggested to fifteen-year-old me that I should feel lucky for having cancer or lucky for being rendered sterile. The very notion is ridiculous.

I did/do, however, frequently hear that I should feel grateful that I didn't have to experience pregnancy or childbirth. I do not. I grieve that loss of not having that nine months of shared intimacy. Yes, it rearranged my life and ultimately led to my cherished children entering my life. But the benefits do not erase the losses;  they coexist. Yet this expectation of gratitude for the cruel factors that shaped our lives is often flung in our faces. It feels deeply invalidating to have our personal tragedies dismissed as trivial or as a blessing. When we connect to our own individual experiences of painful incidents, we can glean a small appreciation for what our (adopted) children encounter. Still, we are adults and benefit from an adult's perspective, experience, and skillsets to help us cope. So how do we best support our children and free them from the crushing weight of such societal expectations?

Most of us--unless we ourselves are also adopted--can not truly understand their emotional reality. The closest we can come is probably connecting to our own infertility losses, miscarriages, or stillbirths, etc. and imagining how we would feel if people regularly expected us to be grateful. We ache when we're told how lucky we are to have avoided the discomfort of pregnancy or when we hear, after a miscarriage, that we'll probably conceive another. I suspect most of us have felt gut-punched by such callous remarks. I believe it is hard for people to see their loved ones and friends suffer. They feel discomforted by our pain or struggle. For their sake as well as ours, they seek a quick resolution. However, moving too quickly to fix-it mode ignores the genuine reality of the pain of the present moment. It must be worked through not denied.

To some extent, I suppose we can appreciate such emotional hand grenades as it is a way of nurturing empathy for our children's plight.  Like our children, we too, hold a Both/And reality with our own emotions because while adoption provided us our children to love and graft into our families it did not cure infertility or cause us to forget our stillborn babies or the monthly rollercoaster of grief when pregnancy failed to happen. We must resist the need to apply emotional band-aids and instead to sit with them offering empathy, validation, and a safe harbor in which they can be 100% honest about any pain and angst they feel about adoption. This kind of presence, compassionate witness, and honesty are at the heart of Adoption-attunement.

Intentional families are lucky in one way: we exist in a level of awareness committed to thinking deeply about our choices, language, methods, and emotions and therefore, raise our consciousness to a level often missed by those who operate on auto-pilot because life rocked us out of our comfort zone and into a world of hard-won empathy. What will you do this week to reshape the connection between luck, gratitude, and adoption?

GIFT Family Services -- Growing Intentional Families Together

"Your Adoption-attunement℠ specialists
providing coaching and support before, during, and after adoption."   

GIFT coaches are available to present workshops in person or on-line.

Contact us to explore this possibility.

*Adapted from our blog originally published in March, 2016

We’ve all experienced moments in our lives when we needed someone to be there for us. Often, we’ve had the misfortune of being let down, abandoned to face difficulty on our own. Yet when people truly s answer our call, show up and connect with us, we experience the deep grace of feeling seen, heard, and valued. As Intentional Parents, we have the power to offer that grace to our children. All it takes is that we show up— consistently, focused and attuned.

The Super Power of Showing Up--No Cape Needed!

When we commit to being fully present with our children, we give them a gift beyond price. Attentive, engaged, Adoption-attuned presence blesses our children in deep, meaningful life-shaping ways. Love, connection,  healing, and resilience grow in this space. Our Presence costs nothing but our time and our commitment. Yet its impact has life-long influence on our children and families. Like many aspects of parenting, the execution of our commitment to being fully present is simple, not easy. It requires intention, repetition, and authenticity. Fortunately, success depends on consistency, not perfection!

How Parental Presence Shapes Who Our Kids Become and How Their Brains Get Wired by Daniel Siegel, M.D. has written many outstanding books that address how brain science can increase understanding and nurture connection between parent and child. While not explicitly focused on the unique challenges of adoptive parenting, Siegel does consider the influence of attachment styles—the child’s as well as the parents’—  and the repercussions of trauma. When parents can discern the difference between unwillingness and inability regarding a child’s behavior a new dynamic emerges. Parents who see the difference experience a lowering of the emotional thermostat between themselves and their children, one based more on empathy and an awareness of how the body-mind connection shape behavior.

This understanding helps parents to respond their children in more effective, loving ways that strengthen bonds as well as enhancing a child’s ability to internalize family values and behavioral expectations. Imagine parent and child square off on an issue. In scenario A, parent is convinced the child deliberately misbehaved and did X. In scenario B, the parent recognizes the child misbehaved not out of defiance but due to an inability. Which is more likely to lead to connection, empathy, and skill-building? Siegel’s series of books does an excellent job of articulating this distinction. Read them to build your parenting toolbox. How do we most effectively use a given strategy or approach .

Everything comes down to relationship—attachment, emotional attunement, self-esteem, even identity, joy, contentment, insecurity—all unfold in the context of relationship. It is the channel where it all unfolds. Relationship provides feedback to both child and parent.

Once we decide that we will choose to be intentional about showing up, we search for ways to accomplish that connected, validating presence. The key factor is engagement and attunement. Be fully present. Listen. Let me repeat: listen. Place your focus on hearing their words as well as what remains unspoken. Respond in a way that conveys you heard their thoughts without rebuttal, reframing, or correcting.

Each time you listen at his level you learn more about your child, about their thoughts, fears, desires, and beliefs. This information is gold. As you grow your knowledge of who they truly are, you increase your ability to respond to them in ways that allow them to be seen and heard. How do we create initiate conversations with our kids that feed their need to feel seen, valued, and appreciated?

Consider asking one or two of these questions. If you ask too many they’ll feel like they’re being interrogated.

Before school

Tell me something you want me to know today.

What part of the day are you looking forward to?

What do you think might be hard?

How can I help you today?

What do you want to have happen today?

Who would you like to see?

How will you make yourself feel proud today?

After School

What do you want me to know about your day?

How were you kind today?

What kindness did you receive today?

What made you feel proud today?

What made you laugh today?

What surprised you today?

What is something beautiful you saw today?

What do you wish you had done differently?

What frustrated you?

What bugged you?

What worked for you today?

Respond to their answers with curiosity and empathy, e.g., “I think I would have that felt_____ (uncomfortable, annoying, frustrating, scary…Use the appropriate emotion. I don’t like feeling like that.) Validate their experience. The goal is to exchange information in a way that deepens connection. This moment is not the time to make them feel wrong. Defer discussions of how they might have handled things differently. Simply listen, learn, validate.

How might you address these questions to yourself to help you intentionally build a focus at the beginning of your day and to debrief and decompress at the end of the day?

Dan Siegel is fond of acronyms to help parents remember important concepts and strategies. He asserts that parents need to bring PEACE into their family life:

Presence

Engagement

Affection

Calm

Empathy.

 

We can all see how an increase in these factors benefits the entire family! Siegel also advocates is the need for parents to meet their children’s needs for the Four S’s

Safe

Seen

Soothed

Secure

Dan Siegel has packed The Power of Showing Up: How Parental Presence Shapes Who Our Kids Become And How Their Brains Get Wired with valuable information that will inform and improve your parenting and your relationships in general. In addition to strategies, it also offers hope: our brains are plastic. We can learn new ways of perceiving and responding that can improve their lives as well as our own! Just remember that presence requires more than our bodies being in the same physical space as our loved ones. Put down the phones. Focus your attention on the moment.

As Sir Francis Bacon wrote: “We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake...” The opportunity to connect and be fully present with our kids can be lost in a flash. Be intentional. Take advantage of every interaction.  Rapport and attachment result from a continual flow of reciprocal interactions in which kids "ask" for connection and we respond accordingly and accurately. Quality, quantity, and consistency matter. Our efforts are worth it. Our families are worth it.

GIFT Family Services -- Growing Intentional Families Together

"Your Adoption-attunement™ specialists
providing coaching and support before, during, and after adoption."   

GIFT coaches are available to present workshops in person or on-line.

Contact us to explore this possibility.

 

 

 

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1-800-653-9445


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