Archive for the ‘Difficult Discussions’ Category

Heart to Heart Conversations

Wednesday, February 6, 2019 @ 03:02 PM
Author: admin
Heart-Heart-Conversations-love-enough-hard-conversations

Unless adoptive parents are also adoptees, we can only approximate in our minds and hearts what it must be like for our children. Adoption was the answer to our prayer; but for our children, it is far more complicated. The benefits they gained via adoption coexist with significant loss and trauma. Adoption is not an exclusively happy experience for our children.  We cannot know the silent, inner conversations they have within themselves as they strive to piece together a sense of healthy wholeness from the disparate threads of their biology and their biography.[1] The only way to know what they are thinking is share conversations that touch on these difficult subjects. We must love them enough to hold these hard conversations.

It isn’t easy for them or us kids to talk about such heavy topics.

Our earnest hope that all is okay with our kids may willingly believe that it is so. When we ask kids if they’re doing all right and they quickly assure that it is, we heave a sigh of relief. But, can we actually accept their reassurances on face value?

What do we know, within ourselves, about assurances too quickly offered, of hot topics we gladly shove under the rug? Plenty.

How many times have we told spouses, partners, friends, or colleagues that “nothing is wrong” when in fact, it was obvious that we were hurting so much? But, we were afraid to articulate it, as if speaking it aloud made it real. Denying it offered us the temporary shelter of pretending we were fine. Besides, the truth was too scary to admit even to ourselves. We’d rather be stuck than to expose our vulnerability. Being stuck was less painful than facing the issues and doing the hard work of creating any necessary changes.

How many other times have we held back because we expected our loved ones to know without our telling them what was bothering us? Mindreading never works. It’s a dangerous and false assumption to think that because people care about us they automatically know what is going on inside our heads. Nothing could be farther from the truth. To rely on mindreading is to sabotage the relationship.

Communication is a two-way street. We have to engage in conversations that safely and respectfully talk about “stuff.” For families like ours, this means we must have the hard conversations about adoption and the very complicated reality it brings for our children.

Even as we admit it is hard for us as adults to tackle the hard conversations, it is even more difficult for our kids. They depend on us for virtually all their security—emotional and physical. The possibility that they might place that security in jeopardy is very scary. At some level, they know they need us, that they can’t afford to lose us. From this vantage point, consider how scary it is for them, therefore to share thins which they think might offend, alienate or disappoint us. They may even falsely believe that we do not want to hear their thoughts and feelings. They may worry that we cannot handle the awkward, negative conversations that may echo inside them. Inner demons may tell them we are open only to happy conversations that prove the benefits of adoption.

What strategies help us initiate conversations of this topic which is vital yet so scary for all of us? Here are a few ideas:

When the news mentions family separations, comment. Mention how hard that must be for parent and child. Wait to see if your child says anything. Say that it makes you think about his being separated from his first family. If he responds to this conversation starter, great! If not, reassure him that you would want to hear about his feelings when he is ready so you could help him work through it.

Have a well-stocked family library on books that explore adoption.

Read books from your child’s school list or from their own recreational list. Look for events in the book that might serve as conversation starters.

Similarly, listen to the lyrics of his favorite songs. Talk about why they resonate with him. This does not have to be about adoption. The purpose is to establish a pattern of authentic sharing.

See the films he enjoys. Watch them together, if he’s willing. If not, watch them by yourself and then look for an opportunity to chat about it together.

Share some of your moments of struggle–being mindful of holding appropriate boundaries. Articulate how a circumstance or relationship halenges you and menion some of the specific strategies you employed. These will then serve as models for some options which they might use in the future. Sharing your experiences relieves them of the false belief that parents never have struggles, feel inadequate, or have conflicting feelings within important relationships.

Good communication depends on respect and non-judgmental listening. Start with “safe” subjects and build a pattern of loving listening. This lays down the habit of talking together. The more routine it becomes, the more likely they will talk when it topics are more difficult.

What one thing can you do to start building a habit of talking to one another?


[1] These terms originated in Lori Holden’s masterful book, The Open-hearted Way to Open Adoption. This book belongs in every adoptive family’s library.

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

Reweaving Connection: Think Globally. Work Locally.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017 @ 04:10 PM
Author: admin

Reweaving Connection: Think Globally. Work LocallyReweaving connection…so much of life depends on our ability to accomplish this. Families built via adoption live this reality in a unique life-redefining way! We understand the effort and importance involved.

Whether a relationship breach exists between spouses (or significant others,) between/among friends or, among larger social groups like classrooms, offices, communities and countries, repair is an essential part of keeping relationships alive and healthy. Relationship repair takes work, requires accountability, cooperation and, commitment. It is challenging to admit we’ve messed up, fallen short or, failed. While not easy, it is worth it.

The many horrific weather events that have confronted the world recently, remind us that working together smooths the pathway to rebuilding damage. It is impossible to do it alone. We need every skill set. Every contribution is valuable. None of us can sit back and do nothing. Each of us can contribute something.

Sunday night in Las Vegas redefined ghastly. Evil.

When moral and social values completely collapse–as in the case of this massacre–we reel with shock, despair, anger and helplessness. However, we must not succumb to these emotions. Yes, they have their place and time. We must move beyond the outrage and DO SOMETHING. Channel the anger and frustration into productive directions.

Contemporary society focuses too much on difference, division, and viewing other people as obstacles to our goals and happiness. While practical steps are essential, we must recast the conversation of negativity, disrespect, hate and “othering.” We must upend this destructive paradigm and embrace a world view built on respect, cooperation, empathy and common purpose. We must resist petty distractions and focus on doing what is right instead of what is easy or comfortable.

Reweaving Connection: Think Globally. Work Locally.How can we become part of the solutions? Sending donations and writing checks certainly helps, but we must do more. The adage “Think globally. Work locally.” must guide us. Family is the most “local” place on which to focus our attention. Do an honest gut check about how well we are exemplifying and teaching our children our values. Then, expand our assessments into other layers of our lives: work/school, community, country, etc. Let us be brave enough to ask the hard questions and acknowledge the reality. This allows us to identify shortfalls or disappointments and then focus on creating the change we desire.

Here are a few questions to consider.

Do I practice the “Golden Rule?”

Do I speak and interact with respect?

Do I welcome and absorb feedback without arguing why it is wrong?

When I offer feedback, is it free of any hidden agenda or petty emotions?

Do I encourage and acknowledge the efforts of others without tacking on criticism?

Do I respect differing viewpoints?

Do I listen to understand without formulating a rebuttal?

When expressing my own viewpoints do I allow space for divergent positions?

Can I disagree without making it a personal attack on the other person?

Do I work to improve the inequities around me?

Do I feed conversations that inspire and encourage?

Do I disparage and complain, dismiss the struggles of others as their fault or not my concern?

Do I look beyond overt differences to see the common humanity of others?

Am I amplifying convesations that reinforce hate and anger?

Am I advancing conversations that build solutions instead of simply venting anger?

 

 

 

 

Money Talks: The Connection between Spending and Values

Thursday, February 2, 2017 @ 03:02 AM
Author: admin

Money Talks: What Is Yours Saying?Americans have a cultural belief: Money Talks. What is yours saying? How strong is the connection between our spending and our values?

After tracking your spending for a week–or more–what useful information emerged? Dissect the information with a Learning Eye. instead of a critical or judgmental one. Using this neutral approach reminds us to look for leverage points for change and to step away from any inclination to fault-find or judge. (Information is power–and our friend–when we allow it to be so.)

In today’s post we will consider several questions. We’ll examine the data that shows how our cash was actually spent versus how we’d assumed and/or intended. Get ready to discover “golden nuggets” to which we’ve been previously blind. (Imagine that.) So …

What did your spending over the last two weeks say? First, the appearance of a disparity between expectation and reality is neither a good or bad thing. It is simply information. So, if your chart reveals this kind of gap, the next step is to identify what drove the financial decision. Was it a response to an immediate but unexpected financial priority to which you intentionally appropriated money? Or, was it an impulse expenditure.

If the latter, dig deeper to identify what drove the choice: stress, hunger, time constraints, loneliness, pressure from family, friends or co-workers, community or world issues, etc. By identifying the reason, the leverage point for creating better decisions in the future becomes clear.

Money Talks: What Is Yours Saying?How well did it embody your Core Values? This can be a more challenging inference to accept. Has habit led us to spend money in a way that does not reflect our Core Values? Which spending choices revealed an abandonment or weakening of our values compass? Examine each choice separately. Get as clear a mental picture of the factors that occurred at the time you spent the money. List who was present. Recall your emotional state as well as any other details that you can. How did that group of factors make it easy to veer away from your values?

When the chart indicated that an expenditure aligned well with your values, ask the same questions as above. This will help identify the thoughts, circumstances and systems that help keep you aligned with your values.

What role did impulsivity play?  Let’s face it. Modern life is BUSY. We never seem to have sufficient time, energy or money. Sometimes it is easier to spend spontaneously without first calculating if it is prudent or not. Once we’ve noted the factors that led to spontaneous (un-Intentional) spending, we can use that awareness to decide with more Intention in the future. Revealing the specific influence opens the door to new strategies.

For example, daily stops at Starbucks can add up quickly. What is this expense accomplishing for you? Perhaps it a dash of needed self-indulgence. How else might that be accomplished in a less costly way that also aligns with your values? Or it might be a way of denying that money is tight because “It’s only a few bucks” so of course it’s okay. It could be a reflection of many possible factors, e.g. poor time management, unhealthy eating habits, hunger, or a behavior that is part of a group-identity. Whatever the reasons, they provide valuable insight. What opportunities for change did it highlight?

Money Talks: What Is Yours Saying?

To what extent did Intentionality govern your spending? Again, look at the factors and circumstances that supported your decision-making. Identify how you can create those factors more often. Note which relationships and circumstances support your values-based living as well as those which divert you. What can you do to moderate any negative influences in a way that honors your Core Values, yourself and your family? How can you avoid or limit the occasions that draw you off from your commitment to your values?

What will be your first action step in response to this exercise ?  How will it benefit your family? How will you involve the entire family in raising awareness of the connection between your Core Values and your spending habits?
Money Talks: What Is Yours Saying?

Adoption Stereotypes and Cultural Misperceptions

Wednesday, October 19, 2016 @ 03:10 PM
Author: admin

9c28f02d-ce00-4e72-9517-377fe0f8c1d9

How do cultural misperceptions and adoption stereotypes affect our children, ourselves as parents, and our family dynamics? When movies or books paint adoptees as a “bad seed” or unwanted inconvenience, how does it impact us emotionally and shape our relationships within our own families and beyond our inner circle out in our communities? When thoughtless folks ask demeaning questions it both shocks and offends us.

Let me set the stage. Like most adoptive families, we discussed adoption with our kids from an early age. They knew they’d been adopted. With the naive innocence of little ones, they’d absorbed the story with little appreciation of the complex realities of adoption that would evolve as they matured. They felt no need to hide their adoption. Their circle of friends and classmates all knew this fact about them.

Until…

Orphans, Adoption Stereotypes and Cultural Misperceptions bullyingI recall when my now-adult son reported being teased by his first-grade peers because he had a small birthmark on his face. His intense distress felt significant. I sensed this was a Big Deal Moment, not routine. When I pressed for more details, I learned his classmates asserted his birthmark resulted from his being abandoned by his birth mother (untrue) and left out on the street (untrue) where he became so dirty he could never become completely clean. Let me repeat that.

He. Could. Never. Become. Clean. 

The inference he drew left him feeling, dirty, inferior, rejected. In addition to any personal adoption-connected loss and grief issues the friends whom he had trusted with his story betrayed him in a way that cut deeply. He absorbed their words on several levels. Felt judged. Ugly. Rejected. Hurt. Othered.

For years we dealt with the fallout from this–and unfortunately many similar incidents. Like all bullying and mean-spirited words, they could not be  “unheard” and remained deep within his memory. Part of him feared this hateful message might be true.

Where had his “friends” picked up this message about adoption? At home? Through the media (TV, film, books)? By absorbing cultural myths about adoption? Regardless of the source, we had to deal with the fallout.

adoption is a family affairParents currently raising adopted children, what do your children’s friends and classmates believe and “know” about adoption? Their attitudes will determine how they will treat your kids. (Also, be aware of the attitudes and biases of extended family and friends. Unless you’ve educated them in adoption-attuned awareness, they will rely on what they subconsciously “know” from cultural messages and biases. Consider sharing Patricia Irwin Johnston’s book, Adoption Is A Family Affair.)

This raises another important caveat. How to  teach adopted children how to respond to these kinds of conversations. Parents must be pro-active and must not wait until a child has been blindsided by adoption-ignorant. bullying talk.

Explain that many people do not understand adoption and might question the real-ness of their family or might imply that adoption was their fault. (Unfortunately, kids are pre-disposed to believe this already. They assume something must be wrong with them because they can imagine no adequate reason for their birth mother to have opted not to raise them.)

Portrait of girl with finger over mouth

Teach kids the distinction between private and secret when it comes to their adoption. Remind them not to share the specific details of their history. Instead help them internalize a generalized response. Distinguish between private which is a boundary issue versus secret which implies shame.

Arm them with responses that enable them to feel strong, worthy and assertive. Practice so they can stand in a position of strength not vulnerability. For example,

Birth moms have adult problems that prevent them from raising any baby, etc.

My parents worked very hard to bring me home.

No, Miss Hannigan did not run my orphanage….

Sisters.FotoliaComp_71760083_JKiXLxv8FZf7nRxgAvzOLIdVV1Tks7z1_NW40If your adopted child has been affected by a classmate’s or friend’s comment, or even something on the news or TV, make sure you stay attune to his feeling and needs when you discuss this issue with him/her.  Let him/her express what they feel without adding your own feelings or outrage.  Validate their reactions. Avoid minimizing or intensifying them. Once they have completely expressed themselves, share your own reasons for your thoughts or positions without trying to persuade them. Simply offer your side of things with an eye to show as we discussed last week that multiple points of view can co-exist, be contradictory and be simultaneously true.

In summary, parents must be mindful of the media messages that your children encounter regarding adoption. Vet  films and books ahead of time so you can identify potential triggers. Talk, talk, talk about adoption when everyone is relaxed; don’t wait until it’s a “situation.”

gayle-swift-logoWriting to Connect reviews books through adoption-attuned lenses. Most of the titles are not directly about adoption. The intent for these reviews is to identify talking points from every day literature which naturally evolve into important adoption-related conversations. Find suggestions for books that contain a theme that might help you address specific issues with your adopted children.

adoption-at-the-moviesConsult resources like Adoption at the Movies  for tips on films that contain adoption themes or triggers.