Archive for the ‘General Discussion’ Category

Disaster Preparation Eases Fear

Wednesday, September 19, 2018 @ 01:09 PM
Author: admin

Wildfires, tornadoes, floods and hurricanes—weather has dominated the headlines in recent months. Disaster strikes with heartless intensity. Even a single death is one too many. Mother Nature can exact a crushing toll. Though many of the losses are material and replacement can eventually be made given enough money and time, the losses are still heartbreaking, discouraging, and frightening. Many significant losses cannot be measured in dollars and cents because the destruction destroyed things of intrinsic or sentimental value. But beyond measure are the losses “without price” —intangibles like peace of mind, souvenirs and photographs of life’s milestones. Another huge loss is one’s sense of safety and permanence.

Unable to prevent these natural disasters, we watch in horror. News coverage appears on a range of devices that keep us constantly updated and agitated. The scale and frequency of bad news can overwhelm us and can lead to compassion fatigue. Or, it can tempt us to throw our hands up in despair, do nothing and simply take our chances. As Intentional Parents, we understand and appreciate the value of planning ahead, of predetermining our responses as a way of reassuring and protecting our families.

Adopted children may be especially vulnerable to anything that threatens their sense of continuity and permanence. Having already experienced a profound loss—the loss of their first family—they may feel a strong need to hang on to “stuff” as a way of imposing some sense of control or “insurance.”

disaster-preparation-eases-fearSentimental pack rats may hate to part with items that may seem trivial to us. Avoid dismissing or belittling their desire to preserve memories. These items may provide them with essential ballast for steadying them through uncertainty. Help them discern why and what they want to save. Respect their inclination to save “stuff” and help them find ways to organize and curate their “collection.”

When disaster hits the headlines, our kids absorb the news (even if only peripherally.) All the dramatic coverage may cause them to feel a thrum of anxiety and uncertainty. They may not even suspect this is what makes them feel so unsettled. As adults, we too may be triggered by the pictures of flooded homes, collapsed dams, and houses floating down neighborhood streets. We hope our homes will be sturdy and remain undamaged and that our families will be safe. We may wonder if we have enough insurance, an adequate Emergency Fund or sufficient stockpile of emergency supplies. We may worry about potential damage, lost wages, and repair costs

We may unconsciously telegraph our own fear to our children. Consider holding a family meeting. In the absence of reassuring conversations, their fears may overwhelm them. Talk about what is occurring. Inform children of the preparations you’ve made, etc. Let them know how they can help. Invite them to pre-select what they would want to pack and preserve in case of a weather emergency. Explore how you can help neighbors and others in the community.

Ideally. hold these conversations when circumstances are calm, before danger looms. Ask kids to talk about their fears as well as their ideas for solutions and strategies. The conversation may even lead to children sharing other concerns and fears not related to storms but equally or even more important to discuss.

How might your family benefit from talking about disaster preparedness?

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Building Connections, Making Memories: Campfires, S’mores & Good Times

Wednesday, August 29, 2018 @ 01:08 PM
Author: admin

building-connections-making-memories-campfires-smores-good-times

Last weekend I went camping with my son and his family. Something magical happens when we gather around a campfire, toast marshmallows, snack on S’mores and notice the star-studded sky arching overhead. Good times! It’s a total break from the routine of our ordinary, very busy lives. We relax. Talk. And when silence falls, it feels welcome and comforting which is good for the spirit, good for the body and good for the mind too. We notice the sounds and smells and appreciate the beauty of our environment with a fresh intensity.

Of course, living in VERY tight quarters also challenges one’s relationship skills. Everybody must choose to reset their needs for personal space and be intentional about finding ways to be helpful or at the very least, to stay out of other people’s way. When it comes to food, what we brought is what you can have. Makes no sense to fuss for what’s at home & not in the camper!

One maxim that serves well is, “Value the relationship more than being right.” It’s human nature to incline to a stance of personal “rightness.” This often gets in the way of getting along, of operating from a “we” perspective instead of insisting on imposing an “I” perspective. Another Intentional relationship strategy is to focus on deliberately building memories, ones that last a lifetime and become stories that get repeated through the passing years: “Remember that time when PJ spotted the mermaids in the river?” (true!–only in Florida, LOL!) and “Remember when Nana’s tube became untied and she started to float away down the river and she couldn’t swim fast enough to get back?” (That really happened; fortunately, my son quickly retrieved me!)

During this upcoming Labor Day weekend, why not plan some family memory-making activity? Can’t get away? Why not build a campfire in the backyard? Or, have a “camp out” in the house complete with a picnic meal and “tent.” (Fitted sheets draped over the backs of chairs make an easy, temporary tent.) Use your imagination. Go on a night hike. Play flashlight tag. Notice the stars while simply enjoying being together. Be intentional about creating a memorable chapter in your family’s history.

Share your ideas and let us know what you created as a family.

Attunement Ensures It Is Safe to Love

Wednesday, August 22, 2018 @ 02:08 PM
Author: admin

attunement-ensures-it-is-safe-to-loveReaders of this blog know that I care for my three-year-old grandson’s three days a week. This is both a privilege and a joy. Trained as a teacher and honed by adoptive parenthood, I am also fascinated at the difference between parenting children with trauma histories and parenting this little cherub who has known only consistency, stability and love from all the adults in his life. His sense of trust has never been broken and he, therefore, views life through a lens of secure trust. He believes the world is safe and welcoming. He knows that adults are safe, reliable, supportive, encouraging, and loving. Attunement has repeatedly provided him successful “serve and return” relationship reciprocity that nurtures secure attachment.

I observe a palpable difference between his life experience and that of my own children and others who had experienced trauma, had authentic reason to be vigilant and sceptical about the world. They knew from direct experience that it could be upended suddenly, that everyone and everything familiar can disappear in a flash. They wanted to inhabit a world that was steady, safe, reliable, consistent, secure, and managed by trustworthy adults.

Trauma histories have an impact on children’s worldview and influence their mental and physical health. This does not mean that children with trauma histories are doomed; They simply need parents and caretakers who understand the need for attunement, patience, presence, empathy, consistency, and therapeutic parenting. Remember, their life experience created a “blueprint that was imprinted by terror.” From the very understandable logic built on their personal history, learning to trust, DARING to trust is an act of incredible bravery.[1]

Adoptive families real factor AQA foundational principle of GIFT Family Services’ approach to parenting is Adoption-attunement. AQ incorporates a level of intentionality and understanding that significantly benefits adopted children and their families. It is a concept about which we have written frequently. Our choice of “Attunement”–with a capital “A”–reflects a deep awareness of the powerful way attunement operates in human beings. Famed neurobiologist, Dr. Dan Siegel asserts that “Attunement is not a luxury; it is a requirement of the individual to survive and thrive.” [2]

Dr. Steven Porges further clarifies that attunement builds a context of safety that frees people to “love without fear.” As Intentional parents we most certainly want our children to feel safe and secure enough to “love without fear”, [3] to feel safe enough to open themselves to the joy and vulnerability of connection.  My grandson demonstrates this ease in his habit of occasionally pausing in the middle of his play to spontaneously plop himself in my lap and announce, “I need a hug.”

Cue the moist eyes. Obviously, I melt and hug him with joy and deep love. Every time he does this I think, Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we felt confident and secure enough in all our relationships to let people know we need a moment of connection and affection? This only occurs in a context of profound trust because it exposes both one’s own raw need, it makes one vulnerable to rejection and to the other person’s taking advantage of their invitation to respond to our expressed need. Those who know us best, who know our trigger points and sore points, who know our fears and worries have the potential to use them against us. That is why the degree of trust for this level of intimacy is huge and rare.

attunement-ensures-it-is-safe-to-loveHow many times have you experienced the need for a hug or an empathic ear? How often did you feel secure enough to act on that need and request connection with another persona? What enabled you to muster the courage?

On the other hand, if you stifled the need, and stoically stuffed your emotional needs, what prevented you? How did this emotional shutdown feel?

How are we building this level of trust within our families? With our partners? How are we modeling the willingness to be vulnerable as well as the careful way we respond to such overtures to connection as the sacred trust they actually represent? Trust, connection and attunement are fragile and take time to build. They are also easily damaged, so we must marshal great vigilance and commitment to attunement–especially that specialized level of adoption-attunement which understands the complexity of factors that adoption imposes on families built by adoption.

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?

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.

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Confidence, Competence, Courage & Resilience: Building Success

Wednesday, August 1, 2018 @ 02:08 PM
Author: admin

Parenting has an evolutionary endpoint: at some point, our children will leave the family nest and fly out into the world to carve their path in life. Even as we change diapers, read bedtime stories, or tuck them in,  we know someday, they’ll be on their own.  When that time comes we want them to be ready. How do we prepare them for this independence? Strong family values provide them with a secure foundation. They’ll need confidence, competence and courage. Confidence grows from competence. Competence emerges from practice. We know directly from personal experience that these emerge only through persistence and the ability to learn through failure. We also recognize that it takes courage to learn anything new.

With this awareness in mind, we want to help our kids experience life as a learning conversation, to survive the process. They’ll need to develop a strong sense of resilience. No one begins as an expert, so they must be willing to try new things and keep on trying until mastery is achieved. Encourage their persistence by setting an example. Let them see how you handle the rocky, uphill road to success. Share your strategies for coping through the hard times.

confidence-competence-courage-resilience-building-successMost importantly, when they struggle or falter, be supportive. Be their cheerleader; let them know you believe in them. Be their confidante; listen to their struggles and allow them to figure out the solution. Be a resource: offer help only after they request it. (Language counts here. Ask if they want help instead of asking if they need help. “Want” reinforces their sense of agency and self-determination. “Need” reinforces their lack of sufficient capability; over time this mindset can lead to a sense of learned, chronic helplessness. Be a coach; Stay mindful of the distinction between critique and criticism and always wait for their invitation to offer your perspective.

Take note of their effort and highlight their incremental progress. Connect to your Family Values, e.g.,  In our family …

We respect hard work.

We recognize success doesn’t just happen; it takes effort and time.

We keep trying.

We learn through trial and error.

It’s okay to ask for help.

We value teamwork and persistence.

No goal is worth sacrificing your integrity.

Of course, we hope to raise children who are happy, healthy and, successful. each family envisions a unique version of success. Keep in mind we spend most of our time pursuing a goal than in achieving them. How do we treat others and ourselves as we advance toward success? Remember to nurture their spirits. Value relationships more than being “right” or successful. Make time for joy. Long after we are gone, our words will linger in their minds; speak with compassion, respect, and love.

 

*Adapted from material    © 2003 Resource Realizations