Please forgive the pun. Still, it feels apt to consider how we can develop 2020 vision regarding our parenting. This blog focuses much thought and energy on ways we can strengthen our families. We strive to immerse ourselves in Adoption-attunement* and thus to develop a High AQ* (Adoption-attunement Quotient. See these past blogs 1, 2, 3 for more detailed exploration of the concept.)

What makes Adoption-attunement so significant? Whether it is a family, team, or biological niche when something is attuned, it harmonizes with the other elements of the relationship. The needs of all are met and as a result, benefits accrue to both the individual and to the whole.

A family practicing Adoption-attunement— High AQ*—  reflects this inter-dependent connection. Each member flourishes because they feel seen, heard, supported, and validated. The entire family thrives because they are keyed into one another and can safely reveal their needs and vulnerabilities. They are confident that these will be met not minimized, ridiculed, or ignored. This healthy enmeshment builds strength, connection, and resiliency. Life is full of challenges, some minor, others far more impactful. It takes resiliency to confront and weather these challenges. The best place to nurture this resiliency is within an attuned, informed family.

This deep, stable, consistent support takes effort and it must be based on reality,2020-vision-for-intentional-adoptive-parents-being-heard-equals-feeling-loved not assumption or hope. This is where intentionality and education make a difference. Adoption is a topic that most people think they understand. (Last week’s blog focused on persistent myths that can affect adoptees and adoptive families negatively.)

Until one understands the complexity of adoption is absorbed, assumption and wishful thinking will guide relationships and behavior. The results will fall short of ideal and often will cause real damage and/or weaken attachment and connection.

Parenting through a lens of Adoption-attunement leads us to engage in a sacred level of honesty that clearly distinguishes between our aspirations for our families and the reality of current situations. Having the courage to look at what is truly occurring within that person,   without white-washing or minimizing means to the only then can the true circumstance be addressed and appropriate strategies can be used.

2020-vision-for-intentional-adoptive-parents-being-heard-equals-feeling-loved-connectedTime and again I return to David Augsberger’s quote, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are indistinguishable.”

As Intentional Parents committed to practicing Adoption-attunement, we have the opportunity to bring this sacred blessing of genuineness to our families so that our children can experience the grace of this profound level of intimacy. More importantly, they will enjoy the support and acceptance which are integral to their mental, physical, and spiritual health. They will feel seen, heard, and loved.



Adoption Myths

Adoption myths persist because we find comfort in the reassurance they offer. They reinforce people's belief systems. Some myths reassure adoptive parents that their families built through adoption will fulfill all their idealized dreams about parenthood. Other myths linger because they overlay a veil of positivity that hides the challenges and complexities that adoption engenders and cloak the pain of loss and family fracture under a tale of happily-ever-after. This cover-up exacts a cost because it imposes a level of denial and falsity which in turn alters relationships from genuineness to role-playing.

One of the greatest acts of love that we can share with our children is having the courage to acknowledge the complexity of adoption, the challenges, and the emotionally difficult aspects. We build deep connection when we choose to handle them together. Sweeping the tough stuff under the rug hurts the entire family and denies all of them a chance to bless one another with the grace of truth, to see and love one another as our genuine selves.

Our children need us to be their safe harbor where they can seek and find strength, security, honesty, and refuge. The absence of this honesty and safe space leaves children to flounder on their own to handle issues of great complexity and for which they lack the experience, understanding, and tools to handle. As Intentional Parents we choose to see truth, to be the reassuring source of comfort, light, and truth even when it is difficult or painful. This is love. It does not rely on the obfuscation of mythology and instead rests securely on the steadying foundation of truth and the reassuring guard rails of love.

Consider the following powerful/dangerous/invalidating adoption myths.

Myth: Love heals all.

Of course, love is an important ingredient of family life. Essential. It is not the sole element necessary to create secure, healthy family attachments. Love is akin to the soil that nurtures life yet also requires sunshine, rain, and minerals. Truth-telling is the sunlight of relationships. Validation is the soothing rain. Acceptance is the nutrient that nurtures. All are necessary.

Myth: We are exactly the same as bio families.

Families built through adoption are genuine yet they have unique distinctions that families built solely through biology do not. The both/and reality of adoption means that adoptees have two sets of parents. One set gave them life; one set raised and nurtured them. Whether or not there is ongoing physical interaction, each is a permanent part of the adoptee--even if only biologically, psychologically, and emotionally. Adopted children all experience a traumatic and painful separation from their first families. This is true regardless of any valid reasons that led to the adoption. The echoes of this loss have a life-long effect on adoptees and their families.

Myth: We are a multi-racial family and we are colorblind.

Parents who adopt children whose race differs from their own must value their race not erase it. Rendering race invisible serves to make it valueless. But race does matter. It is an important part of our children, something to be treasured, celebrated, and acknowledged.

Myth: He/she joined our family as a baby, so they won’t experience grief/loss/trauma.

The impact of trauma occurs whether or not a child is old enough to be aware of their removal from their first family. The reality exists in the DNA, in their bodies' own cellular knowledge that has prepared them to be the continuation of one family's lineage and then found themselves grafted to another. It makes a difference and children feel it physically as well as emotionally.

Myth: My child isn’t interested in his/her birth family.

Let's be honest, the person most of us find the most interesting and important is ourselves. We yearn to understand who we are, where we came from and how we fit into the flow of the generations. Having this knowledge provides us a stable base and a steadying guard rail. Our children experience a similar drive to understand their origins and to blend it with the influences of their adoptive families. Given verbal and emotional permission to acknowledge their interest in their own roots, it is exceptionally rare for adoptees not to want information even if they do not want to physical contact. Intentional Adoptive Parents will ensure that our children know that we acknowledge the importance of their biological truth, that we are not threatened by it and that we will support them in discovering their story.

It is equally important that we allow our children to determine when they want to talk about and explore this heritage. The decision and the timing must be theirs. Our responsibility is to support them and not impose emotional and psychological barriers.

Learn how the coaches at GIFT Family Services can help you and your family navigate your adoption journey. We've faced our share of family challenges and crises, ridden the metaphorical rollercoaster, and our families have not only survived; they have thrived. We offer experience, neutrality, and understanding.








Read Adoption-attuned book reviews  

by GIFT coach, Gayle H. Swift, on her blog,

"Writing to Connect"


May 2020 Bring Great Blessings

Parenting demands unparalleled devotion of love, time. and energy. Adoptive parenting is like traditional parenting on steroids. Often, adoptive parents find themselves facing circumstances and challenges which they never observed in their families of origin. Where can they turn for guidance, understanding, and partnership? Read GIFT coach, Sally Ankerfelt's insights.
We, coaches, Gayle, Joann, Sally, and Susan have one big thing that brought us together: all of us are adoptive parents. Between us, we have experienced international, transracial, infant, older children, open, closed, and foster care adoptions. Our experience as adoptive parents has given us an immense appreciation for our children as they journey through life. We also have recognized how we would have benefited from having someone by our side who knew first-hand what it was it was like to be adoptive parents.
Years ago, I, Sally, sat and watched a documentary entitled, “Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.” Found in Tanzania, Mt. Kilimanjaro is a walkable mountain to climb. One can take shorter, well-traveled routes or one can take the longest route -the Kilimanjaro north route- which is the one route that is least traveled because of its difficult terrain and surprising twists and turns.
It has long stretches of rugged, barren terrain that make the climbers wonder why they ever signed up for the journey. It requires preparation, perseverance, and people to support you. First, you’ve got your own physical preparation. Then, once you get to the base of the mountain to begin the climb, you have the doctors who are on standby should something go wrong. You have your climbing partners who will be right alongside you experiencing the same joys and the challenges at the same time you are.
And, you have the guides who have been up the mountain before and have received special training to become a guide, who have met certain standards for leadership up the mountain, for recognizing when medical attention is needed, and for providing care.
These guides are very important to the climb. They are the ones who see things that, perhaps, your fellow climbers cannot see because they are busy climbing, too. A guide might say, “Did you notice that rock jutting out almost beyond your reach? Do you want to try to reach for that?” “Why don’t you consider putting your foot here, but only do it when you’re ready.” And these guides also will tell you, “Just above you – just beyond your view – is a beautiful oasis of flowers and grass. You can do it! You can make it!” And so you move on even if you’re feeling weary and would just like to stop altogether.
When I saw this documentary, I literally had tears in my eyes. This was my journey of being an adoptive parent. It’s like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro- on the north route.
As adoptive parents, many of us are on the north route. We are taking a route to parenting that is relatively uncharted.
Like the climbers, we receive pre-adoption preparation to get ready for the journey of adoption. And we have the doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists available. However, these professionals may not be available at a moment’s notice and some may not have the training in the complexities of adoption or the special skills to help us in the “mountain climbing” we adoptive parents need to do. Finally, we have support groups of other adoptive parents who are so important, as well, right by our side making the adoptive journey with us.
But, where are the guides?
That is what my coaching colleagues and I asked ourselves when we decided to become the very guides that we desperately needed during our parenting.
It makes so much sense to have guides on this adoptive journey precisely because it often is not a walk in the park. Instead, it is a climb on a difficult mountain on surprising terrain. Guides complete the team of professionals so families can have even greater ability to navigate the challenges of the climb.
Guides (coaches) are the ones who have made the journey before so they can give you a valuable perspective and a unique vantage point. While fully holding you capable of making the journey, guides can point out options, offer alternatives, encourage you, and tell you that there really are beautiful flowers, beautiful experiences just “over there.” And when you arrive at places of joy and calm in your family and life, adoption coaches are there to celebrate with you and to point out the successes in the middle of the climb.
That, basically, is a good description of coaching. As professional coaches, we are a valuable part of a team of people to get you to where you want to go. We are honored to journey with you.

Learn how the coaches at GIFT Family Services can help you and your family navigate your adoption journey. We've faced our share of family challenges and crises, ridden the metaphorical rollercoaster, and our families have not only survived; they have thrived. We offer experience, neutrality, and understanding.








Read Adoption-attuned book reviews  

by GIFT coach, Gayle H. Swift, on her blog,

"Writing to Connect"

Expanding-our-fammily-tablewhich-sign-are-we-displaying-welcome-or-no-vacancyAt this time of year, hospitality features prominently. We ponder the message of “No room at the inn.” As adoptive parents, we could assert that we daily live a positive response; we welcomed children into hearts, our families, our homes. Not only did we welcome our children, but we also sought them with unsurpassed intensity and yearning. (Honesty compels us to admit that our decision was as much for our benefit as for theirs.) Our commitment to our children drives us to constantly seek ways to improve our efforts to parent them well and to maximize our ability to be loving, competent, Adoption-attuned parents. (Reread last week’s blog that reveals how we can unwittingly be sending messages of “No room,” of rejection, closed hearts, and division.)

In his book, A Bigger Table, pastor John Pavlovitz challenges us to examine the criteria that guide our responses so we can offer genuine welcome within our families, homes, and communities. Pavlovitz asserts that a sense of belonging arises out of our acceptance which “simply allows them to be fully authentic…to feel loved as they are…and make sure that was the loudest thing [we speak.]

How might this process of full acceptance operate within the context of an adopted family? Consider the information presented in recent blogs. Some of the ways we can demonstrate “welcome” to our children in many ways, e.g.

When we gather as much data about their health histories

When we acknowledge their need for information and connection to their bio families

When we embrace the child of our hearth and surrender the child of our fantasies

When we listen without refutation to all of their feelings about adoption

When we love them for themselves without expectation of who and how they must be

Pavlovitz describes the joy of feeling genuinely welcomed: “We felt seen and known and loved without needing to prove ourselves worthy. There’s nothing like that feeling.” Isn’t that the goal for all parents— for our children to feel and know that they are loved?

Take time to consider how you are challenged in your efforts to demonstrate acceptance to each member of your family. What are the sticking points? What other people press this same hot button? How do your responses vary from person to person? What factors make it easier with one person and harder with another? What can you do or say differently? What conversations might you want to initiate to help improve your relationship?

As Intentional Parents, we flip the “no vacancy” sign and expand our hospitality outreach beyond our families into the larger community? How can our families embody welcome in the world? What one act of hospitality will you take as an individual, as a parent, as a coworker, as a friend, as a citizen?

Learn how the coaches at GIFT Family Services can help you and your family navigate your adoption journey. We've faced our share of family challenges and crises, ridden the metaphorical rollercoaster, and our families have not only survived; they have thrived. We offer experience, neutrality, and understanding.








Read Adoption-attuned book reviews  

by GIFT coach, Gayle H. Swift, on her blog,

"Writing to Connect


Call today!
Sally: 612-203-6530 |  Susan: 541-788-8001 |  Joann: 312-576-5755 |  Gayle: 772-285-9607

GIFT, Growing Intentional Families Together, adoption