Archive for the ‘General Discussion’ Category

Food for the Heart, Spirit, and Body

Wednesday, March 13, 2019 @ 02:03 PM
Author: admin
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Last week’s conversation about family traditions got me thinking about how traditions help create a thread of continuity through the generations. Adoptive families want to be intentional in finding ways to establish and nurture a sense of connection within our nuclear and our extended families. What thought have you given to the legacy you will leave for your children. Beyond any material things, how will you continue to impact your children even after you are no longer physically with them?

My grandmother had fourteen children and very little money but she sure could cook. When she died she left only bills and a family who adored and missed her deeply. She created a legacy that taught us that kindness and generosity outshone material blessings.  Although she could not spoil us with gifts, she showered us with food made with love. We absorbed two family beliefs: First, if you love or care for someone, you cook for them and second share with others. (We never knows when we might be the person in need of food, shelter, or comfort.)

Long after my aunts and uncles were grown, my grandmother continued cooking vast quantities of food which she would dole out to neighbors who were in need of a good meal. My own mother, a widow living alone followed her example. She kept a huge freezer stocked with her homemade goodies and routinely delivered meals to her neighbors in her retirement community. When Mom died, everyone missed her delicious meals. More importantly, they missed her generous spirit. Like my grandmother, she left a legacy of kindness, compassion, community, and conviviality through cooking.

I’d like to be able to say I followed their example; unfortunately, I have limited skills in the kitchen. Still, I do like to prepare food from scratch and serve it to friends and family because I do believe a special connection occurs around the dinner table. My children are both excellent cooks who enjoy cooking for friends.

In my family, cooking combines tradition and core value (health, helping others, kindness) to create an ongoing legacy through the generations.

Another of our GIFT coaches also has a special affinity for cooking as a family. For them, it is making homemade pizza. While the food ingredients are important, it is really the time, love, and effort that make it important to her and her children.

I suspect most families have food favorites that their children request for special occasions or when they need to for comfort or celebration. Food fulfills a fundamental human need; it can also serve a vital need for connection, for both the receipt and the expression of love.

What role does food serve in your family? Does it help to draw you together? How might you intentionally use positive experiences with food to create good memories? How many recipes would your personal family cookbook include? What unique twists does it reflect? How might you choose to expand your repertoire and have fun while doing it?

If food presents a stumbling block in your family, what other family traditions might help knit the generations together? What traditions capture your core values in a way that you enjoy and that is fun to share with one another?

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Listen to our podcasts on Adoption-attuned Parenting.

Read these book reviews  by GIFT coach, Gayle H. Swift. They are written with an Adoption-attuned perspective.



Family Traditions by Intention

Wednesday, March 6, 2019 @ 01:03 PM
Author: admin
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Have you ever given thought to the small yet memorable traditions which generations of your family have repeated? Pause for a moment to call your favorite to mind. Focus on the emotions which this memory evokes within you. In your mind’s eye conjure an image of those with whom you typically share this tradition and notice the emotions which it evokes in them as well.

How many of these family traditions have you chosen to continue to practice with your own family? Which ones did you discard? What overlooked family traditions might you want to restore or introduce to your family? Which new ones would you like to invent?

Consider having a family meeting in which everyone brainstorms ideas. Traditions need not be elaborate, time-consuming, or expensive. For example, in my own family, we follow a regional tradition of being the first person to say “rabbit” to someone on the first day of each month. The “winner” is entitled to the other person’s good luck for the month! It has to be done in person, not by text, email or any other mode of communication–although by family consensus we have agreed that phone contact is acceptable. We get very stealthy and resort to using other people’s phones when calling or Face Timing other family members. It is fun, harmless, free, and something we have done since my children were tots. They are now in their thirties and we continue to practice and pass on this ritual.

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Another Swift family tradition is to close letters, sign cards, etc with “Keep on Paddling.” This also originated when the kids were little. We were avid canoeists, white-water rafters, and kayakers. We had to constantly remind whichever child was in our vessel that they had to contribute their effort to the trip. Hence the refrain: Keep on Paddling!

When they got older and life’s challenges became overwhelming, we would encourage one another with this phrase. It was shorthand for the mutual understanding that we were all in this together, that to safely arrive at our destination, everyone had to pull their weight.

How might a family tradition benefit your family? What values would you want it to reflect? How will you incorporate a sense of fun? What new tradition will you invent for your family? How will you involve your kids in inventing new traditions?

Please share your ideas so that other readers can benefit from your creativity.

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Listen to our podcasts on Adoption-attuned Parenting.

Read these book reviews  by GIFT coach, Gayle H. Swift. They are written with an Adoption-attuned perspective.

And the Winner is … Our Family

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 @ 02:02 PM
Author: admin

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We are in the midst of Award Season. Media is touting favorites and making predictions for the Oscars, Emmys, etc.. The buzz is a pleasant distraction from more serious contemporary issues. Americans love winners, especially those “underdogs” who overcome stacked odds and manage to succeed. While we enjoy this entertaining diversion, as parents, we remain focused on a far more important win: raising healthy, happy, and productive children.

Let’s face it, parenting is not for sissies. It demands patience, compassion, persistence, and lots and lots of love. Sometimes the ones who most need acknowledgment and understanding from us is ourselves. Yes, we want to hold ourselves to high standards. We also want to admit that we are human, make mistakes, feel tired, lose patience, and make less-than-stellar choices.

It is important to be scrupulous in the assessment of our behavior, decisions, words, silences, actions, and inactions. We must also forgive ourselves for any shortcomings and then insist on making the appropriate accountability, forge the repair, and resolve to do better. Apologizing to our children when we mess up is an important part of sustaining our relationship. It also provides a vital blueprint for our kids to follow in their own interactions with family, friends, teachers, etc.

By admitting our personal missteps, we demonstrate integrity. If we are willing to own our mistakes our children will be on the receiving end of that integrity. They will experience how good it feels when someone who has wronged them apologizes to them. This in turn, helps them learn how to make a genuine apology which is a critical life skill.

The flip side of recognizing the need for an apology is the ability to know when it is appropriate to offer acknowledgment of sincere effort. Our attention is the currency of connection. When our spouses, family members, and colleagues strive to improve their actions within the context of our mutual relationship and we notice and verbalize this spoken noticing affirms and encourages our connection with them. Any positive change, regardless of how small is still a step in the right direction. Like a tiny seedling just breaking through the soil, this change needs nurturing and encouragement. Without attention, it will wither and die. It is both wise and compassionate to be generous with our encouragement!

Our expectations serve as primary filters of what we “allow” ourselves to see. Remember the book series Where’s Waldo? Each page overflowed with tiny images. Until the reader concentrated on finding dear old Waldo, he remained hidden in the cluttered imagery. Once we decided to look for Waldo, almost magically, his image emerged from the chaos.

When we engage with our children what behavior grabs our attention? How is what we see influenced by our expectation? Are we assuming Tommy is going to misbehave because he has in the past? Are we basing our mental picture on an old “box” which we have not updated to reflect his effort and any behavioral changes he has demonstrated? Have we wiped the board clean and opened ourselves to the possibility that he will have better control over his behavior–even if only slightly more? If he does make an improvement, do we take obvious note of that change and acknowledge him for it? Or, do we focus on his failure to fully meet our standards yet again.

Which response is more likely to encourage him to continue to improve? Which response is more likely to convince him it is not worth the effort? Certainly, we must love, educate, and discipline our children. We must not break their spirit or their hearts in the process. Their childhood is spent riding a steep learning curve of both social and school mores and standards. They experience far more failure than success because success is a process build on stepping stones of failure that inch them closer to mastery. Sustaining their persistence and confidence is essential. Encourage their efforts, notice their progress and nurture their belief that life is a Learning Conversation.

If we imagine ourselves in their shoes, i.e., on the receiving end of a steady stream of criticism and feedback that focused more on what we did wrong than on what we did right we develop an empathy for them. Whether a chronic negative feedback loop happens at work, between partners, or friends this tilt to a negative focus is disheartening at best and toxic at its worst. Like a hug from a porcupine, regardless of his positive intent, the experience prickles with discomfort. Understandably, the decision to bail, zone out, or give up would be mighty tempting.

To counteract this need to escape a pervasive sense of failure, concentrate on what is working, on what change is happening. Focus attention there on the incremental change. This shift will benefit you and them. It will kindle hope which in turn will fuel further change and deeper connection.

Where will you focus your attention this week? How will you adjust the setting of your personal “lens” so that it will shift what you see?

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Listen to our podcasts on Adoption-attuned Parenting.

Read these book reviews  by GIFT coach, Gayle H. Swift. They are written with an Adoption-attuned perspective.

Soundtracks Build Connection

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

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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?

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Muscle Cramps, Triggers & Traumaversaries. Oh My!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019 @ 01:01 PM
Author: admin
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In the world of adoption, we hear a lot about grief, loss, trauma, and emotional triggers. As parents how do we deal with this complicated emotional stew? How do we support our kids, help move them through to the other side, back to a place of calm and security? How do we manage our own emotion during and after raw emotional exchanges?

This anecdote from my own life may be a useful metaphor and might offer a bit of insight. My loud yelping puzzled my mini schnauzer the other night. Leg cramps jerked me awake with excruciating, unrelenting intensity. It felt as if the muscle might tear completely away from the bone. The pain left me breathless and momentarily paralyzed.

I knew that standing offered the only way to release the cramp. A tangle of sheets held me in place. I struggled to activate my ability to move by intention instead of reaction. But the pain held me in its grip. Intellectually I knew how to end the cramp. Yet in that moment I was completely out of my logical, executive-functioning brain locked ticht in the GRIP of the primitive response of my reptilian brain.

We’ve all been in similar situations where we had pertinent knowledge and a viable option but instead chose a different, response because that resonated with our emotions at that moment. Perhaps we picked a fight with our spouse or piled consequence on top of consequence, on top of consequence to a defiant, unrepentant teenager. All of us can remember an example of such emotional upheaval. Truth is toddlers aren’t the only ones who fall prisoner to the meltdown.

Tune in to an example of your own personal melt down. (Doesn’t have to be recent, just memorable.) Not your proudest moment, right? Dive into the memory and recall how you felt, what you said and the emotional fallout that ensued. Clearly, it left a mark because you can still recall it. Imagine how this same event might be stored in the memories of the people with whom you shared the moment.

My point is this: in the throes of an emotional hijacking, self-control is not easily accessed. Children like ours who have experienced trauma can find themselves caught in one of these emotional maelstroms. Begun not by intent, but by something that rockets out of the periphery and then slams like a foul ball into their guts. Like the unexpected and unwelcome cramp that jerked me awake, our kids can be caught unaware, yanked from the present moment by triggers they never saw coming. Paralyzed. Haunted. Paniced. Perhaps it is a smell, a song, a gesture, a trauma-versary recognized only by their subconscious memory.

They don’t see it coming. We don’t see it coming. But like when a comet strikes the earth, the devastation spreads deep and wide. Nothing nearby survives unscathed.

Now that we have some insight about meltdowns, we can see that often it is not a matter of their unwillingness to comply and more a matter of their inability to comply at that moment. How do we help them in the moment?

We must bring our calm to the fore. Avoid responding with matching emotional intensity. (That simply adds fuel to an already overwrought situation.) Resist the temptation to debate or rationalize. Their thinking brain is off-line. We must keep ours engaged. Save the discussion until calm has been restored. Hold off on deciding consequences too. Take the time to decide what is appropriate, proportionate, and effective. Remember the goal of discipline is to teach not to punish. Delay the conversation, but do definitely have it.

To come full circle, I did manage to claw my way out of bed and onto my feet. The cramp released. I was deeply grateful. Ww all know how good it feels to walk through pain and get through it. As parents we have a chance to help our children master the process.