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If your 20222 parenting dream comes true, are you ready?It's January. Perhaps you are considering a word or theme to use as inspiration for the year. But, instead of focusing on a catchy phrase, compelling image, or a list of resolutions, consider this question:
If Your Parenting Dream for 2022 Comes True, Are You Ready?
Let me repeat, if your dream of becoming a parent became true tomorrow, are you ready? Being a parent is one of the most important tasks you can undertake. Have you done the work to prepare yourself? Have you any idea what you need to know? Dreams remain mere fantasies unless we work to bring them to life. Have you prepared mentally, financially, physically, and spiritually?
Your parenting journey will be very different from that of your own parents. Your family will face a different world, with different challenges. You will need new skills and strategies. Careful planning, persistent effort, and intention must blend into an undefeatable force to make your parenting dream a reality. (Although truth requires me to acknowledge that sometimes luck and circumstance are also essential ingredients.)

What is your 2022 parenting dream? Do you want to discern if parenting via adoption is a good choice for you? Are you in the process of adopting and want to use the waiting time to help prepare yourself to be the parent your child needs you to be? Are you an adoptive parent who is experiencing the joys and challenges of parenting and is searching for skills, strategies, and additional knowledge?

Regardless of where you sit in this range of situations, you can approach your dream goal with intentionality. Consider working with a coach who can help you identify your competencies and your learning opportunities. They can expose your blind spots and help you nurture your openness and distinguish between fact and assumption. You may be surprised how rewarding it can be to work toward your goal with a supportive person, a coach by your side. New ideas, new ways of looking at your life and your goal can bring you closer to your dream

We all know that being an adoptive parent is a sacred responsibility. There is a  hard truth about adoption that might make us uncomfortable. Just as surely as it builds a family, adoption begins with the fracture of one. The separation from their birth mother and biological family is a profound loss for adopted children. Their grief and the ramifications of their separation are not simple, trivial, or events and feelings that stay firmly in the past.  Children will rely on their adopted parents to understand this hard reality and to be fully prepared to help them navigate this loss for a lifetime.

How are you preparing and educating yourself for your dream to come true? Like the climbers who ascend Everest or the athletes who compete in the Olympics, working with a coach can smooth the path. A coach helps you navigate these unfamiliar routes with confidence, determination, and a foundation of sound education and preparation. Imagine partnering with a coach who will serve you as a sounding board, cheerleader, and mentor. She will hold your focus on your dream and help you discern what it will take to fulfill it.

If you are interested in a handy coaching tool to get you started on making your parenting dream a reality, review and download the WELL FORMED OUTCOME worksheet.

 

The coaches of Growing Intentional Families Together wish you all the best in the new year!

 


 

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. GIFT coaches are available to present workshops online.  Contact us : 1-800-653-9445

 

Listen to our podcast.

Read these books written by our coaches.

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As we focus on being intentional this holiday season, let's remember that the greatest gift we can give our loved ones is our

undivided, attentive presence. Kids delight in being seen by us. (Recall how often their excited voices crowed, "Look at me!" They want us to look. They need us to look. This sends a message that they receive as "felt safety"  that is an essential part of their emotional and mental health. Feeling authentically seen is an integral part of genuine connection. Surely this is what we want with our children. This is what we want from our spouses, partners, family, and friends.

What we all really need is more presence, not more presents! Handling logistical details is important and requires our attention. Just remember to reserve your greatest focus for participating in the fun. Join in the merry-making and the memory-making. That's the real locus of the holiday magic.

Consider this excerpt from a previous blog:

Digital photography makes it easy for us to snap dozens—if not hundreds of pictures of our kids documenting almost every moment and milestone of their lives. As toddlers, they learn to pose for the cameras on mom or dad’s phones. Then eagerly and often, they repeatedly ask to see these photos. They look at the pictures delighted at their own images. Self-consciousness does not constrain them. They don’t care if their faces—or clothes—are smudged with dirt or if the camera caught them at a good angle. They do not ask us to delete the picture because it doesn’t look flattering enough. And so the entire family gets to enjoy the photographic documentation of a family’s life together. Except…

Too often moms avoid being in the pictures because they look disheveled, tired, or not quite up to par. And the photos reveal a mother’s absence, not a presence. Perhaps the dad is the family photographer and it is he who is an infrequent face in the family photo album. The result is the same. He’s missing from the picture.  Whether it is one or both parents whose face seldom appears in the family photo album, whatever the reason, it is a huge loss and significant missed opportunity. A picture is worth 1000 words they say.

As a person who has lost loved ones too soon, I can attest that it is precisely the silly, less-than-perfect pictures of my husband, sister, mother… It is these photos that conjure the best memories, the most resonant emotions, and the deepest appreciation for having shared lives together. The fancy studio photos, edited and polished are fun for a Christmas card but they lack the vitality and genuineness of the candid photos. Someday all that remains will be the pictures. Make sure you are part of those photos being yourself and looking like yourself. That disheveled, imperfect, loving, "present" soul is the person your family knows and loves.

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. GIFT coaches are available to present workshops online.  Contact us : 1-800-653-9445

Listen to our podcast.

Read these books written by our coaches.

 

 

Feeling short of time or finding it difficult to concentrate? You can listen to this post. Listen time 12:14

Given that the name of our coaching firm is Growing Intentional Families Together, we obviously believe in the value of intentionality. We define our particular "flavor" of intentionality as "Adoption Attunement. "We know parenting with intention is essential during the holiday season. Pressures, expectations, emotions, and fears all operate at an intensified level at this time of year. This is what makes being attuned to our children all the more vital We must also consciously and honestly acknowledge our own needs, expectations, and desires. These influence our thoughts, feelings, and actions so it is beneficial to bring them to conscious awareness and evaluation.

How can we use intentionality as a compass point during the holidays? First, carefully decide with whom we will share them, which activities to include, and which to decline. Acknowledge our desire to recreate treasured family memories and spend time with family and visit friends. Attune to ourselves, and admit that our "inner child"  wants all the magic and traditions of our past, then pull up our Big girl (or big boy) panties and deal with the more reasonable realities. Some of our expectations can be realized but may need to be modified or reduced.

Review and clarify, redefine, and discuss boundaries to help avert meltdowns and overwhelm. Most of our families include children with a history of tough starts and trauma. Attuning to their needs takes planning and focus. For some children, the holidays demand more than they can give. The increased pressure, breaks in routine, and treat-filled menus amplify anxiety and agitation. Coping with the stress challenges us and is even more difficult for our kids. This may evoke acting out or uncooperative behavior from both children and adults!  Hidden triggers can catch kids and parents short as painful memories are reawakened and anticipated pleasures collapse under the weight of trauma-connected "stuff."

How can we avoid collapse and conflict? For starters be both proactive and flexible. If large gatherings bring out the worst in your child, skip them. Arrange to visit in small, intimate groups. Concentrate on spending time together, without the hype, hoopla, and fancy feasts. Spend time having fun instead of spending days engaged in cooking and cleaning. Our children will thank us. (And we won’t miss the chaos, exhaustion, or breakdowns that this approach helps avoid.) The most valuable gift we can provide our children may prove to be our understanding and empathy.

Be sensitive to the ambivalent feelings that complicate Christmas for kids with difficult histories. Perhaps their holiday memories were filled with disappointment, neglect, or violence. We can't erase the difficult parts of their history; we can be mindful of it. An over-the-top holiday may make them feel worse, not better. Your enthusiasm and excitement may not jibe with their past experiences. This disconnect can be uncomfortable at best, threatening at worst. (Remember, when kids feel threatened: primitive behaviors arise and everyone suffers the consequences.)

Instead of guessing what might make the holiday challenging for our kids, ask them directly about their fears and concerns. The simple act of asking may help them become conscious of “stuff” that lies just below the surface, like a boobytrap easily triggered. Resist pushing them if they are unable or unwilling to identify factors. The seed of awareness will still be planted in their minds and ours. If these conversations don’t bear fruit, become a detective. Review previous holidays and gatherings. Determine where and when things went well and where they fell apart. Glean the learning and then act accordingly.

Once we identify triggers that set off these difficult memories, we can help kids process the painful feelings. Perhaps it is the taste of a food, or the smell of alcohol, the sound of glass clinking in the trash. A song, decoration, or activity might dredge up a troubling memory or awaken deep longing and feelings of grief. A relative or family friend may remind them of a dangerous person from their earlier life. We must be Sherlock Holmes as we work to identify what can ignite past pain.

Create an "escape plan" that provides them with a prearranged way to escape from the trigger. Agree that when they flash the "signal" alerting us that a meltdown is imminent, we will follow the prearranged action plan and move from the scene to a "safe" space. Without fanfare or comment. Be invested in the support this offers our children. Detach from any disappointment that could arise from canceled plans. Our sensitivity and attunement to our children’s needs may prove to be their most treasured holiday present.

If our child needs his solitude, respect this. Don’t pout or appear visibly disappointed or frustrated. Resist the inclination to minimize their distress or to cajole them into hanging in there.  The results will most likely not be pleasant for anybody. Abide by your prearranged signal. Take the planned Time Out and allow the strategy to take effect. Pat ourselves on the back for being proactive and intentional!

Reassure them that they are always welcome to join the group—when they decide they are ready. Acknowledge their feelings and support the strategies that work for them. Praise them for meeting their own needs. (Self-care is an essential life skill!) Remind them that when they are ready, they will be welcomed to the festivities without fanfare or comment from us. Then ensure that other guests also follow suit and respect this boundary.

This Christmas may not be the fantasy family holiday of your dreams but it can be the foundation of a future of holidays spent together enjoying each other and building an empathic, respectful family connection.

Physical touch We must also remember not to expect or press them into giving or accepting gestures of affection and intimacy with which they are uncomfortable. Respect their need for personal boundaries and insist that extended family respect them as well. Do not tolerate teasing or pressure regarding their reluctance to accept or give unwanted demonstrations of affection.

Hard realities We must be unflinchingly honest. Open our eyes and notice if relatives treat our children differently from the children who are biologically related to them. Do not make excuses for the boorish and offensive behavior of relatives. Be assertive if or when boundaries are ignored. We can do it with grace and without anger but we cannot ignore these interactions. Our children will interpret our silence as accepting and condoning these hurts. They will infer that our loyalties lie not with them but with our relatives. Our highest priority is to ensure our children's felt safety.

“No room at the inn” During the holiday season, we will often hear the phrase  We judge the failure of the innkeeper who delivered that message to Mary and Joseph. We like to believe that we would choose better if given the opportunity. As adoptive families, we also have a choice to make. Will we exemplify welcome and openness in our families and embrace both/and in a profoundly significant way? Or, will we slam the door shut? For the sake of our children, we must make space for their birth families. (In cases where adoptions are not open or physical contact cannot occur, we can at least hold open the emotional and psychological space.)

At this time of year, most adoptees spend time thinking about their birth families. Many also struggle with feelings of guilt about his thoughts. Others say these thoughts make them feel disloyal to their adoptive parents. Imagine the relief they might feel if we open conversations that both acknowledge the likelihood they have such thoughts and that we are neither threatened nor angry. Imagine the powerful reassurance we can offer them when we assert that their thoughts and feelings are normal, understandable, and appropriate. Imagine the peace of mind our children might feel knowing we love them enough to make space for all their important relationships--whether they originate in biology or adoption. This is how we can live the Christmas message of peace, grace, and Room at the Inn.

As Intentional Parents, we have the opportunity to be deliberate about which holidays to observe as well as how we will celebrate them. Whether we follow traditional routines or invent our own personalized versions, family traditions and celebrations help to weave a cohesive family identity. They are powerful factors in creating connection, creating and sharing fun, and opportunities to define who we are collectively as a family. Traditions can reflect both cultural practices as well as rituals unique to a specific family. What fun activities from your childhood might you want to continue within your own family? What new ones might you create? What traditions from our children's heritage and birth families will be included?

Amid the hectic activity of the holidays remember to take time to celebrate the most important blessings: time spent with family, and friends. The days pass in a blur, melting into years, leaving only memories. Create warm fuzzies that you will remember and treasure in the years to come. Be intentional about the history you are building as a family. Long after the excitement of gift-giving fades, what is remembered are the feelings that are shared. Make time to have fun.

Happy Holidays from the coaches at Growing Intentional Families together. We invite you to share your family traditions with us and we’ll post them for others to sample.

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. GIFT coaches are available to present workshops online.  Contact us : 1-800-653-9445

Listen to our podcast.

Read these books written by our coaches.

 

 

 

Feeling short of time or finding it difficult to concentrate? You can listen to this post. Listen time 4:55

Listen also to this blog about building enduring connections as a family.

Every November our country observes National Adoption Awareness Month (NAAM) to raise awareness of the children in foster care who are awaiting adoption because they “are unable to continue living safely with their families” (Adoptuskids.org.) Sadly, many will never obtain a second chance at becoming a part of a family.

Each year, approximately 20,000 youth will age out of the foster care system. Many will instantly become homeless as well as “family-less.” Without a family to guide and support them, they have no buffer of loving support and emergency resources to draw upon when facing the difficult moments of life. These youth  are tiny boats floating solo on the sea of life coping with all it has to throw at them with no life raft, no emergency kit, and no support team to whom they can yell “911! I need your help!”

For those of us who have always benefitted from the security of loving, safe, well-resourced families, it is difficult to imagine how terrifying it must be for a young person to be totally on their own without the most basic of resources. Life doesn’t slow down for them just because they no longer have a family. It is sink or swim.

Life is a full-throttle experience with thrilling highs, devastating lows, and every emotional nuance in between those two extremes. Recall in your own life how many times you have relied on your family. How much more difficult would it have been if you had not had the love and support of family? From personal experience we know that the good times feel even brighter when we have a family to witness and celebrate with us. The challenging and frightening times feel more endurable when family and friends help to see us through them.

So, this month please focus on the need to find adoptive families for foster children in need of them—especially for those youth who will age out of care very shortly. Consider adopting one of these youth. Although you may have missed out on their earliest years, you have an opportunity to truly change their lives.

April Dinwoodie, former head of the Donaldson Institute,  has collaborated with Adoptuskids.org to host a 6-part podcast series on this topic. Please listen and learn how you can help.

I offer a final caveat: please remember that National Adoption Month NAAM is not the time to crow about all things wonderful about adoption. Keep the focus on the effort to find families for children for whom reunification is not possible.

Ask yourself these questions:

Have I deeply listened to adult adoptee voices to learn about adoption from their lived perspectives?

How much of what I "know" about adoption is accurate and based on the latest research about adoption?

What steps have I taken to ensure that I do not unintentionally accept or  spread beliefs and information that are based on myths and/or outdated presuppositions?

How can my understanding of adoption complexity help me be a better parent for my children?

How can  Adoption Attunement validate and support my children in ways that they can actually feel, trust,  and believe in that support?

How does my recognition that all adoption is rooted in trauma help me to meet my children's needs better?

#HonorAdopteeVoices #ValidateAdoptionComplexity #FindFamiliesForFosterkids #AdoptionGriefLoss #AdoptionAttunement

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. GIFT coaches are available to present workshops online.  Contact us : 1-800-653-9445

Listen to our podcast.

Read these books written by our coaches.

 

 

Feeling short of time or finding it difficult to concentrate? You can listen to this post. Listen time 5:42

I’m in the midst of a 30-day session wearing a heart monitor. It is minimally uncomfortable yet singularly dedicated to its purpose. Always operating. Never off duty. Never distracted. It periodically zings an alert or vibrates to catch my attention.

Imagine that our families have a collective pulse. Like the human heart, a family is subject to changes in rhythm—some benign, some dangerous, and worrisome, possibly fatal. Imagine if we had a similar device dedicated to monitoring our family’s emotional health. This backup system would ensure that we notice how relationships in the family are working—or not—as individuals, between siblings, and between parent and child as well as a family unit as a whole. The monitor would provide valuable failsafe attention. Uninterrupted information.  Insistent. Persistent. Always on duty. Never distracted

Because, it is easy—too easy—to get distracted by life and take our relationships for granted. When we are not paying attention, things happen. Things get overlooked, stuffed, ignored, delayed, and even denied. Relationships wither.

Pause now to remember how passionate, zealous, perhaps even obsessed you were when you pursued adoption in the first place. You allowed NOTHING to get in the way of your effort to build a family.

Of course, life is not that straightforward. Things are always happening. Events, experiences, relationships, the unexpected assail us on a daily basis. The responses, emotions, actions, and experiences that touch our families are complex and not necessarily easily accessed, measured, or processed. Sometimes it is easier to engage in denial or distraction because we are afraid to admit that something isn’t quite right. We know that once something is seen, named, and acknowledged, it becomes real. True.  The idealized picture is fractured and reality seeps through the cracks. It needs attention. And attention requires energy. Anything we cherish requires attention and effort. Family relationships are no exception.

When we have the courage to notice and cope with problems and challenges, we are dealing with Truth. This is the space where authentic love and acceptance flourish. By admitting our frailties and limitations we reconfirm our commitment to make things work. Truly work. We disavow the shallow charade of staying on the surface. We refuse to gloss things over as if everything were “fine”.

Instead, we address our missteps, oversights, shortcomings. We apologize for errors, omissions, and skewed priorities, ask for forgiveness, and work to reconcile and heal. These moments of honest seeing, of openness and vulnerability, actually weave a robust tapestry of family connection and history. We are not role-playing. We are rolling up our sleeves and doing the hard work of truly being family, loving and being loved as OURSELVES, not a hollowed-out guestimate of what we think others wish we would be.

Child and parent voices are heard. Our individual experiences are validated. Our individual needs are met. Our individual truth is valued. This is what all human beings desire. As healthy, whole human beings we come together to create healthy, loving, attuned families.

Questions to consider:

If you did a gut check right now and really listened to it, what would it alert you to?

Where are you being less than fully truthful with your spouse/partner?

How long has it been since you shared a meaningful conversation with each of your children?

What is getting in your way?

What is getting in their way?

If you took a pulse check of each of the relationships within your family, what do you notice?

Who is faring the best?

Who needs more attention, interaction, validation, or assistance?

After answering these questions, what would be your best first step?

By when will you take that step?

 

.

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. GIFT coaches are available to present workshops online.  Contact us : 1-800-653-9445

Listen to our podcast.

Read these books written by our coaches.


GIFT, Growing Intentional Families Together, adoption

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