successful-families-take-care-build-strong-coreThe business of family is the care and protection of its members. We succeed or fail together. As Intentional Parents we strive to be purposeful in our choices and actions particularly when it comes to our children. We must always keep in mind that our relationships with our spouses and partners predated the arrival of our children. (Single parents create this space alone and therefore must be particularly sensitive to their own needs so they can remain capable, loving, and available to their children.) These relationships with one another establish the family units which our children join. So sustaining strong partnership with our spouses or partners is one of the most important things we can provide our children.

To accomplish this, we must ensure that we keep ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. Yet our culture tends to laud selflessness, esteem altruism, and disdain any focus on self because it is perceived as selfish. Of course, generosity, compassion, and consideration for others are essential in society and in families. We must subordinate some individual needs for the greater good of the group. Nonetheless, self-care—of both our individual selves and our partner relationships— provides the essential foundation on which the security of our families rest.

The relationship with our spouses and partners predates the arrival of our children. It is the secure, consistent place to which our children came to be nurtured and loved. This core of emotional stability, self-awareness, and connectivity allows parents to hold themselves and their families together. It provides strength, solace, companionship, encouragement, and a shared experience. Our loving relationships with our partners and ourselves offer a model of a healthy, well-rounded adult.  This healthy regard for self and spouse/partner provides the scaffolding of security for the entire family. (It’s also the antithesis of narcissism which values and prioritizes only self.) Just as with our physical bodies, a family's core strength matters.

When we over-prioritize our children’s needs above our own, it is often to the detriment of the health of ourselves and of our spouses or partners. This actually undermines the stability of the family and it tends to give the false impression to our kids that their wants and needs are the driving force of the family. Although kids might think that being the driving force of the family sounds appealing and exciting, it is actually frightening to not have adults in charge to provide the wisdom and the security of boundaries. At some level, kids recognize that they lack the skill, experience and confidence to be the captain of the family ship. Having parents to navigate life’s challenges with confidence, love, and purpose reassures kids and deepens their sense of security.

On the other hand, always placing oneself self last, denying authentic personal needs and desires creates turmoil, unhappiness, and a pressure cooker of resentment. Chaos ensues. Parents who always place themselves last in the family priorities eventually will become so depleted they will be unable to function. Or they will react in ways that can damage relationships.

Adoption separated our children from their first families. One of the greatest blessings we can offer them is to invest in the relationship that founded the family and provides its bedrock. What steps will you take to care for yourself and your relationship with your partner?

Check out these additional Adoption-attuned resources!

Adoption Attuned Parenting

Listen to our podcasts on Adoption-attuned Parenting.

Abc adoption

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

burning-truth-admit-deal-heal-challenges

My husband had the admirable ability to remain calm in the face of upheaval and chaos. As a person strongly influenced by emotions and with a deep need for “safety”, his equanimity was like my life raft in a storm. Ironically, this same “unflappableness” occasionally also drove me crazy.

But sometimes when I felt like our world was on fire, his equanimity felt like blindness—or idiocy—like an utter denial of the flames that were about to consume our lives. Instead of comfort, I felt that my perspective of what was happening was being ignored, dismissed, minimized, and denied. Although I craved his reassurance, in these moments, I needed to know that he saw what I saw, felt what I felt, and recognized its scale and power. Until I had that reassurance, his composure felt foolhardy. I felt angry and even more afraid. First, I wanted--needed--validation of my fears then I could trust in his ability to support, partner, and protect us.

I wonder if our children sometimes experience a similar emotional paradox around the grief, loss and identity issues that undergird adoption. Yes, they truly need our love, and they want to reciprocate, to belong and yet … There is a genuine flip side. They also wrestle with all the messiness that comes with the fracture from their first family. Regardless of any benefits which accrue to them, their losses co-exist. Too often blinded by our own perspective we need to ensure that everything within our families is all right. The world, even we parents become inured to this pain.

Do our kids share the invalidated, unsettled feelings I described when my husband’s calm seemed dissonant to our circumstances?

I suspect so.

My own experience tells me that until we acknowledge that we see the “flames,” any comfort we offer will come across as tone deaf, inappropriate, absurd, dangerous, and stupid. Firefighters know that a hot spot ignored quickly become a conflagration. Denial endangers us. It is not our friend. Action is.  We can become the shield which keeps them safe. We accomplish this by facing what is at hand and acknowledging adoption complexity. We must talk about it. Validate it. Mitigate it. In that context of truth, we can connect with our children’s reality with grace, love, and empathy and it will be grounded in reality.

Such authenticity may be difficult—even painful—but it is essential. Otherwise, our relationships devolve into role play with each of us acting our character’s assigned part. Our kids deserve so much more. We have the power to create relationships built on truth, respect, and compassion. Our children will benefit immensely from this choice. In fact, our entire families will.

Deal with the proverbial elephant in the room before everything spontaneously combusts.

Check out these additional Adoption-attuned resources!

Adoption Attuned Parenting

Listen to our podcasts on Adoption-attuned Parenting.

 

 

 

 

Abc adoption

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

 

 

 

 

Here in Florida, the Parkland community is reeling from the recent deaths by suicide of two student survivors of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas School massacre which occurred on Feb. 14, 2018. On the heels of that double tragedy, the father of one of the first-graders murdered during the Sandy Hook Massacre succumbed to the weight of his grief and took his life this past weekend.

Such is the weight of trauma and unbounded grief.

Adoptees commit suicide at four times the rate of non-adopted persons.[1]Such is the weight of trauma and unrecognized or invalidated adoptee grief.

For too long, adoption has been considered totally benign, a perfect solution that solved a three-sided problem (a mother unable to parent, prospective parents in search of a child, and a child in need of a family). Adoption provided a fairytale ending for all.

Except that the reality is far more complex than this idealized, sanitized version. Without exception, adoption is rooted in loss. Unless those losses are acknowledged, appreciated and voiced, great emotional harm can be inflicted on those whom adoption purports to benefit. As Intentional Parents we must have the courage and compassion to help our kids by creating space for this reality in our hearts, minds, and conversations. We must talk with our children about the dualities in adoption. Reassure them that we understand that adoption brought our greatest joy but that for them adoption is a two-edged sword. It provided them a family that loves and cherishes them but before our families could be created, their original families had to be broken. For our children adoption will always include a degree of loss and grief.

If we do not acknowledge this reality, if we expect total allegiance to us and total severance of their affection, connection, and interest in their birth families, if we live as if adoption is a fairy tale, we burden our children with the weight of unacknowledged grief. When they cannot share the weight of their grief and distribute it across the shoulders of family who love them, adoptees can be overwhelmed by it. Left to shoulder their grief, fear, loneliness, rejection, and sense of isolation many will turn to suicide as a way to achieve relief.

Adoptive parents must have the courage, compassion, and attunement to hold adoption complexity, to steep themselves in a Both/And reality that allows our children to express their emotions—all of them—not just the easy, positive ones, but also the heavier, more devastating and scary ones. We can rise to the challenge of adopted parenthood, embrace the ambiguous losses and lean on one another. The truth of adoption is not rainbows and unicorns but it can be about coming together to love one another through a complex reality that makes room for multiple connections, emotions, and truths. Denying these complexities isolates our kids and increases the likelihood that they will be crushed by the weight of their grief. That is a price too high to pay and must be avoided at all cost.

 

Check out these additional Adoption-attuned resources!

Adoption Attuned Parenting

Listen to our podcasts on Adoption-attuned Parenting.

 

 

 

 

Abc adoption

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

 

 

 

 


[1]Keyes MA, Malone SM, Sharma A, Iacono WG, McGue M. Risk of suicide attempt in adopted and nonadopted offspring. Pediatrics. 2013;132(4):639-46.

food-for-the-heart,-spirit,-and-body

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?

Check out these additional Adoption-attuned resources!

Adoption Attuned Parenting

Listen to our podcasts on Adoption-attuned Parenting.

 

 

 

 

Abc adoption

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

family-traditions-by-intention

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.

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, everyonehad 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.

Check out these additional Adoption-attuned resources!

Adoption Attuned Parenting

Listen to our podcasts on Adoption-attuned Parenting.

 

 

 

 

Abc adoption

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

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