Archive for the ‘General Discussion’ Category

The Emotional Connection between Speaking and Listening

Wednesday, June 27, 2018 @ 12:06 PM
Author: admin

the-emotional-connection-between-speaking-and-listeningEven without a caption, we can infer that the dad in this photo clearly wants his son to listen. This graphic explodes with emotion. Negative energy stirs within ourselves as we look at it. It awakens memories of similar conversations where emotion overwhelmed reason. We can hear our own personal “inner” soundtrack replaying the audio from our own experiences.

When yelling occurs, it supersedes communicating. Both persons involved in the “conversation” feel overwhelmed, angry and “injured” to some degree. Neither is listening. Resentment and anger amplify; each person focuses on the righteousness of his own position. This hyper-focus tends to negate or invalidate the opposing viewpoint. When emotion hijacks* our intellect, little or no communication occurs.

Effective communication requires mutual respect and openness.

As Intentional parents, we will want to practice ways to ratchet down emotionally charged conversations. Develop strategies for addressing frustration and anger in the moment. These skills take time and practice to master!

We must regularly remind ourselves of this intention. Save the earnest discussions for times when parents and children are not in meltdown.

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The second photo, on the other hand, conveys the polar opposite emotional content from the first. Both father and son appear engaged and attentive to one another. They are emotionally open and available to hold a meaningful conversation. For most of us, the picture triggers personal memories of feeling heard and validated. It is in these types of interactions that communication and connection occur.

The point of this post holds true for all of our conversations, not only those between parent and child.

How will you use the insight gained from this blog to help you improve your communication at home and out in the broader world?

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*For more information about emotional hijacking, read Daniel Goleman’s seminal book, Emotional Intelligence

Notice and Narrate Instead of Offering Praise

Tuesday, June 12, 2018 @ 04:06 PM
Author: admin

Notice-Narrate-instead-Offering-Praise-I-love-you-ritualsAttention is the currency of human connection. We all yearn to be noticed, to be seen for our authentic selves. It’s human nature. As parents, we regularly experience our children’s desire for us to look their way. Watch me, Mommy! Look at me, Daddy! Sometimes their need for attention can feel like an insatiable hunger. Effective parents recognize attention-giving as an effective parenting tool. They utilize their children’s need for attention by heaping attention on desirable behaviors and by ignoring behaviors they wish to extinguish.

Unfortunately, the need for attention can devolve into a desperate need for approval. Kids can fall into the habit of excessive approval-seeking. Self-satisfaction, the pride of accomplishment, the pleasure of learning all can fall victim to the over-weaning need for approval. How can Intentional Parents avert this undesirable result?

Imagine our child calls out for our attention. This requires us to pause what we’ve been doing, note their action and make them the focus of our attention. If we do this, we’ll fulfill their need to be seen. This will enable us to make a connection by spending something far more valuable than money: our extremely valuable “undivided-attention currency.” Their goal to feel “seen” will be filled.

What results accrue to our side of the equation? What benefit will we get? Is it the one we truly want?

If we constantly offer attention that has a judgment attached–either positive or negative–we’ll vest our kids on obtaining our approval and/or avoiding our disapproval. They will perform for us. But is that the true goal of our parenting?

Don’t we really want them to mature into self-motivated thinkers, who will follow family values, make choices and engage in action because it is what they perceive as the “right” thing to do based on their own internalized, moral compass?

We believe there’s a better way of expressing our attention, a way that helps kids feel noticed without “addicting” them to praise. Dr. Becky Bailey, originator of the Conscious Discipline theory and author of several books offers many practical and emotionally positive strategies. Although her main focus is the classroom, parents and caregivers can learn a lot from her strategies. She suggests that adults notice or narrate without adding an element of judgment or praise.

Instead of I think you did a great job!

say, You worked and worked until you finished it! 

Instead of, I love it! It’s an amazing Lego© construction!

say, You spent a lot of time working on that!

Instead of,  That’s a terrific drawing! It’s a…house, right?

say, You used lots of color in that drawing; tell me about it.

Instead of,  I’m proud that you helped Michael.”

say, You noticed Michael needed help and you helped him. In our family, we all try to help.

Feel the difference between the two sets of comments. Notice that the focus is on the child not on adult opinion or evaluation. The narrator-style comments still provided the child with the attention he sought. They centered on traits the adult wishes to nurture or help the child notice about themselves. Each time they have a noticing experience, these values and traits become more deeply internalized.

Psychotherapist Linda Graham, MFT., reminds us that,

“The brain learns from experience always and it learns best when those experiences are little and often.”

With this method, our attention focuses on reinforcing their skill sets and inner qualities. It’s about what we see and what they think. And we do want them to be thinkers. And tryers, creators, practitioners of our family values. Big distinction. Kids who are overly invested in praise and approval, fall into a pattern of doing things only when they have an audience. Or, the corollary of this, they become sneaky and only observe the rules when they think they might get caught. Some develop an inability to make decisions because they’re overly focused on approval or other people’s opinions instead of their own inner moral compass.

Being able to trust themselves, to learn good decision-making skills and to engage in life as a “learning Conversation.” It helps kids build internal resilience because they know parental approval and acceptance are not conditional.

As a grandmother who has the opportunity to care for my grandson several days each week, I have had the opportunity to observe the power of this shift in adult/child interaction. It is stunning. I can also say, that turning off the autopilot of praise is challenging but so worth the effort. Changing deeply ingrained habits takes effort and persistence.

I love it when I ask him, “Who’s a tryer? A helper? A hard worker?” and he names himself in reply followed by the names of the rest of our family. Barely three and he has internalized the belief that he belongs to a family that values effort and compassion!

Intentional narration offers another teaching strategy: add a soundtrack to your own efforts. It’s a great way to correct a common misconception that kids have about adults: that life is effortless for their parents, that they don’t have to work hard at things, that they are magically proficient at stuff, etc. So how might this sound? Here are some examples:

Daddy is going to school tonight. Even though he’s tired, he’s going to learn how to do his job better.

I don’t know how to do that, so I’m reading this book to learn.

I want to feel healthy, so I’m doing my yoga practice every day.

I’m learning ______, so I need to practice it every day.

This task is hard. I’m going to keep working at it until I figure it out.

In this family, we help other so I’m watching Susan while her mother goes to the doctor.

In this family, we always try, so I’m going to try again.

Those are just a few ideas. When we allow kids a peek into the times that we are being persistent, determined, tackling stuff even though it is hard, we offer them an observable model from which they can learn.

 

 

 

 

Interested in learning more about Dr. Bailey’s work?

Check out other titles on her website

 

Admitting Hard Realities and Holding Difficult Conversations

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 @ 07:05 PM
Author: admin

Admitting Hard Realities and Holding Difficult ConversationsThose of us touched by adoption understand what it is like to feel “othered” or different. Many of us have adopted transracially and therefore, have a particular interest in ensuring equality for all. We get a closer look at the impact of racism, bias, micro-aggressions, and invalidation that happen to our families. Current events awaken us to the tragic inequities and actual dangers which threaten our kids. We recognize another sad but very real truth:, our children experience a more intimate relationship with the consequences of racism when they are outside of the sheltering protection of being with their white families.

We want to support, prepare and protect our children. To do that, we need to know what is happening in their lives and we need to talk about it. Yet for a variety of reasons, they may not be entirely forthcoming about the challenges they face in this arena. Perhaps it makes the ugliness too real. Perhaps, they want to forestall our worrying, perhaps they feel diminished by even giving the topic voice, perhaps they fear we won’t “get” it–some, or all of these factors may be true.

It is absolutely essential that we have the difficult conversation, talk about the dangers, the unfairness, the cruelty and the small-mindedness that drive bigotry. We cannot afford to wait for our kids to raise the subject. It’s too vital and too dangerous to postpone or ignore. Yet, as parents, we know how notoriously difficult it can be to get kids to open up. So, what can we do?

Our children are products of the internet era. Why not

Use kids’ preference for, & comfort with, all things tech? Suggest watching this video together (Hey, I saw this on Facebook and wondered what you thought of it?) Then talk about it. 

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Read this companion article by Erin Canty who “grew up black in a very white neighborhood in a very white city in a very white state.” Erin says it captures her experience quite well. Titled, 7 Things Black People Want Their Well-meaning White Friends to Know to Know posted on UpWorthy. I don’t know if she is an adoptee. Perhaps she is. Perhaps she isn’t. However, her post is very relevant in any racially-diverse family whether formed through biology or adoption.

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Five Reasons Your Family Adoption Library Can’t Handle Everything.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 @ 12:05 PM
Author: admin

Five Reasons Your Family Adoption Library Can’t Handle Everything.As Intentional parents, we understand the importance of having a well-stocked family adoption library. In last week’s blog we explored the top six benefits that it can serve. Of course, like most things connected to adoption, the reality is more complicated than one might first expect. Having an AQ library is an awesome first step, sends an important and affirming message of validation to our kids.  Let’s consider five reasons 2. your family adoption library can’t handle everything.

  1. Parents can’t fall into thinking children will turn to the books on their own. Parents must take a leadership role in selecting a book and suggesting that they read it together. I would be a mistake to believe that kids will think to turn to a book. Not only might it not cross their minds, they most likely will be unable to identify which book can best serve them at that particular moment. Parents familiar with the contents of each book will need to provide the appropriate direction. 

Until somebody pulls the book off the shelf, it’s nothing more than a piece of décor filling a bookshelf. A book is only a good tool when it is read. Parents will want to introduce each book to their children by reading it together. This collaborative reading sends a message that the parent values the book and that is something that they want to spend their time reading it with their child. (Parents will want to consider a child’s degree of interest. If he is reluctant, offer some genuine encouragement. However, if a child rejects it, honor their decision with an important caveat: make certain that they understand you think it is important to share the material together and commit to doing it another time. Then make sure that you try again in the future. 

Coming to term with his adoption is a life-long, complex process, one which they truly need the guidance, empathy, and insight of parental guidance. Parents must overcome any personal discomfort or reluctance so they can skillfully lead their children through the emotional maze that adoption creates. In the absence of parental guidance and openness, kids must struggle on their own, with limited experience, understanding, and skills.

Five Reasons Your Family Adoption Library Can’t Handle Everything

If a child consistently rejects the chance to read a book, explore their reluctance. What is spurring it? Does his reluctance reflect a general disinterest in reading?* Or does it only show up when it comes to reading about adoption? Perhaps he’s afraid, uncomfortable, or sad. Talk about these emotions. Ensure that he believes your willingness to read and talk about adoption is authentic. Most importantly, he must trust that parents are capable of hearing all of his feelings on the subject, not just the happy and positive ones. A child must be absolutely convinced that his parents want to hear their truthful feelings, not just candy-coated ones. This is not a one-and-done message; they must hear this consistently over time. And parental actions must align with their words.

Many adult adoptees report that they frequently decided not to talk about difficult stuff out of fear of hurting their parents, of making their parents too sad or out of fear of their parents’ anger. Kids must be convinced that the conversation is safe to share, that it will not endanger the parent/child relationship, and that they won’t be “punished” for expressing difficult thoughts. Some kids fear parents might hold a grudge or might use their words against them in future moments of parent/child conflict.

Many adult adoptees also say that they refrained from talking about their feelings with their parents because of fear that any negativity on their part might trigger rejection by their (adoptive) parents. After all, they reasoned, it happened once—they were relinquished by their birth parents—and they were unwilling to risk it again.

Five Reasons Your Family Adoption Library Can’t Handle Everything.

  1. Parents must be alert for the moment when it makes sense to open a book and read it—or part of it— together. It is through sharing the experience that connection occurs. Listening depends not only on hearing the words but also in assessing the child’s bodily responses. Are they tense and bottled up, sad and locked down, concerned and in need of assurance? Listen not only to the language spoken and the non-verbal body language but also to what is not being said, what they avoid discussing. These factors offer profound insight into a child’s mind and heart.
  1. A book can only provide information; it can’t read between the lines. Books are simply the channel through which communication can be exchanged. —not just physically but also with their complete attention. Remember,
  1. Books convey information but an attentive conversation between parent and child creates a space for discovery, deep understanding, the development of nuanced understanding and the clarification of misunderstand or distorted generalizations. Conversation is deeply personal and tailored to a specific child/parent relationship. Books are a superlative tool but nothing can substitute for the love and attention of in-tune parents.

Five Reasons Your Family Adoption Library Can’t Handle EverythingHow can you best use your adoption-attuned library to benefit your child, to increase your own Adoption-attunement and to nurture an open and loving forum for family discussions?

How do you discover the best books for your family? What do you learn when you discuss these books with other adoptive parents?

 

*Ensure that any possible learning disabilities have been identified and take the appropriate interventions.

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Six Top Reasons You Want an Adoption-attuned Family Library

Wednesday, May 9, 2018 @ 02:05 PM
Author: admin

FamilyAdoption-Library-path-to-healthy-adoption-conversations

This may lead them to have conflicted emotions, identity challenges, as well as a lack of resilience to bounce back when things get tough.

If parents–consciously or unconsciously–telegraph to their kids that talking about adoption distresses parents, kids will stuff their fears and worries and will then struggle to handle adoption complexity on their own and without the “guardrail” of parental support. Intentional parents know their children need parental support to figure out how to braid together a healthy, cohesive identity that respects all of their parts. Books serve as an immensely valuable tool for helping families address adoption complexity. A loving parent’s lap offers the perfect, safe place to share a book that helps them talk about this significant part of their family. They benefit both parent and child in powerful ways. Here are the top six ways:

1. Because you built your family through adoption, you have some additional adoption-connected parenting tasks. When you adopted, you obligated yourself to become the best parent possible. This means you must educate yourself on how adoption adds additional layers or responsibility and challenge to your parental role, to family dynamics, and to be envoys for your children. To fulfill those tasks, you need help identifying and performing them well. Books provide insight, strategies, and encouragement. They introduce new ideas which parents can consider and they can reveal issues which parents may not even realize exist or need to be handled.

2. Your children also have “inherited” adoption-related tasks which they must handle to ensure they grow into their best version of themselves. Books offer a safe chance to explore the topic. They create a chance to ask questions that reveal a child’s beliefs and fears about adoption. Parents can then address them and allay their children’s fears.

FamilyAdoption-Library-path-to-healthy-adoption-conversations-shameful3. It is not easy to find the “right” time to talk about the challenges, questions, and conflicts that adoption creates. Books create non-threatening ways of asking questions, exploring solutions, and describing complex emotions. They offer models of possibilities and a chance to imagine how potential tactics might work. Families can discuss the strategies and decisions which the characters chose, how effectively they worked, and the likelihood that it might work for other families (including one’s own.)

4. An accessible, well-stocked adoption bookshelf sends a message: that adoption is a safe and welcome topic. It telegraphs to children that parents are comfortable discussing adoption, that they can handle the conversation, and that they believe it is something they want to discuss as a family.

5. Children can pick a book off the shelf when they feel the urge or need to talk about adoption. It’s easier for them to hand a book to a parent that to open a conversation with a “Mom, we need to talk…”

6. Books help parents and children feel less isolated, less different. They help families feel like part of a tribe of other families facing the same situations. This helps reduce the feeling of being different and encourages a sense of shared community.

For specific book suggestions, check out our list here. Be sure to consult, GIFT coach, Gayle Swift’s blog, “Writing to Connect” which reviews “general” books that are not intended to be about adoption. She evaluates them through an adoption-attuned lens that identifies ways of raising important adoption conversations in a natural, relaxed way.

Next week we will explore: Five Reasons Your Family Adoption Library Can’t Handle Everything.

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