This unfolding pandemic will forever alter our lives and divide time into a distinct Before and After. Our only choice is to confront the situation with intention. Life flows unrelentingly forward. Although we can remember and reflect on the past, we can never live the same moment twice. Similarly, we can ruminate and imagine the future yet our thoughts can only approximate our best guess of what will actually unfold. As we travel this journey of life, we bring several things to the experience: our thoughts, our relationships, and our actions. All of these are influenced by our values and beliefs. Tune into our core Values and allow that compass to guide our choices. I suspect that most parents have some Core Values in common, and therefore have some common priorities. For example, we want our children to feel deeply loved and we aspire for them to grow into healthy, productive and happy adults. Other Core Values shared by many families place high value one
This might be a good time to write our deeply held values down on a post-it note and stick it to our bathroom mirrors to serve as a tangible reminder when things get challenging. We cannot lose sight of these values. They will provide lampposts to illuminate our paths on this unplanned Covid-19 road trip. Our values will help us spot potholes and allow us to find a way around them. Our values provide "rest stops" which allow us to focus on what truly matters and refresh us so that we can continue moving ahead. They also impose guardrails that keep us on the "proper" path and delineate boundaries that we will not violate. During the weeks ahead, look for the "scenic overlooks"-- moments of emotional connection with our loved ones. Recall how we yearned for our children and use that reminder to help you through the rough patches.
Resist the temptation to complain about kids and spouse/partners being home, driving us nuts. Imagine what life would be without them. Concentrate on what is important: feeling connected, staying regulated, modeling compliance with public health guidelines. Allow schoolwork to take a backseat to nurturing our children's mental and emotional health. They can always catch up on academics. What they need from us right now is a secure sense of safety. This is our most significant task.
Until they feel this emotional safety they will be unable to effectively engage their higher thought processes. Their brains will default to self-protection mode--fight, flight, freeze-- and their behavior and life will be more challenging for the entire family. Some day in the future, we will recall this time. What do you hope your children will remember? Take the time to truly think about this. Then use those images to guide you in intentionally striving to create those moments. The memories that remain deeply implanted are those connected to strong emotion.
Fear will happen on its own. We must deliberately create silliness and joy. Here are some ideas that cost nothing and use items you probably already have on hand.
We parents also must cope with fear and worry. The danger is real as are the challenges that exist. Take the time to keep ourselves out of Survival Mode and remain in Coping Mode. We too, need to be able to access our higher-order thinking and coping skills. Identify strategies that can help you stay calm and enable you to facilitate co-regulation. Instead of imposing Time Outs on the kids, treat yourself to a few minutes of peace and solitude--even if it is only a shower or ten minutes in your bedroom alone. Other things to try: audiobooks, meditation music, yoga, exercise, visiting via online platforms.
We will want to frame our efforts into achievable chunks: one week, one day, one hour at a time and then acknowledge each tiny instance of success. We can do it because we must do it. Failure is not an option. Surrender is not an option. Covid-19 may cause us to lose some material things that we treasure. We will mourn those losses. We cannot let it destroy our family connections, our values, or our hope.
Let's intentionally create those good memories. Let's ask ourselves, "What am I willing to do to ensure that it will happen?" Then, as Nike says, "Just Do It!"
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Most of us face performance reviews on our jobs. While not a pleasant experience, the periodic assessments can help us determine important information: an employer or senior management’s satisfaction with our performance, an opportunity for salary adjustment based on performance, a determination of skills growth (or need for new skills,) a snapshot of our trajectory with the company. All of these are important indicators. We depend on the information they generate to make decisions about our employment future.
At school kids face similar assessments and reports to identify where they have achieved mastery or where they need remediation or enrichment. Since parents are an integral part of a child’s life, these reports are shared with us so that we too, can determine where we need to step up our involvement, back off and/or cheerlead their choices.
While work and school of core focal points or our lives and measuring progress in them an important information tool, another aspect of our lives equally in need of analysis and measurement is our role as parents. Parenting is, arguably, our most important responsibility. It is our legacy, our contribution to the future generations of our families.
Have you ever taken the time to assess your parenting goals and progress? How often do you and your partner discuss/define/review your parenting goals? If you have never actually hammered out specific goals, now is the best time to start. If it has been a while since you’ve taken stock, now is also the time to handle this review. Achieving success as parents is one of the most significant things we can accomplish in our lives. Think beyond the quick-response of “I just want my kids to be happy…” and consider what you believe are the skills, values, and behaviors that will ensure your child’s happiness, ability to support themselves, and impact the world positively.
Make your “Parental Job Review” with a neutral heart. You are looking for information not to ascribe blame or burden yourself (or your partner) with guilt. Assess your own performance and allow your spouse/partner to evaluate theirs. Share your thoughts about how you are doing. Ideally, you will be receptive to seeking and receiving their perspective on your strengths as well as your growth opportunities. Share this feedback with a genuine interest in improving your parenting and NOT in lobbing verbal hand grenades, back-handed criticisms, or sarcastic digs. Here are some questions to help you get started:
How clear is each of you about what you see as your strategy for accomplishing these goals?
How do they reflect your personal values?
How often do you measure progress so that you can make course corrections, identify what supports your vision versus what gets in your way or what is ineffective?
How have you tailored your approach for each child in your family?
How do you encourage your kids to think for themselves so that they do not fall prey to peer pressure and mob mentality?
When discussing Family Values, how do you explain then in terms your kids can understand and actions they can follow?
Listen to our podcasts on Adoption-attuned Parenting.
Read Adoption-attuned book reviews
by GIFT coach, Gayle H. Swift,
on her blog "Writing to Connect"
“It takes a village.” Typically, we hear this truism in reference to raising children; it might equally apply to being a community or country. When it comes to confronting disasters, it is overwhelmingly true. In fact, it takes many villages. The most recent disaster, hurricane Dorian has leveled much of the Bahamas and left more than 70,00 people homeless and their neighborhoods uninhabitable. Our guts clench as we watch in horror. We are moved to do something.
What draws us to assist others in times of crisis? Is it simply the hard knowledge that “There but for the grace of God go I?” Is it empathy? Religious conviction? Or simply fundamental human compassion? Regardless of the why, human beings are drawn to assist others when they are in trouble. We put our collective shoulders to the obstacle and press a collaborative shove.
As adoptive families, we possess unique knowledge of how to forge forward in the face of traumatic grief and loss.
We know platitudes do NOT help; they trivialize grief and loss.
Cliched phrases feel empty and invalidating. Express genuine sorrow that they are facing a crisis. Do not presume to know what they need. Ask them how you can help. Listen. Listen. Listen. Learn what they want from you and then strive to provide it.
We understand that informed and appropriate action serves best.
In a mass disaster, be sure that your efforts actually help. Verify that any person, group or agency is legitimate. (Scammers know how to tug at your heartstrings and open your wallet— for their own benefit.) Typically, the best resource you can provide is monetary. Cash donations enable aid groups to buy supplies wholesale and to distribute them where they are needed. Too often donations of material— clothing, etc—become a burden and logistical nightmare. (Read this article about how well-intended donations end up rotting, unused and impeding the delivery of aid that is desperately needed.)
Seek ways within your own family to reach out to one another with affirmation, empathy, and kindness--some of the deeply held values we yearn to instill in our children and live in our lives. As we attune better to one another, we strengthen our mutual connection and bring forth the spirit of kindness and compassion. We can expand our outreach in our local communities. Not only do we benefit personally, but also we will create ripples within our community and beyond. We can always find ways to extend a helping hand in the global community as well. There can never be too much kindness!
Listen to our podcasts on Adoption-attuned Parenting.
Read other Adoption-attuned book reviews by GIFT coach, Gayle H. Swift, on her blog "Writing to Connect"
 The original version of "ABC, Adoption & Me" was named a Favorite Read of 2013 by Adoptive Families, (the award-winning national adoption magazine.) Named a Notable Picture Book for 2013 by Shelf Unbound in their Dec/Jan 2014 issue; Honorable Mention - Gittle List of 2014; Finalist; IPNE 2014 Book Awards (Independent Publishers of New England), Honorable Mention 2014 Purple Dragonfly Book Award
Although Thanksgiving has passed, we are especially grateful for our good fortune as we note that great numbers of folks who have experienced traumatic hardships this year. Many have lost their homes due to the ravages of nature. Fire, floods, and hurricanes remind us how quickly our “stuff” can disappear leaving behind only memories, relationships and our courage to pick up the pieces and go on.
Once again life reminds us that the truly important things have no price tag. Their value is not measured in dollars in cents but in sentiment, caring and commitment. As Intentional Parents, we expend immense energy, effort, and thought on how to build and sustain relationship connections and attachments that can weather any challenge life throws at us. We seek to raise children who are resilient, kind and capable who know in their bones that true worth is not measured in dollars and sense. Our commitment to Intentional Parenting reminds us that the way we spend our time, money, and attention is a clear indication of how we prioritize and embody our family values.
As our neighborhoods come alive with the sparkling decorations of holiday lights we are reminded of how welcome light is whenever we darkness surrounds us—literally or figuratively. Let us challenge ourselves and our children to be sources of light, connectivity, kindness, and generosity.
Avoid the pitfall and stress of overspending when selecting Christmas gifts.
Resolve to spend less on stuff and choose gifts that create ways to spend time together as a family.
Help children to develop a reasonable awareness of your family’s specific financial limitations. As always, our behavior sets a model for our children that will become their template throughout their lives.
Consider what a blessing it is to inculcate financial self-discipline as a family value. It's a gift that lasts a lifetime. #FinancialSelfDiscipline #LifetimeGift #FamilyValues
Make it a priority to participate as a family in at least one activity that helps others. Your group effort will bless both your family and the recipients. This too, is a way we can reinforce family values and bring them to life so they are more than mere words.
As we think back through our childhood holiday memories, most of us cherish the emotions we felt more than the specific gifts we received. Let us strive to create a month that our children will recall through the decades ahead with a full heart and a broad smile. Our time, attention, and affection are the real treasures they need.
Schools have already reopened in my community which reminds me of the need for intentionality in how we guide our children through the school year. Parents and students all hope for a good year, one that filled with learning--both academic and relational--and grows their ability to be in the driver's seat of their lives. (After all, the point of parenting is to put ourselves out of a job: to raise kids that can succeed on their own.) So, how do we accomplish this vital goal? Operating purely on intuition is not enough; we need a plan--a map--that shows the route we intend to take.
To design any functional map, we must know two facts: the departure point and the destination. The shortest route would simply draw a straight line from point A to point B. But life is never that linear, that free from unexpected obstacles and delays. We must plan for contingencies, pack supplies for "emergencies", and draw out alternate routes "just in case." What landmarks (benchmarks) do we want our kids to achieve? Keep in mind that our actions make a broader impact than our words. "Do as I say, not as I do," never works. Our actions must reflect and embody our words and expectations. Make a list of possible goals.
We must exemplify whatever is on our “wish” list. This provides the model and the proof of our commitment to it. What behaviors do we wish to see? How do we encourage/reinforce these behaviors when our children demonstrate them? How are we modeling the same behaviors? How do we extinguish undesirable behaviors? Remember the distinction between discipline and consequences. The first aims to teach; the second aims to punish.
What skills do our children want to develop?
It’s important that they participate in goal defining and setting. This is an important mindset and is a skill that benefits from practice. Clarity helps to focus their choices and it strengthens their commitment and desire. We must validate and understand their goals, dreams and motivations, then discern how we can help them define, refine, and accomplish them.
What skills do we want them to develop?
Getting self up in the morning
Putting forth full effort
Learning from mistakes
Playing a sport
Being physically active
Managing tech time
Expanding their circle of friends
Showing respect for teachers
Create a work/life balance
Identifying their personal strengths as well as growth points
Seeing school as a tool that helps them accomplish their life goals
What values do we want them to embrace?
Confidence, competence, courage, resilience,
persistence, compassion, service, open-mindedness,
curiosity, conviction, self-discipline, delayed gratification,
emotional balance, joy, conscience, morality, humor,
awareness, creativity, forgiveness of others and self,
respect for self and others, truth telling and truth seeking
What habits do we want them to internalize?
Make time for self-reflection
When we demonstrate intentionality about our personal and family goals we show our children not only that planning is essential for success but also we prove it is a priority for us, it's part of our approach to goal accomplishment. It also reduces the chaos of living with a seat-of-the-pants, handling brush fires as they come. Having a life blueprint alerts us to digressions that lure us off track; we can then decide if it is a welcome diversion or a distraction we choose to avoid. It's important to note that our expectations may get “in the way” if they are not developmentally ready to achieve at the level we would like them to be. Staying “attuned” and in communication with our kids at all times is our ultimate goal. We must nurture the child before us and not expect him to be the embodiment of a "fantasy child." that exists only in our imagination.