Beautiful redhead girl with long hair and blue eyes looking at herself in a broken mirror

Crustaceans and reptiles shed their outer covering when they have outgrown their limitations. Their discarded husks tangibly announce that they have expanded in some way, become different from whom they previously were. They have broken free of the constraints imposed by their former exteriors. In a small way, this gives them an advantage over people.

Personal growth in human beings, however, is less publicly obvious. Before they can be visibly observed, changes must be on a scale large enough and distinct enough from old habits. Yet even then, behavioral changes frequently go unnoticed, unacknowledged and unprocessed. People tend not to update their “relationship software” and instead tend to rely on the presumption that old patterns will continue to play out, unchanged and as immutable as if carved in stone. Parents, as well as kids, tend to default to assume that people will do and be as they have “always” done and been.

Change never happens easily and often unfolds in small increments, not in dramatic transformations. Yet these tiny steps can add up to significant differences. Every step is important, and almost inevitably requires a measure of awareness, calm, courage, intention, and commitment for even the smallest improvement to occur.

It takes time for these changes to become engrained. The pressure to return to old habits is strong, especially in moments of high emotion and/or conflict. Parents and children can find themselves caught in a maelstrom that causes them to behave in accordance to their old patterns. This “boxes” all parties into repeating a well-rehearsed “dance,” one which they all would benefit from altering.

On the other hand, if all parties take the time to notice, encourage and. “accept” the personal growth changes of others, their relationships dance will change. Even if it is not necessarily significantly better, at the very least, it will be different.

During this summer break from school, most families find themselves spending more time together. How can you enhance these moments? Why not set an intention to update the mental templates you hold for each of your children? Make the time to really listen to them.

Pause to observe them as they are and not simply as you think they are.

Encourage the positive changes. (I noticed that you helped Jim complete his chores; that was really kind.)

Recognize these behavioral shifts as steps in their progress to adulthood.

Value each tiny step forward; change is a fragile thing that needs nurturing and encouragement.

Update your mental image to incorporate their efforts.

Take time to consider what personal changes you wish to effect within yourself. As you act on those intentions, not your own small personal steps to progress. Help your kids to see both your effort and your results. But don’t trust in their ability to mind read or to attend to your efforts. Discuss your intentions.

(I’m working on listening better before I say “No.”


“I find it hard to be patient in the morning when I’m trying to get out to work; I hope you can feel the difference.”

This strategy accomplishes several things. First, it alerts them to your intentions. Second, it places your actions within their field of vision. Third, it puts pressure on you to follow through because your goal has been publicly declared. Fourth, it sets a model which they can follow.

Use your own struggles to attune you to your children’s challenges in creating change within themselves. (It’s never as easy as it looks to an observer.) Help your kids to see that they are changing, that you are noticing their changes, and that you are updating your mental image of them. ( I see you are really working hard to ____. It’s nice to see you find something worth investing so much of yourself in.)

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Check out these Adoption-attuned resources!

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.



Adoption Attuned Parenting



Listen to our podcasts on Adoption-attuned Parenting.




Abc adoption

Read these Adoption-attuned book reviews by GIFT coach, Gayle H. Swift.

family-is-a-treasure-treat-them-with-careSchool is out for the summer here which draws to mind a question: How can Intentional Parents glean the best that this interlude can offer families? Released from the burden of homework, academic projects, and extracurricular activities and all the stress and time constraints that accompany them, we have a chance to create something special. All that is required is intention, a goal, and an action plan that is sufficiently compelling that following through is a given. Or, we can simply "go with the flow" and allow days to drip through our fingers like anonymous raindrops.

The idea of total freedom from schedules, agendas, and deadlines certainly is tempting. And yet, do we really want to arrive at summer's end only to discover that we frittered the days away and have nothing to show for it? Don't we really want a balance of restorative recreation and relaxed pace with a steadying rudder of purposefulness?

What purpose or goal for our life as a family inspires us? In the quiet darkness of sleepless nights, what vision of our family life occupies our attention? How will choose which one or two we will focus on?

First, we review our core family values to remind us of what is really important. This helps avoid the trap of choosing goals based on how friends and family might see and approve. With the vision of our values fresh in our mind, we can identify one or two aspects of our interrelationships as a family where a breach in those values reveals itself. For example, if respect is a core value for our family, how has it been expressed in the way we communicate with our spouse and children? Assess factors like attitude, tone, timing and authentic listening. Are we as considerate in our communication with family as we are with friends and coworkers? How well is the way we speak to, work with, and treat family modeling the best example of how to treat others? Adopted children are often prone to self-criticism and feelings of rejection. How do your communication patterns address and alleviate this sensitivity?

What are you willing to do to bring these dreams for your family to life? Here are some ideas for personal intentions. No need to announce them to the family. Our actions will form the best way to reveal them.

Check out these Adoption-attuned resources!

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.



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.





As our observance of Memorial Day remains fresh, it calls to mind the pain of loved ones lost in defense of their country. We feel an upswell of grief, yearning, and remembering. In the context of this blog, thoughts of loved ones lost take on a different slant. It reminds us of how adoptees experience great personal loss and live with these emotions in a different, deeply personal context. While actual death may not be involved, usually there is a permanent loss of relationship with birth mother/family. Even in open adoption, any ongoing relationship with birth parent(s) or birth family falls far short of the “usual” parent/child relationship in which a child is raised by birth parents in the bosom of his biological family.

Adoptees live one literal version of a possible life story while along the edges of their thoughts, memories, and imaginations many possible alternative lives dance. What if I had not been adopted? What if I'd been raised by different parents? By my own birth parents? Why didn’t they keep me? What was wrong with me? The possibilities are infinite and may be in equal measures comforting, frightening, intriguing, exciting, or heartbreaking. Only one thing can be said with certainty: all these scenarios exist only in the imagination and will always remain so.

And yet, this world of imagination, populated by the ghosts and shadows of a life interrupted and redirected holds great power for adoptees and occupies sizeable chunks of their time. attention, and emotion and has tremendous impact on their mental, physical, and emotional health. Adult adoptees confide that this alternate reality occupied much of their thoughts as children. Most also say they wish that they had been able--while they were still children-- to discuss their preoccupation with their families and have had the benefit, comfort, and reassurance of their parents. Many factors fed their reluctance, among them: fear of hurting their adoptive parents, fear of rejection by their adoptive parents, and/or a sense that they must choose unilateral loyalty to their adoptive family. Whether their assumptions were valid or not, large numbers of adoptees reveal that they struggled alone, WITHOUT the much-needed support and comfort of their adoptive parents.

As Intentional, Adoption-attuned Parents, we CHOOSE to openly discuss this proverbial elephant sitting in the heart of our families. We recognize that adoption necessitates a both/and approach to family—that both birth and adoptive family are a permanent and vital part of our children. We do not require, expect, need, or want our kids to sacrifice their need for their roots as the cost of our love and their inclusion into our families. Intentional, Adoption-attuned parenting is NOT co-parenting with birth family but co-valuing them. We choose to provide our kids the secure understanding that our love is expansive enough, our shoulders strong enough, and our world view inclusive enough to make room for all who are important to our children because our children are important to us. We must trust in ourselves and truly believe that we are capable of being the expansive, Adoption-attuned parents whom our children need

Consider these questions:

How have you encouraged this openness with your child?

How do your actions reflect your intentions and reinforce your words?

How are you helping your child develop a "complete" picture?

Share this blog: https://giftfamilyservices.com/making-space-for-remembrance-complete-picture/

Check out these Adoption-attuned resources!

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.



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.



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


Last weekend I went camping with my son and his family. Something magical happens when we gather around a campfire, toast marshmallows, snack on S'mores and notice the star-studded sky arching overhead. Good times! It's a total break from the routine of our ordinary, very busy lives. We relax. Talk. And when silence falls, it feels welcome and comforting which is good for the spirit, good for the body and good for the mind too. We notice the sounds and smells and appreciate the beauty of our environment with a fresh intensity.

Of course, living in VERY tight quarters also challenges one's relationship skills. Everybody must choose to reset their needs for personal space and be intentional about finding ways to be helpful or at the very least, to stay out of other people's way. When it comes to food, what we brought is what you can have. Makes no sense to fuss for what's at home & not in the camper!

One maxim that serves well is, "Value the relationship more than being right." It's human nature to incline to a stance of personal "rightness." This often gets in the way of getting along, of operating from a "we" perspective instead of insisting on imposing an "I" perspective. Another Intentional relationship strategy is to focus on deliberately building memories, ones that last a lifetime and become stories that get repeated through the passing years: "Remember that time when PJ spotted the mermaids in the river?" (true!--only in Florida, LOL!) and "Remember when Nana's tube became untied and she started to float away down the river and she couldn't swim fast enough to get back?" (That really happened; fortunately, my son quickly retrieved me!)

During this upcoming Labor Day weekend, why not plan some family memory-making activity? Can't get away? Why not build a campfire in the backyard? Or, have a "camp out" in the house complete with a picnic meal and "tent." (Fitted sheets draped over the backs of chairs make an easy, temporary tent.) Use your imagination. Go on a night hike. Play flashlight tag. Notice the stars while simply enjoying being together. Be intentional about creating a memorable chapter in your family's history.

Share your ideas and let us know what you created as a family.

Create family memories this weekend. Can't get away? Build a campfire in the backyard. Or, "camp out" in the house. Go on a night hike. Play flashlight tag...

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Sally: 612-203-6530 |  Susan: 541-788-8001 |  Joann: 312-576-5755 |  Gayle: 772-285-9607