Posts Tagged ‘nature/nurture’

Planting Relationship Success

Wednesday, January 23, 2019 @ 04:01 PM
Author: admin

I took a class this weekend to learn about native plants for the garden in my new house. The most basic rule the instructor stated was to choose the right plant for the given location. Consider the weeping willow and the cactus. While each plant is lovely, they could not be more different. One requires a very wet soil; the other thrives in extremely dry conditions. Each is beautiful in its own right. But neither could do well in the other’s preferred habitat.

Yet, most of us have heard the expression, “Bloom where you are planted.” It intends to convey a willingness to live in the now and appreciate what we have at the moment instead of pining for what we don’t have. Of course, we benefit from living through a spirit of gratitude and grace but we can also dig deeper to discover a presupposition which lurks behind the expression: that we can bloom anywhere regardless of circumstances. While it makes sense to appreciate what we’ve got and to live with contentment instead dissatisfaction, sometimes we must admit that we need a new set of circumstances in which we can truly bloom.

Consider our precious and beloved children, on some level, we could describe adoption as having transplanted them from their family to our. (Although it is certainly for more complicated.) Like plants in a garden, they have unique needs which must be met. It is folly to ask a willow to thrive in a desert or the cactus to thrive in a lily pond.

In our earnestness to meld our children into our families, we can unwittingly pressure them to fit our family mold. 
We may have unconsciously asked them to be like us so that they can belong to us. How might we determine this?

Consider these questions.

Have we scrupulously considered who their biology prepared them to be? Have we provided the appropriate environment and resources so that they can bloom into their best selves?

We want to embrace and nurture and value their differences as much as we treasure the ways in which they are like us. We also want to help them to be proud of their uniqueness and to find value in these differences instead of failure and a sense of not measuring up. We must provide them with the freedom to be their true selves. This is a powerful and loving gift which allows our children to be happy and healthy.

Yes, we want to honor and respect our family traditions and patterns,AND we want to expand the family template to include our children’s natural inclinations so they’re equally valued by us and by our extended families.

Children notice what we value, what triggers our enthusiastic appreciation and what fails to generate much of our attention. If they sense that we need them to fit the family mold, they will twist themselves into knots trying to be who they think we want them to be. They’ll also absorb the negative judgment of their differences. Often, their inner voice will repeat these internalized messages. This can cause them great distress and crush them between their genuine identity and an idealized version of their parents’ fantasy child.

So, how do we accomplish this message that our children are loved and accepted for who they are so they have the freed om to pursue their dreams?

*Notice the things that naturally interest your children, especially if it differs from traditional family patterns. Provide opportunities to nurture their talent or interest.

*Stay aware of your emotional response. Keep your encouragement genuine. Remember too, that kids notice family patterns. They’re aware if they “fit” or “measure up.” They may add their own sense of failure and fault to any hints of their being a “disappointment” which they sense from their adoptive parents and extended family. Make intentional efforts to reassure that you love and accept them just as they are.

*Choose to engage in the activities to which they are drawn–even if it isn’t quite your cup of tea. Your response models mutuality and shows that you’re willing to engage in their “world.”

* Verbalize your support of their differences. When they engage in their pursuit of “off-family-pattern” activities, give them genuine, enthusiastic attention. Because you value them, be interested in what interests them. This gives them tangible “proof” of your acceptance of them. Children crave that recognition. Being seen in this way is a powerful channel to connection and validation.

*Keep an attitude of enthusiasm and humor. Your shared participation is an important thread in weaving a bond of love and mutual respect. On the other hand, coming across as bored or annoyed undermines your relationship and conveys a message that says their place in the family depends on doing it the traditional way.

Imagine how your family might benefit from this commitment to one another. How will you begin this practice today?

Adoption, Fear and the REAL Factor, Part 3

Wednesday, November 2, 2016 @ 01:11 PM
Author: admin

Adoption, Fear and the REAL Factor, Part 3 frightened child..8ccd54c7-ec88-45df-bc38-6826706e85e4In recent posts, we’ve gotten REAL about relationships and adoption complexity. To continue this conversation, let’s examine how fear, self-doubt and rivalry can undermine us, color our thoughts on adoption, on permanency and on beliefs.

Without doubt, we have a fierce love for our children. We strive to be the best parents possible. Because we understand that adoption is complex, we accept the need to develop a healthy adoption-attuned awareness. This commits us to do everything in our power to become adequately educated and sensitive to the needs of adoption. We accept that we must go the extra distance.

Adoption, Fear and the REAL Factor, Part 3, DNA Real factorWe recognize that birth family is a REAL presence in our children. It exists in their DNA, their psyche and their hearts even when they are not physically in touch. We understand that biology influences their beliefs, self-image and their behavior. (Betty Jean Lifton, a pioneer in adoption calls this presence the “Ghost Kingdom”–the great if onlys or what ifs which underlie every adoption. Birth and adoptive parents and adoptees wonder about alternate realities: What if I’d been able to raise my child? What if we’d conceived a child? What if I lived with my birth mother?)

These “ghost” relationships can challenge us in many ways. Sometimes they can blossom into fears. Fears that we aren’t good enough parents. Fears that our child might choose to leave us in the dust when they reach eighteen. Fears that our children might be better off with their birth mother, especially if their race or culture differs from our own. Fears that we have not embraced their cultural or racial roots adequately. Fears that we are falling short or doing it wrong  in adoption. Fear is an intimidating and dangerous adversary.

Adoption, Fear and the REAL Factor, Part 3.multiracial familyIn response to a recent article written by a transracial adoptee which I shared on the GIFT Family Services Facebook page, a subscriber** commented, “Sometimes it’s hard for me to hear the experiences of children in my children’s situation. But in order to love more completely, I need to take it in and be receptive and then open to change within myself.” It requires courage to face our shortcomings, to see our need to grow or learn so we can do better.

Adoption, Fear and the REAL Factor, Part 3Fear lies to us, seeds mistrust, throws us off balance, and undercuts our relationships. We must learn to recognize fear as the dissembling factor that it is. When fear arrives, first, perform a gut check; sometimes fear is actually our subconscious messaging us that we are lying to ourselves or are resisting action that needs to be taken.

This requires courage because admitting our own shortcomings is unpleasant. Plus, once we allow ourselves to see we have unfinished work, we can no longer live in the fantasy of denial. We must take the necessary action, make the change, express the apology, offer forgiveness, etc. or we will continue to tumble in the undertow of fear.

Once we’ve determined we are living in our integrity, we must move on. Leave fear in the dust and get on with the REAL business of loving and living, of facing the hard stuff and savoring the good stuff. Strive to have routine conversations within the family that address these REAL issues and the power that fear wields. Fear can drive an adrenalin-fueled challenge to change or grow. Or, it can hurl a tidal wave that drowns us. We determine which.

Adoption, Fear and the REAL Factor, Part 3, book Dark, dark caveSubscribers to this blog know I believe general-interest books offer an excellent gateway to important adoption-connected conversations. Consider this delightful picture book, A Dark, Dark Cave., written by Eric Hoffman and illustrated by Corey R. Tabor.  It  follows two children and their dog while they explore. They aim a flashlight into the abyss. Will they respond with excitement or fear when braving the darkness? Will they choose to enter the cave? Yes! An adventure of sight, sound and emotion begins as they explore. They cautiously, bravely continue and encounter a variety of surprises–bats, lizards, sparkling crystals. Until …

Imagine the potential discussions it might spark when we ask our kids the kind of things they might fear in the dark. How might you gently nudge the conversation towards adoption? How might this discussion benefit the entire family? Read my entire review on Writing to Connect.

**Used with permission