I have to tell you, I have about had it!
Every day another story of a child or a family hurt because no one has prepared them. It is not just the child that is hurting, it is the whole family unit. (adoptive, foster, kinship, grand, etc) It just makes me so frustrated!
Yes, I know there is some support, but it is scattered at best! And lack of support and education is NOT the only problem. Families report over and over that important information was not shared with them in regards to their child's journey, they feel manipulated and unprepared. Reality is that even if these families are finding some kind of help, they ARE UNPREPARED; they don't even have all the information they need to meet their child's needs. This happens in International Adoption extensively and it certainly isn't okay, but there are many variables that lend itself to information not making it into the right hands. BUT what I really don't understand is how can this happen in the United States - in this information age? Something is VERY wrong!
I have met many, many loving, kind, giving people - who felt called to help make sure every child has a family - and, my friends, the stories they tell are unthinkable. Many feel hopeless and helpless. They signed on to assist their counties and countries in raising up these children, but were left to manage all alone without education support and the information they needed to help their child heal. Many carry the pain of feeling like they failed their child over and over again. Their families are in shambles as a result of years of trauma. They look at their child's struggles later in life as something that could have been avoided if they only knew what to do. Clearly, they shouldn't - they did their best, but they are good people who are now hurt people.
Here's the thing. We have to start talking about this. Loudly and clearly. Start demanding change. Agencies, counties, law makers all have to know that placing a child in a family just isn't enough - they can't just place a child and wipe their hands of it. Just tell themselves that all is right with the world. A band-aid is only going to help for a very short while. If we are going to help children heal, if we are going to support families in flourishing, there is a WHOLE LOT MORE to the puzzle.
My husband Pat and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary this past Saturday...and it's always been, Until Death Do Us Part, unless this crazy journey of parenting our 6 children gets us first!
Yes, I can joke about it now. but seriously through the years, the high stress, emotionally charged journey of raising hurt children has definitely pushed the vow we made to each other. Triangulation is real, especially when you are dealing with children who are in survival! Along with that, studies are showing more and more that children who have lost a mom have a harder time making that connection again which results in Mom experiencing hard behaviors that Dad may not even see. It can be a very tough way to live and it takes it's toll on your closest relationships.
Many marriages suffer from the emotional toll and many suffer divorce. So sad. Don't let the hurt and pain your child has endured create hurt and pain for you. Stay very clear on what is yours and what is theirs. Fight to focus on the simple things; it makes the difference. Greet each other first, touch is an important way to stay connected. Surprise one another. Root for each other. Don't expect your spouse to be a mind reader. Know that you see and experience things differently and that it is normal, not a sign that either one doesn't care. Express your emotions to one another, even if there isn't a fix in the moment, and listen without judgment.
It is so important to be as intentional about your intimate relationships as you are about parenting your child. Meet EVERYONE where they are at. Your relationship with your spouse, your family and your friends is important in fueling you and in helping you hang onto who you TRULY are, which ultimately makes you a better parent. Nurture those relationships. Know and acknowledge the good and the bad. Forgive. Communicate Bravely. Forgive again if necessary. Stay true to you and speak your truth. Start fresh every day. Stand together as a United Front - no matter what!
This is a new day so START NOW - having people to walk this journey with is key!
Just a mini rant-
How long must this go on? So many adopted and foster children and their families not getting the kind of support they need. Generations of children living with and passing on the impacts of trauma...no one talks about it. Families don't get educated. It's swept under the rug and all the while children are being born into the situation over and over again.
I was at a meeting the other night that had nothing to do with adoption or fostering - or with children at all for that matter. After the meeting closed, someone asked me what I do and I answered that I work with families and that I specialize in working with adoptive and foster families. Well let me tell you...the flood gates opened. All four women standing there lit into stories of friends and relatives who were adoptive parents with adult children who were still struggling and unfortunately those adult children were having babies as well. These women are all 15 to 20 years older than myself, which makes the adoptees they are talking about in their 40's and 50's. Here's the thing that bothered me...sure back 20 and 30 years ago we did not understand the neurology of it all. We didn't know what trauma did to a child's brain. So I get it in that case, but I am still hearing the same stories NOW.
I am contacted by families all the time who are still dealing with the same stuff! Families who are adopting children of adopted/abandoned adults. Generational attachment issues run rampant in our social service system. Families who are still not being prepared and educated about how to help their children heal. Families out there feeling alone and hopeless because there is no support. Families not talking about their journey because they don't understand that a lot of it is part of the process and not their failure as parents. Families whose members are being raked over the coals because of false allegations being believed because courts are uneducated. Families who can't send their kids to school because educators don't understand the implications of trauma and look at the parent to blame. Repeat stories of what these women were telling.
It just got me thinking...What is the hold up? Why are things not changing? If families were told the truth of most older child adoptions or foster care situations, I wonder how many would proceed. That would mean less money for the big agencies. Is that the problem, is this financially motivated? I have met with so many families that are dealing with the whole reunification concept. These foster families are caring for children who have been put through the ringer within their biological care giving system and yet are made to return to that relationship over and over again. Return to a situation where it is clear that Mom doesn't have the skills and is probably a product of generational attachment issues herself. Why are we perpetuating this phenomenon? Is it really cheaper to try to reunite every family? Why? Is it lack of knowledge? Why? We know better now. We need to do better. Do better by these children and the families who are trying to love them!
It just made me so sad to realize the generations of pain and struggle that adopted and foster children and their families have known. And what hit me even harder was that, unfortunately, it still continues on today. Okay, rant over!
Tomorrow, I will press on...Sharing my story in hopes that no one feels alone on this journey again. It is my passion and commitment to continue Educating, Empowering and Filling Families with Hope! We will get there...together!
Remember...you are NOT alone
My most commonly asked question...How long will we have to do IT this way?
My answer for you...this way has to become THE way. It has to become your new normal! Our children are Adopted, Fostered, Step, Kinship - there's no changing that. It is a part of who they are. For many, it is just a small little piece of their puzzle, but for many it constitutes much of the puzzle. The grief and loss and impacts of trauma daily color self esteem, choices made, and beliefs held.
My advice ...know that the loss of a primary attachment figure is devastating. The reason for that loss, deciphered by a child, are commonly misunderstood by that child as their fault. Those kinds of beliefs run deep and are very difficult to undo. And in reality, that relationship (good or not good) ultimately sets the tone for all future relationships.
STOP looking for it to be over and remember that your goal is for as long as it takes and no matter what. Our children will always have lost that relationship.
I think one of the most misunderstood remnants of trauma that families talk to me about is rooted in real issues with memory.
Okay...so here's an instance in which you will ALL be better off (parent & child) when you can meet your child right where he is at. It all begins at the Hippocampus, the region in the brain where short-term memories are consolidated into long term memories. Research after research shows that damage to the Hippocampus can affect a person's ability to learn new information and to maintain it (memory) and, that when this trauma happens during childhood, it results in severe effects.
I call this the Swiss Cheese Effect. (I'm a very visual person) So visualize this with me...a big chunk of Swiss cheese. Not the cheap little blocks from the dairy section at your local grocery store, but the cheeses found in the specialty section - the REAL Swiss cheese. It has parts that are whole and solid, but it also has areas where there are big holes. I mean you can stick your finger right through a good piece of Swiss. To me, this visualization is a good representation of your child's Hippocampus after having lived in trauma (remember they have all lost their primary attachment figure so that qualifies as trauma).
Here's what happens...during a stressful time, our Limbic System calls for a fight or flight response to help us handle things. One of the tools it uses is the release of Cortisol. But normally after the stressor is gone, the Cortisol would return to normal levels. However, in especially traumatic situations excess Cortisol is released into the body. This release or flooding has negative effects on the brain, damaging the neurons in the Hippocampus...creating that Swiss Cheese Effect. Now, I want to specify that my visual for you is not literal, but figurative. The Hippocampus does not have holes in it per se; its neurons were damaged, meaning its function is like Swiss cheese. Sometimes the neurons connect and lots of times they don't...like they are not there.
So let's apply your new found knowledge to your child. Does your child have a hard time following directions, applying the rules to new situations, finding things, learning? Does it feel defiant or manipulative? In other words, do you ever think if he would just try harder he could do it or she just did that two days ago she is being defiant by not doing it correctly now. It is so crucial that as Intentional Parents you understand that this is NOT defiance in action...this IS deficit! This is about memory; you need to do it differently!
As parents, you can add to the negative and scary spin of the deficit by misunderstanding the deficit as defiance or you can stop the spin, create healing, and help your family flourish by meeting him right where he is at. It is real...many of our children do not have the ability to; remember the directions, where they put things, how then applies to now, make good choices, and so much more. So, be the Safety Net...the place where your child is most understood, which converts to most valued, which ultimately converts to healing.
Your family CAN flourish if you are Intentional Parents!
In honor of ALL Mothers...
A Mother's Love is endless, all encompassing and "an unrivaled force of nature" - no other relationship can compare. It begins before we see the face of our child and lasts long after we are gone. It is powerful beyond compare and how we express it leaves an impact for life.
I am a studier of mothers. The decisions they make and the way they love can literally make or break a child. Now, that is a POWERFUL job.
Mothers that truly understand their job are patient, unwavering, discerning, protectors who communicate that love, both verbally and non-verbally. Their children not only hear their love, they feel their love, and see their love. Children that know that kind of love are destined for great things!
There are lots of ways to be a mother; Adoptive, Biological, Foster, Step, Kinship, Grand, and lots of other variations. They are all precious, but not all exactly the same in experience, yet the powerful impact is still at play!
Mothers who try to give their love to children who have lost a mother face hurdles that none of us want to believe could exist in the world of any child. The call to be patient, unwavering, discerning and protective is magnified by one million percent. They have to undo old beliefs and understandings their children have already integrated into their core. Some of these children have never heard, felt, or seen real love before and don't have the capacity to respond to it or accept it.
Loving children who have lost mother can be very painful. But these incredible mothers endure and continue to give love endlessly and be all encompassing with that love. They are an unrivaled force of nature as they fight for their children over and over again, protect their children and, most importantly, never give up on their children. It will take time, but their children will not only hear their love, they will feel their love, and see their love. And that kind of love ensures that they will be destined for great things!
I want to support you all in celebrating the amazing job you do, even if it isn't a happy day where everyone can show their appreciation for you. The truth is, whether those around you are able to express it or not, you deserve praise and adoration!
Today, don't question yourself, don't look back with regrets; you are doing the best you can and give yourself time to just be proud of all the good you do. You are the life-source of this planet. You are the foundation that generations stand on. You are a healer. You are hope for the hopeless. You are...a MOTHER!
Hugs to you all!
Remember the old saying, "Don't judge a book by it's cover"? Boy does this ever apply to our hurt children!
I was doing some one-on-one coaching with a client the other day and was reminded of just how confusing it can be to deal with a child who goes in and out of his survival self at any given moment. This child (we'll call him John) presented as loud, active, and verbally disrespectful to Mom. He called her names, spit on her, and told her she was stupid repeatedly. He came across as a very tough and controlling child.
The name of this book could have been something like...
I Am Mean and Aggressive So Don't Get In My Way.
However, as we continued to work together John's behavior turned into being clingy and he began whining. His voice got quieter and he began to call her Mommy. We watched him transform from tough guy to scared guy in a matter of an hour or so. He eventually was hard to console because he was so upset. Mom finally was able to comfort him and he was better, but stayed very close to her until I left.
The inside of that book really told such a different story than the cover.
WOW...the pages of this book were filled with anxiety and fear. It was clear that his past had scarred him. It was clear that he didn't understand my presence there and that it could mean all sorts of things: moving, loss, and another broken heart. It was so sad. He felt so vulnerable.
The name of the book really was...I am Afraid. I am Not Sure my Mom Will Protect Me. I am Not Sure I am Worthy of Being Protected. I Will Have To Do It Myself.
SO many times we miss what is really going on in the moment. We are so used to responding directly to the input we get from people, the environment, or technology. In our case, we can't do it that way anymore.
Our kiddos need us to be intentional about how we see and hear them, parent them, and meet them every day.
Words are often not what they mean, looks and gestures are created within anxiety, and choices and behaviors are shrouded by the impact of trauma and other diagnoses. Knowing your whole child - his story, his culture, his loses, his diagnoses, his missed stages, his real fears and his gifts and talents - allows you to meet him where he is REALLY at. It allows us to look behind the cover of the book into the pages which gives us a better understanding of the moment and how we can be more healing in the way we react in any given moment.
Remember to be intentional, friends. It makes all the difference in the world!