If you're like me, you start out with a plan of how you're going to handle the next meltdown, the next tantrum, the next outburst.
There is so much to be said for having a PLAN and being INTENTIONAL. In both cases, it is super important and really what gets us through the majority of the hours in our day.
But then comes those moments, those "in the HEAT of the moment" moments.
You know what I'm talking about, right?
Those moments when you lose it. Those moments when it's hard to even remember the plan, much less follow it. And the last thing you want to do is be INTENTIONAL.
In these moments, your words and behavior are all driven by your emotions and only your emotions! These are the moments that we regret later, we carry with us as shame, and that really don't help stop the spin!
So, what do you do in that moment?
Here's what I have found that works best
1. STOP Talking!
Zip YOUR lip. This one can be hard. Trust me, I speak from experience. It is NOT helping to get into a big discussion. You are not gaining control over the situation. In fact, it may very well be adding to the spin.
2. Don't Ask Questions
Questions almost always fuel the spin! You know the questions, right? What were you thinking? Why did you...? Stop asking questions. The reality is, you probably already know the answers.
3. Finally, and when all else fails...Move YOURSELF OUT OF THE SITUATION!
Make sure your child is safe! As you are moving away, let them know where you are going! Then, GO!
Go in the bathroom and shut the door. Go in your pantry (where I spent a lot of time) and shut the door. Take the phone and call someone who will let you vent!
Talk to yourself if you need to...YOU can do this!
(go through your child's list of deficits, consider anniversaries, emotional age, triggers, etc...)
You must MOVE yourself through this. Time is important; your child is alone and waiting!
The GOAL is to go back out and be NEUTRAL!
Just NEUTRAL - not happy, not mad, not all rainbows and unicorns...just NEUTRAL!
When it is all said and done, if you can be NEUTRAL, your child will be more apt to follow your lead!
I Was Thinking...
You know, as I look back and forward I have to say one of the most painful pieces of the journey has been and continues to be the way other people judge our life and the choices we make in parenting our children. For a long while, it was what made me feel the most hopeless and isolated. The very people I looked to for support now questioned my every move, treated me like there was something wrong with me and, most importantly, wouldn’t help me the way I needed to be helped - the way I asked them to help me.
I have never felt so alone. I felt like I had to fight to prove my sanity all of the time. I was called controlling, impatient, angry, bossy and many other things. I endured rude and disrespectful questioning from random strangers, from family who I thought knew my heart until their questioning came and then of course “professionals” in every field. It was terrible! Needless to say, we lost friends along the way. We made difficult decisions in regards to being part of holidays and other family events. We didn’t go out in public much. We just survived. Alone.
As time passed, I began to educate them. I no longer just shut up and let them have their say. I talked about the impact of trauma, the scars that neglect and starvation have on a human being, and the symptoms of RAD that my daughter exhibited every day. The anger or tears that used to accompany my answers to their questions and comments were no longer there. A kind of acceptance began to take place and for the most part people were less likely to comment. Well, not in my presence anyway. I could breathe a little better. More time passed and for two of our daughters it is now glaringly clear to some of those people WHAT we were trying to accomplish and that we HAVE accomplished it. While our girls still have struggles related to their abandonment, our attachment is strong and secure—they have their “one and only.” For our oldest daughter, the work continues. We have come a long way and she has her “one and only” as well as she can have a “one and only.” People still question our parenting choices regarding her and, while it is amazing this questioning still continues, I won’t let it impact how I parent…I know this works!
After twelve and a half years, I now know there are so many lessons to be learned.
The reality is…if you haven’t lived with a hurt child, you cannot get it. I can now confidently say that most of the questioning and commenting – especially by family – was really rooted in concern for us. Some of it even about feeling unsure about their own parenting choices when they saw the lengths we were willing to go to help our children heal. Honestly, sometimes we couldn’t believe what we were living through—how could others, especially when they never saw the “ugly” we lived with?
Another reality is that until we believed that we had to do this differently and stop questioning ourselves, until we committed to the fact that healing meant convincing our daughters we were in it for as long as it takes and NO MATTER WHAT, our daughters wouldn’t believe it either and healing couldn’t happen. We have to believe in our power to heal!
Finally, our story speaks to the great importance of surrounding yourself with those that are living it. It is in fact the very reason I am here writing this blog. If it is up to me, there will never be another family walking this path alone.
You are not alone.
I Was Thinking...
Over twelve years ago my husband and I felt called to add to our family through adoption. With hope in our heart, we jumped through all of the hoops it takes to be an adoptive parent, always confident this was the path we were meant to follow. After working through a lot of road blocks in their region, the tragic events of 9/11 and leaving our three little boys at home, we flew to Russia twice to bring our girls home. We adopted three beautiful little girls (biological sisters) who had lived through a lot of trauma and then ended up in a very poor orphanage.
Basically the story is the same as so many others…our girls are all on the RAD spectrum and each of them have their battles with other diagnoses as well. For our oldest daughter, who came home at six years old, the struggle is most difficult. She suffers with RAD, FASD, and Sensory Processing Issues, just to name a few. It is her attachment issues that are most damaging to relationships all around her. Our two younger daughters are flourishing in their closest relationships, with only small blips now-a-days. They have been able to allow themselves a second Mom - a one and only. It has been a long, bumpy journey for all of them (us). We were advised to disrupt on our oldest daughter many times through the last eleven years, but we are very clear that our hope for her is her best chance at healing.
The abandonment our daughters suffered when they lost their mom is an injury they will carry with them forever; it is at their core. She was their hope for survival. As their mom, they relied on her to build and maintain their safety net by consistently, lovingly responding and creating a safe environment in which they could have internalized the beliefs that they were worthy of love, capable of positively impacting the world and that they had the potential to accomplish anything. Sadly, their birth mom could not do that for them and the safety net that had begun to be tied in utero was eventually lost. The loss of their net is directly responsible for creating the deficits, shame and inability to trust that they still battle today. It is not to blame that I share this part of the story; it is actually shared to help others realize what it means to be an adoptive parent—we must create a safety net for our children. That net is their hope!
As we have spent the last twelve plus years building a safety net for each one of our girls, it has become glaringly clear that while they were scared to death to trust these nets, over time the nets have allowed them to breathe more deeply, peel off some of those survival layers and even begin to realize they are worthy of our love and so much more. I have to be honest and say that it wasn’t easy and sometimes we lost our way. They spent so much of the time fighting to maintain their survival techniques. Shame and the feelings of unworthiness really sabotaged most positive experiences and our quest to balance the emotional needs of all of our children created much anxiety. We were definitely alone in our struggle. Our family and friends outside of our situation did not see our day-to-day challenges nor could they understand the absolute pain we were in much of the time. Professionals, in general, had no idea what it was like to live with a RAD kid, much less how to live with a RAD kid and help them heal.
It was about two years into our adoption that I decided I would not let any other family go through this journey alone. I was equipped more than many to “handle” this situation and it was taking every ounce of me to keep our journey headed in a positive direction. I began leading support groups, educating myself and connecting with as many adoptive parents as possible. Through the years I have walked alongside many families, sharing my time, my experience, my love and my hope. It became very clear to me that there is a kind of “formula” for creating the perfect environment for attachment to blossom, a safety net that really works. I knew in order to help more families it was important I write it down so they could begin to intentionally work towards healing--Adoptive Parent Intentional Parent: A Formula for Building and Maintaining Your Child’s Safety Net was born. It is crucial that we intentionally build a net for our adopted kids by first getting our own stuff out of the way, then educating ourselves, using tools and techniques that really work for our situation, surrounding ourselves with support and NEVER, NEVER giving up the HOPE that our child can heal.
Hope is not lost or found; hope is a choice. Making the choice to hope is brave, life-giving and takes inner strength, fortitude, faith, practice, journaling, exercise, support, understanding, truth, etc… My hope is that my book will be used as a resource to help guide parents to be more intentional about the way they parent and that it gives them tools to use in everyday moments, which will ultimately create room for life to be more…hope-filled.
Today, it is easy to see that our younger girls find it easier to feel safe, happy and hopeful. Our oldest daughter still struggles with feelings of inadequacy, self doubt, and the physiological deficits created from living in a traumatic environment. On her own she struggles to have hope for the future she dreams of. Sometimes she “borrows” my hope. Many times she totally relies on my hope and when she thinks I don’t have hope for her, it shows in her everyday relationships, choices, and love towards herself. I honestly believe our HOPE for our adopted children, the hope manifested in the net we build and maintain for however long it takes, the never-giving up-no-matter-what HOPE, is our children’s best chance at healing.
Whatever you do don’t give up—there is hope! You are your child’s best HOPE to heal.
I Was Thinking...
Just like in any challenge in life...
WE need to have a PLAN!
A PLAN THAT WORKS!
So let's sit down and
make a plan:
STEP 1 Deal with your own baggage and move it out of the way
STEP 2 Educate yourself about your child's deficits
STEP 3 Use tools and techniques that work to build a Safety Net
STEP 4 Surround yourself with support
REPEAT --FOR AS LONG AS IT Takes!