As I spoke to some adoptive parents this past weekend, I knew it was going to be important for me to say this in a bigger way to everyone ...I know that life can be scary sometimes - both literally and figuratively - but it is important to not let scared equal stuck!
There is always a way to change your life so that you feel empowered, so that you feel in control, so that you can say I AM HAPPY! Now, what you didn't see me write or hear me say is that you can change your life to be PERFECT (there's no such thing here on this planet). However, I know that as long as we are moving forward in the direction we choose...the fear cannot control our happiness!
So the question today is...what step do you need to take to keep from being stuck? How will you begin to move forward? It could be anything from making that phone call and reaching out to taking a class to learn a new tool, to asking for help from that person that gets it.
You can do this. Yes, it might be scary. It might not work and you will have to try again, the other person might not respond exactly how you'd liked or it may take talking to many before you find who can really help...but you ARE NOT STUCK...you are moving forward. YOU ARE IN CONTROL of your life, NOT FEAR or WORRY!
HERE'S THE KEY...in the midst of moving forward you are able to see and experience ALL the GOOD in your life. It IS there, it's just that when we are stuck it is hard to see. Keep moving, taking risks, trying new things....don't let scared equal stuck!
You and your family deserve a magnificent life...do what it takes to get it!
Remember...you are NOT alone!
My youngest turned 16 this week. Wow, this year my boys will turn 16, 17 and 20.
First I think...wow I made it! I have to tell you that they are some of the finest young men I know. (I realize I am their Mom, but people tell me this all of the time.) Each of my boys are the most compassionate people you will meet. They are not afraid to lend a hand to those in need, especially to those they don't even know. They have huge hearts. The empathy they live is awesome. They are NOT tainted by the craziness that was our life.
Then I look back and think about one of the biggest worries I had along the way. I really worried that all the chaos and hard behaviors we dealt with constantly would have a negative effect on my bio kids. I was concerned that they would become really angry people or that as adults they would hate me. Our path was VERY rocky!
I have talked to SO many other parents that have had this same worry. So many tears have been shed. I want to say...don't fear. Stay true to who you are. Believe you are a GREAT parent. Teach your children that the hard behaviors and words are what comes when a child loses their mom. I often told my boys that a lot of what happened wasn't acceptable, but it was understandable.
I can't tell you how much control you have over how this all plays out. Your coping mecahnisms need to be in place, your ability to be neutral is essential and your choice to forgive and start fresh are gifts you can give to ALL of your children.
Yes, this can sometimes be a very difficult job. It can be filled with chaos and frustrating behavior. It is ultimately a fight to give our adopted children what our biological children already have...a strong secure attachment. In the mean time, that secure attachment we have with our bio children WILL be ENOUGH!
It’s always a challenge to try something new. That was confirmed to me again on my trip home from Kansas City.
It is going to be a great day! Today, I get the opportunity to work with my coaching mentor. WAIT...NO, I don't get to, I am making the choice to work with my mentor who is guiding me to be a better, more effective coach.
I have decided to stop settling - I desire a shift and I am going to do whatever I need to do to make it happen.(And I have to tell you that this is A LOT out of my comfort zone.) We, as women and mothers, are conditioned to put ourselves last., as if sacrificing our comfort, desires and goals somehow makes us BETTER & STRONGER women and mothers. What a mistake!
I have to tell you...learning tools and techniques that effectively move me towards the life I want to live makes me stronger. Being shown the path that has already been blazed by someone who has walked my journey, makes me stronger. Believing I am totally understood, makes me stronger. Knowing I am not alone, makes me stronger. Gaining new clarity on my own situation, makes me stronger.
Yes, I was hesitant about letting my armor down and opening up. My doubts about myself lie deep behind the walls I have built to protect them from being seen by others...I mean, after all, if I have doubts I am not strong, right? Reality is, those doubts were not hidden that far out of the way - they were real stumbling blocks on the path to the life I wanted.
The reason that I am so excited today...The reason I drove 7 hours instead of flying to save money... The reason I put stuff on the garage sale site and babysat to earn more money...The reason I made extra meals and put them in the freezer for my family...The reason I am pushing myself out of my comfortable little box is because I know that I am meant for more! I need to change my beliefs and attitudes of what a good mom is and of what strong means. I need to get out of my own way and Make the Change I want in my world!
Honestly, I have never felt this strong. And what I find the funniest is that I thought being strong meant you should be able to handle it on your own - when in fact choosing to ask for support and to be around like-minded people has made me feel like the true Wonder Woman. A win for me, a win for my family and a win for my world!
So...my question for you is are you settling or are you doing whatever it takes to make the change you want in your world? I challenge you to find ways to make it happen. Have a vision and go for it! I want you to feel like Wonder Woman too!
When life gets challenging, many find themselves looking backwards and hanging on to the way things used to be. Wanting now to be like then. Stuck in the mindset that this hurdle they are facing makes their now BAD or HARD and that before it was all EASY and HAPPY.
Well, for lots of families life holds a lot of happy, but also many many challenges. Every day, every month, you are faced with struggle and sadness - financial, relationship, sickness, grief, loss, job, and many others. And at the time these struggles pose challenges that take great fortitude and commitment to overcome. As a matter of fact, many times you don't know how you will make it through.
Your BEFORE wasn't always that EASY or PERFECT. As you face the challenge of today, don't fool yourselves into believing looking backwards is the BEST CHOICE. It's time to turn around and move onward, in the direction of the future.
Looking forward, deciding what you have the control to change and making a plan to meet your new normal is how you make it through the tough times. It is how you get UNSTUCK. You need to start concentrating on making the future into the life you want.
It is time to start embracing the now and making it doable! Equipping yourself to manage the challenges rather than being in denial that they exist or that you have nothing to say over the matter. Yes, you might have to make some changes, you might have to do things differently and you may have to learn some new tools, but this is your life and the reality is that you are responsible for your own happiness.
Find someone that gets it and soak in what they have to share. Be open to learning and using new tools that work specifically for your challenge. Plant the seeds of what you want your tomorrow to be. Speak positively about your now. Visualize what tomorrow could be and move towards that!
You are right; your life is not what it was before...but before wasn't perfect either. Don't waste one more minute on looking backward; it is time to make NOW count!
I am always being asked what to do next, what will help us make a difference in our live's as adoptive or foster parents? My answer always starts with...Intentionally Build a Safety Net for your child. There are multiple ways in which we do that and I think one of the most foundational ways is when we meet them right where THEY are at.
Our children come to us with so much life and loss behind them. Among other things, they've missed developmental milestones and trauma's impacts have taken hold. They have had to adapt and survive. There is so much behind the cover of the book that is their life story.
As I continue to answer my question, I urge you and those that have asked it before to realize that it seems like we know this story, like we have read this book before and that it seems like we know the ending. Here's the BIG part - it might look the same, but it is imperative that you remember to never judge the pages of the book by it's cover. It is HUGELY important that we check our expectations and read the book with an open mind and heart...even memorizing each page.
Meeting your child right where he/she is at increases your child's successes in life and ultimately in relationships. Start by understanding that his chronological age and emotional age are NOT the same. He may look 13, but that does not mean he is prepared to emotionally handle all that entails (remember...book - cover). Do you see your child sabotage goodness in his life? How about problems making friends, or doing chores or taking care of toys/things? What if emotionally that 13 year old really can only deal with life at about his 6 year old self? What if your seven year old child is emotionally only able to manage at 3? What if your 3 year old is still trying to master the milestones of infancy?
Remember my friends, your child's story entails being a survivor. Survivors can look okay on the outside, but they are "getting by" for the moment. It is what it is costing them, on the inside, each time they have to survive that gets in the way of healing. That gets in the way of his ability to do positive, loving and trusting relationships.
Many misinterpret survival behavior as defiance. Many misinterpret their child's emotional inability to manage a moment, finish a job, do a chore, relate to a person, be careful with an item, interpret a nuance, etc., as defiance, manipulation or, even worse, a lack of conscience or respect.
I once had a client who was so frustrated with her twelve year old daughter. She really felt like when her child didn't get her chore done the right way, in a timely fashion without being reminded, she was being disrespectful and showed she didn't really love her. (Been there done that - I get it!) Now, my response usually goes something like..."Would you ask a 3 year old to complete that job the right way every time, in a timely fashion without you asking? Seems ludicrous when you put it like that - doesn't it? Her daughter was SO emotionally 3! She handled most emotional situations from a 3 year old perspective - especially within her relationship with her Mom.
Meet your child at his emotional age as well as his chronological age...and most of the time in that order!
I want to challenge you to start today and every day by remembering to read every word on every page. Don't assume or paraphrase. Don't look for the ending to be like someone else's ending. When we look with clarity at our child's pages, we can meet them where they are at, which allows us to build them the Safety Net they've lost. From that net comes trust, self-worth, regulation, and a belief that I am worthy of goodness...from the net comes healing!
I was very lucky I had great parents. Were they perfect? No, they were human. So they had their hurdles and challenges just like the rest of us, but what made them such great parents was that we knew without a shadow of a doubt how important we were in the world. In their world, but also the larger world. We knew that we could do anything we put our minds to. They taught us that there was always a way.
Now I know that is called having a sense of Agency. Typically, we begin to develop it early in life - the first 3 years. And then it is built on during our childhood. When the adults who are supposed to be responsible for your survival consistently meet your needs and even know what you need before you have to ask and when life feels safe and consistent, we move through developmental stages that allow us to understand that we can make a positive impact on the world, that we are capable of great things, that we can influence our lives. It is also the basis for being able to take responsibility for our behaviors and choices.
The sense of Agency is essential for you to feel in control of your life - to believe in your ability to influence your own thoughts and behavior, and have faith in your ability to handle a wide range of tasks or situations (do anything). Having a sense of Agency influences your stability as a single person; it gives you the capacity to be emotionally stable, yet resilient or flexible, in the face of challenges in life.
My parents both modeled Agency, but I think my Dad's sense of Agency was strongest. He always told us that there is a way to do or get anything you want, you have to keep trying until you succeed. He also showed us. He was a hard worker, a blue collar laborer We didn't have much money; however, he always found a way for us to travel, to have awesome experiences and for some toys he desired along the way. Oh and by the way...he always paid cash. He had a knack for working out plan A, B, and C and working those plans, or more, until one of them got him what or where he wanted. Yes, he was a hard worker, but it was more than that...it was a belief he held at his core. A mindset. A way of looking at life. People with a strong sense of Agency don't give up - they keep trying until they find a way.
So many of our adopted and foster kids take a long time to have that sense of Agency. A lot of healing has to happen. A lot of modeling and teaching. We have to provide that consistent safe environment where we successfully provide for their needs even before they ask. Many of our children tend to quit when it gets hard or don't even try to begin with. They don't try new things. We often see our children choose to go without instead of "fight" for what they really want. They don't understand or believe that people will care or listen, that they can make a difference and do great things.
My middle daughter, who has been home for almost 15 years, has really begun to have a VERY strong sense of Agency. She is 18 and is basically running her own business. I am in awe of the "I can do anything" attitude she has acquired. Don't get me wrong...there is NOTHING pretentious about it. She is just doing her thing and being truly happy. When a person has a strong sense of Agency, they feel like they have control over their lives...and let's face it, that feels good! She has changed a lot. No more sabotage. No more chameleon behavior. No more blaming and lying. No more mistrust. She is literally glowing! Makes a Mom's tired-old-worn-out-heart literally SING WITH JOY!
You can be witness to the same. Model this kind of thought process and action plan in your own life. Commit to be in it for the long haul, be intentional about creating a safe and secure life for your child - no matter what. Be consistent. Make sure you show and tell your kids how important they are in the world - in your world, but also the larger world. Remind them over and over and over some more that they can do anything they put their minds to. Be the bridge that assures your children of this success until they can do it on their own. Show them that there is always a way!
Today I was thinking about “getting through” the rough times. Things at my house have settled down a bit as almost 15 years have passed now. But it hasn’t been so long that I can’t remember those days when I thought I might not make it…or someone in my house might not make it. (if you know what I mean – wink, wink) Honestly, there were days, well months, okay…years when the challenges were choking the life out of me. I could say, I am not sure how I made it, but I have done a lot of looking back and I have no doubt about how I made it…and the NUMBER ONE thing I chose to do was to start each day with a CLEAN SLATE.
Yes, there were lots of days when it was much easier said than done; however, the choice was always there and I knew it was key in our survival! Did you catch that…starting over each day, each hour or even each minute IS a choice! A choice that can save your sanity, your relationship with your child and your ability to have hope for the future.
Here are some "starting fresh" tips…
Getting through the rough times can be a daunting task. You CAN do this. You don’t have to be perfect at it. Your child doesn’t have to heal overnight. You both have this great opportunity…start each day on a new slate. Give yourself the gift, and give the same gift to your child. The number one tool to use in the rough times…Start New as often as needed!