I was thinking…
If I were to write a manual that arrived along with every adopted child I think the first thing I would list under operating instructions would be:
1. There is more, in every moment, then what you see on the surface – DIG DEEP!
It seems like that is a given, I know, but it is a very hard thing to do. It needs to be SO intentional! What I know FOR SURE is that there are more piece every puzzle. With any given hard behavior, or pout, or when something is stolen, there are angles that need to be uncovered before we can really deal with the causation and work to change the behavior.
Let me try to put all the pieces of one puzzle on a time line for you. Some of them raised flags at the time they happened but I didn’t put it all together until the final blow up!
Wearing zip up sweatshirt even when it was hot. Got really mad when told to take it off. Stomped and slumped. Big
Sighs and eye rolls.
Kept sitting wrapped up in a ball.
Found wearing siblings tank top as it was sticking out under other shirt. Took it without asking.
Sibling asked for it back. Sibling upset. Finding more things have disappeared.
Lies to cover it…I don’t have a tank top on, It is mine, I didn’t think you wanted it. Snotty attitude. Rolling of eyes.
Slamming things. Walking away when people are speaking to her.
Stuff is really starting to spin and it is beginning to effect the whole household.
Caught taking baggies of left-over food and putting it in her shirt. When told to put food back…I don’t have any food, I didn’t take anything, I could see the baggies sticking out of her shirt.
Took more clothes of sibling. Had a bra on that was sibs. Denied it. Said it was hers. Very clearly not hers.
Accused sibs of stealing hers. (umm they are NO where near the same size) This goes on and on and on.
Okay so I think that is enough of the story to help illustrate my point! (there were more details but...) Many of you have probably experienced these kinds of days!
First let’s look at what was happening in the moment:Stomping
Lots of lying
More eye rolling
Accusations about others
And much more!
Now we need to DIG DEEP! Because I know there is always more to the story then just the surface I am committed to figure this out. There is no reason for this child to steal food or clothing – she has plenty of both. I ask the question to myself…Is this Deficit or Defiance?
This child has deficits…some of which are the inability to ask for what she needs and to trust that others will meet her needs. Especially in times of high anxiety she is unregulated and her compulsiveness is beyond her ability to control. She has irrational beliefs about others and really has a very difficult time believing she is worthy of goodness. So, we look at the whole picture to find out the causation.
Are you ready?
On Monday her laundry had been done and she didn’t get a couple things back (you know how that goes-just a mistake) and those things included her bras. (They had gotten done and hung on a rack and forgotten) Yep, that is what caused all of the chaos!
Tuesday- she used the sweatshirt to cover it up rather then ask.
Wednesday-wore the tank top in place of her bra rather then ask for hers. Thursday- took sibs bra rather then ask for hers.
Three days of her going to survival mode which included totally gross behavior, accusations, hurtful words and behaviors because she couldn’t ask for her laundry!
The reality is that it took me 2.5 days to figure it out, but, because we figured it out we could all have more empathy. This was not just defiant behavior this was deficit. Even her sibs could be empathetic when they understood where it all came from! (disclaimer- we talk about our deficits all of the time. Everyone in my family is aware of what losing your primary attachment figure and living in trauma can do to a person. So that helps.)
This kind of work promotes healing!
Yes, I wish I would have received a manual in the beginning telling me how to do this – it would have saved a lot of pain and hardship for all of us, but I didn’t. I am doing it now and teaching others, that is what matters!
Dig Deep My Friends, Dig Deep!
I Was Thinking…
One of the first few knots of the net that REALLY needs to be “tied” is the knot that is about creating a world for our children that is the size they can really handle. A world in which they can be most SUCCESSFUL!
In our case, we had given our daughters chores based on their chronological age and the abilities we “knew” they had. Our oldest really had a hard time. The problem was that those chores really caused a lot of problems. Big. Huge. Problems. She really had a hard time to being able to run with other kids her age and not end up either GETTING HURT or BREAKING A RULE or two or three or four! Many times in situations where she was on her own with other children she would either be a LONER or be BOSSY and AGGRESSIVE. Important relationships were being negatively affected. We were CONFUSED and MAD because it often felt purposeful. We were asked to pull her out of classes and sports, she was getting injured and putting herself in dangerous situations; it was a nightmare! As a matter of fact, we were even advised to disrupt our adoption. Worst of all, her self-esteem was suffering terribly. The more she failed the worse things got – a vicious circle of her old beliefs and deficits was set in motion!
It was time to do it differently! I remember distinctly the day I really fully embraced this new more intentional way to parent my daughter. The day I really took the risk and met her where she was. She had been invited to an overnight girl birthday party. She said she wanted to attend. However, behavior kicked in big time! She sabotaged going to the event in any way she could. It finally hit me…this is too big for her. I turned it over and over in my mind. It was an event that any mom would want for her daughter to be a part of. It was an event that was appropriate for her chronological age. “All” of the girls in our group of friends were going.
With all of this going on in my mind, I decided to follow my gut. I called her to our porch and as gently but confidently as I could I explained that she was NOT going to go to the party. I told her that it was my job to keep her safe and healthy and that this party would not be either of those things for her. I braced myself for her reply. She looked at me and asked me to repeat what I had said. I repeated it word for word. Her hands released their tight grip they had had on the rail. Then, she breathed a HUGE sigh of relief! Her shoulders dropped inches in relaxation. Her face softened. Then, she asked if she could go and play. Behavior went back to a low rumble, which was our status quo. It was over. The spin really slowed! This was TOO big for her. I finally got it! I didn’t put her into a situation in which she couldn’t be successful. This was a HUGE shift for us.
As Intentional Parents, we must make the shift. Pull our child’s world in to the size he can handle. Do “it” differently if that is what it takes. Make it the size in which he can SHINE. This shift will create healing across the board!
Do You Have a Plan?
I Was Thinking…
To be an Intentional Parent means you have a plan~
Parenting our adopted kids can be so counter-intuitive that we question ourselves and our techniques. Things that worked with our biological kids or kids we used to care for just don’t seem to work with our adopted kids—sometimes nothing seems to work at all. As parents, it can leave us feeling so lost and out-of-control. We can’t just settle. It’s too risky. We have to believe that we can make a difference and having a plan gives us a way to do that.
The reality is we can muddle through, but at what cost??
-Perhaps our marriage is constantly being tested by triangulation and miscommunication.
-We live filled with constant feelings of anger, sadness, hopelessness that eat at us and are reflected in our every breath.
-Our adopted/foster children remain stuck, just spinning in their anxiety creating more havoc and less healing.
-Constant concern for our bio children and the consequences that our choice to adopt will have on them.
-Our own stress and anxiety and the effect it has on us in our daily lives (jobs, relationships, family, personal health).
A broken attachment takes years and years to heal—the longer we wait to truly be effective the longer it will take to heal.
A plan allows us to know we are able to have some impact on the direction in which our lives are going.
When we are not sure how to proceed or it feels like there isn’t much we can do to help the situation or there is no hope…a plan can help us measure the positive impact we can have on our children’s progress. The healing process of a child who has lived through trauma and abandonment is dependent on the creation of an environment where attachment can happen—one that is consistent, safe and nurturing.
Although we use these words commonly in regards to the raising of children, the hurdle for us is to know how they apply to a child who has been abandoned, neglected and abused. In many cases, our children don’t know how to live in an environment defined as safe, nurturing and consistent so they create situations that sabotage its success. It is essential we continue to find ways to create that environment - NO MATTER WHAT! Without a plan that includes education, day-to-day techniques, reframing and support, families usually find themselves living in a chaotic situation feeling stuck and miserable.
One of my motivations in creating Hope Connections was the ability to support more families in the creation and facilitation of a plan so they could help their child heal. I really believe of all the treatments and drugs available out there WE are our child’s best chance at healing!