I was thinking the other day about our long journey. How so many things have changed. Life has gotten so much easier and so much more peaceful. It is not without hurdles, but healing has really happened! I was thinking about the crucial ingredients to these past 15 years of healing. One of the most important ingredients is the whole concept of proving to our daughters that we will stay in it no matter what and for as long as it takes. They (most of the time now) finally can believe that they are worthy, that we are here for always and no matter what, and that nothing is going to change. That belief is not just in their head, but also at their core!
Fifteen years is a LONG time. And it isn't over - there's still more work to be done!
SO the real question is how do you Keep On Keepin' On? The answer is - SUPPORT!
At the beginning, we really had none! Our friends didn't get it, they moved on. Our families thought we were nuts, they moved back! Doctors and other professionals could not support us because they did not understand the implications of trauma. Our church family tried, but didn't have the tools.
I know what it is like to FEEL ALONE in all of this!
I finally started support groups through our adoption agency and even though I was the leader, it was very healing to be a part of it myself. I started seeking out educational workshops being taught especially by professionals who also had adopted children. I dug until I found people I could talk to that were living it. It made me feel LESS CRAZY, MORE IN CONTROL of my own life and LIKE THERE WAS HOPE!
I UNDERSTOOD the value of support so I went on to lead support groups for 12 of our 15 years and the power of support in these groups is amazing! Moms and Dads fighting to preserve their families, to help their children heal, to keep their marriages together...to live a peaceful life full of love and contentment - WOW. They shared empathy and understanding with others and got filled up themselves. I learned that POWERFUL ingredients of a support system include being able to share your struggles, education, tools that work, and people who get it to cheer you on! They came feeling lost and left feeling empowered, understood and armed with a plan!
That kind of support is inspiring! It is my life's passion to offer that kind of support to Adoptive, Foster and Kinship Parents however and whereever I can! I really believe that is why I am on the planet!
Helping other families achieve what we have is my goal!
So, I have created many ways to reach out to families. My support groups, Facebook, my book, Adoptive Parent Intentional Parent, my classes and NOW my Inner Circle. My Inner Circle has proven to be the most effective tool I have developed so far. Why? -----We get to check in on a consistent basis. It's specific to your family's needs. It offers a safe place for you to share your story. It is packed full of training and tools that work. And you are surrounded by people that get it, who will cheer you on 24/7 if you need it!
I want to be there for you. I know it is hard to find the time or hard to find the money and I have given it a lot of thought and have come up with a plan that makes it SO easy and affordable that you will absolutely be able to make it happen for your family!
Surround yourself with support...the change in your life will blow you away! It is a monthly membership that you can cancel at any time! You have NOTHING to LOSE and EVERYTHING to GAIN!
Don't wait a new month is about to begin...Start Today!
While there be sure to read about what others are saying after joining.
As I look back, there were definitely those days when, well let's be honest, when I wasn't sure if we would all live to see the end of the day - if you know what I mean! There were days I felt like I was being stalked, days I was pretty sure I knew what it meant to lose your marbles and days where I just prayed for bedtime to hurry up...I even contemplated changing all the clocks in the house!
We all have them. Sometimes they fizzle out early, but sometimes every hour is a new ride through Horrorville! The goal of helping our child heal seems impossible on these days...as a matter of fact I remember being convinced I was doing the exact opposite! The craziness just wouldn't end. Something had to give or I was going to be the something that just let loose!
So I came up with 3 tricks to help me get through those rough days! Now I'd like to share them with YOU! You can' t always do it the same way so pick the one you can best pull off and go for it!
1. Proclaim it (to yourself only) a "Keep 'Em Safe and Feed 'em Day!"
-Pull everyone in...cancel appointments, sports activities, phone calls. Stay off the internet, don't worry about cleaning or laundry. Take off your therapist hat. Grab a book or turn on a movie and sit down in the middle of your kids and do or say nothing (well within reason-no lectures, no litany, no long explanations or expectations). Feed them when it is meal time, provide an extra snack that day and then go back to doing nothing. You may not get more than one page read, but keep looking like you are reading. We need to help our kids feel like we are all plugged into each other. Sometimes the busyness of life really throws them off. They don't feel emotionally connected and that gets scary...RECONNECT!
2. Get everyone to move!
-Throw your plans for the day to the wind and get everyone to move (including YOU). Cancel all the STUFF. Don't give any room for questions. Just say "let's go" in a kind and loving voice. Have a dance club in your kitchen, go for a long nature walk - bring bags to collect things, bring food and water so no one gets more triggered. Just keep walking. They can collect or not, they can smile or not, they can skip or not....just get them to keep moving. Take breaks before they ask or say they need it. Point out the beauty in the world (for YOU and them). Cut through some woods or long grasses to create a challenge. Jump from rock to rock if they can handle it. Move Move Move!
3. Shake it up a bit!
-Sometimes we all get stuck, like a needle on an old-fashioned record player. We just need to shake out of our rut to be able to get through the whole song (day or hour)! Do something wacky and unpredictable. Not so much that you freak them out, but enough that they stop what they are doing and take notice. Wear a funny hat. Speak with a funny accent. Make supper for breakfast and breakfast for supper. Wear your shirt inside out -- you get it! Be silly, not scary. Help everyone (including YOU) to get to neutral!
It is so important that we stay in it for as long as it takes and it is always good to have some tricks up our sleeves to help us out with those especially rough days!
This is a LONG journey.
A LIFETIME journey.
Our children have suffered loss.
Their abandonment is a part of their core!
The hurt and fear doesn't just disappear.
With consistent, loving, "no matter what" care, it doesn't have to define them.
It will always be a part of who they are.
It can be triggered many, many years into the journey.
It is a source of self-doubt and colors relationships.
How long is it going to take?
You are the parent of your adopted or foster child!
1. Parent your child honoring the history that is part of his core, but doesn't define him.
2. Commit to knowing your whole child - not just her behaviors or words.
3. Meet him right where he is...one year later, ten years later, for as long as you are his parent!
The question is not how long it is going to take - the question is how can I be the best parent to this child.
There's nothing like giving of yourself to help you understand your own worth!
So many of our adopted and foster children struggle with knowing their worth in the world. In an effort to help my kids internalize a positive self-esteem, I focused on teaching them that they are, not only worthy of good things, but able to make a positive impact on the world. That their existence mattered. That their goodness could change the lives of others in a very powerful way, for the better!
One of the most powerful tools I used was VOLUNTEERING!
Volunteer as a FAMILY
-be an example
-give of yourself
-give of your time
-give of your gifts
-give when it isn't convenient
Volunteer in your COMMUNITY
After lots of practice and when the time is right...support your child in beginning to share his gifts with others.
-be the bridge, help him set it up - as many times as it takes
-help find a variety of opportunities - never stop trying
-remind him of what he has to offer - over and over again
-point out the direct impact he is making - as often as possible
-interpret the feelings attached to finding his passions - as long as it takes
Watch, as over the years and THROUGH his many experiences helping others, your child begins to internalize his goodness, his strengths, his passion, and his real power to help others! His VALUE in his world!
There is just no better tool than allowing everyone a chance to start over!
I often say that it is important to start new every day. I also say that it is even more important to start over every hour or every minute if things are rough! I know, I have been there and so have thousands of other families.
Your kids are trying to learn how to fit into your family, how to read your non-verbal cues, how to express emotion appropriately, how to trust, all in the midst of grief and loss, emotional immaturity and the many impacts of trauma that create hundreds of hurdles.
They are bound to struggle!
The reality is that as parents of adoptive or foster children we face our own hurdles too. For example, progress is so slow that sometimes we are convinced it isn't even happening. Or the lack of preparedness when it comes to our children's deficits. Not to mention the sheer exhaustion we face every day as we run to appointments, jump through paper work hoops, and just try to fill the bucket with a hole in it that is our child!
It is not a wonder we question ourselves, lose our calm, and don't always choose the most therapeutic way to deal with a situation!
The one thing I know for sure is that if we (the parents) get stuck in self-loathing, hopelessness, or an "I Quit" attitude our kids receive the message they already know so well - I am NOT lovable! The result is that they become what they believe they are. We then see hard behaviors, mistrust, no empathy or conscience, lack of drive, sabotage of goodness in their lives and so much more!
Teaching your kids the concept of starting over is a real GIFT to them and it will CHANGE the whole dynamic of your day as well!
Here are 3 instrumental steps to Starting Over...
1. Stop Talking
It is important to stop adding to the spin of emotion that is happening. We often fuel the moment with words - questions, accusations, ultimatums. This is not the time! Your child's Limbic System has kicked in so they can't learn from your words, they won't answer they way you want to be answered and creating moments when our children have to use old survival skills is undoing what you've done! If NECESSARY (and often it is not), you can come back to your questions later.
2. Create Safety
Our kids are survivors. If they go through an emotional experience, they are bound to be emotionally pushed to that survivor self. We can be healing even in the face of the turmoil if we take care of their basic needs. Make food available. Bring comfort items to them. Are they too warm? Are the cold? Fix it. Now DO THE SAME FOR YOU.
3. Show Them How It Is Done
Show them that when we mess up we can start over with the people in our family. Consistently use techniques that work. Deep breathing. Turn on the music and sing. Journal. Pray. Meditate. Whatever works for you. Let go of the behavior or words they are just the wall that keeps you from seeing your whole child. They are born of loss and grief. Those behaviors and words are not really about you. The hard stuff is laid out in front of you so you can help your child manage the very big emotions he is trying to deal with.
Starting Over is a tool that is key to survival as an Adoptive or Foster Parent, but it is also a very powerful tool we can teach our children to use in the face of their self-doubt! Start with these three steps and make change for your whole family!
I watched a child the other day being reprimanded for his behavior...at one point the man who was with him said, "You have got to learn to be a MAN!" To which the young man replied, "I don't know how, no one has ever taught me." Needless to say, the man was moved by this reply and couldn't speak for a moment. Then he quietly said, "You are right" as he pulled the young man into him and lovingly hugged him.
This whole scenario took about 30 seconds and I don't know who the adult man was in this boy's life, but I really liked his reaction! (I have a suspicion he was an adoptive or foster father.)
Such a great example of how we really need to remember to look at our WHOLE child! In the good and in the bad, our adoptive or foster son or daughter is more than any one given moment or behavior. He is a product of his past and a work in progress in his now!
Be intentional in your parenting! Let yourself parent your child based on his story, his experiences, his beliefs. It takes years and years to balance that out with the good that is YOU and the opportunities you offer!
Make it your vow to look at your WHOLE child - the parts you can see and the parts you can't!
Well, I don't typically review movies, but I just had to make sure that you all don't miss this one!
I walked out of the theater, the first time I saw it, saying...genius, just genius!
I do a lot of teaching to parents, adopted and foster kids and their siblings, about emotions and about how we need to understand those emotions. And it's ALL in there!
I teach about the fact that we as humans experience many emotions and all at the same time sometimes. For example, how it is okay and typical to be anxious and excited all at the same time. How we can be sad about our past and happy about our now, all at the same time.
I teach about the ALL IMPORTANT Limbic System and how it is impacted by trauma. How FEAR doesn't always see things clearly. How fear some times overreacts when he is stressed. How fear (Limbic System) is first and foremost about keeping us ALIVE and therefore he does and says kind of crazy things!
I teach about how we do have all of those past memories, but that we are a product of our past memories, experiences and emotions combined with our new memories, experiences and emotions.
There is just so much good stuff in this movie - I could go on and on!
My advice is to use this movie as the great teaching tool that it is! Talk about the concepts I mentioned. Challenge your kids to look for the images and ideas. Keep in mind that many kids will probably do better watching it on the small screen at home. Another thing to remember is that most of them will do well watching it over and over to process it fully. This little movie is a great tool for those of us trying to help kids with hard histories to heal!
I would love to have lunch with the writers...I'd like to know their story, I'd love to pick their brain, get the low-down on what they were motivated by. I am SO inspired! I think I feel a class coming on! A class using this fun little film, "Inside Out." Watch for that opportunity when the DVD comes out in stores.
For now, give your kids the opportunity to see this great movie and give them the gift of the words and concepts in it to begin to learn about the big emotions they struggle to identify and understand every day!