Starting the day off right can set the tone for your whole day!
Parenting Intentionally takes a a lot of energy and a clear head. It takes forethought and vision. It demands we take care of ourselves as well as our children.
Here are 4 things I do to start my day off right:
1. I keep something on my bedside table that pampers ME a bit!
Just something simple...a nice lotion, some pretty flowers, a big bottle of water.
I spend a few minutes taking care of me.
2. I find my HOPE!
There are many techniques I use; it depends on the day.
Music (I choose to wake up to music rather then beeping), prayer, meditation,visualization, journaling for starters.
3. I CHOOSE to start with a clean slate!
I forgive myself. I forgive my child. I let go of yesterday and start new.
4. I tweak my PLAN for the day ahead!
I move my "stuff" out of the way. I remind myself of my child's deficits. I create opportunities for success. I make sure my child feels safe...all his needs are met (emotional and physical).
NOW, I am ready to face what ever the day throws my way. I am ready to meet my child right where he is. I am ready to be an Intentional Parent. I CAN build the Safety Net my child needs and deserves!
is really a GIFT we can give our kids and ourselves!
is free from expectations so it offers opportunities for SUCCESS.
can't be misread so it creates a SAFE relationship.
allows us to be more effective in helping our kids HEAL - our stuff isn't in the way.
cuts down on your child being triggered, which convinces them we are DIFFERENT!
is one of the knots of a STRONG Safety Net.
While being NEUTRAL (in the face of bad AND good) is an incredibly POWERFUL tool, it is also not an easy one to have a handle on all of the time! Lots of parents ask me how they can do better at staying NEUTRAL, so I have put together 6 hints to help you stay NEUTRAL!
1. STOP TALKING! (she says with a smirk on her face because she knows of what she speaks) I'll just put it simply...if you are trying to convince someone of something, putting conditions on the moment, having a discussion and expecting your child to jump on board and say "I get it" or "you are right," asking repetitive questions, or ranting and raving - You are NOT being NEUTRAL! The quickest way to remedy this? STOP TALKING!
2. CREATE A MANTRA! If you just HAVE TO TALK, I suggest you create a mantra and that is what you say. Yes, if you are not feeling neutral then every time you feel the need to speak you repeat the same mantra. For example, "It is my job to keep you safe and healthy." (If I had a penny for every time I said that,there'd be palm trees in my backyard and a yacht docked near by, because I would be able to afford to live on a tropical island).
3. TAKE CARE OF YOU! Keep yourself healthy. Get enough SLEEP. Eat right. MOVE your body. You need strength of body mind and spirit to be able to remain neutral in the face of your child's hurdles. (This is really hard for a lot of women; keep working on it).
4. HAVE SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO! Don't let your life become one big reaction to your child's struggles. Balance is key to staying neutral. Plan little treats for yourself - something you can look forward to. Anything from a magazine, new nail polish, a bubble bath, some really expensive chocolate to a night out, lunch with a friend, or time alone. You are in charge of YOUR LIFE...keep it full of HOPE!
5. KEEP YOUR TOOL BOX FULL OF TOOLS THAT WORK AND KEEP IT EASILY ACCESSIBLE! Tools I am talking about are tools you use on yourself. Tools that will help you stay neutral because they help organize your brain. They help you react out of your executive thinking rather then your emotional self. Make a list and post inside your kitchen cupboard door, put it on your phone, and share what works with a friend. (here are some easy examples: chew gum, listen to or make music, use square breathing, drink through a straw, count or do math facts, i.e. 2+2=4).
6. PHONE A FRIEND! There is just nothing like being surrounded with people that GET IT. Find a support group, educate your friends and family, and be honest about your challenges so that others can be brave enough to be honest too - they may become your sounding board. Teach your friends how to help you. Help them understand what works so they can help you use your tools when necessary!
Being Neutral is good for everyone! It creates feelings of being safe. It promotes opportunities for our kids to succeed, which makes them feel like they are worthy of good things. It promotes the peace and calm we all long to have in our lives! Make it your goal - Be Neutral!
Remember...you are NOT alone
The above saying has been repeating over and over in my head now for the past couple of weeks. It is EXACTLY what we have to remember as Intentional Parents.
There is so much truth to these words. Getting clear on our vision and trusting the process is what leads to the end we had in mind when this all began.
The vision is...Healing!
The process is...Time and Consistency!
It is so challenging to keep our focus on this journey sometimes. Hurtful behaviors and words can seem so personal. The pain and constant struggle can color our parenting experience, our daily life. Many times, the sheer exhaustion in which we operate leads to a fuzzy existence. So many times parents lose sight of the vision that started them on the path of adopting or fostering and that vision morphs into one that consists of expectations the child could never meet. So many times parents want to quit or question if they are the right people for the job. Healing is then in question.
RECLAIM your original vision! Don't let it be colored by the outcomes of deficits and loss. Hold onto your hope!
RECOMMIT to for as long as it takes and No Matter What. Don't get caught in the trap of, "He should be fine by now." Don't be pushed back or question. Remember, YOU are your child's best chance at healing!
We will be coming up on 15 years home later this fall and I can tell you...these are words to live by!
The truth is I am a little behind on my movie watching, but I still want to tell you about this one! Black or White starring Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer.
While this December 2014 release was billed as a film dealing with race issues, I really thought they did a great job with some of the issues we deal with as kinship carers, adoptive, foster and step parents. Along with that, the writers, directors and actors did a great job dealing with issues we deal with as parents of kids who have suffered the loss of their primary attachment figure and the struggles our kids have to face in regards to loyalty and fitting in.
The top 4 concepts I thought they handled pretty well:
WE don't often get to see our lives depicted in a positive much less accurate manner, but somebody in the making of this film did some homework! No, it is not perfect nor does it run very deep. The reality is that our story is the side story, but they didn't do too bad!
So, as you make your plan to take care of yourself this weekend...put this movie on your list! I would suggest pre-screening it for your teens to be sure they can handle it. I think this one is a good PARENT feel-good film!
I really liked it - Let me know what you think!
Family isn't just a name.
It is blood, shared traditions, similar features, common heritage, and so much more! When we look at adoption, it is a bittersweet reality for everyone.
This past weekend my family and I hosted our family reunion. Throughout the day we estimate there were about 300 people here. And many were not able to make it at all - I come from a big Irish family! It was a wonderful day. We were honored to be able to bring everyone together!
I felt so comfortable surrounded by people I have known my entire life. People that looked and sounded like me. People that I had celebrated with and mourned with as well. People that had passed down the stories of my ancestors and people I had handed down those sames stories to. People who share such great pride in our heritage. As I walked through my yard, I had such pride in being a part of such a big family and felt to my core that there was no doubt - I BELONGED!
However, as we prepared for the day and then walked through the actual reunion I was keenly aware that there were some that had to do it differently.
We've been getting ready for the reunion for a couple months and as we've worked on it, we have hit a few little bumps. We had to intentionally look at how all this family stuff was affecting the girls. Don't get me wrong they both say they do feel like they are family just like their brothers, but it brought stuff up for them.
On a normal day, our life is peaceful and they are flourishing and I forget that they were adopted. But I want you to know that 14 years later - it still brings emotions up! It is SO important we get this as adoptive parents. It is not that our kids don't eventually feel part of OUR family. It is that they don't know how to feel about their original family. That loss and confusion could be there, for many of them - ALWAYS!
My girls, along with my cousins who are also adoptees, had to walk through the preparation and the actual day of the reunion with their biological family, their cultural traditions, and their heritage in the back of their mind while working to find their spot in the family that was present. I am not saying it is good or bad or happy or sad, but it is about having to do it differently!
It did take my girls more or different emotional energy. We did have to talk some things through. I did acknowledge to them that it had to be hard for them. It did help them to be able to say it is BITTERSWEET - they feel blessed to be part of such a big family but it made them feel the loss of their original family more deeply.
We grieved so we could celebrate!
As parents of children who have suffered such huge loss, we really have to understand that Grieving Really Happens Over a Lifetime!
So, although my girls are part of this family by name it is not ALL of who they are...they have another name, they are part of another family and it is my job as their Mom to always honor the depth of the wound created by the loss of that family. To be able to give my daughters "permission" to say it or to say it for them if need be. It is part of our truth as a family....always will be.
Healing allows us to move forward, but the reality is that we never move forward without the scar. It is a part of us forever. It moves with us. The scar shapes who we are and how we do things for the rest of our life. I believe the key to living and flourishing in spite of our scars of loss, and what we as parents of kids who have suffered loss should teach them, is that it is important to honor those losses. The feelings are real. The sadness doesn't just go away. Talk about them - they are part of you and you are part of them. They MATTER! YOU MATTER!
What a great gift being part of a FAMILY is - I am reminded again of how important it is that I be an Intentional Parent. I need to make sure that my daughters know where they fit - I need to "see" their whole story all of the time!
There is one thing that makes me sad....that is the fact that people don't understand that even children adopted at birth have suffered trauma.
The most recent studies are telling us that losing your primary attachment figure is traumatic and it carries life long impacts for our children. The reality is, that trauma suffered within the care giving system is trauma that is really hard to come back from.
What we know to be true is that an infant in utero begins to attach to his Mother. He tunes into her heart rate, her respirations, the sound of her voice. He begins to learn to calm based on the rhythm of her movement and breathing. His little brain is being wired to know that when he is born out into this bright, cold, scary world SHE will be the one to keep him alive. She is who he looks for. She is where he KNOWS he will be okay.
When he loses her, that IS loss. One year, one month, one week, one hour, or one minute of time after he is born he is trying to find that connection if it is not there....it is loss. It is traumatic to this child. We all have to understand that and love our child with that in mind.
Trauma doesn't have to mean a child is doomed to be an emotional wreck. However, even under the best of circumstances - a loving, planned decision to allow someone else to raise your child - is loss. It is trauma. That trauma changes the wiring of a human being.
Yes, it is hard to wrap our heads and hearts around that kind of pain for an infant, but it is real and it is our responsibility to be a healing force in our child's life. We must be open to the fact that no matter how great of a life we have made for our children, they have to somehow figure out how to rationalize the fact that the very person their brains were being wired to keep them alive - went away. They have to battle with WHY?
Be open. Be real. Your child has been impacted!
I am not asking you to create an issue. I am asking you to honor the reality of being an adopted child!
Have you just read my book? Are you learning new tools and techniques from my blogs?
So many times parents say they wish they new this stuff earlier.
My reply is that it is NEVER TOO LATE to become an Intentional Parent. It is never too late to do things differently!
Here are three things to do TODAY to get started!
1. Use your child's emotional age when making parenting decisions! In order to help your children to succeed, you must create opportunities based from their emotional age. A MUST in regards to chores, going away from you, food, and transitions for starters.
2. Don't underestimate the length of this journey! For many of your children, it will take years and years for them to truly feel like a part of your family - every moment of every day! If there is "stuff" going on, even years later, consider it an emotional hurdle to be conquered NOT defiance.
3. Know Your Child's Story! One of the ways to meet your child right where he is, is to consider his whole self! You must know his story inside and out. Knowing things like birth order, the season of each of his losses, who he lost and how, what relationships were like in his world, how his culture ties in, names of those he lost and so much more. READ and MEMORIZE his files - honor all that he has experienced. Now meet him there!
The time is NOW! It's not too late to be an Intentional Parent - to be the Safety Net your child deserves!
1. Just because we were thrilled about our girls becoming part of our family did not mean they were thrilled. Our girls had suffered a DEEP loss. They lost their biological parents. Many of their siblings. Their home. Their grandmother. Their country. Their culture. And they were NOT thrilled about coming to a new family, a new home, a new country, a new culture. They were TERRIFIED and SAD, even though they did not necessarily show that on the outside.
2. Attachment takes TIME to build. Becoming part of our family did not mean that they felt a part of our family, that they belonged. They did not trust us to take care of them NO MATTER WHAT. They did not love us yet.
3. Our world would be turned UPSIDE DOWN for a long time. Of course I knew we were all in for a big change, but I would have never guessed that the transition would take as long as it did. My world was upside down. My husband's world was upside down. My biological sons' world was upside down. My adopted daughters' world was upside down. While we couldn't go back to our old "normal", it took time to adjust to and embrace our new "normal".
4. I needed to parent DIFFERENTLY. It didn’t take long for me to realize that my parenting skills were not working with my girls the way they had my boys. I had been confident in my parenting skills and felt armed with tools that worked with my biological boys. Those tools were NOT working with my adopted girls. It was time to get some new tools. Time to try new strategies.
5. It takes more than LOVE to help a child HEAL. From the moment I saw photographs of my girls, I knew they were a part of our family. I loved them before I ever saw them in person. For anyone who has met me, they know I love passionately. Deeply. But love was not enough to help my girls heal. It took more than that. It took consistency. Time. Meeting them where they are at. It took INTENTIONAL PARENTING.