No matter how great the holiday was...it still cost us all (especially our kids) A LOT!
Be an INTENTIONAL PARENT - Don't fool yourself into thinking that your kids just sailed through without any impact.
It doesn't have to be a negative thing nor do you have to worry about having done something wrong. Just reframe this week knowing that it is part of your reality...it is part of their reality.
I call it Fall-Out. It can look like a lot of things, it can feel like a lot of things and it gets labeled a lot of things. Don't get caught in that trap. Your kids are tired and fried and therefore won't manage as well. See it for what it is, don't take it personally and label it appropriately...tired emotionally and physically, gave away a lot to ensure people liked them, endured a lot of overstimulation, was scared, was worried and anxious, revisited old grief and loss hurdles - you get the drift!
Here's the KEY! This week is all about MEETING THEM WHERE THEY ARE AT!
When you shift your thinking in that direction, you will have less challenging behavior and your child will get back up on his feet "emotionally" sooner! You might have to help him more, give him less to be responsible for, talk slower, move slower, go back and revisit old routines to help him adjust, and be more intentionally plugged in! They are not steps back that will last that long, but they are steps back that remind your children the Safety Net still exists - that they are truly okay!
Use Intentional Parenting to help fend off the empty child you are living with...fill him up and life will be better!
This time of year can be so bittersweet.
Our expectations can be such HUGE stumbling blocks. Those expectations about what makes for a good holiday can be especially challenging.
The expectation is usually motivated by recreating those times when we felt most loved, when we felt most part of something, when we felt most filled with a sense of peace and safety. SO many times we want to feel that again and we want our kids to feel it too!
So, we fill our homes with the food, the smells, the visions and the people that bring all of that back for us. We spend lots of physical and emotional energy trying to recreate it all. The problem is that those things and people don’t create the same wonderful experiences for our children.
Our children get anxious and act out and then everything has to change. We can’t decorate the same way due to their sensory struggles. We can’t leave a dish of ribbon candy sitting out like our Grandma did because our child can’t regulate himself and will sneak and eat it all. We can’t spend time with those that help create such wonderful feelings for us because it is too much for our children and we will have huge fall-out afterwards.
It is no longer easy. It is no longer peaceful. We no longer feel part of that something that made us feel like we fit in somewhere, where we feel most loved.
The reality is that we love our children and we want the best for them. We want them to feel loved and like they fit in, we want them to feel safe and peaceful. The bittersweet comes in when we realize that to give them all of that, we have to do “it” differently.
It is important to dig deep, to remind yourself that the gift you were given needs to be passed on. Now it is your time to create that place and group and tradition that will help your child feel MOST LOVED. Create the sense of peace and safety you had by helping him feel like he fits in because he can be successful. To be successful, help him to understand what is coming next even if he can’t read your nonverbal cues. Help him to regulate in the midst of so many triggers by keeping things as close to normal as you can and as close to neutral as you can – no surprises! Help him to not sabotage good things by being the bridge between his past and his present, his irrational beliefs about his own worthiness and the truth that he IS worthy of all the goodness you and your family have to offer. (If he doesn’t take much food, give him more, believe behavior could mean he is worried he won’t get presents give them early or spread them out, believe that behavior could mean that he is worried this is the last big hurrah and he will have to leave tomorrow and make sure you keep saying and showing that it is not.)
So many parents are exhausted and stressed trying to make this holiday be what it “should” be by recreating everything that has ever felt good in hopes of passing that on to their children. Be sure you are not recreating your past and expecting the same results. Your expectations will not be fulfilled. You must meet your child where he is and make your goal be to do it differently enough that he can someday feel fully loved and accepted – safe and peaceful.
When you look to give this as your gift, you don’t have to have it be the same as it was before in order to have a wonderful Christmas – You are STILL LOVED, YOU ARE ALWAYS PART OF YOUR FAMILY, YOU ARE SAFE and YOU WILL HAVE PEACE!
End the bitter and CREATE the SWEET!
Remember...you are NOT alone!
You decided to become parents together. You decided to adopt or foster together. You started this journey as a team - a united front!
Then the daily struggles began and being a parent wasn’t feeling like you thought it would. The tools you had were not working. The questioning of your ability to be Mom or Dad played over and over in your mind. Feeling alone and hopeless a lot of the time becomes overwhelming and too common.
The next thing you know you are blaming and criticizing each other. Dads often say they don’t even know their wives anymore and Moms report that their husbands don't get it. Parenting a hurt child often adds a lot of stress to a marriage and many times can be the demise! You have got to stick together!
Here are 4 quick ways to ensure you are seen and felt as a safe United Front:
1. Greet each other first.
2. She hasn’t changed…she is fighting an important, but incredibly difficult, battle. Know that many times hurt kids have a different relationship with every adult in their life. Studies are showing more and more that the adoptive or foster Mom gets more of the behavioral and emotional brunt of the challenge.
3. In order to get it, you have to Intentionally Parent. Have a check-in system. One parent checks in with the other before returning home to get the feel for what is going on at the moment. Start preparing to connect with the other adult so as not to allow Triangulation to happen.
4. Move your own “stuff” so that you are not adding to the spin!
5. Always remember to look at your “whole” child!
Remember…together you can create a safe and consistent environment for your child. Together you can commit to No MATTER WHAT and for as long as it takes! Together you can help your child heal!
INTENTIONALLY CHOOSE TOGETHER! Choose to be a United Front!
As I am working hard to coordinate a Christmas Giving Program for our community, I am being reminded over and over again the importance of meeting people where they are…emotionally.
Because our kids are survivors, we often don’t experience their true emotion.
We often experience the techniques they’ve come to count on to feel safe!
Don’t be fooled!
Use your head. Be Realistic…
If your child has suffered loss, lived in poverty, been abused or neglected, been abandoned, lost their primary caregiver, or had to fend for themselves in any way, they have been forced to use self–reliant techniques to get this far!
These techniques run from their core! They are part of the wiring of a brain impacted by trauma!
They don’t go away if they “try harder”.
They are not defiant acts!
Sometimes those survival techniques are disguised as over-compliant, self-depriving, perfectionism, and quiet or under the wire personas - be careful not to miss them. Other times they are not hard to miss at all because they are loud and clear, they are controlling and manipulative, they are glaringly present!
Here’s the secret…
Before human beings can trust, participate in healthy relationships, develop self-esteem, learn, etc...
They must feel SAFE…Emotionally and Physically!
Survival techniques our hurt children are forced to acquire and then use help them feel like they are in CONTROL,
and that feeling of control helps them to feel safe!
The behaviors become very troublesome for us. Those are the behaviors that we take personally. Those are the behaviors we dub as purposeful or defiant. They are NOT any of the above. They are simply behaviors that protect our children from feeling vulnerable, out of control and unsafe.
I have HOPE that adoptive and foster parents embrace the knowledge that they can build a consistent, loving relationship based in meeting their child where THEY are no matter what.
I have HOPE that adoptive and foster parents can let the understanding of the behavior be acknowledged as the
true emotion it protects! Then they will be able to more accurately interpret words, body language, choices, and affect.
I have HOPE that all adoptive and foster parents truly understand that with time and intentional parenting they can give their children the ultimate gift---a “place” in the world they can truly feel SAFE because they believe they are WORTHY of it!
My hope is that YOU are that adoptive or foster parent!
I came across a blog I wrote a few years ago now and it still rings so true I wanted to share it with you again! So here you are:
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, than 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 pieces to 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 timeline 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 affect 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 sib's. 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! Many of you have probably experienced these kinds of days!
First let’s look at what was happening in the moment:
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 than 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)
Tuesday- she used the sweatshirt to cover it up rather than ask.
Wednesday-wore the tank top in place of bra rather then ask for hers.
Thursday-took sibs bra rather then ask for hers.
Three days of 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!
Life can throw you curves...being happy comes from how you handle them!
Yesterday I had a long list of to-dos; errands to run, kids to shuttle, and people and projects to check in on. I had decided it was going to be a busy and productive day and I was READY. I had my list in hand, my bag of exchanges and receipts, my schedule was laid out to the minute. All four kids were up and ready to go - life was good and I felt on top of of my game!
In a moment everything fell apart! As I backed out of my garage, I noticed there were multiple glaring red lights lit up on my dash. When I tried to stop to decide what they were all about, my brakes barely worked - oh and by the way the lights were brake light warning symbols. Well, I am not going to mess with brakes that don't work and a van full of all that I love in the world so I carefully pulled back, put the car in park and turned off the ignition. We were going NOWHERE!
I have to be honest. At first, I was extremely irritated. I lamented in my mind about not getting those jobs done and was already moving to being frustrated about how was I going to make tomorrow's very planned itinerary happen. I felt my temperature begin to rise - so to speak. We all piled back into the house and kind of looked at each other. We soon determined the kids should get to their school work (we are a homeschooling family) so off they went.
There I sat. Basically alone. In the quiet. Still FRUSTRATED. Totally Stuck!
Five and then ten minutes passed by. I slammed around the kitchen and made some tea, grumbling to myself. I put my fuzzy socks on. Then as I sipped my tea I began to re-plan my day. That's when I heard it...nothing; it was quiet and peaceful. Everyone was off doing their own thing. I was alone in the peace. I had almost missed it!
This day had just become about something different altogether. It needed some RE-FRAMING! I needed to re-frame it for myself. I had time now. I had the energy. I wasn't being pulled by other "have tos." As I looked at the whole picture, I could see new possibilities for the day. Soon it went from the day the brakes went out and I couldn't get my stuff done to the day that I could get a little ME TIME, work on some creative projects I had been wanting to get done, do some writing that takes quiet and calm for me to accomplish. I could choose to stay grumpy and feeling stuck or I could choose to look at it all from a different angle and choose HAPPY and EMPOWERED!
Re-framing the moment or the experience or even the relationship is a POWERFUL choice we can make. It can often dictate how we feel for the rest of the day or about the entire relationship. When my kids were younger and we struggled more with push-back behaviors and emotional ups and downs, I would often find myself having to re-frame the moment, the behavior and even the words that were spewed at me.
When we re-frame those rough life moments or relationship challenges, we gain a NEW ATTITUDE and NEW ENERGY. In order to choose happy or good for ourselves, we have to open our eyes to look at the whole situation and the whole person. We have to use what we know to help us accurately define the moment and the actions of others!
Re-frame the choices your child makes using all that you know about him. His history, grief and loss, impacts of trauma along with his fears and self esteem challenges. When you do, you will realize that THESE are the root of his tantrums and name calling...NOT YOU!
The choice to re-frame life is ours. We can re-frame behaviors, words, and looks. We can even re-frame moods. Re-framing helps to put emotions and attitudes in a healthier place. It gives new energy by way of new perspective. Most importantly, choosing to re-frame challenges moves us from feeling stuck to feeling happy and on top of our game!