The holiday season is officially here. For parents, it can be a BUSY time of year. To do lists are long, schedules are full, and expectations and anticipation can take it to a whole new level.
For Adoptive & Foster Parents, holidays with an Adopted or Foster Child can be more complicated and challenging. Holidays often mean transitions, change in routines, increased expectations. It also can be a time when grief and loss resurface.
As at any time of year, being intentional is key. It’s about being proactive in your choices, rather than just reacting and always feeling behind the 8 ball. Being intentional includes meeting your child right where he or she is at. It’s important to take into account the child’s history, his or her emotional age, attachment style, and so on.
5 Things to Put Into Place for a Happier Holiday
1. Family and Friends
Often, family and friends don’t truly understand the struggles we are facing as adoptive and foster parents. They don’t see the hurdles that our adopted and foster children are trying to get over. They mean well, their intentions are good, but sometimes their comments and questions hurt. We feel judged, misunderstood, questioned. Sometimes their comments and actions get in the way of our relationships with our children. It’s not intentional. It’s really about not fully understanding.
As Adoptive and Foster Parents, we have to advocate for our children. A LOT. Having to do it with our family and friends can often feel uncomfortable. But, if you can look at it is a way that your family can best support you and your child rather than going into the conversation accusatory or defensive…or avoiding it all together….everyone will be benefit.
BEFORE the holiday celebration is the best time to communicate. Often a letter or email works as a good starting point. Let your family know how much your family celebrations mean to you, as well as how hard you are working on giving your child a “one and only”. Also, it can help for some people if you can introduce them to the impacts of trauma on adopted and foster children. We have a video in CONNECT for members to share with their friends and family so they can best support you and your child.
Gifts can be fun to pick out and to give. The key here is to not go overboard. A whole pile of presents can be overwhelming to a child, and certainly overstimulating.
In addition, it adds a whole lot of expectations for a child. They may worry how they should react, what is expected of them, what if they are not worthy of all of it, and so on. And all of that increases anxiety…and often increases behavior.
Keep it simple.
One great idea is the Gifts of 4.
If you have family members who buy your child gifts, suggest a gift certificate for your family for a fun activity…a favorite museum, the zoo, the movie theatre. Those often work good because it not only takes some of the expectations for the child down in the moment, it fosters spending time together as a family.
If your holiday table looks like ours, it is filled with tons of yummy foods. Family favorites, Great Grandma’s special cookie recipe, traditional foods such as lefse, and usually some new ones to try. Remember though, you are going into this holiday as an INTENTIONAL PARENT. That means make sure you have foods that you know your child likes. If the old stand by of a PB&J sandwich is his favorite, then make sure that is part of the meal…even if it means bringing it to dinner at Grandma’s house. Food is a basic assurance of life so it’s important at this time where anxiety can be high, that your child knows YOU’VE got him covered!
Holidays are often steeped with traditions. From favorite recipes, to the ornaments that hang on the tree, to activities. Those are all great.
Holidays can be a great time to include your child’s traditions (or from his culture or country). Include on your menu some special treats from your child’s country. Do some research and find some new traditions to start that honor your child’s story.
It's also important to make new family traditions. Sledding on the first snow fall, baking cookies on a weekend, family movie nights at home on Friday nights. Make it a time that is relaxing, fun, and connecting. Keep the stress low!
3. Self Care
This one seems obvious, but it is so often pushed to the bottom of the list…and sometimes off the list entirely. You are juggling a lot. You have a lot on your plate. And to be able to pour into your family as much as you want to do, it is VITAL that you take care of you too. So…get out your calendar. Find some time where you can do self care.
Holidays are hectic. They can be hard. But they can be HAPPY. It takes intention.
This month in CONNECT, our Intentional Parent Coaching Group for Adoptive & Foster Parents, we have a new class about Getting Your Plan for a HAPPY Holiday Season, as well as access to other classes. You’ll also get the video How to Support an Adoptive, Foster, Guardian, Kinship or Step Family 101 to share with your family and friends so they can best support you and your child. And as always, you’ll have access to an entire hub of training, and the get support from an incredible tribe.
Join us today, click here.
I was talking with a Mom the other day and she was explaining to me how she just wanted her child to have a really great summer and especially a wonderful 4th of July, just how she had as a girl. Cooking hot dogs around the campfire, chasing glow bugs after dark, and sitting on a blanket oohing and awing at the fire works.
However, her family's celebration looked nothing like her childhood celebration. She shared how her child just would not behave. Mom and Dad felt like she was trying to wreck it - like she didn't care about the rest of the family at all. As a matter of fact, Mom said that they don't really "celebrate" at all any more. She shared that it makes her sad that they don't celebrate anymore, but she was tired of trying without things changing.
My thought was that I got that. Yes, lots of times we have to do it differently, but that if she met her children right where they were at she could make it so much more doable...they wouldn't have to skip celebrating all together.
We went on to look at how the 4th of July probably felt to her child, maybe YOU can relate, it was NOT the same at all. She struggled with trigger after trigger, impact of trauma after impact of trauma, misguiding her emotional and mental experience and so much more.
Basic things like a new routine, new sounds, new food, new people around can create questions of survival (emotional and physical) for a survivor. Even many years later.
Then add in impacts of trauma like dis-regulation, sensory issues, and no cause and effect thinking and physical chaos ensues.
Finally, add in the basics like a younger emotional age than physical age, anniversaries, personal experience and her child was standing on very "shaky ground" when it came to sorting it all out and succeeding.
So...here are a few things she will put in place this year to try to find the "doable" for herself, her child and her whole family...and if you can relate to her story, you should too!
Meeting your child right where he is at allows you to make memories and have joy and peace at the same time that you are helping your child heal. It makes life so much more doable!
Families celebrate. It's part of being a member of the group. It's part of feeling loved and included. It is really important that we find a way that our children can have that kind of experience. That is where healing happens.
I hope today you find a way to celebrate,even if it is just for a moment.
Getting your family to Happy and Healthy is the ultimate Pursuit of Happiness!
With love & dedication to your family always,
P.S. I've got to tell you...I have 1000's more strategies to share with you. I'd be honored to help you get your action plan in place. The one that will help your family get to Happy and Healthy! Today is a GREAT day to start and it all happens here - Intentional Parent Coaching Group.
Today is Memorial Day here in the U.S. A day we remember all those who lost their lives serving to protect. I am SO thankful for all that these men and women have done for my family and myself!
As an Intentional Parent, it’s also a day that we have chosen to mark all those we have lost in our family. A day to remember. A day to honor. We remember my brothers. My husband’s Dad. Grandparents. And for my adopted kiddos…we mark the loss of their biological parents. Although they are still living, they’re not with my girls. It was a loss. A really deep loss. And definitely one that deserves to be marked.
Over the years, we’ve done a variety of ways of marking the loss. Having my girls draw pictures when they were little. Planting trees or flowers. Sending up balloons. Writing. Conversations. And sometimes just a quiet reflection. It really depended on what I thought my girls needed at the time. And what they expressed as they got older.
Reality is there are times it would have been easier to not mark it. Easier on me. Easier on my kiddos. But it’s important. And for some of my girls, they needed to be shown that they would be okay by facing it rather than not speaking about it.
The loss is there. It has impacted them. And no matter the circumstance, their loss deserves to be marked. And my girls deserve the opportunity to honor their parents. To remember.
Mom...oh, that word/name encompasses so much! It's just 3 letters, but the power it holds to heal, to guide, to teach, to shape self-esteem, to fill with joy, to assure, to love, and so much more - is just awesome.
YOU are awesome!
My hope for you this Mother's Day is simply that you KNOW that you are ENOUGH. That your child's struggles on this special day, or any other for that matter, is not a reflection of whether you are a good Mom or not. YOU are a good Mom.
My advice for you is to go forward into Mother's Day the same as any other...fighting for your family, eyes wide open about how bittersweet this day is for your child, and armed with an Intentional Plan that takes into account your whole child.
So many of our children are caught between their desire to celebrate and the hurdles of their own wounds of loss, loyalty struggles and self-worth questions. It doesn't always come out looking pretty or sounding sweet.
Actually, many times the bitter of the bittersweet is aimed right at us, the Mom, and is much louder and uglier than the sweet. But does that mean you don't matter? Does it mean they don't care about you? Should you let it ruin your day?
No, it's NOT about ruining your day. The ugly and loud is not really about you at all - it's deep grief, pain, fear, longing, and confusion. What it IS about is needing YOU to be the best Mom you can be especially on Mother's Day. It's about needing you to use your MOM POWERS to get all of you through.
YOU can do this. YOU. Are. The. MOM! You are Enough.
This Mother's Day...use your Mom Powers to take in the sweet because you deserve it and help your child get through the bitter, reminding yourself it's not about you.
Happy Mother's Day,
Well, it's the day after a holiday for many of you. Could get a little intense.
Just a quick note to let you know that you are not alone...these kinds of days are hard for many of our children. It is not because you are doing anything wrong. It's not because they don't care about you nor is it because they are necessarily broken beyond repair!
It IS because the healing is a long process. Sometimes, a lifetime. The brokenness has cut to the core.
It IS because it is all so counter-intuitive. You really have to do it differently. Many weren't prepared.
It IS because healing takes creating new core beliefs and brain wiring. Needs unending opportunities to happen.
It IS because others can't see it so they don't get it. Always swimming upstream is tiring.
Take a deep breath.
Look forward and not back.
Take the next step.
You CAN do this!
Healing (for yourself, your kiddos and actually for your whole family) takes forward movement, action, and a plan B, C, D...
So here's my question for you...What action are you choosing to take today? It's how you stay in it. It's how you thrive not just survive. This is how healing happens!
If you are celebrating the upcoming holiday and/or have other CELEBRATIONS coming soon like spring birthdays, anniversaries, or graduation parties, I want you to know that being VERY INTENTIONAL about every piece of it will ensure you all have a better time than you've had before.
Many of our adopted and foster children struggle at celebrations. They are just not wired to manage all of the social nuances, relationship rules, and other social expectations that come with these kinds of days.
Not to mention the challenges of regulating themselves around the abundance of food, the changes in boundaries, and other people who fill themselves up at the expense of our kiddos.
Most importantly, we need to remember it takes many, many years for our children to feel worthy of good things, which impacts when they feel truly connected. They live with the belief that they're not valuable enough for you to remember them, choose for them what they'd like, or even have enough for them.
When you are not wired to be in any given situation and you don't believe you are worthy of good, anxiety goes way up. Remember, when anxiety goes up, ability goes down! This is where being intentional matters - being the outside regulator, taking care of basic needs (even after years of the same celebration), and creating opportunities for success even if it means you do it differently.
As you make the plan for your next celebration, here are a few tips that will help it be more successful:
Every celebration includes food - the basic assurance of life. The most critical way into being your child's safety net. Always have at least one thing your child enjoys eating. So if that means you bring the mac and cheese to the celebration...that's what it means. Make sure your child knows this food will be available at the celebration.
Most celebrations include a gift of some sort. The true test of whether I am worthy of good things. Assure your child ahead of time that there will be a basket or gift for him and don't mistake his worry in this situation for him being rude, self-centered, or disrespectful.
If your celebration includes lots of people and/or a different place than home, make a plan to help your child manage his increasing anxiety. Set some limits like high-fives not hugs for everyone and be prepared to literally step in to help make that happen. Bring a bag of things your child will enjoy doing and find a quiet place within eye sight that they can hunker down and do that. Headphones and music work well. It's an escape so to speak.
Timing DOES matter! This one is pretty cut and dry...honor how hard this is and help your child succeed by heading for home before the melt down. You can lengthen your stay by being intentional and pulling him in, but eventually enough is enough.
Most importantly, know and remember that no matter what it looks like on the outside, your child is not comfortable, not sure of himself and not purposefully trying to ruin your celebration. He's not wired to be successful in this situation.
Ultimately, when we meet our children right where they are at, they feel safe. When they feel safe, they can be successful. When they are successful, they feel worthy. When they feel worthy, they feel connected. And so on.
Being intentional is where it all starts!
With great excitement for the future of your family,
P.S. If you want to hear more about this topic and other everyday game changers, join me weekly in my Intentional Parent Coaching Group. Join Us
Hippity. Hoppity. Easter's on its way!
As Intentional Parents, it is important that we meet our kiddos right where they are at...even at gift-giving times.
Here are some fun ideas for Easter basket fillers. Items that meet sensory needs and fidgets to get them through the anxious times.
A perfect companion for home, school, or the car. Provides comforting deep pressure input. http://amzn.to/2pif1AR
Super Magnets is a nice set that helps give positive feed back to the Proprioseptive Sensory System. Use my aff. link to check it out.
U-Miss Tri Fidget Hand Spinners
Great for fidgety hands and helps to focus.
Smencils are great basket fillers. They are a positive sensory input in times of anxiety! use this link to check them out!
Battery Operated Toothbrushes are a great help in increasing brain organization. They make a GREAT basket filler! My kids got one every year.
Thinking Putty. One of my kids top picks! This stuff is a great anxiety reliever, sensory tool and time passer! http://amzn.to/2GzVF1x
FIdget Cubes! These are new, but it was one of my kids that showed them to me...they thought they looked so cool. Great for car rides, between classes, any transition!
There's no time to waste...here are my best (last minute) steps for adoptive & foster parents to a more peaceful holiday.
1. Believe that it is possible.
2. Have an expectation of change.
3. Create a smaller "world" - the size your adopted or foster child can succeed at (in every way). "Within eyesight" is a good measurement. This is NOT a punishment - this allows you to easily help your child regulate.
4. Never mess with food. Make sure it's plentiful, there is always something your child likes, they never want for it...it is the basis of life and survival.
5. Know that the holidays trigger grief and loss for many adopted & foster children...honor that even, if it doesn't look like you think it should.
6. Keep transitions to a minimum.
7. "Paint of picture" of how things are going to go.
8. Let your expectation be a NEUTRAL holiday as the next step. Baby Steps!
9. Build your child a safe out. Help your child be able to decompress in a socially acceptable way, whether at your house or someone else's. Some ideas are planned quiet locations, a bag of things to work on at a location you choose, a book or music with headphones to use to be able to check out for a bit, snacks, even divert others away for a bit.
10. Have HOPE for the future (your child's and yours) - the future moment, hour, day and year!
There's only a couple of days left so start tweaking your plan RIGHT NOW so that it includes these 10 steps and you will feel the shift!
You CAN do this. I'm here cheering you on every day!
We are ABSOLUTELY in this together,
P.S. Having this kind of intentional plan is what makes the difference. Join my Intentional Parent Coaching Group and get YOUR PLAN activated. The new year can be a year of breakthroughs!
Don't wait, this is the PERFECT TIME. Your first 30 days are 50% off when you sign up before Dec 31st. Get started NOW! http://www.tohavehope.com/intentional-parent-coaching-group.html
As Intentional Parents, it is important that we meet our kids right where they are at...even at gift-giving times. I put together some of my top picks for gifts for Christmas or Birthdays to share with you! These are things my kids LOVED and are now used by many of my clients.
I hope you and your child(ren) enjoy them as much as we have!
Telestrations is a game that finally worked for our whole family! No Cheating Needed!
Super Magnets is a nice set that helps give positive feed back to the Proprioseptive Sensory System.
Snap Circuits was loved by all of my kiddos, girls & boys alike. It really helped to work on acquiring Agency - the realization that I can have positive impact on the world!
These are new, but it was one of my kids that showed them to me...they thought they looked so cool. Great for car rides, between classes, any transition!
Magnetic Mighty Minds.
My kids spent hours working with Tanagrams. This is one great set all put together for you. Great for working on Right Brain Left Brain cross over, quiet time.
help to increase Seratonin levels, which is an overall feel good experience. Just can't beat the positive effects!
Well, just to be sure we are getting into the holiday swing here...the weather is a combination of freezing rain to snow. If I wasn't ready before, this weather shift always pushes me to face the reality - the big holiday season starts in under a week.
16 years and one week ago we celebrated our first Thanksgiving as a family of 8. Wow, talk about facing reality. I had all of these DREAMS for my daughters. My dreams included laughter, smiles, hugs, loving feelings, time together, sharing, new traditions, family, more and more family. There was some of that sprinkled in, but some of those dreams were missing and the missing stuff plus some not-so-great behavior/words were blamed on the facts that we were speaking different languages, the newness of it all, and everyone just being overwhelmed.
Honestly, as time passed it got more and more difficult. Christmas looked great to the outsiders. All the kids (3 boys and 3 girls) were dressed up cute, there were smiles on their faces as they opened gifts from Grandmas and Grandpas, they tried all the delicious treats and said please and thank you nicely. However, on the inside it was a whole different story altogether!
Inside our family was a MESS! The girls were miserable and acted out constantly (when others weren't looking). The boys were totally thrown off by all of the chaos that happened behind our closed doors. Our marriage was stressed. We distanced ourselves from others because we felt judged and unsupported. I felt like an awful Mom, Wife, Daughter, Grandaughter, Niece, Cousin and friend. I really felt very alone.
Out of a deep desire to get my family back in shape, I began doing things very differently and our mess began to take on a new more positive and happy feel. I tweaked and tweaked how I parented. I researched, read and attended any training I could. I found the tools and techniques that worked to help us all enjoy the holidays. I finally could hold my head up HIGH, my family was in such a better place!
If you are like I was and you dream of giving your children the experience of a loving, joyful, peaceful, family-filled holiday, it would be my honor to give you the tools and techniques you need to be successful! You will be ready to tackle the tantrums and crabbiness head on, create a holiday time where your family and friends help you help your children not sabotage you at every turn, and start looking forward to the holidays yourself!
There are only a few days left to get registered for my class "Surviving the Holidays with a Challenging Child"
To make sure this class REALLY WORKS for you, here's the plan...
**You get the recording of the class to watch at your convenience
**You are invited to a second LIVE Q & A session in December so you can tweak your plan
**You will receive my "Surviving The Holidays: Intentional Parent Checklist" to help you stay intentional
Get your spot NOW! Time IS Getting Short (click the link)