I was very lucky I had great parents. Were they perfect? No, they were human. So they had their hurdles and challenges just like the rest of us, but what made them such great parents was that we knew without a shadow of a doubt how important we were in the world. In their world, but also the larger world. We knew that we could do anything we put our minds to. They taught us that there was always a way.
Now I know that is called having a sense of Agency. Typically, we begin to develop it early in life - the first 3 years. And then it is built on during our childhood. When the adults who are supposed to be responsible for your survival consistently meet your needs and even know what you need before you have to ask and when life feels safe and consistent, we move through developmental stages that allow us to understand that we can make a positive impact on the world, that we are capable of great things, that we can influence our lives. It is also the basis for being able to take responsibility for our behaviors and choices.
The sense of Agency is essential for you to feel in control of your life - to believe in your ability to influence your own thoughts and behavior, and have faith in your ability to handle a wide range of tasks or situations (do anything). Having a sense of Agency influences your stability as a single person; it gives you the capacity to be emotionally stable, yet resilient or flexible, in the face of challenges in life.
My parents both modeled Agency, but I think my Dad's sense of Agency was strongest. He always told us that there is a way to do or get anything you want, you have to keep trying until you succeed. He also showed us. He was a hard worker, a blue collar laborer We didn't have much money; however, he always found a way for us to travel, to have awesome experiences and for some toys he desired along the way. Oh and by the way...he always paid cash. He had a knack for working out plan A, B, and C and working those plans, or more, until one of them got him what or where he wanted. Yes, he was a hard worker, but it was more than that...it was a belief he held at his core. A mindset. A way of looking at life. People with a strong sense of Agency don't give up - they keep trying until they find a way.
So many of our adopted and foster kids take a long time to have that sense of Agency. A lot of healing has to happen. A lot of modeling and teaching. We have to provide that consistent safe environment where we successfully provide for their needs even before they ask. Many of our children tend to quit when it gets hard or don't even try to begin with. They don't try new things. We often see our children choose to go without instead of "fight" for what they really want. They don't understand or believe that people will care or listen, that they can make a difference and do great things.
My middle daughter, who has been home for almost 15 years, has really begun to have a VERY strong sense of Agency. She is 18 and is basically running her own business. I am in awe of the "I can do anything" attitude she has acquired. Don't get me wrong...there is NOTHING pretentious about it. She is just doing her thing and being truly happy. When a person has a strong sense of Agency, they feel like they have control over their lives...and let's face it, that feels good! She has changed a lot. No more sabotage. No more chameleon behavior. No more blaming and lying. No more mistrust. She is literally glowing! Makes a Mom's tired-old-worn-out-heart literally SING WITH JOY!
You can be witness to the same. Model this kind of thought process and action plan in your own life. Commit to be in it for the long haul, be intentional about creating a safe and secure life for your child - no matter what. Be consistent. Make sure you show and tell your kids how important they are in the world - in your world, but also the larger world. Remind them over and over and over some more that they can do anything they put their minds to. Be the bridge that assures your children of this success until they can do it on their own. Show them that there is always a way!
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