Trauma. It's something that you hear a lot about these days.
For our adopted and foster kiddos, it's not just a trend. Not just a buzz word. It's real. VERY real.
Most people can understand that kiddos who experienced neglect or abuse have been impacted by trauma. And they have.
But not everyone can wrap their heads around the idea that ALL adopted and foster kiddos have experienced trauma.
Our adopted and foster kiddos were born to another mother. Attachment with her began in utero. They are wired for her. And when they came to us, there was a breach in that attachment. And that is trauma.
Whether they came to us at day 1, year 1, or year 10, they have come to us impacted by trauma.
When we can understand that, truly understand it, it will make a big difference.
The other day I was listening to an interview with an athlete talking about ENDURANCE.
Now, I'm not an athlete at all, but I certainly could relate to the conversation as an adoptive and foster parent.
This journey of parenting an adopted or foster child is a MARATHON, not a sprint. And the finish line feels pretty far off lots of times.
Ever get the comment, "I don't know how you do it!"
Guess what? There were plenty of days I thought, I can't do this anymore. But, I did it anyway.
It's a long journey, and that's gong to take ENDURANCE, my friend. So you need to get the fuel and energy to sustain you.
Here's how I start and end each day to help my endurance. (Okay, there are some days I don't do them, but every day is my goal).
1. Start your day with GRATITUDE.
I have a journal that I keep by my bed. Before I begin the crazy busyness of the day, I jot down 3 things that I'm grateful for. Some are big, some are little. It might be a good night's sleep, it might be my comfy sweatshirt. Some days it's the sunshine.
Research shows gratitude can have a great impact on our mindset. And that is a powerful, positive way to begin each day.
2. End your day with FINDING THE GOOD.
At the end of the day, before you fall asleep, look back on your day and find the good in the day.
There are days, the good comes easily and quickly. And there are days when it can be challenging to find the good. It might be the littlest thing, but there is good.
Maybe it was your morning coffee. Maybe it was you made it til bedtime.
Focus on that good. Let that be your thought as you drift on to sleep. It can help you sleep better, and can help you start tomorrow in a better spot.
They say it takes 21 days to create a new habit. So I challenge you to begin the next 21 days with gratitude and end each of them with finding the good.
Here's to the next 21 days!!
Today marks the 17th anniversary of the horrific tragedy that happened on Sept. 11th. The photos fill my Facebook feed, the newscasts reflect.
For many, it brings them right back. The date. The pictures. The stories. Flashbacks.
But so often the triggers aren't as obvious. Aren't predicted. It could be a smell. A memory. Something we can't even put our finger on.
That happens with our adopted and foster kiddos too.
Lots of time what looks like behavior, or sounds like crabbiness, actually is a response. They've been triggered. And lots of times we aren't even aware of the trigger.
When we dig in and identify what triggers our kiddos, we can better help them steer clear of those triggers...or respond better to them.
Yesterday, I spoke with an adoptive parent whose child is now a young adult. August was a time of some pretty big anniversaries for her child. It was the month she was adopted...and moved to a new country, with a new family, a new language.
After a pattern of August being a time a challenging behaviors, Mom realized that it was a trigger for her daughter. And parenting with that information changed things a lot. It didn't take away all the behaviors, and it didn't erase all the triggers, but things were a lot calmer.
That's a win!
This year, her daughter is living on her own. Again, August brought up a lot of emotions for her. But...this year the daughter was aware of the triggers. She was knew that a lot of it was connected to those anniversaries. And she was able to remind herself of that and had a place to hang those feelings.
That's a win!
So I challenge you to know your child's anniversaries. Watch for the triggers. Keep a journal handy and jot them down when they come up. And teach your child about them along the way.
The other day I was looking at a magazine while waiting for an appointment. The headline read "How Do You Recharge?"
Recharge. It's so important as adoptive and foster parents, but there are times we let it go.
I remember when it felt impossible. At the end of the day, I crashed. I was exhausted. And to find the energy to recharge just seemed impossible.
But...I now know that was a mistake.
Recharging is important. This journey of adoptive and foster parenting is a marathon. We need to refuel and recharge along the way...or we'll never make it.
A week long vacation on a beach or in a hotel room by yourself probably isn't feasible. You need to find ways to recharge your batteries. Even little things can do the trick.
Find some ways to recharge. Make a list of them...so when you're totally worn out, you don't have to try to think of ways to recharge.
Watch a movie, curl up with a good book, connect with a friend, enjoy a cup of coffee on your porch.
Do it regularly. Do it often. It's important.
It's that time of year again. Summer. Celebrations. Fun.
But as we know, it isn't always fun. It doesn't always work.
The other day, this was a topic in one of our coaching sessions. The mom 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. Her and her husband felt like their daughter was trying to wreck it - like she didn't care about the rest of the family at all.
They had given up on celebrating. While she was really sad about that, she was tried of trying when it didn't really work.
Can you relate?
Lots of times we have to do it differently, but that if we meet our kiddos right where they were at, it would be so much more doable.
We went on to look at how the 4th of July probably felt to her child. Her daughter 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 to put in place to make it doable for your ENTIRE family.
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's where healing happens.
I hope you find a way to celebrate, even if it's just for a moment.
Our adopted and foster kiddos come to us with a story that has already begun. No matter what age they come to their family. And…it’s our job as adoptive and foster parents to honor their story. Their WHOLE story.
Many kiddos come to a family of a culture or race different from their own. And just as important it is to honor their story, we also need to honor their culture and their race.
My girls came from Russia. Honoring their culture has been important to me as their mom. Having Russian storybooks. Russian food. Russian artwork. Russian music. I want my girls to know I honor their whole story.
While there have been times they didn’t want to be from a different culture and just wanted to be part of our family, I have shown them that their WHOLE story matters. It is part of who they are.
The other night in the Intentional Parent Coaching Group, we wer talking all about honoring cultural and racial differences within an adoptive or foster family.
Our guest speaker, Rachel Garlinghouse, is a mom of four children, all of whom were adopted domestically and transracially at birth. Her decade's worth of experience has been shared on CNN, NPR, MSNBC, and CBS, and she's reached millions of readers with her articles on race, adoption, and health. She is the author of six books, including The Hopeful Mom's Guide to Adoption: The Wit and Wisdom You Need for the Journey. Rachel is a woman of faith, type 1 diabetic, and breast cancer survivor who loves French fries, kitchen dance parties, and rocking a top knot. Rachel and her husband of fifteen years live with their children just outside St. Louis. Keep up with their family's adventures on their blog, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
As you go forward, find ways to honor your child’s culture. Your child’s race. Your child’s past. Your child’s story. His WHOLE story!
P.S. If you'd like to join us in the group, grab your spot on the wait list so you'll be first to get your invite. http://www.tohavehope.com/waitlist.html
I recently got a call from an Adoptive mom. She was feeling down. Discouraged. And the really hard part…feeling like a bad mom.
Mom and her family had just gotten back from a family gathering. In the past, her little guy would bounce off the walls at family gatherings. He ran around with his cousins, laughing loudly, and looked to be having a great time. But eventually, it would come to a halt…either with one of the cousins coming to say he wasn’t playing nice or him coming to mom having a meltdown.
This time it was going to be different. Mom was keeping him close. He had bag of fun things to keep him entertained. And he did better. WAY better. No meltdown. No bouncing off the walls. He was so much calmer.
But then came the questioning. The doubting. Mom’s parents and sister-in-law questioned her. Over and over. Why couldn’t he go play with the other kids? Why did he have to stay so close to Mom? You seem controlling.
Mom fought back the tears…until she got home. She felt judged. She felt like she had to defend how she was parenting.
When we’re parenting differently than other people, others sometimes question. Doubt. And they can seem critical. And that’s not easy. Especially when it comes from our family or friends.
Here’s the hard part…sometimes WE are biggest critics. We question. We doubt. Am I the wrong parent for the job? Am I making things worse?
Have you ever felt like that? If so…I’ll tell you what I told this Mom.
You ARE doing a great job! You are meeting your child right where he’s at…and that is a GIFT for your child.
You are doing a GREAT job! You are helping your child succeed…and that is a GIFT for your child.
YOU are doing a great job! You are the right parent for your child. You are giving your child the BEST GIFT of all…a No Matter What parent!!
Give yourself grace. Give yourself a 5 second pat on the back. You deserve it!!
P.S. - If you're an Adoptive or Foster Parent, come be surrounded by support on the journey getting YOUR family to happy & healthy! www.tohavehope.com/momentum
Marriage. It’s wonderful and a blessing…but it takes work.
Just as we are being intentional as Adoptive and Foster Parents, we need to be intentional about our relationships with our spouses.
It can be easy to slide on this one…taking it for granted because we are busy and exhausted from all that we pout into our kiddos and all that we manage as parents. By the time our kiddos’ heads finally hit the pillows, we are done. Worn out. And ready to crash ourselves.
But it's important to nurture our closest relationships. It fact, it’s CRUCIAL!
Tonight in the Intentional Parent Coaching Group, I’ve invited Lisa Qualls to come speak about nurturing your marriage. She is the mom of twelve amazing kids by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. More than thirty years ago she married Russ; they had no idea the adventures awaiting them. They celebrated their 32nd anniversary by becoming foster parents.
Lisa’s adoption journey has been marked by joy as well as challenges of trauma and attachment. Lisa is passionate about caring for children from “hard places.” She earnestly believes in the power of Jesus to heal children’s broken hearts and wounded minds.
She is a TBRI Practitioner and works for Fostering Idaho.
Lisa writes the blog One Thankful Mom and is currently launching her brand new podcast, The AdoptionConnection. You can find Lisa on all social media as One Thankful Mom.
Make sure you take time to nurture your marriage. It will benefit you, your spouse, and your child!.
Can you relate?
Oh there have been times on this journey of being an adoptive and foster parent I have thought those words, whispered them, wrote them, yelled them...they came fast and they came strong. Ever been there?
Typically, the words leave your mouth with a snap of anger and ugliness. Finality ringing in the air. I feel the look on my face and in my gestures and they resemble hatred, anger and disgust.
When I get them out I feel a quick sense of relief because I am FREE of the strings attached to being this child's Mom. The feelings that cause me to be done come from a deep place of pain, overwhelm, fear and the feeling of being ineffective as a parent. I just don't want to be there anymore. I AM DONE!
I go inward. Get quiet. Breathe. Take care of me a bit. And then I even start feeling bad. Wish I would have done it differently and then ultimately....CHOOSE TO START OVER. I find myself again. There I am.
Yes, it's hard and painful sometimes, but I can do it - I am strong.
Yes, there's a lot to learn and do differently - I can ask for help and surround myself with support so I can stay in it with my child.
I can do this. I am enough. And I can help my child heal!
Yes, it's hard and painful sometimes, but YOU can do it - YOU are strong.
Yes, there's a lot to learn and do differently - YOU can ask for help and surround yourself with support so you can stay in it with your child.
YOU can do this. YOU are enough. And YOU can help your child heal!
Encouraging and supporting your family,
P.S. The Intentional Parent Coaching Group for Adoptive & Foster Parents is a great place to surround yourself with support and to learn new ways. Get your name on the list to join us. http://www.tohavehope.com/intentional-parent-coaching-group.html
I don't know about you, but when I hear the word vulnerable I tend to take an emotional step back for a moment and then I literally will myself to keep going.
I've never really liked that word. And as a Mom letting yourself be vulnerable can make you feel weak & like you're not enough. It means opening yourself up to being hurt by ugly behaviors and hurtful words and feeling judged by others. And it often makes you feel unprepared when you should have all of the answers.
Just making the choice to "show up" every day can be painful and feel unsafe and some days is absolutely counter-intuitive. Sometimes it rocks you at your very core. But I have learned that my choice to "show up", over and over again, has been a real source of healing for my children. And I know that being there & staying there in spite of the pain and fear helps you embrace the fact that you can't control everything, and that's okay. Preferable even.
We're taught that parents should be "perfect" and "in control." So...choose pain and vulnerability or control? Seems like a no-brainer right?
I mean if we really want to feel strong, we'd fight for respect and compliance, stand up for ourselves. We wouldn't allow ourselves to continue to try unless we knew for sure our kiddos would change. We'd learn from our mistakes and not put ourselves in danger of being "emotionally" hurt again.
What does being vulnerable as a parent prove except that I'm an easy target?
But that's not what happens. Contrary to our minds first impulse, vulnerability is the place from which real change happens, like showing up every day in the fight for healing, meeting your child right where he or she is at, choosing to do it differently, carrying out your true purpose or anything else you consider important. It requires great risk because we don’t really know what will happen next. It takes the most courage possible because we’re willing to place hope in something that’s not a guarantee.
The vulnerability of Showing Up, Starting Over, Having Hope, Meeting Your Kids Right Where They Are At - No Matter What & For As Long As It Takes = True Courage
No matter how many times you have questioned whether you are enough, you are absolutely enough. It makes you that much more courageous when you decide to show up again - having the courage to take that leap when you could get hurt, especially when you've been hurt before.
There is one thing I know for sure...YOU are your child's best chance at healing.
I'm going to leave you with this incredible quote from Brene' Brown, “When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make. Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.”
P.S. I want to personally invite you to come and be a part of my Intentional Parent Coaching Group for Adoptive & Foster Parents.