Understanding Your Adopted/Foster Child’s History

“A scar is evidence of a wound, but also evidence that we can heal.”- Scott McClellan

Empowered to Connect

I didn’t think it would be this hard.

My child’s behaviors are out of control.

He got kicked off the school bus AGAIN.

He keeps punching kids in line.

The whole house is like a war zone.

I thought I could do this, but I don’t know if I can. It’s just too hard.

 

I’ve heard these statements along with pleas for help from countless parents. I have offered to come into the home and do some observation, as well as get some parenting tools that work into the hands of the parents. It seems as if every time, the parent says, “Oh, he/she is so manipulative, I don’t know.” As if the child will pull the wool over my eyes (as he may do with some) or their situation is so unique, so individual that I won’t be able to grasp it. It is this pit of ‘aloneness’ that foster and adoptive parents feel. No one else struggles like you. Nobody understands. We adoptive/foster parents may feel as if we have slipped an Alfred Hitchcock and are captives who will never escape. What should we do? Who has the answers? To move forward with understanding, we must first have knowledge.

  Foster/Adopted children have had trauma in their lives. Trauma changes the neurochemistry of the brain in these children. 

Every behavior is a need in appropriately expressed.

In adoption/foster circles we hear the phrase ‘children from hard places’. As Ryan North, Executive Director of Tapestry Ministries, reminds us, this is not a geographical location. As explained in The Connected Child, there are six primary risk factors that characterize children from hard places:

  1. Prenatal stress and harm-over 80% of children adopted/foster care have been exposed to drugs or alcohol. The Mother’s high levels of cortisol cross the placenta,  alters the structure of the brain and damages the immune system. 
  2. Difficult labor or birth.
  3. Early medical trauma -hospital stay, surgery, etc..
  4. Trauma- house fire, natural disaster, auto accident, death of parent.
  5. Neglect-  Neglect says,”You don’t exist.”
  6. Abuse – Abuse says, “You don’t matter.”

Five things are impacted by early trauma (any one of the six risk factors).

  1. Brain- altered brain development, overactive amygdala. It’s as if the child is chased by a bear all the time. Our experiences shape the connections in our brain. Hebbian principle- What fires together wires together.
  2. Biology- Neurochemistry is altered. Hormones altered. Serotonin is often low. Dopamine is low or high. Some young children have the adrenals of a ninety year old.
  3. Body- Learning delays, developmental delays, sensory issues.
  4. Beliefs- What’s one firmly held belief that you have? What would it take you to change that belief? Adopted/foster children may believe: People don’t love me because I’m not worthy. If I was worth something, people won’t treat me this way. Everyone leaves.
  5. Behavior Regulation. Co regulation. Self Regulation. – A child from hard places has difficulty regulating because he has not had the natural progression. Remember, a behavior is a need inappropriately expressed.  These kids get stuck in survival mode or Fight, Flight, Freeze.

Traditional parenting doesn’t work with these kids. In the ETC course for adoptive/foster parents, we teach 25 parenting tools to help these kids have hope and healing. The tools are based on the TBRI model- Trust Based Relational Intervention, created by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross at TCU in Texas. This approach was turned into a training curriculum by Michael Monroe and Dr. Purvis called ETC  Parent Training for Adoptive and Foster Parents. I am a parent trainer (along with my husband). We teach a variety of trainings, one for professionals (3 hours), a Prepare Course a six week class,  for those considering foster or adoption and a Connect Course, a nine week class, for those who have adopted/foster children already in their homes.

If you read this article and see yourself in the opening statements, maybe you feel isolated and alone, at the end of your rope. Or..maybe your adoption/foster experience isn’t quite as rocky, but you would like to learn more about some parenting tools and spend some time with other adoptive/foster parents, if any of these are you, then look into the parent training. You can click here to go to the map and find a trainer near you.

Also, check out the Empowered to Connect Site for more articles and videos to help you in your adoption/foster care journey.

Three Post Crash Practices That Help CFS Recovery Part Two

Last week I began this series, Three Post Crash Practices, today I’d like to focus on number two.

When I came out of my last major crash and the fog began to lift, I did a lot of research on recovery. CFS is a strange disease. It has cycles and the best way get into a different cycle is to change a habit. It starts with one small habit at at time. Let’s say for months, I couldn’t get up earlier than nine am. One week, I push it back to eight and form some early morning routines every day. Get up. Take meds with water. Make coffee. This routine sounds simple. It is. Over the period of a few weeks, my body expects me to get up at eight and go through the routine. It becomes easy.

schedule

2. Use a schedule. I read articles and printed off worksheets detailing how to schedule a day. There are some great ones here. At first, I was overwhelmed. Some of it I thought was ridiculous. Practices such as writing down my pain score. Fog score. Duration of activity. Those sorts of things seemed overboard. I don’t think that anymore. After practicing keeping score of activity, energy levels and pain, I found patterns. I found what sorts of things sent me to a crash quicker. If the worksheets seem overwhelming, just grab your calendar. Write down your pain score every day. Between one and ten works well. Your energy level too. Brain fog too. Make sure you write down everything you do. Vacuum. Read. Write. Company. Etc…

I plan out my activities, exercise, outings and rest days. When I first came out of a major crash, I needed a day or two of rest after an outing for coffee or going to the store. Once I recovered a bit more, a trip to IKEA for the day took me a week to recover from. This is because of the three hours of car time. These are just a few examples. It took time and discipline to figure out my patterns.

Sometimes, even now, I have an outing with a friend planned and I must reschedule because I have crash-like symptoms. To push through symptoms results in a crash. I have tested this theory only to have to leave an event or leave the zoo because I almost passed out (true story).

Rest a day ahead of an event and plan to have lots of margin in your days a few days after. All of this depends on your stage of recovery. For me, coming out of a major crash meant a nap every day. After an event it meant sitting and reading. Rest didn’t come easy to me. It was foreign. A few of my kids got me an Eno hammock to string up in the yard. I can climb in and close my eyes or gaze up into the tree tops. Rest is something I am learning to do. To Be. Instead To Do.

Whatever rest is for you, it should involve two parts-rest for the mind and for the body. The interesting personality trait I find in CFSers is they were always people who never rested. I was in an IV room once receiving treatment for CFS. In the chair next to me was a math professor. His eyes were closed as he received his infusion. I spoke briefly with his wife about his busy schedule and his unwillingness to shut down. I asked Dr. P. if anyone had ever studied how many type A personalities suffered from CFS. The point is, CFSers are far from lazy. They are quite the opposite.

Schedule is your friend. Your body craves schedule and gets used to doing the same thing at the same time every day. Muscle memory takes over and it takes less energy to do the same thing. If you find yourself sitting in bed all day post crash, your body will expect it. If you start adding a little more each week, your body will adjust. If you go out and do everything the first day you feel normal, you will crash(see practice one). So pull out your schedule and get started, one baby step at a time!

Memorial Day

 *Three Post Crash Practices That Help CFS Recovery will return on Wednesday!

I always cry on Memorial Day. I can’t help it. I see the flag raise. The uniforms flash by on men who have served. They have watched friend die on the battle field. Others sacrificed by being career military. Today, during service, after we recited the pledge together, I overheard a child whisper to her mother, “we say that every day at school!”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”  These words so close to the hearts of all true patriots, begin the second paragraph of the American Declaration of Independence.  But, we must not attribute their origins solely to Thomas Jefferson, for these words of Wawrayniec Goslicki, a Polish Philosopher whose writings were to be found in Jefferson’s library.”  – Carl L. Bucki

memorial day

Poles, brothers in the pursuit of freedom struggled for independence from Prussia, Russia and Austria.  Not only did we share ideals, we shared heroes as well.

Tadusz Kosiuzko was a hero of the American War of Independence, a 

cadet of the Military Adcademy in Warsaw and a nomination for colonel 

in the American army in 1776.  Filled with hope for a free Poland, 

Kosiuzko returned to Poland to fight for freedom again.  In 1794, he led 

an armed rebellion that failed against Russia’s stronger and more 

organized troops. (Have to throw some Polish history in!)

 

All men are created equal. American Troops all over the world fight for this self-evident truth. Not all win. I am thankful for our country and those who have sacrificed for our freedoms, from the Puritans to the revolutionaries. We believe that we are special, unique. loved by the Creator and created to do good works. Our country is unique in that way. WE believe. Yes, some say we are in a post-Christian nation. This may be true, but there are a lot of ‘we believers’ in the foundation of this country. Think of the foundations of leadership in other countries, Czars, Caesars, Pharaohs, Tyrants, Kings with self-worship in mind. Countries that were founded on backs of the people for the benefit of the rulers do not have the foundational belief that all are equal.

Headlines today are scary: Syrian army, allied militia gain ground against ISIS,  Islamic State claims Responsibility for Egypt Attack, Armed Police Guarding FA Cup final after Manchester Bomb. 

 I do not worship my country, I worship God, but history tells us what God can do with leaders in the most heathen and pagan countries. Pharaoh’s heart was turned. Nebuchadnezzar turned and worshiped the Lord. When his heart turned towards himself, God turned him into a animal-like creature. When Saul persecuted the early Christians, Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and gave him new spiritual eyes. He went on the spread the Gospel and write two-thirds of the new Testament. After Saul’s conversion, Acts reports:

 “So the church throughout the whole of Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, and was edified [growing in wisdom, virtue and piety] and walking in the respect and reverential fear of the Lord and in the consolation and exhortation of the Holy Spirit, continued to increase and was multiplied.” Acts 9:31

 What truths are self-evident to us? Are we praying for our leaders and in countries all over the world because we believe He can change them? Do we believe He is big enough? Do we pray for our military because we believe their sacrifices were worth it? What they are fighting for is genuine? God can grow His church because of or in spite of the current administration as long as we humble ourselves and pray with authority and believe. He can overthrow kings, calm the weather, bring the warriors home, shut the mouth of lions, raise the dead, part the sea, raise the dead dry bones. Are we believing that God can grow the church despite the current government and culture?

 

“If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, pray, seek, crave,and require of necessity My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land”- II  Chronicles 2:14

For all those in the armed forces and those who sacrificed their lives- Thank YOU!

Three Post Crash Practices That Help CFS Recovery Part One

“One day you’ll wake up and feel normal,” my doctor said. I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) in 2005. I didn’t believe him. I hadn’t felt normal physically for years. Every morning I felt as if I hand’t slept at all or worse, as if I had been up for thirty-six hours straight. My joints aches. My muscles felt as if I had run a 50K. And to top that off, the world was always foggy. I felt as is I were moving through quick sand instead of air. If I walked up the steps, I was out of breath, my muscles screamed for oxygen. Then one day, not out of the blue. One day, after months of following doctor’s orders, taking supplements, a strict diet with green smoothies and healthy whole foods (that’s another post), I woke up feeling normal.

I had dreamed about this feeling. I dreamt that I had gotten up and gone downstairs to make coffee. In the dream, I felt great. No aches. No pain. No brain fog. No exhaustion. Then I woke up. This time it was real. I felt okay. I couldn’t believe it. So, guess what I wanted to do? EVERYTHING. Clean the house. Write. Paint. Refinish a piece of furniture.

I was reminded of this feeling when friend and CFS sister texted me the other morning. t She awoke feeling normal after two years of the opposite. She was so excited, ready to get back to regular life, to pull her camera out, to edit photos. “Take it easy, don’t overdo it,” I said, “enjoy feeling well.”

It’s so durn tempting to conquer the world that first day of feeling ‘normal’  when coming out of a major crash. We Chronic Fatigue suffers can spend years sitting on the sidelines watching people do normal stuff such as cleaning their houses, going out for coffee, going to church, painting, writing or fill in the blank. Often, in the middle of the crash, I wanted to hit people over the head with a rubber mallet and say, “don’t complain about having to do normal stuff! Enjoy it.” Post major crash, I am more thankful. When I can go out with my sister for coffee, I write it about it in my journal and put it on my thankful list. I also keep track of my activity to avert another crash. It’s so tempting to run forward at break neck speed on the first normal feeling day. Don’t. Just don’t. You will pay the piper later.

CFS

  1. Keep some energy in the tank. Last month, I rented a RAV4 to drive to visit my brother and family. Brother Jess and I drove the RAV4 to downtown Charleston, S.C. to do some sight seeing on foot. Neither of us payed any attention to the gas gauge. We were more focused finding parking and then the time on the meter. When we got back to the car (with six minutes to spare) to leave the city, the car began a loud annoying beep. Turns out, we were dangerously low on fuel and this was the cars way of telling us. It beeped until we found a gas station. When you have CFS, often your body is beeping loudly and if you are like me, you ignore it, at least until you wise up. Then comes the crash. The body is so out of fuel, it can’t move forward. It sometimes takes days for our bodies to recycle or produce energy while non CFSers can do it in hours. So, we can’t drain the tank. We have to keep some energy. Think of it as refilling your tank as soon as it gets down to a fourth. I love Christine Miserandino’s explanation of this in the Spoon Theory. I recommend you read it and keep in mind, at the end of the day, you should have a few spoons left. It’s like keeping a bit of gas in the tank. If you don’t, you may wake the next morning feeling depleted. What does this look like? Sit down and rest when you aren’t exhausted. It’s 8:00pm and you still have a load of laundry to fold or some other tasks. You feel okay. Don’t do them. Sit down and rest. Rest when you aren’t exhausted. Weird. I know.

This past week, I ignored my own advice. I didn’t keep any energy in the tank. I drained it and dipped into the next day’s supply. I’ve been busy, getting up between five and six to write, filling the rest of my day with activity and exercise. I had a mini crash the other day. I felt dizzy, foggy and boom, I hit that brick wall. When this happens, I have to rest and usually take a day or two off of exercise (it used to be a week). I pull out my calendar and go over it. I make it a habit to write down everything I do, including exercise. This helps me assess where I need to cut back. Which leads into the second practice I will share on Monday.

From Older Moms to Younger Moms- Three Things We Need from YOU

*This post was spring boarded from a post by Jessica Bolyard. You can find it here. 

My children aren’t small anymore. There was a season when I had seven children at home. It seemed as if it would last forever. There were meals to prepare. Diapers to change for years on end. The dishwasher/washer/dryer needed unloaded constantly. Kids were fighting. I couldn’t see the end in sight.

Other days, the sun shone. The children got along for a few hours or a child had a breakthrough in learning and I was there to see it. Or we made cookies and watched a movie. We stayed up late and watched the moon. I prayed those days would never end.

They did end. Kiddos grow up. Go to college. Get jobs. Get married. And we Moms enter a new season. Every season has merit. Every season has value. When Mamas enter the phase of life when the kiddos are not so little, things change. Drastically.  We enter a new phase of our lives. We become the mentors. It’s biblical. I like that.

 Older women similarly are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor addicted to much wine, teaching what is right and good, so that they may encourage the young women to tenderly love their husbands and their children, to be sensible, pure, makers of a home [where God is honored], good-natured, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.-Titus 2:3-5

I shared Rachel’s post above. When our kids aren’t little anymore, what we need from you who have littles:

  1. Listen to the wisdom that we share that is biblical and sound whether we can use Twitter or understand Tumblr. Knowledge of social media or lack thereof is not a measure of wisdom. Some of the ladies you need to hear from don’t Facebook or tweet. You’ll have to meet them for coffee ( I do social media but prefer real time coffee). We may not be able to see the pain in a tweet or post. We grew up seeing facial expressions, not reading emojis. When we say, WHAT? We mean we don’t get it. Don’t think we don’t have the wisdom or experience to meet you where you are if we don’t know how to tweet an answer in the characters allotted.
  2. Don’t discount our advice because our older children have chosen alternative lifestyles or left the church. Our wisdom and experience combined may help you. These are our children’s choices. Not ours. Your children will make their own choices one day. You probably don’t like all the choices they make now, but it seems so much more controllable when kids are small. When they are grown, be prepared to find a listening ear when your kids choose things you wish they hadn’t. Get your shoes of peace on. Apply liberal amounts of grace and keep the relationship going.
  3. Ask us. You may be surprised by our willingness to share. Just because we look as if we have it all together (myself excluded) doesn’t mean we haven’t had hardships along the way. We each have a story. When we tell them, healing springs forth for the listener and the story teller. We can’t step into your home and tell you how to run your household unless we are invited into your lives. We can’t tell you how to love your husbands unless you ask. If you’re asking the young mom at the soccer field what to do or finding your answers on social media, you may not be getting the wisdom you need. It’s not that these women don’t have some answers, they don’t have years of experience to draw from.

Younger moms, we are here for you. You aren’t alone. No, your season won’t last forever, but that doesn’t make some days feel like forever. I get it. Some nights seemed as if they lasted an eternity when babies were sick and couldn’t sleep. Those moments when everyone got a long for a few hours were glorious. I didn’t think the season of raising children would ever end. Now, I’m in a new season, trying to find my way around. I haven’t forgotten you, young Moms. I’m just a text or phone call away. Don’t expect me to have all the answers. I don’t. What I do have is a listening ear, experience and a prayer.