Foster/Adoptive Parents – It's Okay to Ask for Help

It’s Okay to Ask for Help

I’ll be the first to admit, this is difficult for me. I struggle with perfectionist tendencies which translated means – I want to do everything myself and I want it to be perfect. This doesn’t work well in reality. 

You may wonder why I’m talking about asking for help when this month’s theme is goal planning. The idea our American culture puts forth is you can do it all and you can do it all by yourself.

That’s just not the way God designed us. He designed us to be in community. We are all part of the body of Christ (if we are Christians).

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

-I Corinthians 12: 15-20

To take it a step further, as this set of scriptures does, we are part of a body. Each one of us is a part. If we don’t do our part, the body doesn’t work properly. And if we don’t let someone else do their part, the body doesn’t function well.

I said on the podcast this week my husband is a servant. He is totally focused on serving more than I am. That’s his part. 

When we don’t let people do their part, we are robbing them of the blessing.

The first time in my adult life that I really had to ask for help was when I was pregnant with my third child. I went into preterm labor at twenty-eight weeks, which was stopped. The result was I was on bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy. I was only allowed to walk to the bathroom. That short walk caused contractions. My church set up a rotation of ladies to check on me and prepare meals. I hired a college student to help with the other two kiddos. It was one of the hardest things for me to do. 

Fast forward to our adoption journey.

We were in Poland on our first trip of the adoption for five weeks. We left before Thanksgiving and returned five days before Christmas. During those five weeks, a good friend came and cleaned and cared for the house (my step-father, Bud lived with us). Another friend set up the Christmas tree and decorated it. Another friend who owned a bakery made us some cookies. We came home after about twelve hours of flights to find a clean house and our house Christmas-ready! What a wonderful gift.

I’d like to say after the experience of receiving help, I was more willing to ask for it. I wasn’t. I’ve had many more practice tests on asking for help – including during a CFS crash or two, homeschooling, and planning events and the list goes on and on. What stops you from asking for help?

Let me leave you with this. James 1: 27 mandates we care for the widow and the orphan. 

27 External [a]religious worship [[b]religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world.

Not everyone is going to foster or adopt. You can help someone fulfill the mandate by asking for help. Some people are the part of the body designed to help you and your kiddos. They can’t do that if you don’t ask for help. 

Want to hear more about this topic?

Are you an adoptive/foster parent? Are you sometimes overwhelmed? Do you struggle with asking for help? (Raising my hand here!) You’re not alone. If you have been following the series this month on goal planning for 2020, don’t skip this episode. Maybe it’s time to ask for help! Grab a cup of coffee and join Kathleen as she shares some real-life stories about the importance of asking for help to achieve our goals.

Delayed Effects of Trauma in Foster/Adoptive Families

Delayed Effects of Trauma in Foster/Adoptive Families

  • We potential adoptive/foster parents study the science of trauma. 
  • We learn about the five Bs affected by Trauma.
  • Foster/adoptive parents take all the classes and hear all the reports about how the kiddos were neglected/abused, etc.
  •  Then we willingly sign on the dotted line and say, “Yep, I’m in.” 

Adoptive/foster parents are not saints or superheroes. 

Adoptive/Foster parents are just regular people who want to part of the solution. We want to build safe/secure/family oriented environments for kiddos who have had trauma.

We are called special, saints, have patience, etc… when we bring the kiddos home. When they start exhibiting behaviors as a result of the trauma, suddenly we are bad parents. I’ve been there, along with the multitude of foster/adoptive parents who contact me.

I was on the phone with an adoptive/foster parent the other day. One of her seven kiddos exhibiting some violent and destructive behavior. It was evident that she was beating herself up, i.e. blaming herself. I asked her a question that I ask all parents in this scenario – How are your other kids doing? Have you successfully parented them? Every time the answer is slow to come, almost as if it’s something the parents haven’t thought about. “Yes,” she said haltingly. I knew the answer before I asked the question. It’s a question to change the focus. We adopted/foster parents are not responsible for the trauma kids experienced before they entered the home or the effects of it. We try to be. We want hope and healing for these kiddos more than anyone else.

Trauma doesn’t always exhibit after effects right away.

Here’s a key point. Trauma doesn’t always show the effects right away. There sometimes seems to be a delayed reaction.

When I was eight, I had a serious bicycle accident. I flew over the handlebars and landed on my head after sailing over a speed bump. I woke up on in the ER to a doctor pulling rocks out of my face with a tweezer-like tool. I got off the table and said, “This is a dream.” It was pretty horrific. I was placed in a room with another young girl. She was hooked up to wires and monitors. She was in a coma. I overheard the doctor and parents talking about the car accident she had been in a year earlier. Her body was exhibiting the after-effects of the trauma now. A year later, her body was shutting down. (This really freaked me out!)

This is a physical example of what the body may do. In the book, The Body Keeps Score, Van Der Kolk, M.D. says:

“There have in fact been hundreds of scientific publications spanning well over a century documenting how the memory of trauma can be repressed only to resurface years or decades later.”

The Honeymoon Phase

Adoptive/foster parents go through a honeymoon phase with kiddos similar to what young couples go through after the wedding. Everyone is polite, kind, trying to please and be accepted. Then it gets too exhausting. We wives wipe off the makeup and put on our yoga pants because now we feel comfortable enough to be our real selves. Yes, sometimes we take it too far (raising my hand here). 

The adopted/foster kiddos version of this is – I feel secure enough to go back to who I was. I don’t have to perform anymore. Or, the opposite end of the spectrum, they’re going to harm me, just like everyone else did, so I’m going to control my environment. I’m not saying these kiddos are doing this consciously or planning it out in their journal. It’s just the survival mode response. We all have it to varying degrees. Parenting the Hurt Child explains it this way:

“The struggle, however, represents something completely different for parents than it does for children. While the parents are simply trying to get the child to accomplish a simple task — such as dressing for school, getting ready for dinner or picking up his toys — the child is involved in a struggle to survive. He resists the intrusion and direction by others and perceives it as a fight for his life. As a result, his behavior becomes stubborn, tenacious, and intense. Think about it — how hard would you struggle if you thought that giving up or giving in would mean certain death?”

Be kind to Foster/Adoptive Parents

On a final note, be kind to adoptive/foster parents. You really have no idea what they are going through (unless you are one). Even if you are an advocate or therapist, you’re still behind a veil. You may know more than others, but you haven’t truly experienced the after-effects of trauma.

We foster/adoptive parents are doing the best we can. We need cheerleaders and prayer warriors more than we need judgement for our kiddos’ behaviors.

God's Example for Attachment

God’s Example for Attachment

If you think about it, all of creation has been in survival mode since the Fall — trying to meet our own needs, creating our own gods, always chased by a fear of lack. Yet if we examine God’s relationship with us, it always begins with “I Am.” Whatever you need. Wherever you are. Whatever you are going through, I Am. 

God doesn’t begin His relationships with rules and regulations, but with His presence. Relationship must precede rules and boundaries. We don’t send a newborn to bed without his supper because he cries. We don’t correct a new convert when he lets out a string of expletives right after a worship service (or we shouldn’t, at least). By the same token, we shouldn’t punish a child for being unable to self-regulate because he experienced early trauma.

We are born wired for attachment. As the authors of Wounded Children, Healing Homes explain, “Eye-to-eye contact is a critical link that sets the brain toward balanced regulation. The mutual gaze leads to emotional attunement; a deeply satisfying experience of feeling harmonious oneness and completeness, not unlike the peace experienced in the womb. Without the attentive loving gaze and emotional responsiveness of the parent, the infant brain struggles on its own to develop and mature.”

So how did God attach to His first children?

He provided for their physical needs. 

God planted a garden and set man over it: And the Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden [delight]; and there He put the man whom He had formed (framed, constituted). And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight or to be desired—good (suitable, pleasant) for food; the tree of life also in the center of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of [the difference between] good and evil and blessing and calamity.” (Genesis 2:8-9)

He provided human companionship. 

God created Eve as a helpmeet for Adam: “And the rib or part of his side which the Lord God had taken from the man He built up and made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.” (Genesis 2:22)

He offered His presence and a relationship.

God came and walked and talked with them: “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. . .” (Genesis 3:8a)

This was a picture of perfect attachment — secure attachment.

Broken Attachment and the Fall

After the Fall, everything changed.

Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, evicted from the only lifestyle they had ever known. Not only did they lose the presence of God, but they also lost their home and carried the shame of the Fall. 

I’m sure it was beyond stressful. When Eve said, “I have gotten and gained a man with the help of the Lord” (Genesis 4:1), she may have been in survival mode. How do you survive without the presence of God, who walked and talked with you daily? How do you handle life on earth without preternatural gifts? 

Let’s put ourselves in Eve’s place. Evicted. Homeless. Alone. The constant supply of free food is gone. She feels shame. Her husband tills the ground, which brings forth thorns and thistles. She must dress herself and her family. Do you think she may have been depressed? Avoidant? Ambivalent? Checked out? I would have.

We have no written record about the parenting style of Eve, but we can hazard some guesses based on the actions of Cain. (This is not to say that every child who participates in aberrant behavior can blame it on Mom, as Sigmund Freud thought.) Cain was stuck in one of Dreikurs’ mistaken goals (see Chapter 5). For some reason, even though Abel was securely attached, Cain decided he shouldn’t try. 

“The brain is “experience expectant”. That is, it is hard wired to expect certain signals, such as eye contact, kind touch, rocking, loving voice tones, playful interactions, and assistance from others during sickness or distress.” -Deborah Gray, Nurturing Adoptions

When Eve said, “I have gotten a man,” I don’t read a whole lot of excitement there. Do you? I could be wrong, but I picture her being detached herself. It definitely doesn’t sound like secure attachment.

Secure Attachment

So what does secure attachment look like? According to Bowbly, as cited in Nurturing Adoptions, securely attached children believe the following:

• My parents come back. They are reliable.

• I am worth coming back to.

• I can depend on my parents and the people they entrust to educate and spend time with me.

• My feelings are mirrored back to me so that I can process how I feel and how others feel. 

• I want to please my parents most of the time.

• I am rewarded for becoming competent, for my creativity, and for my positive states.

• I can get help with psychologically overwhelming events and feelings.

• My parents will teach me how to cope with problems and how to resolve them.

• Intimacy is enjoyable.

• My needs are routinely met in a timely, sensitive manner.

• Repairs to relationship disruptions are empathic and prompt.

If we ourselves have felt secure attachment, we expect our children to follow that pattern, as well — even if their experiences have been vastly different from ours.We parents tend to expect our newly adopted children to enter the home and quickly develop a secure attachment style. We assume that they know the amount of time and work it took to secure their adoption. 

*This is an excerpt from How to Have Peace When Your Kids Are in Chaos. You can purchase it here.

Want to learn more about attachment? Catch up on the series on the podcast:

How to Assemble a Vision Board

Write down your vision.

I covered this in more detail here. If you missed it, go back and read it first.

Grab a board

This is the simple part. Go to your local craft store and purchase a canvas or poster board.

Find Pictures that represent your vision

You can use Pinterest, magazines, take photos yourself, make some graphics on Canva, or draw your own. The possibilities are endless. Last year, I made some fake book covers on Canva to represent books I planned to write. The actual covers changed and that’s okay. The board is a representation of the work you are going to do. Remember to be flexible and have fun!

Think about what your vision will look like on a daily basis.

Think through your day. Make sure you block out time for your vision. It won’t just magically happen. You must make time for it to happen. This means giving up something else. It may mean giving up something good. There is a myth that everything will be balanced -that you can maintain everything perfectly all the time. You may have to give up having a spotless house for a season while you work on a project. It may be sleep while you get up at 4:30 to write (true story). Maybe we gals have to give up late-night Netflix watching because we need sleep so we can get up in the morning. Maybe kids’ nap time is the time to work on a project. Find time to work on your vision. I guarantee in order for a vision to come to pass, we have to be more intentional about how we spend our time.

My Vision

Years ago, when my eldest was a toddler, hubby and I moved in with my parents in order to stop renting and buy our first home. Most of our belongings stayed in boxes. I had limited space, was living on someone else’s schedule, and had a toddler who recently learned how to flip out of her crib. What did I do? I decided to start writing again. It was my first pursuit of writing as an adult. I didn’t own a computer. I had a typewriter. I set it up in my brother’s drum room and typed while I listened for Audrey who was next door in her room.

I gave up evening TV watching for a long season while I typed away. I felt satisfied, empowered, and productive. And guess what – the circumstances were not ideal. I didn’t have a pretty office. I didn’t have a desk. Nothing I wrote during those eight months was ever published. And yet it was time well spend. The time was profitable. The season reminded me writing is where my passion is parked.

This reminiscing and rambling is a reminder all the work your pour into your vision is profitable in some way. Don’t enter the process of creating a vision board with the idea that you will or should have perfect circumstances. Or the mistaken assumption – I will create a perfect product right away. If this is your frame of mind right now, you may need to do some reframing.

2020 Vision Board

Here’s my completed vision board for the coming year. It’s more of a summation of ideas than actual events. I break down my goals into smaller achievable objectives on paper and a calendar. I have :

  • Typewriters to represent writing more books
  • A computer to represent e-courses
  • A clock to remind me to spend time wisely (I’m using the 5 Second Journal and The Morning Sidekick Journal to help with keeping track).
  • Flowers represent time in my flower garden which is still part of my overall vision
  • Family time is super important – I mentioned some of the activities we do in the article here.
  • I have some house projects represented including some outdoor ones.

2019 Vision Board

This is last year’s board. It’s seems much different than this year’s. Last year, The Whole House had finished up its first year of the podcast, some e-courses, and a live gathering. It had poured so much of my energy into The Whole House. I still will this year, however, I have realized that my room is me. Everything I have to offer is my experience, the way I do things, and the topics God puts on my heart. I guess what I’m trying to say is your vision board is not some way out there idea, it’s not projecting some vision of something that isn’t in your wheelhouse. It’s you.

Want to know more about creating a vision board? Listen to this podcast episode!

Are you looking for a way to plan your goals for 2020? Have you ever tried creating a vision board? A vision board is a great visual to look at your goals on a daily basis. Vision boards can be fun, colorful, creative, and a great group project to do with friends. Why create a vision board? Grab a cup of coffee and join Kathleen and Kristin as they share what a vision board is and three reasons to create one.

Next Steps in Planning Your Vision Board


Yesterday, I talked about Three Reasons to Create a Vision Board, you can read it here. Today I’ll share one of the ways I plan projects and goals.

Create a Document or Paper for each project or goal.

 Break the project down into measurable, attainable objectives with deadlines for each. This is important. If you don’t have deadlines or dates to work on your goals, you probably won’t do it.  You’ll wish you could/would. 

Next thing you know another year has passed since you wanted to get healthy, better that relationship, start the website, make the quilt, etc…

Here’s an example from my own life. 

I’m an empty-nester-ish. I want to continue to spend time with my kids and grandkiddos in creative, intentional, and memory-building ways. *Just a note here – your vision board NEVER have to focus on being Insta-famous. Your vision should be about impacting your sphere of influence which starts with your family. 

Back to my example. Some things I have done (and continue to do) with family and friends. These fit in my family and relationship buckets.

  • Weekly swim days in the summer
  • Apple picking days
  • Fall Harvest and Craft Day
  • Christmas Craft/Cookie Day
  • Camp Lemon-Lime (Family Camp)
  • Joe and Throw (local coffee place) with my daughter to work – typing this there!

When I have these events on the calendar, I break down measurable goals to make them happen. Some are easier than others but all take effort.

Here’s a recent example.

Goal: Christmas Craft/Cookie day

Once I had a date scheduled, I worked out a list.

  • Plan crafts
  • Shop for supplies
  • Choose cookie doughs to prepare and mark recipes
  • Clean cookie cutters
  • Make dough

The list is a lot longer, but you get the picture. I literally write down everything I have to do on a list then I break it down into smaller jobs. After I have smaller jobs written out, I schedule them on the calendar. I used to use my journal (and sometimes randomly write things in there). The problem is I would lose the list and have to search. I’ve been using Trello now. I can make checklists, schedule things for certain days, see what’s next, and use the app on my phone or computer. Kristin uses this too! Maybe this seems like a lot of work to do for something. Consider the alternative, I schedule the day, freak out the evening before, go to the store, make the cookie dough, stay up until midnight trying to find a craft on Pinterest, and scrubbing toilets. I’ve done that before. It’s not fun. I’d rather break things down and do a little at at time.

Does this mean you have to do it this way. Nope. You don’t. You do what fits best with your personality and way of doing things.

These are just ideas. If one of your goals is to spend time with family, you’re going to have to be intentional. Otherwise, you may (like I have on many occasions) end up with a someday mentality. 

  • Someday when I have more time.
  • Someday when my schedule opens up.
  • Someday when I have more people to help me.

Remember the saying – Necessity is the mother of invention. It’s true. If you believe in investing in family relationships is important, you can find a way to make it happen with lots of intention and little or no money. For example if your goal is spend more time with your family -reading books aloud is free. Pop some popcorn. Sit by the fireplace and read. If you want it to happen, you must plan it. 

Rethinking your Vision Board

You may be thinking – wait, I thought this vision board was about starting a ministry/building a business, or some huge idea!

It is. For sure. But everything must be in its place. Like the illustration of adding rocks, gravel, and sand in a jar, to be effective, we must start with the big rocks first – God, family, relationships. If we don’t, everything won’t fit correctly. If you try to build a ministry without having the other aspects in order, it will fail. (This is just a friendly reminder.) 

It is important to be as proactive as possible. The saying – If you fail to plan, you plan to fail is true even or especially when it comes to God, family, and relationships.

Let’s say you have a great plan for spending time with God, family, and friends already in place and you want to move on to starting a business, a podcast, a website, teaching a class, starting a coaching business, hosting  retreat, or fill in the blank -you could focus your whole vision board on one of those.

Remember, your vision board is for your season, your sphere of influence, and your personal habits and goals. No one else’s. Well, no person’s. Like I said yesterday, it needs be be in God’s time and His plan. If you have never asked God to help you plan a goal, then be patient with yourself. Don’t expect to come up with a vision board to save the planet or have a Ted Talk that everyone watches. Your vision board will be a reflection of your authentic self with your personality and giftings shining through, not someone you think you should be. If you’re spending lots of time thinking how others will react to what you want to do, stop. This isn’t about your aunt’s opinion about whether you should write a book, have another baby, paint your house pink, or start a podcast. This is about aligning yourself with God’s will and His purpose for your life. If you want to paint your house pink, that’s not a moral issue, its’ a personality perk – maybe you just like pink. Let me end with this scripture to guide you:

11 And [His gifts to the church were varied and] He Himself appointed some as apostles [special messengers, representatives], some as prophets [who speak a new message from God to the people], some as evangelists [who spread the good news of salvation], and some as pastors and teachers [to shepherd and guide and instruct], 12 [and He did this] to fully equip and perfect the saints (God’s people) for works of service, to build up the body of Christ [the church]; 13 until we all reach oneness in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, [growing spiritually] to become a mature believer, reaching to the measure of the fullness of Christ [manifesting His spiritual completeness and exercising our spiritual gifts in unity].

Ephesians 4: 11- 13

Want to hear more about vision boards? Listen to this week’s podcast episode!

Are you looking for a way to plan your goals for 2020? Have you ever tried creating a vision board? A vision board is a great visual to look at your goals on a daily basis. Vision boards can be fun, colorful, creative, and a great group project to do with friends. Why create a vision board?  Grab a cup of coffee and join Kathleen and Kristin as they share what a vision board is and three reasons to create one.