Our Children may not be excessively thankful, In Fact quite the Opposite
Sandra Flach, of the Orphans No More Podcast, joins me again on the Positive Adoption Podcast to discuss why our kids who have experienced trauma are not excessively thankful. This is one of the topics in the book – Five Things: A Tiny Handbook for Foster/Adoptive Parents. Grab your free copy here. Grab a cup of coffee and join us for a lively discussion!
“Your kids must be so thankful,” a lady remarked to me after our recent adoption.
“No, not really,” I replied.
She looked shocked, “but you think they would be because you rescued them from THAT orphanage.”
I understand what the kind lady thought. Common misconception. Adoptive children, you’d think would be full of undying gratitude. Thanking parents for rescuing them with round the clock obedience and gushings of “Thanks, Mom and Dad, you saved me from life in an institution, foster care or, fill in the blank. Wishful thinking. Not an accurate picture.
Things are not as they seem
First of all, kids are kids. They may momentarily turn into thankful beings and then turn around and be disobedient. Totally normal.
Children who are adopted and taken from traumatic beginnings, i.e. hurt children may behave at the opposite end of the spectrum.
If a child has been abused, he has been given the message you are not valuable.
If a child has been neglected, he has been given the message you do not exist.
If a child has been rejected again and again, he believes he will be rejected again.
A child who has not attached to anyone does not have the ability to self-regulate his emotions or his physical appetites. All of these traumas mentioned put a child into survival mode,that is they child will do anything -lie, cheat, steal, reject, to survive EVEN IF HE IS IN AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE HE NO LONGER NEEDS TO DO SO. There new normal doesn’t replace old habits. Let’s not forget the old normal was their life, for good, bad or worse. Just because they have been ‘rescued’ doesn’t mean they wanted to be.
Son Gregory used to speak in an ugly, angry tone to everyone. He destroyed his siblings belongings, lied cheated, stole, and made sure his needs/wants were met HIMSELF. Every night at bedtime, he told Jerry and me that he was going back to Poland to live in the orphanage.
No, he was not thankful. He didn’t know he didn’t have to live in survival mode anymore. He pushed us away to protect himself. After some building blocks of attachment, his focus changed (when he felt safe). It didn’t happen overnight. He didn’t (and still doesn’t) thank us profusely.
When things look out of sorts, don’t give up!
And (at the age of six) he dictated a letter to me for Jerry:
I never go back to Poland, I promise. I love you.
Like I said, if you expect adopted children to be thankful, think again. Some of them have bursts of thankfulness, like any other child. Others, depending on the level and depth of their pain, will act ungrateful and form a wall of protection around themselves to survive. Be patient. Keep connecting. Those of you who work with adopted/foster children at church or school, don’t take their fussiness, meltdowns, shutdowns, pushing, shoving, lying or stealing, personally. They aren’t trying to get your goat or make life difficult. They are trying to survive at their present level of brain development and according to their ‘felt’ safety.
*Much of this article is a an excerpt from Five Things: A Tiny Handbook for Foster/Adoptive Families.
Sandra Flach, of the Orphans No More Podcast, joins me again this week as we discuss another point in the book- Five Things: A Tiny Handbook for Foster/Adoptive Families. Grab your free copy here.
We adoptive parents have to parent differently than traditional parents. We may seem to the outsider over strict or over protective.
“It’s okay, the boys can stay here. Let them stay.”
I was in a standoff on a back porch with a close friend. Two of my boys (13 and 14 years old) had gone home from church with this family without asking. It wasn’t the first time. And I was standing my ground even though I felt like melting into it.
“No, they need to come home. NOW.” I felt my face and neck flush red and tears brimming at the corner of my eyes.
“But, they’re having a good time. They’re no problem.”
I peeked the house and saw my boys making themselves at home in the family room, eating, leaning forward towards the large TV.
“No. They must come,” I said firmly and marched back to my car.
Two boys walked out of the home minutes later with heads high and stern faces.
“Why did you make us go, Mom?” one spat, “they said we could stay.”
THe Bad Parent?
I felt like bad parent. You know, the one who doesn’t let her kids do anything. And that was exactly what was being insinuated. I wouldn’t let them have any freedom. I drove home, all three of us with eyes forward. All three of us angry and hurt.
Which brings me to number four:
We adoptive parents have to parent differently than traditional parents. We may seem to the outsider over strict or overprotective.
I wasn’t being overprotective, I was putting up boundaries, or better repairing a breach. I had worked long, hard (yet happy) hours to take the old culture out of my children. It was tough work keeping those boundaries secure. One or two broken sections could cause disaster for the children.
Yes, the boys could have stayed and had a good time. I could have gone home and picked them up later. This was the home they wanted to be at. I could forgive (I did) and forget, but what of the cost? The cost would be the boys setting their own rules, sinking back into survival mode, doing what they wanted, when they wanted, with no regard for rules.
In a traditional family, parents raising children who have not come from hard places set boundaries and give natural consequences. This is good. Adoptive parents must work harder on these boundaries and helping the child to attach to them. It may make them seem overprotective or strict. They’re not. They are working on attachment skills.
Cause and Effect Thinking
For example, if a child lacks attachment skills and his parents let him roam the neighborhood because they think he is a good kid, the next thing you know the kid is in trouble or has done something dangerous. I know all kids get into trouble, but kids whose brain development has been delayed and the cause and effect thinking is not there, lives are at stake. These kids: climb too high in a tree, do something dangerous another kid has dared him to and risk life and limb, start a forest fire (true story) or rob a neighbor.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that hurt children are BAD. I am saying they need more guidance. More parental presence than others. I’m not saying to lock them down in the house. I’m saying do things with them. Take them rock climbing and let them fall a few feet with you there. Take them to the bike trail and let them feel the wonderful feeling of riding twenty miles. Hike on the trail with them. Pick up wildflowers and identify them. Build stuff. Plant stuff. Paint stuff. Go creek walking and let them feel how the world works so they can work in the world when they are older and know its boundaries.
Please be kind to adoptive parents. Don’t question their methods. Back them up. Don’t take their kids home without making sure you hear an “ok” directly from the parents. * This is an excerpt from Five Things: A Tiny Handbook for Foster/Adoptive Families – grab your copy here.
Join Sandra Flach, of Orphans No More Podcast, and me as we spend this month talking through the tiny handbook Five Things. You can grab your copy here.
1.1 Adoption is hard work.
Yes, adoption is positive. Positive things take effort. Thinking positively takes endurance and the strength to persevere. It takes time forming new grooves in the brain to think differently -it is positive work. It is still hard. Grueling. Taxing. Adoption is like that. We adoptive parents must form new grooves in our brain to account for going about process of family-building a different way than our peers. We fill out paperwork. Pour out our life stories for the home study. We are studied. Our homes are studied. Our lives are on display. Our habits and monetary value, our standards, morals and values are all scrutinized. We take classes to teach us how to be a parent and how to parent hurt children. Friend Jeanette and her family are “jumping through the hoops” in the stages of fostering to adopt. She’s weary and hopeful at the same time, last week in an email, she changed “hoops” to “jumping through fiery hoops.” Another family on the shores of their second adoption, had several adoptions fall through before they got call number three. Jerry and I met them for dinner and we talked about things adoptive parents need to. The husband set his mind and said, “Adoption is a sure thing. if this one doesn’t work out, God will send another one.”
So, next time you ask that future adoptive parent, ‘When are you going to get your kids?” or “Are you sure this isn’t a hoax to get your money?” (both questions I was asked more than once). Instead, ask, “How can I help?” “How can I pray for you?” Or send the waiting family a card, invite them over for dinner. Encourage them.
When Jerry and I came home from our first trip to Poland (without our adopted children) and settled in to wait for the return trip, wonderful friends and family had set up our Christmas tree and decorated it. Cleaned our home. Baked us Christmas goodies and family poured in for the Christmas holiday making it much more joyful while we waited.
And adoptive parents- don’t be afraid to ask for help. I know. That’s the last thing I want to do. I like to handle everything myself. Those five weeks I was in Poland, it was hard for me knowing someone was coming into my home and digging through that mess of Christmas decorations and seeing my dusty,messy boxes. It’s that way with our souls too. We don’t want to ask for help because people will see our weaknesses. They will see that we don’t have it altogether. Guess what, none of us do. And during this stressful precious time, ASK. ASK. ASK. If someone rebuffs you with the comments or questions I mentioned above, move on and ask someone else. Don’t shut down. You are not responsible for other people’s reactions. Their reactions don’t define you. Jesus does.
Holley Gerth says the belief that we need to change is “if we need help, we’re a burden. Because the opposite is true. In the kingdom of God, it’s more of a blessing to give than receive. So when we’re in need and we let someone help us, we’re blessing them.” (You’re Loved No Matter What)
This is a hard pill to swallow. Read that again and let it sink in. If is hard for you to believe that, write it down somewhere and look at it often. James 1:27 is for everyone in the body of Christ. However, not everyone is called to adopt. So, in essence if you adopt/foster and you are asking non adoptive/foster families for help, you are helping them fulfill the mission.
Ask yourself, “what do I really need?”, Holley suggests, and then answer that. If you need a coffee date with a friend, then ask for it. If you need help with paperwork, or someone to come shopping with you to buy things for the child you are waiting on, ask.
And the flip side of this, if you know someone who is jumping through the fiery hoops of adoption/foster care, ask them what you can do to help. Most of the time it has nothing to do with money, just time, encouraging words and maybe putting up a Christmas tree.
*This is an excerpt from the book
FIVE THINGS: A TINY HANDBOOK FOR ADOPTIVE/FOSTER FAMILIES
We don’t often talk about our strengths. We usually speak only of our weaknesses. We pray about our weaknesses, rehash them with our inner critic, and complain about them to our friends. But what about our strengths? I dare you to start a conversation with a friend today and say, “I think my biggest strength is…” and see where it goes.
Some of my Mom’s Strengths
At the beginning of the podcast, I read the intro of 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas which hi-lights some of my mom’s strengths.
She stood at the stove in her pink and blue plaid robe, tied tightly at the waist, her dark pixie cut askew from the pillow. She leaned toward the teapot, willing for it to whistle. On the cutting board cranberry orange bread waited to be sliced and toasted. We kids would lather the slices with butter and watch it seep into every crevice. Mom was always the first one up and the last one ready, thinking of everyone except herself. Her porcelain skin, dark hair and full lips gave her an Audrey Hepburn-ish look, but her heart more resembled Mother Theresa. She served the poor in the same way she served her family, with every ounce of herself. As a teen, sometimes I wished she served the poor less and me more, but as an adult I know serving the Lord was her true passion. She cared for the least of these because that is what He told her to do. She served Him by caring for the broken, the outcast, because she had been broken and outcast. Mom understood the truth of the Gospel that Jesus came for the lost, to heal the broken hearted. She passed her heart on to her children. She passed her traditions on, too. At her insistence, we read the passages from Luke every Christmas morning, a tradition the Guire family continues to this day. There are so many Christmas seasons I hear an Amy Grant Christmas song and burst into tears. My mom has been gone for over twenty years and yet, a sight, a sound, a feeling takes me back. I see her standing by the stove or holding a mug of hot water to keep her hands warm. I revisit Christmas memories again and again just to catch a glimpse of her and ponder the meaning of it all.
-Kathleen Guire, 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas
As you read through the excerpt, could you pick up on some her strengths? Servanthood, Traditions?
Finding your Strengths
Maybe you’ve never thought about your strengths. Take some time to now. I challenge you to get out pen and paper or your notes app and think through a scenario with your kiddos. What strength did you use?
If you were short on money, did you use creativity to come up with some fun games?
If it rained and you had planned an outdoor picnic, did you use your strength of flexibility to pivot and have a movie afternoon instead, complete with a picnic on the floor?
If your kiddos were all out of sorts, did you take your strength of the love of the outdoors and go for a hike?
If your child is struggling with night terrors, did you use your strength of empathy to calm her fears and pray with her?
Here is a short list (from Holley Gerth) to get you started:
Now that you have a list of some of your strengths, what do you do now? It’s not enough to know what they are, you must put them into action. In the sphere of parenting, there are two steps you can follow.
Incorporate your strength into you parenting. Every family has a different flavor. Your family’s flavor should include your strengths. If you are creative, you can use your creativity to build a family structure that reflects your personality. Take the time to write out your mission statement. It helps if you use the “Ten years from now…” statement to think it through. Consider your strengths as you write your mission statement. Think about what you want your family to look like ten years from now. Holley’s formula –I am created and called to express my faith through love, especially by [verb ending in “ing”] + [what] + [who] + [how] . Here’s a personal one I wrote –
I am created and called to express my faith through love, especially by teaching regulation and coping skills to teens through conversation, connection and correction.
That one is geared more towards the teen years. For littles, it could look like this:
I am created and called to express my faith through love, especially by nurturing, cooking for/with, cleaning up after, reading to, playing with, crafting with, singing with, and teaching my kiddos through being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom.–
How to Have Peace When Your Kids are in Chaos
Some of my strengths are: encouraging, organizing, teaching, nurturing, and creativity. You get the picture. My mission statements changed over the years. Just a note – you and your spouse can write one together!
2. Use your strength to connect with your children. This is the most important point of the article. It does our family no good if we aren’t connecting. In the Bible, the spiritual gifts are listed and then the admonishment that they are to be used for the building up of the body (the church). Your strengths, gifts, and talents are from God. They should be used to build up your family (first). Your strengths should act as conduits to connection. Your strengths should not separate and shame your children. For example, if your strength is organization and you have a kiddo who isn’t organized, then don’t use your strength to shame him. Use your gift to connect. Help him clean his room and organize his things. Or if a clean room isn’t that important, organize your time so you can do something he likes to do.
Listen to the podcast below and make sure you scroll down to for the links mentioned on the podcast including a free Advent E-Course – 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas for the first seven people who sign up!
25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas Book and E-Course
I mentioned this on the podcast- the first seven people to sign up can join the e-course for the Advent season. The e-course is free! Enroll in the course here. Grab a copy of the book here!
The advent devotional, 25 Days of Thriving through Christmas: An Advent Devotional for Adoptive and Foster Parents, provides an insightful, practical and encouraging resource for parents navigating the advent season. The book fills a void for adoptive and foster families as to ideas and guidance of not just surviving the Christmas season with children who have come from different backgrounds/experiences but to “thriving” during the season. With applicable daily Scripture readings to practical suggestions, this tool for helping families will become an annual tradition!
– Kimberly Taylor, Adoptive Parent
Hope to see you in the 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas Course! Again- Link for the course –here. Go check it out!
Link for 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas, the book here.
Some of us have an inner-critic. It harasses us all day long with thoughts such as –
It’s your fault your kids act the way they do.
If you would only (fill in the blank) then your kids would behave.
If you were a better parent, everything would be better.
If you weren’t parenting from your past, your kids wouldn’t struggle.
You’ll never be a great parent.
If this is you, I get it. I have an inner critic and it tried to boss me around. The Bible says we are supposed to take every thought captive. When my inner-critic is sending out thoughts, I need a giant lasso to grab them all. It’s not one thought. It’s a barrage of them. So, how do we handle it? And here’s a note, if you think when your kids are grown, the inner-critic quiets down, think again. There are plenty of “If you had only…” thoughts.
My Two Approaches
I can’t just cast a thought out. I have to replace it. It’s called substitution. If you try only casting it out, you’ll be emotionally exhausted by the end of the day. Trust me. I have days when I only cast out the thoughts or follow them down a deep dark hole. It’s mentally and physically exhausting. I ask God to rebuke the devourer for me. I also know that God is strong in the midst of my weakness, so I pray that. God, I’m weak in this area of my thought life, but you’ve given me a spirit of discipline and self-control. Thank you for helping me and renewing my mind.
Proactively copy and pray scripture that negates the critical thoughts. Like I said above, scripture says God has given me a spirit of discipline and self-control, so I pray it by faith. I said last week on the podcast -parenting is a skill we can improve. One of ways we improve is studying and applying scripture to help us grow. I’m pretty old school so I use index cards to write scriptures to study. I also have a Pinterest board of scripture art. Find what works best for you!
When Mom-Guilt and external Circumstances Boss you around
Some of us are more tuned into external cues instead of internal ones. This is true for extroverts, while introverts are more internally driven. So, maybe you aren’t bossed around by an inner-critic but base your parenting success on what you see externally. When your kids are doing well, you feel as if you are parenting well. If your kids are struggling with friendships. school situations, fear, or fill in the blank, you may feel as if you have failed. Or maybe you have both -inner-critic and mom-guilt.
Mom guilt is usually after the fact or tells you what you aren’t doing. It can be based on what the rest of the culture or church is doing. For example, we pulled our kids out of sports for a season because it was eating up all our family time. On the one hand, I knew it was the right decision. One the other, when someone made a comment (external) about how some of my kids were so athletic, I felt guilty. I FELT it. It didn’t change my mind or my hubby’s.
Mom-guilt is fierce. It tells us we did everything wrong yesterday. It’s a scarcity mentality of sorts. It tell you – You aren’t doing enough. After the fact, it creeps in and says “Sure that was a nice birthday party for your kiddo, too bad you didn’t get her exactly what she wanted.” Or “If you had more money, you could have taken a vacation, maybe you should go back to work full time.”
How do you Combat Mom Guilt?
Remember guilt usually comes after the fact. When the Holy Spirit is gently nudging you, it is before the fact. If you have these two facts in place, it’s easier to distinguish what is what. After the fact guilt is not the same as sin. If you feel as if you sinned, then repent and move on. We use the word guilt loosely, it’s not the same as “all have sinned” (which is true). This guilt is a feeling. Treat as such. Examine it. Like I did in the “stepping out of sports” example, I felt the guilt, but I didn’t change my decision. Examine it. Feel it. Make changes if you need to. Move on quickly! Don’t tread water in your guilty feelings!
If you are struggling with shame and guilt from your past- check out these articles!
We’ve been prepping for it all week- thinking about how we are going to approach this year.
Prepping physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.
Forming some new traditions.
Sowing seeds of celebration when your kids are in survival mode.
Taking some time to grieve and celebrate at the same time.
It’s time to dive in!
What’s in the book?
Each week day, you’ll receive a tip to help you and your kiddos thrive this season. I’ve included a few of them this week in our Advent Prep!
Plus read a short Biblical application to feed and nourish you soul.
On the weekends, read a longer lesson – Joseph, Mary, Wisemen, Jesus (in that order).
Bonus – I’ve included a tip for December 26th.
A Professional opinion
Adoptive families have unique challenges, which often become magnified during the holidays. Kathleen’s experience as an adoptive mother has enabled her to provide an insightful perspective that many other adoptive families can relate too. She does this in a way that also incorporates specific scripture that connects very well to the concept of adoption. This spiritual connection can help families reflect on the adoption story of Christ, as a way to help their family bond and form traditions through their own adoption stories. Parents will be able to read along on a day to day basis and reflect on their own experiences, while reading encouraging words from a fellow adoptive parent. The tips that Kathleen suggests offers comfort for adoptive families as they learn how to best navigate through the holiday season in ways that fit the specific needs of their child and their family as a whole.
Molly McCartney, Adoption Therapist and Adoptive Parent
For All Families
Although I wrote 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas for adoptive/foster/kids with capital letter syndromes, considering the events of 2020, all families would benefit. All kids have been traumatized by the losses this year – not seeing friends, family, events canceled, (fill in the blank).
I’m a feeling stuffer. I’m getting better at recognizing the fact that I do and actually feeling the feelings. It’s no fun sometimes. I’d rather stuff and be numb. It’s not healthy. It can cause physical symptoms and conditions. As I write this, I’m pretty emotionally exhausted. I worked out this morning for about 18 minutes and I was done. I contemplated taking a nap at 8:30 am and thought, what is wrong with me? Then I thought about the conversation I had with my hubby earlier about my mother-in-law being in the hospital, my aunt in hospice, a friend whose brother died, and the all craziness going on. BOOM. I acknowledged my grief, prayed, made some coffee and sat down to write this. Those situations haven’t changed and I’m still tired, but acknowledging it and praying is much better than stuffing it! What does this have to do with Advent Prep?
Don’t expect the Christmas season to be free of hardships.
A dear friend of mine died around Christmas time. I won’t make this tip about it. The grief is fresh and private and yet I rejoice that she no longer suffers.
* * *
None of us knows the day or the hour when hardships or struggles will strike.
* * *
At this time last year, I was running around with a heart monitor strapped to my chest and wires trailing out of my yoga pants, thanks to some heart issues. My eldest son, Damian, fell and broke his elbow at work so we traipsed from doctor to specialist trying to get a good picture of what was going on inside his arm. I got home and jumped into son Hunter’s car to be whisked to the cardiologists and rip off the monitor before they locked the doors. (Wonder what the reading looked like that last hour). Not what I planned to be doing during the countdown to Christmas.
* * *
The truth is- life happens during the Christmas season. We cannot put sickness on hold or plan not to have any tragedies. Struggles are not scheduled on your calendar app.
Struggling and Rejoicing
The circumstances of the birth of our savior were probably not the Christmas that Mary and Joseph had envisioned. Fleeing to Egypt shortly after was probably not on their agenda either. Yet, they rejoiced. They celebrated. Mary pondered all of these things. There were gifts and songs sung by angels. There was great joy!
“Struggling and rejoicing are not two chronological steps, one following the other, but two concurrent movements, one fluid with the other.”- Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift
We parents must learn to rejoice and struggle at the same time for our children’s sake. We must teach them to cope and rejoice in the midst of circumstances. We can rejoice in one thing and grieve another at the same time. Nobody is asking us to ignore grief or pain. We don’t ask our children to either. We can rejoice in Christmas in the midst of pain. Hardships happen even at Christmas.
*Part of this article is an excerpt from 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas.
Maybe you have been following along with the Advent Prep and you’re thinking, lady, you don’t understand, my kids are in survival mode. Actually, I get it. The reason I wrote 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas is because my kiddos were in survival mode. It started as a blog series and I got so much great feedback from adoptive/foster parents I decided to flesh it out and turn it into a book.
When Jerry and I adopted a sibling group of four from Poland, the holidays took on a new bent. Kids from hard places often do not know the meaning of celebration. We have to teach them and be patient while they sit on the sidelines or hide under the table. We parents must gently coax the child from darkness into the light without overwhelming them at the same time. It’s like walking a tightrope with no pole in the middle of a crowded mall during Christmas season. The slightest noise or smell can set these kids off and then everything is out of kilter.
My friend Molly McCartney, Adoption Therapist and Adoptive Parent said this of the book:
25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas, is a unique tool to help adoptive families throughout the busy and often hectic holiday season, especially as it focuses on specific needs that children impacted by trauma can experience.
I’m not telling you this to sell you a book, although I think it would be super helpful to you if you are raising kids who have experienced trauma. Even if your kiddos didn’t come home through foster care or adoption, the circumstances this year have been traumatic for all kiddos. That’s why I think this Advent Devotional is more important this year for all families than it ever has been.
How can you celebrate when a kid is having a meltdown?
This is a question I hear from parents often. Maybe last year you tried singing a Christmas carol every night and one kiddo sat in a corner and sulked. Or you said, “Let’s make cookies!” and some kids complained so you didn’t do it. Or you offered fun suggestions and the kids groaned so you went to your room and got under the covers and said, “Forget it!” I get it. Been there myself.
Ghost of Christmas Future
May I be your ghost of Christmas Future for a moment? If you don’t choose to do the fill in the blank (with a game, cookie making, Christmas carol, or other), guess what will happen in your future? Years from now ghosts of Christmas past will haunt your family with the vacuous vacuum of silence.
What about doing the things mentioned above anyway? What will happen then? I can tell you from my own experience. The kiddos who “didn’twantto” who “satinthecorner” or “didn’tsingthecarols” remember the past fondly. They remember the events as if they were enjoyable! Some of them joke about their stubbornness or tell stories about how great such and such was.
An example of this – a few years ago, Hubby and I took our youngest shopping about an hour and half away from our home at a large shopping complex. We went to multiple stores and ended the day with dinner out before the drive home. This was the kiddo who didn’t like going out period, holiday or no. He didn’t like Christmas shopping at all. On the way home, he said,”This was a great day. It reminds me of the Christmas shopping trips you took us on to buy gifts for each other. It was really fun.” Both hubby and I looked back at our nineteen year old son and thought -WHAT?! So, just a gentle reminder from the Ghost of Christmas Future – whatever it is, do it anyway. Adjust it to fit the special needs of your kiddos, but do it. Don’t wait for perfect conditions or everyone to be on board!
He who watches the wind [waiting for all conditions to be perfect] will not sow [seed], and he who looks at the clouds will not reap [a harvest].
Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle with your hands in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening planting will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both alike will be good.
Yesterday, I gave you a lot of homework. How did you do? Did you begin to prepare physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
What we can control
There may be a lot of things out of our control this year, but there are some things we can control. Our attitude. Our habit of celebration. Our planning events that build memories for our children!
In 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas, I share this tip:
Tip 14 – Start a tradition.
“Make sure the good ground of your home includes an abundance of laughter, parties, celebrations, presents, candles, Christmas trees, gifts, surprises, rocky road ice cream, jokes, backyard picnics,….”
-Bill Carmichael, Seven Habits of a Healthy Home
The truth is we each have traditions whether we choose them or just participate in them by default. We say to our spouses, “But, my mom did it this way.” The traditions are seared into our minds so deeply that we consider them dates on a calendar instead of choices.
Choose a New Tradition
This is a great year to choose a new tradition! If you can’t do everything the way you did it last year or the way your mom did it, it’s okay. You have the power to choose. You have the power to practice the habit of celebration.
Take a winter nature hike and then have hot chocolate.
Sit by the fireplace and tell stories of your Christmases growing up.
Put on some Christmas music and sing at the top of your lungs.
The beginning of a tradition now is a pocket full of memories later.
Christmas is a time for rebuilding the walls around your family and creating some new memories for you and your child.
Then [Ezra] told them, Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet drink, and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. And be not grieved and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold.
– Nehemiah 8:10
It’s a good thing to celebrate. Eat the cookies. Drink the hot chocolate. Don’t be grieved and depressed. The joy of the Lord is our strength and stronghold.
Today we’re embarking on a journey together to prepare for Advent!
Let’s focus on preparing physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Physically – Do you have an advent wreath and candles or some other way you celebrate? Maybe a journal and Bible? A Devotional for the kiddos?
Mentally – Take a few minutes sometime today and think about Advent Seasons you have really enjoyed. Think of some ways you can build some new memories this year.
Emotionally – It’s okay to grieve the fact that this year is different. It sometimes seems we have entered and alternate universe. Life is still happening. We can enjoy aspects of it despite the circumstances.
Rejoice and pray.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, take pleasure in Him]; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit [your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience] be known to all people. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. 7 And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].
Phil. 4: 4-8
I know this is a long set of verses, but take the time to read them more than once! Rejoice. The Lord is near. He hears your prayers. He will guard your hearts and your minds.
Last week on the podcast, I asked – Do you think having obedient kids makes you a good parent? We must let go of the myth that perfect parents exist.
GOD’S FIRST CHILDREN DISOBEYED HIM
Does that make you feel better? It did me. When I first realized that God, the Father Himself, who is perfect, had disobedient kiddos, I breathed a sigh of relief. You can read the rest of the post and listen to the podcast here.
This week, I moved on to the next step –
Have a reconciliation Plan in Place
If we follow God’s pattern of parenting, we will have a plan in place to follow disobedience. If we have the understanding that our kiddos aren’t going to be perfectly obedient, it gets a bit easier, especially if we have a reconciliation plan in place. God had one. He knew Adam and Eve would disobey Him. Before the foundation of the world, He had chosen to adopt us (Ephesians 1: 4,5). He already planned to send His Son to come to earth as a man and sacrifice Himself so we could reconnect with God. That’s the goal of a reconciliation plan. It’s a fancy way of saying – What will you do after disobedience? The goal of the plan is to get back to connection. At the end of whatever consequence you choose, there should be a reconnection. Keep in mind, all of this depends on the child (and your attitude).
Just a note – Kids who have experienced trauma or who have a capital letter syndrome my not have great executive function. They are impulsive. Sometimes these behaviors aren’t disobedience, just a faulty neural pathway.
Some Reconciliation Tools
So how do we reconcile with our kiddos and make sure they are learning and growing in character at the same time?
First of all, we often think of parenting as something we are “good” at “bad” or “meh” at. Instead, we need to think of it as a skill we can’t get better at. We shouldn’t stay static. Think about it, when we go on a job interview, we’re asked what our strengths are (more on that in a couple of weeks when I talk about our parenting strengths). When you have a profession, like parenting, you can use tools to accomplish what you need to. However you approach your reconciliation plan, it should include reconnection at the end. Here are just a few tools or “Instead Of” Tips.
“INSTEAD OF” PARENTING SUGGESTIONS
Instead of a lecture, use simple language (8- 12 words total).
Instead of waiting for behavior to intensify, respond quickly.
Instead of giving orders, offer simple choices.
Instead of just correcting, give immediate retraining and a “re-do.”
Instead of expecting a child to know, clarify expectations.
Instead of isolating when a child is dysregulated, keep the child near you.
Instead of only noticing the “bad” behaviors, offer praise for success.
Instead of taking it personally, remember there is a need behind the behavior.
Want to learn more?
Click HERE to read the whole “Instead Of” Tips article and HERE for your free downloadable infographic.
If the these tools for parenting are all new to you, take some time and read the article, maybe print it off and hi-light some tools you’d like to try. Hint – Don’t try all at once and all of them won’t work for every child. Also, print the infographic or save it on your phone to refer to!
This week I started a series on parenting. A friend of mine had posted on Instagram what she used to think made a parent good. Keep in mind, I’m using “good” in a very general sense. This isn’t a series about judging our parenting. It’s about encouraging, educating, and equipping ourselves.
We may have believed some myths about what good parenting looks like. Or maybe the pressures of this culture have you seeping in Mom-guilt and you have a really negative view of your parenting skills. During this stressful time when many Moms are with their kiddos 24/7, exhaustion and circumstances can have everyone in meltdown mode. Then our Mom-guilt or inner critic (or both) rears its ugly head and we sink lower into a depressed state. LET’S. NOT. GO. THERE. This isn’t a series to give you three magical steps to being a better parent. Or a good parent. Let’s look at the whole parenting gig from a different perspective by answering some questions. (Please put in your two cents by filling out this survey- here).
Does Having Obedient kids make you a good parent?
Do you think having obedient kids makes you a good parent? Like you should get a prize when your kids listen? Raising my hand here. For years I thought this was the Biblical definition of parenting to strive for. Although I do think obedience is something to aim for, I don’t think it qualifies us for “best parent” status.
Who do you think is the best parent in the universe? God, the Father, would be my answer. How did his first kiddos – Adam and Eve – do in the obedience department? God put Adam and Eve in perfect circumstances. Their every need was met. They had secure attachment. They walked and talked with God every day. His only restriction – Don’t eat of the tree in the middle of the garden. If you eat of it, you will die. Let’s take a look at what happened next:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
– Genesis 3
God’s first Children Disobeyed Him
Does that make you feel better? It did me. When I first realized that God, the Father Himself, who is perfect, had disobedient kiddos, I breathed a sigh of relief. Yes, of course, I’ve read through the Bible and know about the seven cycles of judgment in Judges, the people who disobeyed, lied, and had kingships removed. Those are all pretty serious sins. But for a long time, I hadn’t processed the first kids being disobedient dynamic. It certainly takes a weight off my shoulders.
Your kids have free will, just like any human on the planet. Perfect obedience is not a job requirement for parents. It’s something we pursue. Relationship comes first though. As I say on the podcast – God already had a plan set up for reconciliation before Adam and Eve disobeyed. That’s our job. We must have a plan for reconnecting after disobedience (and a redo, time-in or whatever parenting tool fits the bill). * I’ll talk more about the reconciliation plan next week on the podcast.
Book Series I Mentioned on the Podcast
1. After ten years in a Polish orphanage, Adelina’s dream of finding a home is coming true. And, so is her worst nightmare.
After a new intern appears, Daria, Adelina’s best friend’s, adoption falls through. Then Daria disappears. With a human trafficking ring in the area targeting teens, Adelina must save her friend or go to the states with her new family.
2. Can this newly adopted teen finally learn what it means to be part of a family? When someone from her past shows up at her doorstep with some disturbing news it launches her into the path of danger again.
3. Adelina is graduating from college and getting married. She’s left her coping mechanisms of defining words and reciting poetry behind… that is until she answers the phone at the Crisis Pregnancy Center. The caller on the other end pulls her back into the dangerous world of human trafficking.
Adelina finally feels secure in her home and family. She’s ready to launch out into adulthood, get married, and move away from her forever family. Then she takes a deep dive into the cultural issues and a different species of human trafficking. She’s at odds with her team, government agencies, and her old inner demons.
This list could go on for days, literally. This is something I’ve been thinking about since a friend’s post about what she used to think good parenting entailed, spurred my brain into action.
Parents often just parent. Seventy to eighty percent of us parent like our parents did, unless we make a conscious decision to parent differently. If we do decide to parent differently, we must face our past, work on changing our attachment style, and put some new parenting tools in our belt. If this is you and you want to learn a new type of parenting (I did) click here.
Once we are parenting, we get on autopilot. We just do it because, let’s face it, there’s not a ton of time to think about it. So, let’s make some space to think about it right here.
National Parents of The Year
Many years ago, when we only had three children (instead of seven), hubby and I were awarded “National Parents of the Year Award” at a reception in Washington D.C.. My question? “Why me? Why us?” I didn’t feel as if I were the best parent in the nation. Oftentimes, I didn’t feel like the best parent in the room when I was the only one in the room. Many times, I feel as if I’ve missed the mark completely.
So, do awards and accolades mean I’m a good parent or do they make me a better parent? And if my parenting was okayish when I had three bio children, why did I lose the ability to parent successfully by many peoples’ standard after adopting a sibling group of four?
The Inner Critic
Some of us, especially ones on the Enneagram have a constant inner critic telling us how wrong we are, how we should/could do better. Even when we have a victory, like not yelling, our inner critic tells us we wanted to and so it doesn’t count.
All of us have mom guilt. It is universal. It shows up in different ways and always shows up pointing the finger at what we did wrong. We didn’t wash all the clothes and someone didn’t have their favorite shirt. Or we stayed up late to watch a movie because we needed a break and now we are grouchy. We yelled. We bossed. Fill in the blank.
So, here’s another question – Do we measure our parenting ability by our inner critic and/or mom- guilt?
I know, I’ve poured out many questions. I created a survey to see what you think. It’s called the Good Parent Survey. You can find it here.
For the next six weeks, I’ll be talking about “What is a Good Parent?” on the Positive Adoption Podcast and picking apart some of these questions on my lives (Tuesday on Facebook), and in article form. If you would, take a few minutes and take the survey, I’d love to hear what you think! Also, feel free to leave a comment- What do you think defines good parenting?
Every year, the calendar hit November and we are all supposed to be overflowing with gratefulness. It’s a lot of pressure, especially if you are raising kiddos who have a capital letter syndrome or who have experienced trauma. We Moms can easily get our minds on the track of negativity or wallowing in behaviors. We can get in the vicious cycle of reacting to behaviors and stuck in a cycle of codependency with our kiddos. When they are okay, we are. That’s no way to live. We are supposed to be the leader, the coach, the parent, not the victim of everyday circumstances and behaviors. But, before you think I’ve got it all down pat and I live the parenting journey perfectly, let me say, I write about this because I’ve been stuck in the pit of reactionary parenting many times. If you can learn from my mistakes, then I’m happy to share them.
EVERYTHING TO BE GRATEFUL FOR OR SOMETHING TO BE GRATEFUL FOR
Maybe some days we can be extremely grateful because everything goes as planned for a few minutes. But then it falls apart. We need to leave behind the idea that we will have everything to be grateful for. We must grasp the idea that we have something to be grateful for. As parents of kids with capital letter syndromes or who have experienced trauma, we have to look for pinpricks of light. And when we see these pinpricks of light or small victories such as regulating in a stressful situation (such as wearing a mask when it causes sensory overload). Or maybe you regulated while a child raged.
On the podcast this week, I share three tips to help us thrive through this season (and I don’t mean just the holidays).
1. Create Memories to be Grateful for
I have friends who put up Christmas trees in October. Some are putting them up this week, watching Christmas movies, making cookies, and playing games together. We have the power to create memories. We can decide to celebrate. Next year, what do you want your kids to remember about this year? The stress? Anxiety? Or the way you celebrated just because you made it happen.
One year my family had moved to a new town, we had lost our business, and were starting over with nothing. I just wanted to stay in bed and pull the covers over my head. But I had kids depending on me. The Lord put it on my heart to do something fun with my kiddos and hug them every day. It was definitely hard for me to do. I did it and if you ask my kids about that year now, they say it was hard but we grew closer as a family. We had more family time, game nights, random water fights in the front yard, and roller blading on the driveway.
2.You have not gone this way before
It’s easy to look back to last year and think, wow, we had a lot to grateful for! I was reading the book of Joshua yesterday and the phrase “You have not gone this way before” really stuck out to me. Although other generations have gone through some pretty tough stuff, we haven’t gone this way before. It’s okay if we don’t know how to process it. What we do need, is the presence of the Lord in our lives to lead us. In the Old Testament, people didn’t have access to the presence. They had to follow the Ark of the Covenant at a distance. Today, we can boldly approach the throne for grace in our time of need. We can commit our way to the Lord and He will direct our path.
3.Find Your Calm
One of the most amazing abilities of kiddos is their ability to mirror us. Watch a baby smile at sister smiling at her. Or cry when someone is looking at her sternly. Kids who have experienced trauma already have a lot of anxiety. When we are anxious and fearful, they will absorb our feelings. This is why it is so important to find our calm.
The Bible says:
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. – 2 Timothy 1:7
I’m a girl who has struggled with fear and anxiety from my early childhood. I get it, it’s easy to stay stuck in fear. It is tempting to hunker down in craven, cringing, and fawning fear. But that’s not helping us or our kiddos. And that’s not what God has given us. He gave us a spirit of “power and of love and of calm and well balanced mind and discipline and self-control.” It takes self-discipline to use this spirit of power. It means feeling the feelings and then processing them and talking to yourself in your upstairs brain. It means asking yourself logical questions. Is this true? Should I be concerned about this? What can I do about it? It also means doing the work of renewing your mind. Find scriptures to memorize. A big one for me this season is Psalm 23. God is my Shepherd. He leads and guides me. He restores my soul.
I also talk a bit about real self-care on the podcast. Hopefully, these three points are food for thought. There is a way to thrive this season and enjoy your live today!
Here are the links to the people I mentioned on the podcast:
*This article is by Sandra Flach from her site Orphans No More. You can find her here, listen to her podcast, and read her articles!
A house is built by wisdom and becomes strong through good sense. Through knowledge its rooms are filled with all sorts of precious riches and valuables. Proverbs 24:3-4
Children are our most valuable resource. Parents need wisdom to raise them, especially in this season of Covid-19.
One major area of stress for families involves education. While some schools have reopened, the school day in most communities has been modified. And many parents are navigating the uncharted territories of remote learning or traditional homeschooling. Whatever route families have chosen this year, stress levels are high.
For foster and adoptive families, the journey is even more challenging. Children with trauma histories and/or capital letter syndromes (ADHD, ADD, FASD, etc.) are struggling more than ever. Parents are forced to balance working from home, ridiculous school schedules, home educating, and managing their child’s anxiety.
This week, Sandra Flach, host of our Orphans No More podcast, speaks with Kathleen Guire—mom of seven children, four through adoption, former National Parent of the Year, former homeschooling mom, author, teacher, speaker, and host of the Positive Adoption Podcast. Join them as they tackle the tough and timely subject of schooling through the pandemic. Find their conversation on episode 244 HERE.
Please be sure to subscribe to the podcast, leave a review, and share it on your social media.
Are you thinking of becoming a foster parent? Is fear stopping you? Do you think foster care is too hard to step into? Then this is for you (even if you are already fostering). Kathleen interviews Rachel Eubank, a foster parent who blogs at Normalizing Foster Care. Rachel shares her family’s connection to foster care, her story, and some great tips. Grab a cup of coffee and join these lovely ladies!
I have 11 permanent siblings and have had over 150 foster siblings through the years. With a family like that, we always got a lot of questions:
Are they all yours? Do you run a daycare? Whose kids are these anyway?
Before my parents met, they had previous marriages and children. When their families blended, they already had five children between them but even then, they knew that they wanted more. With my father having been in foster care his whole life and my mother being interested in fostering because of the influence of a favorite Aunt, becoming foster parents was almost pre-determined for them. They began fostering in 1975, shortly after they were married and three years before I was born.
I am the only biological child between my parents. I have 5 older half siblings from their previous marriage and 6 more siblings who were adopted throughout my parent’s foster care journey. As I was growing up, I always felt like my position in the family was a special one; I was an only child in a very large and diverse family.
There was not a time in my life that has not been touched by foster care. My parents fostered as they raised their biological families and continued to foster children in the Detroit area for a total of 35 years. A revolving door of siblings and social workers was completely normal and expected in our home. My Dad worked outside the home and for most of those years, my Mom worked in the home taking care of all of us.
Our house was always full, always loud, and always busy. You never knew who was going to be at the dinner table when you got there. One night I had a friend over for dinner with the family. When my Dad got to the table after working for the day he walked by, patted my friend on the head with welcoming smile, and sat down to eat with us. After dinner he asked her if she had any pajamas with her and she said she didn’t.
“Go get her some of yours, Rachel,” my Dad said to me.
“Dad, are you sure?” I answered.
“Rachel, you know that we share everything we have, no matter what, please go get her a pair of pajamas and get ready for bed.”
I did what my Dad asked me to do and my friend got all settled in for the night. When my Dad stopped in to tuck us in and say goodnight, I hopped up and gave him a huge hug and said, “Thank you so much for letting my friend sleep over on a school night!!” From that night on, he always checked to see which kids were supposed to stay and which were supposed to go home after dinner!
Meals at our home were filled with laughter and not a small amount of chaos. My parents were playful so they often found a way to make meal time fun. We piled muffins wrappers on my Dads plate at the end of the meal and teased him for eating to much or played telephone with our empty milk cups. My parents often tell the story of when my sister wanted to play telephone but forgot to drink her milk first! Spilled milk and messes were normal for this many kids and it quickly became a favorite story to tell for years.
Just like every other family we have had ups and downs. Some of the kids that lived with us stole our hearts and broke them into pieces when they left. Some of them brought relief when it was time for them to move on. Foster care and caring for others has been woven into the fabric of our family since its very beginning and I wouldn’t have wanted to be raised any other way. Our lives may have been more chaotic than others, but our lives were normal and have been well lived.
Without foster care I would not have 6 of my precious siblings. I would not have the diversity in cultures and lifestyles and opinions in my family that I have now. Without foster care my life might have been more like what others would consider normal, but without foster care, it would have been less.
Rachel Eubank is a guest on this week’s Positive Adoption Podcast. Watch for it tomorrow!
Imagine a bear trap closing on a human leg, bone crunching, blood spurting, immeasurable pain. Not to mention being stuck. Stuck in pain. Stuck in one place until someone comes and releases you from the trap.
What does a bear trap have to do with homeschooling? What doesn’t work for me is the comparison trap. It’s a lot like a bear trap. It’s buried, you don’t see it, but once you get caught in it, you are stuck and in immeasurable pain.
Four of my children are adopted and had traumatic beginnings. When they came home, their emotional ages and physical ages didn’t match up. Their development was delayed and each of them had some learning challenges, all of that topped with learning a new language. On a scholastic number line, they were in the negative.
Comparing a kid to a standard one size fits all is like walking around with a bear trap attached to your calf. It drains the lifeblood right out of you.
I Was a Late bloomer
One night at the dinner table, Rafal shared that a boy in his Royal Ranger troop isn’t athletic and the commander encourages him along.
“I wasn’t that athletic as a child,” I replied.
“You weren’t?” he asked incredulously.
He was surprised. I roller blade, ice skate, swim, climb around on rocks with my kids. I’m still not coordinated, but don’t tell him.
I was a late bloomer. While my sister was ready to train for the Olympics in gymnastics, I was doing what I did best at the time- stumbling and falling on my face a lot!
“What did you do back then?” he asked.
“Well, I was little and skinny. So I RAN. AWAY, mostly from other kids.” Laughter.
AGes and Stages
Kids are growing through ages and stages at different rates. Who they are or what they are doing now does not determine who they will become unless we compare and verbally point out what we see as delays. Get help for your special needs child if you need to. Talk to experienced moms, but don’t rehearse the delays in front of him. I have taken classes, attended workshops on speech therapy and various seminars to help me teach my children. I want my children to reach their potential. I am saying CELEBRATE their victories.
If Susie next door wins the regional spelling bee and your child through equal time and effort can spell ten words, then don’t compare. CELEBRATE!
If your child participates in the Social Studies Fair and speaks in front of the judges with tears streaming down her face because of social anxiety. She did it afraid. CELEBRATE!
If all the high schoolers at Co-op are taking A.P. courses and your child took two years to complete Algebra I, but he conquered it. CELEBRATE!
Don’t get stuck in the comparison trap. It’s a painful place to be, instead enjoy each age and stage your children are in!
Susie, a friend of mine (plus foster and adoptive Mom), shared a conundrum she had recently while teaching four-year-olds during Sunday school class. A new little one melted down and hid under the table. She had no special instructions for the little one and wasn’t sure how to handle it. You see, there is a big difference between disobedience and a reaction based on past trauma. Turns out the little one was a foster child who was placed in the home just the night before. Susie would have been better equipped to help him if she had only known. I could do a whole post on taking a fresh foster or adoptive placement to church, but I’ll save that for another day. I’d like to focus on trauma and its effect on self-regulation.
The Signature of Trauma
Trauma produces children from hard places. Children from had places have altered brain development. The main outwards sign of past trauma is what we often refer to as “bad behavior” or the inability to self regulate (if you want it to sound more science-y and less critical). The truth is, when it comes to behavior, we must remember that every behavior expresses a need.
When it comes to a child from hard places ability to self-regulate, it’s CAN’T not WON’T. In simple plain language that means, he cannot calm himself. He can’t help but be overwhelmed to the point that he is either hiding under the table (flight), not responding to what you are asking of him (freeze) or running away from the situation (flight). He CAN’T. Not physically able. Not emotionally able. In this scenario, the adult must take the reins and help the child by co-regulating. Co-regulation helps a child develop a new pattern for stress regulation.
“The early developing right brain, where attachments develop, is largely dominant during the first three years of life (Schore, 2003). It contains the initial and lasting template for stress regulation. Revisions to this template will require intentional efforts.”-Deborah Gray, Nurturing Adoption
What Does Co-regulation Look Like?
Think of a two year old being tired and falling on the floor having a meltdown because she doesn’t want to take a nap. Clearly, she needs one, so Mom takes control of the situation. Mom takes the little one to her room and reads her a story and rocks her to sleep. She takes a nap. Mom is co-regulating because unless you have a rare toddler, she is not going to recognize her need for a nap and put herself down for one.
Filling in the Gaps of Missed Co-Regulation
With a child from a hard place, no matter what their age and size, we must co-regulate when they cannot. A twelve year old who cannot recognize his body’s signals to eat or drink, must be provided with a snack and water every two hours or he will enter the flight, fight or freeze zone. A nine year old who has sensory processing issues may lose the ability to voice his need to escape the noise and over stimulation of a loud birthday party. Mom and Dad must be watching for cues and either leave the party or take the child to a quieter place. It’s important to remember that a child from a hard place is emotionally at least half his physical age, sometimes more. His regulation skills may be that of a two year old while he is teen size.
The good news is, as we connect and co-regulate, we change the brain chemistry, wiring and development. Scientists tell us that relationships and experience shape the brain. Think of a developing brain like a multi-storied house under construction. At birth the downstairs brain is developed. This is the part that tells the child when to breath and keeps the functions of the body on track. This is also where survival mode resides, the fight, flight or freeze mechanisms. The upstairs brain is the higher functions of the brain. It is more sophisticated and houses reasoning, speech, regulation of emotions, the ability to be flexible and adaptable. Trauma skews the wiring of the brain. Trauma triggers the amygdala, the watchdog of the body. If the brain stays in this state too long, it rewires to stay stuck in fight, flight or freeze. Chronic stress takes a heavy toll on the prefrontal cortex. It is involved in impulses, aggression, anxiety, decisions, changing gears and self-regulation.
At this point, you may be thinking, I thought you said there was hope. There is! The Hebbian Principle says –what fires together, wires together. That is the more you experience something, the more your wires go that direction. So, how do we rewire a child’s brain that is stuck downstairs in the survival (fight, flight, freeze)? With co-regulation and fresh new experiences that show him he can trust us. We call this felt safety. When a child feels safe, his adrenals calm, he produces less cortisol and he is able to function in his upstairs brain.
I know, I feel like this is all over the place, so let me end with three reminders.
If you are parenting a child or teen from a hard place:
Expect to co-regulate a lot more than your peers with bio children (who aren’t from hard places, because some are). Don’t base your expectation of whether you need to help them regulate on their physical age and size. “Many children who do not have early experiences of proper care also lack proper physiological and emotional regulation. This is because both of these regulation systems are developed through an attachment relationship.” (Nurturing Adoptions)
Make sure your children feel safe. It’s not about really being safe. It’s about feeling safe. If they feel safer with a light on, not going to the noisy party, staying near you at a function, comply, don’t complain.
Keep the positive, connecting experiences coming. “The brain is also “experience-expectant.” We come hard wired for connection. For eye contact, touch, playful interactions and co-regulation.These fill up the kid’s emotional tank and help their brains rewire. Blow bubbles. Ride bikes together. Make cookies and eat them. Read a favorite book fifty times. Swim with them, don’t just watch them swim. Hike with them. Take the time to invest positive experiences. This is investment parenting. Just a note -this practice applies to teens as well. If you are filling in the gaps of missed co-regulation, an older teen may still want you to watch them jump on the trampoline, ride bikes with him, play board games, or watch movies. Many teens from hard places may have no interest in what their peers are doing and want to hang out with Mom and Dad.
If you see your children struggling with regulation, which parts of this article resonated with you? Are you willing to try to do a few things differently? If you do, please share your stories! I’d love to hear from you!
Maybe his fear response is stuck on the on position. If so, you’ll want to listen to this week’s episode.
Last week we covered a bit about the fear response and how the brain works. This week, I touch on how the brain wires itself into a fear response. Kids who have experienced trauma have triggers. With patience and persistence we can help our kiddos figure out what theirs are and work on rewiring them into more healthy patterns. Grab a cup of coffee and join me for some productive talk on fear!
When I began my homeschool journey, I didn’t know anyone who homeschooled. I was alone and frantic. I wasn’t sure what I should or shouldn’t do when it came to doing school at home.
Should we have a schoolroom?
Should we sit at desks? Where those important parts of education?
Was it okay to accomplish everything one day and not the next?
I met a few families during the first year and that just seemed to put more pressure on me. These families were clean and well-coordinated. The kids wore khakis and polos. My youngest son wore the same shirt with a hippo on it, all the time. My eldest daughter preferred boy’s tennis shoes and liked her hair kept short. My middle daughter wore dresses all the time and thought she lived in a musical production. She had breakdowns if her hair-bows and socks didn’t coordinate. When these other moms talked about the schedule, the importance of this textbook, that curriculum, I just wanted to hide under a table. Most of the time I had no idea what they were talking about. I didn’t know who Charlotte Mason was or Kathy Duffy, Sally Clarkson, or fill in the blank.
I put my schedule and my schooling on a pedestal.
I came home from events with other homeschooling moms determined to schedule better, to get it all done, and find out who they were talking about. I began a round of re-educating myself. Most of the process was great, except for one thing. I put my schedule and my schooling on a pedestal. I thought if I did all the right things, at all the right times and read the right books, my kids would be well educated. I could pat myself on the back. It backfired. When I had my schedule on the altar, when I worshiped it, checking the time, plowing through when the kids were frustrated, when I was tired and no one was learning anything, my sticky-noted schedule became my frenemy. It could have been my friend, but I let it push me around, just like those feelings of inferiority I got when I listened to those more seasoned homeschoolers talk. They weren’t trying to make me feel bad, I did that all by myself.
You think that in two decades I would make exponential progress in the area of giving myself grace when it comes to schedules and school. You’d think I would have pushed those ideals off of their pedestal. Some days I would leapfrog forward and sail through with God’s peace and joy as my companions. Other days, I woke up in a panic. And why? After all these years? Do my baseboards have to be clean to start school? Once, I was working on my schedule and I told myself –if I can do it all two days, three days, a week…isn’t that better than not doing it at all? When I say “it all” I mean everything on my schedule, all the school subjects, perfectly completed by joyful, compliant children. All the chores accomplished. Baseboards sparkling. Kitchen shiny. Errands run. Pantry full. Doctors’ appointments, meetings, and practiced attended with nary a whine by child or parent. Check. Check. Check. Check. In my dreams.
Reality is more like chores somewhat finished most days. A load of towels in the washer too long. Run it again. Clean up the kitchen most of the time. School subjects worked through completely some days. Other days we’d chuck it and go for a real-life field trip. I’ve studied many of the works of the names mentioned above. I’ve changed my philosophy of education. It’s been tweaked, but I am the same person who wants to do everything, every day, perfectly. So, give yourself some grace. You may hit some weeks where you do all the stuff every day and then you have that under your belt for when you can only hit two good days one week.
but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me.2 Corinthians 12: 9
It’s not about perfection, it’s about persistence to keep going. It’s about what you have under your belt, not what you don’t. It’s about grace in the journey, educating your child, and enjoying the trip.
“Imagine a constant flow of cortisol and adrenaline — as if you spend every second of every day being chased by a bear with its claws bared and its teeth dripping with blood. You might be jumpy, flighty, overreative, and unable to sleep, feeling neither hungry nor thirsty, unable to read any of your body’s signals.” If your child is stuck in survival mode, he may feel like the description above (from How to Have Peace When Your Kids are in Chaos). Maybe you are stuck in a fear cycle yourself. If any of this applies to you or your children, grab a cup of coffee and join Kathleen for part one of “The Brain and Fear.”
Whoever watches the wind will not plant; Whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. Ecclesiastes 11: 4
The Proper Time
There is a proper time for everything, right? The English like their tea time. Hobbits enjoy first and second breakfast. Catholics and Protestants alike worship at church on Sundays. Jews observe the Sabbath on Saturday. Engagement precedes marriage. A career follows education. This is the way of things, is it not? After marriage comes children? It is the proper time. The wind is right. The bank account has a cushion. The house/apartment purchased (mortgaged). It is the Monday morning of perfect times when all resolutions begin. The sky is clear. The winds are fair. Then…
The sky falls in.
The job market takes a dive. Lay-offs. A sudden illness. Medical bills. A leaky roof.
Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 on a Friday, the day of preparation for Sabbath. While the Jews made preparations for their Holy day and commanded day of rest, the tanks rolled across the border.
Sunday morning December 7, 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, hours before personnel awoke to prepare for duty or Sunday service.
There is no perfect time. As I sat in Sunday service and listened to missionary Jodi talk about the orphans craving to be noticed, wanting to be loved, in her beloved Indian orphanage, I thought about the state of the world affairs and the nation. Now is the time. There is no better time to adopt an orphan than in the midst of moral, spiritual or physical upheaval. Normal isn’t coming.
“There will always be a complication, a crisis, or what looks a legitimate reason to wait.”- Holley Gerth
When Jerry and I adopted four siblings, the threat of Y2K loomed in front of us. Friends and family stocked up on food and water for the apocalyptic-agrarian society the computer failure would catapult us into at the stroke of one second past midnight on 1.1.00.
Stop waiting for everything to be perfect. It won’t. Ask God to open doors that no man can open and close doors that no man can shut. There are souls in the balance. I don’t want to post pictures of chunky-faced-sparkly-eyed-orphans or foster children and play the emotion card. I challenge YOU. Pray about it. Don’t check the weather or the crops. Just ask God what His itinerary is when the wind is not right and the sky is cloud covered. It may rain blessings of children on you and your family.
Or if you aren’t called to adopt/foster, ask God what He would like YOU to do. Everyone has a purpose. Everyone has something to do. Sometimes we have a dream and we put it off because of the times. Don’t. I’m not talking about a dream of winning the lottery. Maybe your dream is lead a group of women in Bible study, or bake cookies for shut-ins, or lead a small homeschool co-op, or write a book. Whatever it is, don’t wait for the perfect time. There is no perfect time.
“The tyranny of the urgent frustrates every goal we hold.” - Mike Porter, The Time of Your Life
It’s surprising how easy I can get off track. How about you?
I have a goal for the day and then the urgent pokes at me screaming, “Do me first!” And I follow the command, do all those things first. When I get to the end of the day, I sometimes find I didn’t do what I intended to do at all. I end up frustrated and cranky.
Does this ever happen to you?
Does this quote from Marlene Bagnull, author of Write His Answer, hit home?
“Clutter greeted me everywhere I looked. Crumpled homework papers, crayons, toys, dirty socks. My husband didn’t mind the way the house looked. I did. It was a reflection of me! I resented my children for being so sloppy and accused myself of failing as a homemaker and a mother.”
This isn’t an article containing three steps to decluttering your home, or how to organize your house, or the best schedule for you. I do love all of the aforementioned topics. I think those topics are important. It’s not what I want to talk about though.
The Importance of a good attitude
More important these all of those practices – decluttering, organization, and schedule, is putting first things first. What’s more important than having a perfectly clean house and schedule, friends? Our attitude. Yep.
I’ve had my share of angry cleaning sessions. You know the kind when you vacuum vehemently? Or scrub the toilet while muttering under your breath about you’re the only one who cleans, no one else helps, or fill in the blank. I once asked a counselor what I could do about the angry feeling that sometimes came over me while I was cleaning. I wanted her to dig deep, maybe find some event in my past triggering my feelings. I wanted an excuse for my anger so I could blame someone other than myself. She didn’t give me one. She simply told me to change my attitude and think about something else while cleaning. Durn. It was on me. I had to do something.
The point is – a clean house doesn’t produce a peaceful feeling unless you have a great attitude. In the culture of our country, we women are told to create a picture perfect home. Just turn on HGTV ( I will, thank you) and you will find the best colors, counters, centerpieces, you name it for a gorgeous home. I love home design. I love to paint, decorate, make book wreaths, etc… As long as I keep in mind those are the fruit of my purpose, not my purpose. Then it’s okay. It’s better than okay. It’s amazing. Keeping my home to bless my families and others is a great use of my time.
Here are three tips I need to be reminded of in my life. They may seem elementary but sometimes I need the basics!
Put Christ first. I can get off track when I just plow into my day without taking some time to acknowledge God. I need to ask Him every day what He would like me to do. I’m a list maker. I make one every day. Sometimes the list becomes an idol. Instead of listening to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit to slow down, I look to the list. Guess what happens if the list doesn’t get finished? I feel as if I am a failure. I am frustrated. Peace is not being my umpire. As I have said before – You don’t have to work all the time. I need the reminder. Maybe there is something you need reminded of daily. Put Christ first and ask Him.
Put your purpose second. If you are a wife and mother, obviously this comes next. What does that look like? I mean we quote it as our theology. We say “Family first” and similar sayings. We need to ask, what does it mean for my family? If you’re single, widowed, or an empty nester, the same guideline applies. Figure out what your purpose looks like lived out on a daily basis. For instance, in Marlene’s quote, she says her husband doesn’t care if the house is messy. Mine does. He likes things neat and orderly. So, I should try my best to keep it that way. Not because he dictated it to me, but because we are to consider the needs of others before ourselves. If your husband considers you the home administrator, then you have some liberty to make decisions like, let’s go hiking this afternoon and let the lunch dishes wait. Let’s have pancakes for dinner. Let’s clean first and then pull out the games on this rainy day. Amerey and I did a great podcast on this topic – Moms you are the boss and the employee. Which leads me right into tip number three.
Add in some creativity to your day. As I’ve said many times before, hubby and I were both raised in work oriented families. It’s hard to break the mold and do something different. It’s as if we were both hardwired to work, work, work, eat, and then collapse. There’s no question about the work needing to be done. The way we do the work and the amount of time we set aside for the work is something we can have control over. Here’s a few examples, when we first moved into our new house in March, I was working all day. Literally. Unpacking, painting, cleaning, and repeat. After a few weeks I had a bit of a CFS crash. My body just shut down. One day, when my body felt as if I was in quicksand up to my neck, I took the time to evaluate the time I had spent working. Turns out, with packing and moving, I had spent six weeks without any real breaks or fun. Not good. So, I did something different after my recovery. First of all, I set a timer while I was working. I pre-determined how long I could work. Second. I picked one fun thing to do a day – a walk, a swim, sauna time, reading time, or sitting down by the lake with my journal. My newest creative thing? I take my typewriter out on the porch in the evenings and work on some writing. Love it. Here’s another thought, work can be fun. I do love to work. Maybe I’m weird. I’m okay with that. How can work be fun? Turn on some music – my fave – Opera for People who Hate Opera. Make chores a contest. I used to have timed challenges for my kids getting dressed. Not only did it make getting dressed fun, it sped up the process. Add your personality to your work and make it fun!
As far as the urgent poking you -there will always be dishes to wash, clothes to wash, smudges on the windows, and fill in the blank. It’s up to you to decide what to do when (to a point). When you make a choice -whether it is to leave the dishes while you play outside, when the urgent screams, remind your brain you chose this instead for now and it’s okay.
When I was a young girl, the world was in turmoil. Civil Rights marches. Protests. Violence. The TV blared bad news all day. I had the sense that nothing was right in the world.
It felt like it does now. The only difference is we have more news sources, more ways of getting information, including social media. We can get the idea that we must be socially available all the time.
How about you? Do you feel the need to be socially available all the time?
To answer every notification?
Scroll three or four times a day?
Infinite scroll allows us to endlessly swipe down through content.
“If you don’t give your brain time to catch up with your impulses,” Mr Raskin said, “you just keep scrolling.” ( A former employee of Facebook)
When scrolling our emotions can run through the gamut. One moment we are laughing, the next crying, the next depressed. It’s an odd sort of feeling we pick up. We can pick up fear and panic when we didn’t have it two minutes before we opened the app.
You don’t have to be socially available all the time.
We feel as if it is our responsibility to be available all the time.
Jennifer Lee says:
“Social availability has become our soul’s adversity.”
We can buy into the lie that we must post, answer comments, and keep everyone updated on our lives and then do the same for them. It’s a farce, a fallacy, a ford we don’t want to cross. When we feel that we MUST do something, it then becomes our master and we are it’s servant. It becomes adversity we create all on our own. We can begin to think that social media is REAL connection. It’s not. It can be a ripple effect after we have relationships or connections. Social Media cannot replace human connection. Maybe that’s why some of us feel so out of sorts right now. We know:
Social availability or scrolling is not connection, relationship or education.
Scrolling, posting, photographing, reading and commenting is not living.
We also think we must stay on top of things by “checking” social media. What if we miss something?
Constant Social Availability is Harmful to Our Kids
Remember how I said my early childhood was? By the time I was in middle school, my mom had put the TV in the closet. REALLY. No TV. I spent the majority of my childhood without one in a time when the TV was the staple of every household. Was it a radical move on her part? Yes. Did I get teased and made fun of? Yes. Where my thoughts, foundation, and ways of navigating choices filtered by what I saw on TV? No.
My mom taking the TV away was a gift. I may have thought it was a curse at the time. I entered college basically TV- show- illiterate. Still to this day, I don’t understand some TV references. (I’ve never watched FRIENDS – just a few snippets – so I don’t speak the lingo). I have never watched most of the shows my peers digested as a regular part of their diet. I’m not bragging. We kids BEGGED for a TV. What’s the point? Media distancing practices are beneficial if done for the right reason. Mom didn’t want our minds poisoned by TV.
Just a thought – It’s okay to make choices for our children’s sake. It’s okay to choose to limit social media, tv, news articles, news apps, newspapers, etc…
If we are more concerned about what friends (even church friends) or Aunt Betty say about our social media or TV restrictions for our family, then we are looking towards man, not God.
Ask yourself – ten years from now, what will this matter? What are you feeding your mind and the minds of your children?
When we are distracted by social media, we are teaching our children to live a distracted lifestyle.
When we are too busy to look up from screens to engage, we teach our children that screens are more important than connection.
When we react with depression, anger, frustration, and fear, after looking/reading a post, we teach our kids that nothing is right in the world.
When we react more quickly to the notification on our phone then we do to the kiddo’s request, we teach them devices are more important.
When we tend to our devices more than we tend to our homes, we will be out of balance.
Here’s another way to look at Social media-
You wouldn’t indiscriminately go into anyone’s house, eat their food, listen to their worldview, absorb their theology, listen to their advice on every subject, so why go to them on social media?
Lately, I haven’t been on social media a lot. With the move to our new house, we have gained the limited ability to use wifi. It’s been an odd blessing during this season. I have to go into my office to get a signal. (So sorry to all of you who message me or comment on posts- I sometimes don’t get them for a day or two.) So, I’ve been socially distancing myself mentally and physically. I’ve taken to writing articles (here) on the website again. I’m staying in my own “house” on the world wide web as well.
Hopefully, as a result of this craziness, we will see a rebirth of actual articles on websites. We can then choose whose “house” we go to for encouragement, edification, and information.
Just a thought – Maybe it’s time we stepped back and did some more thinking in our upstairs brain.
We could camp out there, dust off the books and put our thinking caps back on. We can enter the land of literal, logical, and linear. We can leave the survival brain downstairs. We can leave behind the fight, flight, and freeze, reactions.
Of course, I’m not bashing social media altogether. Just as in my house example, we don’t randomly run from house to house when we aren’t socially distancing, don’t run to everyone’s “house” on social media now. Here are three simple tips:
Instead of scrolling, go to a page. If you are checking on family, just go to their page to see what they are up to today. If someone has been putting out some encouraging content during this time – go straight to their page. My favorite page during this season has been Marcy Holder. (She was on the podcast recently – find it here – scroll down to “Show Up for Your Own Life”). She’s a spiritually- focused coach. Every day, I feel as if her message of encouragement is just for me.
Instead of checking notifications, turn them off. I don’t have mine on and even if I did, they wouldn’t work in my house. It’s too much of an emotional roller coaster to answer the ping. Just a thought – Did you ever think we’ve been trained by social media to respond? Like little mice, we run for the “food?” Let your friends and family know the best way to reach you, text, email, phone call, or snail mail.
Don’t get your news from social media and don’t believe all the news you see. PERIOD. As Winnie the Pooh says -Think. Think. Think.
Frances Schaeffer said in How Should We Then Live:
“Actually TV manipulates viewers just by its normal way of operating. Many viewers seem to assume that when they have seen something on TV, they have seen it with their own eyes… For many, what they see on television becomes more true than what they see with their eyes in the external world.”
Remember every minute of TV and social media news has been edited by someone with a subjective viewpoint. We are in essence, seeing the image someone has decided we should see. Media is manipulation.
Again, I’m not saying social media is all bad. It’s a great time to pull back from all the extraneous use and think about the ways we are impacted. Just as I know going into random people’s houses is not a great idea, going into their “houses” indiscriminately on social media isn’t either.
I’ll end with the Message Translation of Psalm 1, I’m usually a die hard Amplified Bible girl, but this one made me laugh. And it fits the bill.
How well God must like you— you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon, you don’t slink along Dead-End Road, you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College.
2-3 Instead you thrill to God’s Word, you chew on Scripture day and night. You’re a tree replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month, Never dropping a leaf, always in blossom.
4-5 You’re not at all like the wicked, who are mere windblown dust— Without defense in court, unfit company for innocent people.
6 God charts the road you take. The road they take is Skid Row.