Adoption – GEESH… It’s a Wild Ride

* Guest post by Kylie Gray

Adoption, geesh! It’s a wild ride.

When we first brought our boys back home almost two years ago, we didn’t have a CLUE what the heck to expect. No one can prepare you for adopting a 6-year-old and two 4-year-olds. I remember when we first got the boys being in dire need of someone to come alongside me and show me the ropes, or so I thought. In fact, not having someone who had gone through the same thing brought me closer to the Lord than ever before. He had gone before me and that’s all I needed.

When people ask about our adoption…

I get asked often about our adoption, whether people are curious about their own adoption journey and wanting advice or just wanting to hear our story of how we did it, I always say the same thing:

1. Make sure your spouse is all in as much as you! I cannot stress this enough. If my husband wasn’t wanting this as much as me then anytime there was conflict or an issue to come up, our marriage or adoption would have failed. Start together on the same team so no matter what comes up you can tackle it together. And by golly, crap will hit the fan, it’s a matter of when not if.

2. DO IT! It’s a big step and people are always a little leary when it comes to officially pull the plug. At the least go take the intro class, its free so what is the harm. I believe adoption is not right for everyone, but I always encourage people to find out if it is.

My Biggest piece of Advice…

3. PRAY! That’s it. If you are like me adoption will drive you to pray more than ever. It’s changed me. I now have 3 children but that’s not the only reason why I am different. I believe my prayer time changed my whole life. Relationship with my husband and children certainly, but also my extended family and close friends. I am still a workin’ on a lot, don’t get me wrong but, heck I have come along way.

Finally, I came to terms with this…

And lastly…..

4. Okay, this is the first time I am saying this out loud to anyone, but it needs to be heard and will be added to my repertoire from now on. When these children come into your home they come with hurts of all sorts. I don’t mean physical hurts, that can happen too, I mean emotional hurts of baggage, trauma, triggers, and so on and so on. You want it to go away. Just leave!!! I wanted to pretend it didn’t exist for a good solid… oh who I am kidding. This week, this week is when the Lord really spoke to me and allowed me to see what I didn’t want to see for the past 2 years. Their baggage doesn’t just go away. I heard on The Whole House podcast this week Kathleen saying how I am feeling, “their past doesn’t go away, as much as I wanted it to” I am paraphrasing here, but essentially that’s how I feel. I want their horrible past to vanish! But it doesn’t.  And that…. Is…. OKAY! It’s okay for them to be able to have the feelings that come with that too. It’s okay for them to have triggers. And you know what?? It’s not your FAULT! It has taken me this long to be able to come to terms with this, it’s hard, man. I love my children and I hate seeing pain come back onto their faces. I didn’t cause the pain and didn’t have any CONTROL, that’s why I wanted it to go away. But they have the pain, nevertheless. Not taking their actions and mainly behaviors personally is one of my biggest struggles still. Like I said, this week I finally let the Lord show me this, imagine if I had allowed this into my life from the get-go. I know one thing, it sure would have saved me a lot of embarrassment, guilt, anxiety, worry, and tears!

 

So, is adoption worth it?

Adoption is 100 million percent worth it, I would never take it back if could. Although at the beginning you might second or the twentieth guess yourself, but don’t give up!

“Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

-Proverbs 3:5

Listen to Kylie’s podcast and read her bio below!

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I am Kylie Gray, 29 years old, I married Trey, my college sweetheart. We live on a small 5-acre homestead in Central Oregon with our 3 boys! We adopted all three of our boys out of the foster care system here in Oregon about 2 years ago. It’s been a wild crazy road, but totally worth it! We keep busy by fixing up our old farmhouse, taking care of our growing population of farm animals, trying to figure out gardening, all while homeschooling all 3 of our boys! Come follow along with our journey on my blog blackwhiteandthegrays.com and Instagram/Facebook at Black White and the Grays.

 

https://blackwhiteandthegrays.com/

Healing Alongside your Child

“The challenges, problems and pain that our children face are real, and as a result, they affect us as parents as well. These challenges impact the whole child; and therefore we must be willing to engage and embrace our children (and ourselves!) at the same time holistically. At the same time, we must always remember there are no quick fixes-merely changing behaviors will not accomplish what is needed. Our goal must be nothing less than healing for the whole child. Much like our own journey of spiritual healing and maturity, the healing we desire for our children will be a process, and it must be anchored by hope- real hope.”- Dr. Karyn Purvis, Michael and Amy Monroe

 

Kids from hard places: fostered, adopted and special needs kids need lots of extra care. The care needed affects us parents, draining us of all of our resources: physical, emotional and spiritual. We need to embrace ourselves as well as our children. I’ll all for self-care with the proper motive. I like to walk/run for my therapy. A coffee date with a friend always gives me a boost of encouragement. Reading a great book by another woman who has experienced twists, turns and trauma is a great self-care habit. But these are not the only ways we can find hope and healing.

We can get healing alongside our child.

Your self-care doesn’t always have to happen without your kiddos. We don’t want to give our kids the message that in order to enjoy our lives we have to be away from them. What sort of message are we giving them?

The women of today have become proficient in saying “me too” to one another. What about your child? Have you said it to them?

Me too:

  • I messed up.
  • I’m afraid.
  • People said ugly things to me.
  • I wasn’t sure I could make it through ________.

I’m not saying you need to dump your past onto your child, but a little empathy goes a long way.

Healing is a process, not a one time event!

The greatest gift you can give your child is enjoying their presence. Smiling at them. Settling down into the moment or trying something that scares you (and them). Try sailing down the hill on the sled with them when you’re both afraid. Scream your head off with them. Go somewhere new and try something new with your child. Show them that you can conquer this together. If we truly desire hope and healing for our kiddos (and ourselves), we have to do the work. Healing is often a process, not a one time event. Let’s participate in the process with our child.

 

Adoptive/Foster Parents- You are NOT Responsible for the Trauma Your Child Endured Before He Came To You

When dad came to pick us kids up for summer visitation, the departure was swift.  We packed our bags in the trunk of his car and rushed down the lane, leaving a trail of dust behind us, Mom growing smaller in the distance. 

This is the moment that fear gripped me. The familiar faded away, and the unknown lay before me. The tense anxiety choked me while my stomach churned.

Down the highway we sped to another unknown destination. Dad rarely bothered to sit down and explain where we were going and what it would be like this time. The landscape changed from the hills of West Virginia to the bluegrass of Kentucky or the plains of Iowa, where we once raced beside a tornado as it ate up the fields beside us.

Every year, it was a new home in a new state. And every year, it was the same unstable summer, with our travel and activities dictated by someone else’s moodiness or alcoholism. New places did not fill me with hope. They were foreign landscapes with no known retreats or safe hideaways from the too-familiar emotional climate.

The unrest filtered down to me and cemented my fear and presupposition: “There is nothing good in the world.

My past gave me a faulty picture of the world. Even today, I struggle with sitting in the backseat of a car. I need to know where we are going on a trip. I don’t just want the directions — I want to see the map.

My early life sometimes still dictates my now. I know that, and I have strategies to deal with it. My friends know, so they let me sit in the front or drive. It took me years to figure out why I didn’t like to sit in the back seat or why panic rose up in me. Knowing the why helps me deal with it.

Our adopted children don’t know the why or the how. They see through the lens of their past, and it is like an old camera. The view is scratched and distorted, and they may blame us, the adoptive parents, for it. Can you imagine if I went on a road trip with my friends and blamed them for my fear of riding in the back seat?

But children have a difficult time separating their past from their now.

If they could, our adopted children might say:

You are not responsible for the trauma that happened to me before I came into your family, but I will act like it. If you let guilt rule the home, we will both be miserable, and neither of us will experience any healing.

Separating our children’s past from their now is a difficult aspect of adoption. We parents must be the mature ones and not let their reactions to past events determine our reactions to current events. If we do react negatively, then we will live in a constant state of civil war, and more wounds will be inflicted. No healing will take place, and the child will be orphaned (rejected) twice.

I don’t have my reactions mastered. I wish I did. I am writing this because my daughter Audrey says I should share things that I wish someone would have told me. I wish someone had told me this: Many of us who have the heart for adoption — especially the desire to adopt a large sibling group of children — have had a troubled past ourselves. The desire directs us to adopt, but it doesn’t equip us. We must equip and educate ourselves.

No one told me that my past and my adopted children’s pasts would engage in a tug of war to the death.

We both had a faulty lens on our camera. Guess who had to change hers first? Me. Guess who had to die? Me. My flesh. Guess who messed up, often? Me.

We assume that wrestling with the child means a physical fight, and if we are not careful, that is what it becomes. Daily. And there is no healing that way.

Consider Ephesians 6:12 —

For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere.

I have always loved this verse. It sounds so mystical, mysterious. We aren’t supposed to engage in a fight with physical opponents, so how do we fight these master spirits who are the rulers of this present darkness? Ephesians 6:11 commands us to put on our armor so that we will be able to stand up against the strategies and deceits of the devil. This is war!

Adoption is war — a spiritual battle. We are not fighting with a physical sword, though. Our sword is the Word. Our belt is truth. Our feet must be shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. We raise our shield to protect us from the fiery darts of the wicked one. We put on our helmet of salvation (deliverance) and breastplate of righteousness.

What does this look like in reality? Sometimes it means we just stand. We don’t react when our child melts down and blames us for his hurt, for his feeling rejected. We speak the truth in love: “Man, that stinks! How does that make you feel?” And we redirect, “What do you think we could do about that?”

When we disengage our right to react, we become powerful.

And more important than any of the above, we pray a prayer for healing. Place your child’s name in the blanks:

__________is not harassed by physical symptoms or feelings or their supposed connections to past events. The curse of rejection and abandonment is broken. _____________ is a new creature with a heavenly Father who loves _________, the Stronghold is broken, and the sticky web of the past is dissolved. ___________has forgiven and _________ is forgiven. ______________is washed clean and ____________ reactions are based on the Word and the new creature that _____________is, not the old, fearful, anxious child that _______________was. NO! ____________ is a strong, assertive child of the King, a co-inheritor with Christ. ________________ has all the benefits that He has bestowed upon me. ______________is more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus.

Six Risk Factors

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

I didn’t think it would be this hard.

My child’s behaviors are out of control.

He got kicked off the school bus AGAIN.

He keeps punching kids in line.

The whole house is like a war zone.

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

 

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

Every behavior is a need inappropriately expressed.  Foster/Adopted children have had trauma in their lives. Trauma changes the neurochemistry of the brain in these children.

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

  1. Prenatal stress and harm-over 80% of children adopted/foster care have been exposed to drugs or alcohol, cortisol crosses the placenta and alters the structure of the brain and damages the immune system* story of the woman stressed in pregnancy- measured her cortisol levels and those of her infant six months after delivery.
  2. Difficult labor or birth Twin example- one born at home, one at a hospital after a 45-minute ride to the hospital
  3. Early medical trauma Hospital stay, surgery, etc.
  4. Trauma- a house fire, natural disaster, auto accident, death of a parent
  5. Neglect-  says “You don’t exist.”
  6. Abuse – says “You don’t matter.”

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

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

Traditional parenting doesn’t work with these kids. In the ETC course for adoptive/foster parents, we teach 25 parenting tools to help these kids have hope and healing. The tools are based on the model TBRI- Trust-Based Relational Intervention, created by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross at TCU in Texas. This approach was turned into a training curriculum by Michael Monroe and Dr. Purvis called ETC Training for Adoptive and Foster Parents. 

If you’re struggling with helping your adoptive/foster child heal and make progress, check out ETC Training, find one in your area here.

If you are local and want Kathleen to come do a training for parents or professionals- email her at Postiveadoption@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Moms, You are the Boss and the Employee

Kathleen and Amerey discuss home administration and how usually when you’re a mom, you end up being at the top and the bottom of the totem pole.

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Seriously, we do it all! We’re jacks of all trades! But sometimes it is too much! We encourage you to set realistic goals and expectations and give a glimpse into a healthy way to be the boss and the employee of your home! Be sure to subscribe to stay up-to-date on our podcasts! Please follow our Facebook page, The Whole House, and on Instagram @the_whole_house Thank you so much for joining us!