FIVE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP ADOPTIVE/FOSTER FAMILIES PART 3

Sandra Flach, of the Orphans No More Podcast, joins me again this week for the Positive Adoption Podcast series on the book Five Things: A Tiny Handbook for Foster/Adoptive Families. We’re sharing the third episode in our series – Five Things You Can Do To Help Adoptive/Foster Families. If you are an adoptive/foster parent you may sometimes feel judged for your child’s behavior. This week’s topic – Don’t judge the parents by the child’s behavior.

 This is a great series to share with your friends, family, and church. It’s a more indirect way of sharing your heart. Who knows? You may encourage someone just by sharing! Grab a cup of coffee and join Sandra and me for some tips and stories!

Don’t judge the parents by the child’s behavior

Good parents who have successfully parented bio children are suddenly labeled the “bad” parent at church, school, field trips- if the adopted/foster child has behavioral issues.

These behavior issues can be a lack of brain development. Both abuse and neglect can halt brain development causing a child to freeze developmentally while his peers soar past him. A child who has experienced trauma is typically half his physical age emotionally. An eight year old will act like a four year old. The child may have no self-regulation skills whatsoever. He may grab food off someone else’s plate, kick, hit, yell, get kicked out of Kid’s Church, and/or steal hot chocolate (in bulk) from the church kitchen. True stories. I don’t make this stuff up.

These behaviors show a lack of self-regulation, not a forever problem. Some adults may try to wish these away, saying things like, “He’s a good kid, maybe you are just too hard on him.” The problem is- glazing over the behavior or blaming the parent doesn’t heal the child – it hurts him. These behaviors are a result of his past, something that happened on someone else’s watch. In order for the child to heal, his brain needs to develop in areas it hasn’t had the opportunity to. He needs to gain some upstairs brain skills. The child can do this through attachment.  Attachment grows the brain.

Here’s the catch, parents are correcting which is difficult when a child is not connected. The child needs time and reason to trust. Don’t assume the parents aren’t working on it. Don’t assume because the child continues in these behaviors that he is not  being parented well. He may be catching up in attachment, development, and being truly parented for the first time.

Are you an adoptive/foster parent?

Do you often feel alone in your journey? As if NO ONE else knows what’s going on in your home?

Because, which  of us stands on the sidelines of the soccer field and says to the neighboring Moms, “How are you coping with the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in your child?” or “Is your child finally attaching or what?”  “How are those adoption/foster classes going?” No. The truth is most adoptive parents don’t say a word about what they are dealing with on a regular basis. They just try to blend in and look normal. How do I know? I am one of them.This is a great handbook to encourage you and let you know, you are not alone. Plus, it’s full of tips, real-life stories, and some great resources. Grab your free copy today.

Five Things You Can Do To Help Adoptive/Foster Families Part 2

Sandra Flach, of the Orphans No More Podcast, joins me again this week for the Positive Adoption Podcast series on the book Five Things: A Tiny Handbook for Foster/Adoptive Families. We’re sharing the second episode in our series – Five Things You Can Do To Help Adoptive/Foster Families. If you are an adoptive/foster parent, this is a great series to share with your friends, family, and church. It’s a more indirect way of asking for help. Who knows? You may help someone in need just by sharing! Grab a cup of coffee (and some tissues for this episode). Join Sandra and me for some tips and stories!

Don’t have expectations for the new  adopted or foster children

So many people expected my newbies to smile, to be polite, quote scripture, and be soooo grateful.

Don’t.  Just don’t. 

First of all, these are just kiddos. They are going to act like kids. Second of all, many of them have come from difficult situations.

You are big, scary and probably weird looking and smell funny to a little kid (input from my youngest). This child may have little or no trust built for his adoptive/foster parent. Why would he want to trust you? You might be a bad guy (wisdom from my youngest).

My newbies hid from a Polish priest when he spoke their native language-they cowered under a table and/or behind my legs. This was a good Polish dude, but not to them. He was a trigger, a reminder of the orphanage that they had recently escaped. Thankfully, he brushed it off, smiled, and moved on without demanding they answer.

If you need to have any expectations of the new foster/adopted child your friend or neighbor has brought home, expect them to be on guard. Expect children to need to get to know you before they want to engage in conversation. Get down on their level. Say “hello” and don’t be put off if there is not a response. Give the child time, not require him to fulfill your imposed expectations.

Are you an adoptive/foster parent?

Do you often feel alone in your journey? As if NO ONE else knows what’s going on in your home?

Because, which  of us stands on the sidelines of the soccer field and says to the neighboring Moms, “How are you coping with the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in your child?” or “Is your child finally attaching or what?”  “How are those adoption/foster classes going?” No. The truth is most adoptive parents don’t say a word about what they are dealing with on a regular basis. They just try to blend in and look normal. How do I know? I am one of them.This is a great handbook to encourage you and let you know, you are not alone. Plus, it’s full of tips, real-life stories, and some great resources. Grab your free copy today.

Your Foster/Adopted Child Does Want to Be Loved and Accepted

Sandra Flach, of the Orphans No More Podcast, joins me again this week for the Positive Adoption Podcast series on the book Five Things: A Tiny Handbook for Foster/Adoptive Families. We’re on the last episode in our series – Five Things Your Adopted/Foster Child Would Like To Tell You. It can seem as if our adopted/foster children repel our attempts at love and acceptance. We can fall into the trap of thinking our kiddos don’t REALLY want to be loved. It’s not true. It’s our job as parents to learn a new dance of attachment. Is your acting like a porcupine and flexing his quills every time you try to love him? You’re not alone! Grab a cup of coffee and join Sandra and I for some encouragement!

“You can’t take my games away!”

“I’m not going! I hate you!”

“I wish you wouldn’t have adopted me!”

These are some of the words I have heard in my home from the more verbal children. Some kids don’t ever get to the stage of being able to connect words to feelings. They lash out in other ways. Broken toys. Knifed couches. Biting. Head butting. Hurt kids have an emotional state as fragile as a dandelion gone to seed.We parents can mistakenly assume that these children don’t want to be loved. They push everyone away. Think of it as “opposite land.” The more a child pushes away, the more his need to connect. Every word spoken in defiance, every fearful act, every act of violence means this:

I do want to be loved and accepted. It is my deepest desire, just like anyone else on the planet, but I don’t know how to get there. Will you help me?

Being a parent of a child from a hard place is a tough, almost impossible job. It’s as if we are reading a road map in a foreign language. We must learn this new dance of attachment in order for the child to survive and then thrive. If we keep reacting to the behaviors in traditional parenting mode, parent and child will suffer, again and again, we will traipse around the mountain of disconnect until we have worn the trench so deeply we cannot see the light. We must train our ears and our responses. Connection is work. It’s not sweet-sappy-let-you-get-away-with anything-work. It’s ignore our own feelings work. Our right to react must be squelched. It must be us parents who make to the leap over the chasm the child has created and connect. How do we do this?

A. Stop reacting emotionally.

I know. This is the painful truth. We must not participate in the luxury of a reaction. Think of connecting with your child as a full time job with benefits. The benefit of an eighty hour work week (of not reacting emotionally) may be a pinprick of light. A tiny smile. A hug. A cuddle. A conversation. If you are confused about what I mean about reacting emotionally, just think of something your child does that makes your blood boil and follow your thoughts to your last reaction. Did you yell? Threaten with grounding forever? Promise never to take that child anywhere again? Or buy him anything again? I am guilty of all of the above. Guess what happens in these scenarios? The kid has got our goat.  The goat is in his pen. He lost. We lost. That battle is over. No growth. No connection. Now think of the same action or word that make your blood boil and while you are not angry, think of a logical consequence. Write it down if you have to. Here’s a simple one for me:  My son leaves his shoes beside the shoe cubby in the middle of the floor. I asked him a bazillion times to pick them up. He ‘forgets’ every time. So, I charge him a dollar for my labor of picking them up. And I told him that bit of news calmly. Now, when he forgets and sees me heading toward the shoes, he jumps up and races me for them. And we laugh. That’s a simple example. but you get the idea. Most of the time, the behaviors of hurt children are much more serious in nature. The principle is the same. Decide ahead of time how you will react. Give a consequence without anger. Keep your goat.

B. Do something fun with your child while you are angry.

We cannot make our emotions go away. If your child breaks something in an angry fit and you have followed the last suggestion and given him a consequence (such as a redo). You are firm, but not a crazy, yelling, mad momma. You deserve a medal. Here’s the catch. You may still feel mad. You will still feel like you’re going to blow a gasket. And you will want to stay away from the child. You may need a few minutes to hide in the bathroom and pray or text a friend and pray. Then come out and do something fun. This is the time to connect. You can do it! Every time you don’t engage in anger, you build a connection opportunity. When you do something fun with your child after he has a meltdown, you are communicating love at his level. You are saying, “You are valuable. You are worth loving!” You are connecting and that is every human’s deepest innate desire.

Are you an adoptive/foster parent?

Do you often feel alone in your journey? As if NO ONE else knows what’s going on in your home?

Because, which  of us stands on the sidelines of the soccer field and says to the neighboring Moms, “How are you coping with the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in your child?” or “Is your child finally attaching or what?”  “How are those adoption/foster classes going?” No.The truth is most adoptive parents don’t say a word about what they are dealing with on a regular basis. They just try to blend in and look normal. How do I know? I am one of them.This is a great handbook to encourage you and let you know, you are not alone. Plus, it’s full of tips, real-life stories, and some great resources. Grab your free copy today.

Codependency in Adoption/Foster Care

Sandra Flach, of the Orphans No More Podcast, joins me again this week for the Positive Adoption Podcast series on the book Five Things: A Tiny Handbook for Foster/Adoptive Families. We’re continuing our series – Five Things Your Adopted/Foster Child Would Like To Tell You. Codependency with our kiddos can keep us stuck in a chaotic cycle. Codependency can overwhelm us and make us feel as if we are drowning. If you feel as if you live there (I did), grab a cup of coffee and join us for some encouragement!

Sandra and I continue our series – Five Things Your Adopted/Foster Child Would Like to Tell You with a chat about codependency.

Introduction to Codependency

I stood in front of the mirror, brushing my hair  before heading off to an appointment with my counselor. Thoughts of the day’s events wrestled in my head. I rehashed my reactions to youngest son’s behavior. My shoulders tensed and my jaw set. I set the brush down, pulled my hair with both hands and screamed  Get out of my head! I felt raw. And as if I weren’t a person any more, but as if I were a robot reacting to every move my son made. I was controlled by his mood, his defiance sunk me into a depression, it washed over me like a dark cloud. When I awoke in the morning, my first thought was, “What is  he going to do today and how can I make sure he has a ‘good’ day?” I relayed this info to my counselor.

“You’re codependent,”my counselor said.

codependent-of or relating to a relationship in which one person is physically or psychologically addicted, as to alcohol or gambling, and the other person is psychologically dependent on the first in an unhealthy way. (dictionary.com)

Children who have experienced trauma have a knack for making us adults feel out of control. They do know how to push our buttons. They seem to own a special button locating radar. Once they find the button, they push it mercilessly. And we adults, like puppets on a string flail around, flopping from hot to cold at their will.

This brings me to the fourth thing your adopted child would like to tell you:

If you feel what I feel all the time, we will become codependent and I will rule your emotions like an out-of-control terrorist.

When we subject ourselves to this control, we become codependent. We are happy if our child is. Subdued if he is angry. Emotionally unstable if he is and we find ourselves going out of our way to create a pseudo perfect environment so the child will not _____________ (fill in the blank). This is the same dance the alcoholic and the codependent spouse or family member jitterbug. The codependent family member feels as if it is her responsibility to keep the environment perfect and that it is her fault if the alcoholic or drug abuser becomes abusive or has other repercussions.. She feels totally responsible for someone else’s everything. She lacks power because she gives all her power to the alcoholic/drug abuser.

What does this look like with a child? See my intro, I couldn’t even brush my hair without thinking about him. He filled my thoughts every waking moment. I spent my thoughts either worrying about his reactions or planning a new strategy for helping him. Planning, scheduling, those are great tools, but I wasn’t using them as tools in this instance. I was striving. The stress of raising this hurt child combined with the stress of everyday living sent me headlong into a deep depression.

I must say, I slipped into the pattern of codependency pretty easily, I came from an alcoholic family. I had gotten out of old patterns, but I slid right back into them before I noticed.

What can you do to break the habit of codependency?

A. Be a separate person.

This sounds so basic. So simple. It’s not. Any of you raising  children from hard places  know this. Any day can be like riding a tidal wave and surviving a hurricane and tornado all in one. It might take you pulling your hair in front of a mirror and a counselor telling you to take back your power (your ability to act independently).

If your child has a meltdown because he doesn’t want to eat dinner when you do, do a chore, go to the store, do his school work, etc., then give the child a consequence. Don’t react to the behavior after the consequence and make the choice to keep your power. Do whatever it was that you were going to do without the child controlling you. Make the cookies. Eat the ice cream. Go to the store.If you have  to cancel a trip because of the child’s behavior, sit down and read a book. Call a friend and talk about something that has nothing to do with the child and let him hear you. Work in your garden. Paint a picture. Write a story or do  whatever it is that makes you ….you. You are a person with gifts and talents. Use them in the middle of raising children. Don’t wait to be a person.

B. Take a vacation from guilt.

It’s easy to get stuck in the guilt trap. Our hurt children can keep us there. Remember, “You are not responsible for the trauma that happened to me before I came into your family, but I will act like it”. We have the power to release ourselves from the trap. So, take a vacation from the guilt. Stop thinking, if I would have done something differently, he would have behaved differently. If I would have stuck to the schedule, if I would have gotten up earlier, …..If. If. If. Some of these things may be true and we learn from our mistakes, we don’t need to wear them like a garment. If you feel as if you messed up, confess and move on. Don’t wear it.

Remember, you are not responsible for the way your child reacts, you are only responsible for yourself. Your reaction. Your giving of the consequence. So, take my advice, leave the guilt garment behind.

C.  Be responsible for yourself.

Don’t skip this one!  One thing I hear from adoptive parents is they are worn to a frazzle. Take care of yourself.

One week, after a long week in a house full of meltdowns, my youngest daughter and I needed a break. We packed up and went to a hotel near some outlets. We walked ourselves tired in the hotel gym and swam in the pool. We ended the night soaking in the hot tub. The next morning, we hit the outlets and went home later that afternoon, tired, but refreshed.

Self-care is under-rated. Adoptive parents can suffer from codependent behaviors and compassion fatigue. We feel what our children feel. We tend to look at the bigger scope of things and may often over think things, bearing more than needs to be carried. For instance, when we hand an ice cream cone to a six-year-old, we may be thinking of his past, his time in the institution without ice cream, etc. The child may be thinking, this ice cream is good.

Take care of yourself. Take breaks. Eat food. Drink water. Exercise. Take a weekend away. Put on your own oxygen mask first.

Are you an adoptive/foster parent?

Do you often feel alone in your journey? As if NO ONE else knows what’s going on in your home?

Because, which  of us stands on the sidelines of the soccer field and says to the neighboring Moms, “How are you coping with the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in your child?” or “Is your child finally attaching or what?”  “How are those adoption/foster classes going?” No.The truth is most adoptive parents don’t say a word about what they are dealing with on a regular basis. They just try to blend in and look normal. How do I know? I am one of them.This is a great handbook to encourage you and let you know, you are not alone. Plus, it’s full of tips, real-life stories, and some great resources. Grab your free copy today.

Foster/Adoptive Parent – You are Not Responsible for Your Child’s Early Trauma

Sandra Flach, of the Orphans No More Podcast, joins me again this week for the Positive Adoption Podcast series on the book Five Things: A Tiny Handbook for Foster/Adoptive Families. We’re continuing our series – Five Things Your Adopted/Foster Child Would Like To Tell You. Mom guilt is serious. It can overwhelm us and make us feel as if we have failed our kiddos. When we adopt/foster we can wear the guilt of what happened to our kiddos before they came to our home. The guilt is heavy and can sink us into a quagmire of codependency. If you feel as if you live there (I did), grab a cup of coffee and join us for some encouragement!

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

A Bit of My Story

I understand the grip of fear and how trauma can rear its ugly head in my adult years. When I was young, my parents divorced. My dad would come pick us up for a visit in the summer.

When dad came to pick us kids up for summer visitation, the departure was swift.  We packed our bags in the trunk of his current car and rushed down the lane, leaving a trail of dust behind us, Mom growing smaller in the distance.  This is the moment the fear gripped me. The familiar faded 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 once we 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.

Looking through Lens of the Past

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. I have strategies to deal with it. My friends know this. 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 lens is scratched and distorted and they may blame us, the adoptive parents. 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? Children have a difficult time separating their past from their now, therefore:

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 the Past from Now

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. If we do react negatively, then we will live in a constant 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 would have told me this: Many of us who have the heart for adoption, the desire to adopt a large sibling group of children, have had a troubled past ourselves. The desire directs us to adopt. 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. There is no healing that way.

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.

– Ephesians 6:12

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 that you may be able to stand up against the strategies and deceits of the devil. This is war! Adoption is war. We are not fighting with a physical sword, 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, 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, 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, ______is a co-inheritor with Christ, ________________ have all the benefits that He has bestowed upon me. ______________is more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus.

Are you an adoptive/foster parent?

Do you often feel alone in your journey? As if NO ONE else knows what’s going on in your home?

Because, which  of us stands on the sidelines of the soccer field and says to the neighboring Moms, “How are you coping with the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in your child?” or “Is your child finally attaching or what?”  “How are those adoption/foster classes going?” No.The truth is most adoptive parents don’t say a word about what they are dealing with on a regular basis. They just try to blend in and look normal. How do I know? I am one of them.This is a great handbook to encourage you and let you know, you are not alone. Plus, it’s full of tips, real-life stories, and some great resources. Grab your free copy today.