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 last episode in our series – Five Things You Can Do To Help Adoptive/Foster Families. If you are an adoptive/foster parent you may struggle with your child’s meltdowns but he acts like an angel in public. This week’s topic – don’t be fooled by a child’s superficially, engaging behavior.
Last week we talked about not judging the parents by the child’s behavior. There is another side to this coin…
On the other hand, don’t be fooled by a child’s superficially, engaging behavior.
Some children with attachment, self-regulatory issues will behave horribly in public. Some will look like angels and leave you wondering why Mom doesn’t feel like coming out in public anymore. Take your cues from Mom and Dad. Something is not right. That quiet or gushingly cute child may be malicious and hateful to her new/foster parents at home. She is in survival mode. She has learned the angles and may have had to act that way to get by in her early life. It’s a survival mechanism she has to unlearn so she can really be part of a family and have authentic relationships, not superficial ones.
Watch Mom and Dad for an accurate picture
Look at Mom or Dad for an accurate picture. Is Mom haggard? Slurping her second cup of coffee an hour into the field trip? Do her eyes keep darting towards the child as if she is unsure of what the child is going to do? Does she have the worry hunch? Is she too perfect looking, hair, makeup, clothes, as if she is covering up, hiding herself? Or better yet, ask her, and be firm, wait for an honest answer. If you can’t or she won’t talk, set up a coffee date. Go out of your way to make it easier for her. Walk a mile with her. Hear her. Pray for her.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for adoptive parents is listen. Don’t correct. Don’t interject. Just listen. Support them in prayer and acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers. They don’t need all the answers. Sometimes what is needed is some validation. Tell them they are doing a good job. Support and care for them (and their children) in this adoption journey.
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.
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. In this episode, we discuss what poor behavior in your child may be trying to tell you. We can fall into the trap of thinking our kiddos are misbehaving just to make us mad. I know. I’ve lived in that trap. When we change our perspective and try to view behavior through another lens, things can change. Read on to find out how. Plus grab a cup of coffee and listen to the podcast. Don’t forget to get your copy of Five Things! You can grab your free copy here.
I’m not behaving to make you mad.
Most of the time, it is because I don’t have self regulation skills. I maintain my control by keeping you out of control.
“I hate you! Why did you adopt me anyway?”
“I can break it I want to, it’s mine! It’s junk anyway!”
“I didn’t eat your candy!”
This is the voice of a child who cannot self-regulate.
“When a brother broke something that belonged to me and then screamed and yelled and struggled through not knowing how to regulate his own responses or manage his own brokenness or recognize his own sin, a family member asked me, ‘How do you keep forgiving him?'”- Audrey (excerpt from Why You Should Break Your Bio Kids’ Heart)
Adoption is messy. Children who are adopted from hard places have trouble verbalizing their feelings. They struggle with self-regulation and want to control everything and everyone around them. Trouble is, if we parents aren’t careful, we end up focusing on the behavior instead of digging deeper into the root of the problem. It’s quick and easy to think the child is misbehaving to get on our last nerve. We tend to think the child wants to make us angry.
Poor choices in behavior speak what the child is unable to state verbally.
Hurt children 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. Rarely, if ever do these kids apologize. If they do, it is we parents have been steam rolled all day.
If we know our kids can’t self-regulate, how do we parents step out of the ring and become the coach instead of the opponent?
A. Recognize “the child feels in control because you are out of control” is a recipe for detachment.
The child who is out of control seeks to control his environment. His desire is to be safe, secure. What he usually gets in return for his behavior is pushed away when what he needs is the opposite.
B. Stop letting the child push your buttons
Hurt children can scope out your buttons like a sniper and he is a great shot. The tough job of the parent is to keep those buttons off.Don’t react. Stay calm and give a consequence.
For example, if you watch a video of your child doing flips on the couch,that his sibling recorded, and the child lies and says he didn’t do it (true story gleaned from a friend’s Facebook page), don’t yell because he lied. Maybe jumping on the couch is one of your buttons. Tell him he lied. Don’t ask. Give him a consequence if you think it merits one. Help him put the pillows back on the couch and vacuum the room.
If the offense is more serious, the kid destroyed the baby swing with a machete. Or broke into the neighbor’s house and stole a jar of coins. Or choked, hit, or _______ another human being. The law in my house is people are more important than things so the harming of a person is the most serious offense. The violation of property is second. When a person is harmed, the consequence must be swift, involve an apology and usually some chores the offended child was responsible for.If the If your teen becomes destructive and violent and things get out of control, call the police. Don’t be ashamed to do it. It is not you that misbehaved. It is him. Wouldn’t you rather a teen who went on a rampage have a stern talking to and some serious consequences when he is fifteen and under your roof, rather than him continuing on the path to self-destruction and seriously hurting someone or ending up in jail at eighteen?
The goal is to connect and redirect. The goal is to teach the child how to connect and therefore distinguish the behavior. You have to treat the sickness, not put band aids over the symptoms.
C. Be an in control parent.
Being a in control parent may seem like a repeat of number two,it isn’t. It is a totally separate job. Not letting your child push your buttons is an inward behavior. Being an in control parent is an outward behavior. Being an in control parent means you are the boss. You make the rules. You set the schedule. You are proactive, which is the opposite of reactive. You don’t wait for things to happen. You make sure they do.
A simple example of proactive parenting is scheduling meals. You fix breakfast. You don’t wake up and think the kids are playing nicely, we won’t have breakfast and then wonder why the kids are having a breakdown an hour later. You set a schedule because the hurt child does not recognize his own body’s signal for hunger and thirst. When you meet those needs by providing food and water every two hours, then you quell some meltdowns. You feed the body, hydrate the body so the brain can function properly.
Schedule play. Make it a point to play with your children on purpose. The parent who waits for this to happen with a hurt child may wait a lifetime. Hurt children need purposeful play to help them connect. Talk therapy usually doesn’t work with children from hard places. They can manipulate and lie to the counselor, plus they don’t want to continually rehash their troubled past.
Parenting a hurt child is no easy task. It is a worthwhile one. These children deserve a chance to attach and we parents can give it to them. We must be the more mature one in these scenarios. Helping these kids heal is a full time job. Dr. Karyn Purvis refers to it as “investment parenting”. The more time you spend sowing seeds the greater the harvest.
Believe me, I totally get it. I have been caught in the control trap. I have engaged when I should have walked away. When I step back and think about what is really going on. Raising a hurt child is like living in opposite world. He pushes away when he needs to connect. He controls when he needs to let someone else be in control so he can feel secure. He destroys because he feels worthless.
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.
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.