We Adoptive Parents Must Parent Differently Than Traditional Parents

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.

Traditional Parenting

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.

another resource mentioned on the podcast

“Instead Of” tips

Episode 182 – Yes, Adoption is Positive. Positive Things Require Effort.

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

Grab your copy by clicking below-

Your Parenting Strengths

What are your strengths?

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:

  • Athletic
  • Adventurous
  • Brave
  • Caring
  • Calm
  • Considerate
  • Creative
  • Efficient
  • Energetic
  • Encouraging
  • Empathetic
  • Flexible
  • Gentle
  • Hospitable
  • Loyal
  • Organized
  • Mature
  • Sensitive
  • Servant-hearted
  • Trustworthy
  • Wise

*This is a short list. Find your own or hop on over to her longer list here.

What Next?

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.

  1. 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.

Episode 180 – Mom-Guilt And The Inner-Critic

When Our Inner-critic Bosses us Around

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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!

JOURNALING YOUR TRIGGERS

MAKING SENSE OF AND PEACE WITH YOUR PAST

Listen to the podcast below:

Advent Prep Day 3

When your kids are in Survival mode

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].

Ecclesiastes 11:4

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.

Ecclesiastes 11:6

Grab your copy of 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas by clicking on the photo1