Our Children May Not Be Excessively Thankful

Our Children may not be excessively thankful, In Fact quite the Opposite

Sandra Flach, of the Orphans No More Podcast, joins me again on the Positive Adoption Podcast to discuss why our kids who have experienced trauma are not excessively thankful. This is one of the topics in the book – Five Things: A Tiny Handbook for Foster/Adoptive Parents. Grab your free copy here. Grab a cup of coffee and join us for a lively discussion!

“Your kids must be so thankful,” a lady remarked to me after our recent adoption.

“No, not really,” I replied.

She looked shocked, “but you think they would be because you rescued them from THAT orphanage.”

I understand what the kind lady thought. Common misconception. Adoptive children, you’d think would be full of undying gratitude. Thanking parents for rescuing them with round the clock obedience and gushings of “Thanks, Mom and Dad, you saved me from life in an institution, foster care or, fill in the blank.  Wishful thinking. Not an accurate picture.

Things are not as they seem

First of all, kids are kids. They may momentarily turn into thankful beings and then turn around and be disobedient. Totally normal.

Children who are adopted and taken from traumatic beginnings, i.e. hurt children may behave at the opposite end of the spectrum.

If a child has been abused, he has been given the message you are not valuable.

If a child has been neglected, he has been given the message you do not exist.

If a child has been rejected again and again, he believes he will be rejected again.

A child who has not attached to anyone does not have the ability to self-regulate his emotions or his physical appetites. All of these traumas mentioned put a child into survival mode,that is they child will do anything -lie, cheat, steal, reject, to survive EVEN IF HE IS IN AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE HE NO LONGER NEEDS TO DO SO. There new normal doesn’t replace old habits. Let’s not forget the old normal was their life, for good, bad or worse. Just because they have been ‘rescued’ doesn’t mean they wanted to be.

An Example

Son Gregory used to speak in an ugly, angry tone to everyone. He destroyed his siblings belongings, lied cheated, stole, and made sure his needs/wants were met HIMSELF. Every night at bedtime, he told Jerry and me that he was going back to Poland to live in the orphanage.

No, he was not thankful. He didn’t know he didn’t have to live in survival mode anymore. He pushed us away to protect himself.  After some building blocks of attachment, his focus changed (when he felt safe). It didn’t happen overnight. He didn’t (and still doesn’t) thank us profusely.

When things look out of sorts, don’t give up!

And (at the age of six) he dictated a letter to me for Jerry:

Dear Dad,

I never go back to Poland, I promise. I love you.

Gregory

Like I said, if you expect adopted children to be thankful, think again. Some of them have  bursts of thankfulness, like any other child. Others, depending on the level and depth of their pain, will act ungrateful and form a wall of protection around themselves to survive. Be patient. Keep connecting. Those of you who work with adopted/foster children at church or school, don’t take their fussiness, meltdowns, shutdowns, pushing, shoving, lying or stealing, personally. They aren’t trying to get your goat or make life difficult. They are trying to survive at their present level of brain development and according to their ‘felt’ safety.

*Much of this article is a an excerpt from Five Things: A Tiny Handbook for Foster/Adoptive Families.

Grab a free copy of Five Things here!

Listen to the Podcast below:

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-

Advent Prep Day 5

Are you ready?

Advent starts on Sunday, November 29th!

We’ve been prepping for it all week- thinking about how we are going to approach this year.

  • Prepping physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.
  • Forming some new traditions.
  • Sowing seeds of celebration when your kids are in survival mode.
  • Taking some time to grieve and celebrate at the same time.

It’s time to dive in!

What’s in the book?

  • Each week day, you’ll receive a tip to help you and your kiddos thrive this season. I’ve included a few of them this week in our Advent Prep!
  • Plus read a short Biblical application to feed and nourish you soul.
  • On the weekends, read a longer lesson – Joseph, Mary, Wisemen, Jesus (in that order).
  • Bonus – I’ve included a tip for December 26th.

A Professional opinion

Adoptive families have unique challenges, which often become magnified during the holidays. Kathleen’s experience as an adoptive mother has enabled her to provide an insightful perspective that many other adoptive families can relate too. She does this in a way that also incorporates specific scripture that connects very well to the concept of adoption. This spiritual connection can help families reflect on the adoption story of Christ, as a way to help their family bond and form traditions through their own adoption stories. Parents will be able to read along on a day to day basis and reflect on their own experiences, while reading encouraging words from a fellow adoptive parent. The tips that Kathleen suggests offers comfort for adoptive families as they learn how to best navigate through the holiday season in ways that fit the specific needs of their child and their family as a whole. 

Molly McCartney, Adoption Therapist and Adoptive Parent

For All Families

Although I wrote 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas for adoptive/foster/kids with capital letter syndromes, considering the events of 2020, all families would benefit. All kids have been traumatized by the losses this year – not seeing friends, family, events canceled, (fill in the blank).

Grab the book here!

Advent Prep Day 4

It’s Thanksgiving today and your celebration probably looks different this year. Maybe you don’t FEEL like celebrating. Many of us have loved ones in the hospital (and not necessarily COVID related), who are dying and/or some other difficult circumstances. I’m not trying to bring you down emotionally. If these things are happening in your life, they existed before I wrote the words. It’s okay to grieve the loss of the traditional celebration and admit you’re struggling.

Stuffing Your Feelings instead of the turkey

I’m a feeling stuffer. I’m getting better at recognizing the fact that I do and actually feeling the feelings. It’s no fun sometimes. I’d rather stuff and be numb. It’s not healthy. It can cause physical symptoms and conditions. As I write this, I’m pretty emotionally exhausted. I worked out this morning for about 18 minutes and I was done. I contemplated taking a nap at 8:30 am and thought, what is wrong with me? Then I thought about the conversation I had with my hubby earlier about my mother-in-law being in the hospital, my aunt in hospice, a friend whose brother died, and the all craziness going on. BOOM. I acknowledged my grief, prayed, made some coffee and sat down to write this. Those situations haven’t changed and I’m still tired, but acknowledging it and praying is much better than stuffing it! What does this have to do with Advent Prep?

Don’t expect the Christmas season to be free of hardships.

A dear friend of mine died  around Christmas time. I won’t make this tip about it. The grief is fresh and private and yet I rejoice that she no longer suffers.

* * *

None of us knows the day or the hour when hardships or struggles will strike.

* * *

At this time last year, I was running around with a heart monitor strapped to my chest and wires trailing out of my yoga pants, thanks to some heart issues. My eldest son, Damian,  fell and broke his elbow at work so we traipsed from doctor to specialist trying to get a good picture of what was going on inside his arm. I got home and jumped into son Hunter’s car to be whisked to the cardiologists and rip off the monitor before they locked the doors. (Wonder what the reading looked like that last hour). Not what I planned to be doing during the countdown to Christmas.

* * *

The truth is- life happens during the Christmas season. We cannot put sickness on hold or plan not to have any tragedies. Struggles are not scheduled on your calendar app. 

Struggling and Rejoicing

The circumstances of the birth of our savior were probably not the Christmas that Mary and Joseph had envisioned. Fleeing to Egypt shortly after was probably not on their agenda either. Yet, they rejoiced. They celebrated. Mary pondered all of these things. There were gifts and songs sung by angels. There was great joy!

“Struggling and rejoicing are not two chronological steps, one following the other, but two concurrent movements, one fluid with the other.”- Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

We parents must learn to rejoice and struggle at the same time for our children’s sake. We must teach them to cope and rejoice in the midst of circumstances. We can rejoice in one thing and grieve another at the same time. Nobody is asking us to ignore grief or pain. We don’t ask our children to either. We can rejoice in Christmas in the midst of pain. Hardships happen even at Christmas.

*Part of this article is an excerpt from 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas.

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