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.

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.

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

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: