Co-regulation & Self Regulation

Last Wednesday, I promised to follow up on my three points on Burden Bearing Mothers. Today, I am talking about number one.

Children from hard places CAN’T, Not WON’T bear their own burdens. They cannot self-regulate.

He ran through the house, knocking chairs over and books off the shelves. “I can’t get him to behave,” his mother said. She covered her face with her hands and wept. “I didn’t know adoption would be this hard. I don’t know if I can do this!”

Maybe you feel this way about an adopted, foster or your own special needs child. It seems as if the child is a cyclone of Dysregulated behavior. While everyone else sits quietly, he is constantly moving, rocking, pounding or getting up every two seconds. He just cant’ control himself. That is, he cannot regulate.

“A two year-old is adopted from an orphanage where she was underfed, under-touched, and neglected. From lack of stimulation, her sense have not developed normally. In her new adoptive home, she is bombarded by unfamiliar sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and physical sensations, and she is bewildered by the social expectations in the unfamiliar environment. Her impoverished early life makes it impossible for her to keep up, and she becomes overwhelmed with stress and frustration. She expresses herself the only way she knows how-through tantrums and aggressiveness.”-The Connected Child

When and how do children learn regulation?

A child learns to regulate through co-regulation. Mother regulates for him first. She wraps him in a blanket when he is cold. She feeds him when he is hungry. Changes his wet diaper. Smiles when he is content. He picks up these expressions and feelings through the mirror effect.

We say a child is unable to regulate when he cannot control his impulses or doesn’t recognize the needs of his own body. He doesn’t recognize thirst or hunger because no one fed him regularly in his early life or he has developed sensory issues. He wears a coat when it eighty degrees or shorts when it is twenty. He has impulse control issues. He grabs what is not his. He stuffs food in his mouth that belongs to a sibling. We see these as ‘bad behaviors’ that we want to snuff out.

A child who missed out on the co-regulation steps of his early life cannot regulate.

Jacob is a great biblical example of the inability to regulate.

Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.[d])

31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Genesis 25: 19-33

Jacob had no impulse control. He couldn’t wait for food. He didn’t consider the consequences. We don’t know much about his early life, how he was parented, other than his mother favored him. We can assume from his behavior that he struggled with regulation. After Jacob sold his birthright, he spent much of his life in fight, flight or freeze. He ran, deceived and hid. And one night, God came to him and promised to watch over and care for him. Later, he wrestled with God. Literally. And he trusted God.

There is hope, Mothers, for the child who cannot regulate. For the one who is impulsive. The one who lies. The one stuck in survival mode. The one who does things that leaves us scratching our heads.

Each of our children are chosen, before the foundation of the world, in the mother’s womb they were formed. Don’t let the current behavior form prophecies of doom in your mind. Pray the word. Speak the word over your child while he sleeps.

What are some other practical steps you can follow to help this child?

  1. Food and water every two hours
  2. Ask him, “What do you need?” instead of “What’s wrong?”
  3. Give him words if he has none.
  4. Ask questions that activate the upstairs brain.
  5. Teach him some coping skills, listening to music,  jumping on a trampoline, journaling in pics, etc….

These practices sound simple, but children who cannot regulate need someone to do it for them. If they don’t recognize their body’s signals, they walk around slightly dehydrated and hungry. Asking them what is wrong makes them slow down and process. Don’t be in a hurry or think they always know. That is why we must give them words if they have none. It looks like you need a break, do you? that sort of thing. When the child is ready, move onto asking questions, “how do you think we could solve this problem?” Finally, teach him some coping skills that match his personality. This is self-regulation. Don’t ask a kid who is not keen on sports to use running as a coping skill. Mothers, you know your child, work with him until together you find something that helps. Be patient with yourself and the child. This is investment parenting, not drive through instant parenting. It is a marathon with lots of water breaks and great views. Enjoy the journey.

Linking up with Kristin Taylor for Three Word Wednesday, join us!

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Burden Bearing Mothers

We women sat in Bible study sharing our burdens. We didn’t get to the lesson. All of us had so many things we needed to process and pray for. The common theme? Our children. There is nothing like a Mother’s love for her child. There is also like a Mother’s burden of guilt if she feels as if she parented poorly or passed on some genetic trait that resulted in disease, sickness or depression. We Moms are burden bearing beings.

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Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.-Galatians 6:2b,3 The Message

This verse was my theme song when I was in college. I thought I had to bear everyone’s burdens. I heaped them on my back and carried them. I jumped up when anyone needed help at anytime. My mom noticed the pattern and shared some teachings with me on having a ‘burden bearing personality’. Turns out, we can take this burden bearing a little too far. I’m glad she shared those with me while I was young because after marriage, children and then adoption, I slipped back down into the pattern of burden bearing too much. Again and again. Some experts call this co-dependency. It can lead to compassion fatigue or physical sickness.

If we read this verse in context, we find a balance-

For every person will have to bear (be equal to understanding and calmly receive) his own [little] load [of oppressive faults]. Galatians 6:6

We Moms can take comfort in this. Burden bearers can only take on so much. Each person must deal with their own choices, the fruit of their labor, of whatever sort that is. Good or bad. Sweet or sour. Moms, as much as we would love to save our family from negative consequences, we cannot. As much as we would love everyone to have a perfect life, they can’t. We live on an imperfect world, where people make choices that determine results. Not only that, but the word says to bear the burdens, not to pour yourself out for another by wrecking your own health. If you are bearing the burden of passing on a genetic defect to your child, I’m sorry. I’ve been there. It stinks. But, feeling guilty doesn’t change it. It just weighs us down.

As for adoptive/foster/special needs Mothers, we need to take great care in self-care.

“Because a parent has compassion for a child he feels with him. He enters his pain from his point of view. Entering into a child’s pain comes at a great emotional cost to the foster or adoptive parent.” –The Traumatized Child

Let me end with three reminders for us Moms.

1.  Children from hard places CAN’T, Not WON’T bear their own burdens. They cannot self-regulate.

2. Bearing our children’s oppressive faults means co-regulation. Children get their cues from  us. If we lose it every time they can’t regulate, they will stay in the cycle of being Dysregulated and we will join them.

3. We adoptive/foster/special needs parents must maintain a delicate balance of being co-regulators, attaching at every possible moment but being detached, not co-dependent.

I’ll be delving into each of these three topics for the next three weeks. Watch for number one next Wednesday!

Orphans and Refugees

The airport was crowded and noisy. The four year little girl old slumped over weak, with a high fever. The toddler threw his bottle on the floor and it shattered instantly. The two young boys were restless. The grandfather/professor tried to keep them contained while their father gathered belongings. They had just arrived at Chicago O’Hare after a ten hour flight from Poland. The family rode the escalator down one flight and then it happened. They were detained. Sent to an room with a glass window facing the passengers hurrying by. One more short flight before they were to their new home. One more hour on a plane and Mom and siblings would be at the other end.  Officials looked at the passports, stamped Poland and asked questions.

This was my family. My new children. Fresh from Poland. Detained. My husband, exhausted from the long battle, months of paperwork, six weeks of waiting in the states after a five week stay in the orphanage with the whole family (four prospective siblings plus our three bios). We had jumped through every hoop. Dotted every ‘i’and ‘kept our papers in order’ as we told by our attorneys in Poland. The kids had gotten all their immunizations in one day to come to the states. They were a special kind of refugee, immigrants coming home to be part of a family of immigrants of Poland, two generations removed.

If you read my blog regularly, you know I have a heart for the orphan. God gave me that heart through life experience and an infusion of His character. I can’t take credit for it.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up and heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the [physical and spiritual] captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound, -Isaiah 61:1

That is the character of Jesus. He came for the meek, the poor, the afflicted. He was sent to bind up and heal the brokenhearted. To proclaim liberty to the captives. That is His heart and should be ours too. If it were up to me, everyone would adopt or foster. Maybe you have a heart for refugees, not because you want to be political, but because you have had life experience with them. Two lovely ladies I know have a heart for the refugee. They staged a march at our local courthouse. Not a protest, a march.

One of these ladies is my niece-in-love, Carly. She said of the march, “The heart behind it was just to show love and solidarity for refugees. I genuinely believe that people are people, and no one is more important than another. I can’t imagine if we were in a time of crisis and were turned away by our neighbors, so I’m not going to do that to anyone else. I just was quietly standing up for something I believe in. I just read something that said “I… received both kind pushback and a chorus of glory hallelujahs. Trying hard not to consider either response more than I consider Christ.” That’s my response right now; that I put my God-given heart out there to represent Him in the world, and whether or not people were swayed one way or the other by what I stood up for is not my thing to worry about, but to keep my focus on Christ.” Isn’t she amazing?

march

“Whether you believe that refugees should come to the United States, whether we should make places for them in the other areas, all of us have to realize that there is a problem in our world, and as fellow humans, we’re responsible to solve it in some way,” march organizer Rachel Ellis said.

Rachel works as an ESL teacher in a university setting . She  teaches  grammar and composition classes, and has also lead the conversation partner group. She has taught students from China, South Korea, Haiti, Togo, Nepal, and Saudi Arabia, among other countries. She shared many stories with me about her students and what they mean to her. I don’t have room to share all of them, but I love this one, I’m sure you will too:

The first day I walked into the office to begin training, I met a young Muslim girl. Through our limited conversation, we learned that we are the same age, had been married the same month, and that our husbands share the same name, roughly translated. This encounter left me filled with hope, amazed at the divine encounter God had used to reassure me. This same girl is one of my most precious friends. She has invited me into her home, loved me, prayed for my son, and now, in a few short weeks, will give birth to her own son, a lifelong friend for my baby.

Rachel shared with me her purpose of the march-

“The march, for me, wasn’t about a political statement. I believe that in this age of social media and news bombardment, we so often lose sight of the concrete. In debating “issues” and “ideologies,” we often lose sight of the very real people affected by our arguments. I look at the example of Jesus in the Bible. The Pharisees were all about making sure that the ideology of Jewish law was followed. The law was given by God to the Jewish, and there were reasons it made society work well. Jesus said he hadn’t come to abolish the law and prophets, but to fulfil them. He obeyed the law, yet also didn’t lose sight of the real individuals affected by those laws. For me, this march was an opportunity to set aside political issues. To acknowledge that real people in various refugee situations around the world, Christian, Muslim, Jew and others, are in dire threat of death every day. It was an opportunity to say to the community, we may disagree on what to do about these people, but we all acknowledge their humanity and their dignity. We all agree they need our help. That’s why I was so focused on providing practical ways to help refugees, no matter how that help comes. My heart is that people would remember that the love of God through us does not run out. Just like my love for my husband did not diminish, but multiply with the birth of my child, I can love both the veteran on the street and the refugee in the Middle East. Compassion does not have to be an either/or issue. It is simply allowing the love of God to overflow into our lives, so we have more to give.”

There is a lot of controversy in our nation today. Well, that’s what we are shown. Or told. This quiet, peaceful march was on the local news in a totally different light. It was called a protest and the one sign that happened to be negative made the news. This greatly upset the organizers. We Americans are marchers. That’s what we do. We marched for freedom against the tyranny of Great Britain during the Revolutionary War. We women marched for the right to vote. We marched for Civil Rights. We march for life. And as Carly said, pro-life means every life has value.

I don’t have the answers to the refugee crisis. Rachel offered a pamphlet that gives some suggestions about what you can do. You may be surprised to hear that she says to start with your community. Love the people there. Serve them. The homeless. The foster child. I love her spirit and heart.

Practical Ways to Help Refugees

  1. Donate to organizations where you know the money will reach refugees. Make sure you know where your money goes! Check out: Preemptive Love Coalition, International Refugee Committee, Save the Children, World Relief
  2. Volunteer with organizations or agencies helping resettle refugees in the United States.
  3. Educate your families and friends about the refugee crises in various countries. Do RESEARCH and find out the FACTS.
  4. Befriend an international friend in your area. Invite them to dinner, offer to help practice English, learn about their culture.
  5. Advocate for refugees by speaking positively on their behalf to the government officials, clergymen, business owners, etc.. Try not to argue with people, but just provide facts and show your support.
  6. Plan a fundraiser.
  7. Pray for refugees. Pray for peace, for safety and for them to never give up hope.

If you need some balanced news on the refugee issue, check out Preemptive Love Coalition’s article here.

Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor for Three Word Wednesday, join us!

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The Women’s March

The Welfare Rights building was crowded. I stood on the threshold, fresh from the Catholic school around the corner and looked for my mom. There she was, deep in conversation with a woman, her arm around the her shoulders. The woman wept. There seemed to be a lot of tears shed here. Women, afraid, hopeless came for encouragement, support, and direction. Some of them had been abandoned by men and had multiple children to care for. Another raised her sister’s children while she served a jail term. It was the mid-seventies and Mom was a stark white face to the sea of African American faces full of fear and hopelessness. Mom served these woman because she understood where they came from. Her brand of feminism meant woman should be able to feed and clothe their children when a man left or a woman couldn’t take care of her own. I got to know some of these woman in my after school visits. Those who had gotten help stuck like glue to the center, encouraging, wiping tears, giving bear hugs and helping others navigate the world of jobs and paperwork. This was my mom’s brand of feminism. Reaching out to the broken hearted. Meeting physical and emotional needs.

 

We watched and excerpt of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech in church on Sunday. It was refreshing. With tension running high in our country, women marching all over the world, we needed a refresher, not even a week after his day. It can’t just be a day, it needs to be a way of thinking and a way of life. It’s not a day to tweet one of King’s quotes and then forget about it. We can’t heal as a nation until we are willing to step out of our comfort zone, to pray and create bridges instead of walls.

bridges

“And that is something that I must say to my people who stand on the worn threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not he guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not “seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom” by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” -Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream speech

This nation is full of bitterness and hatred. With  President Trump sworn in, riots and women marching. The tension and anger are palatable. What should the Christian’s response be to this be? Not one of self-righteousness or Bible flinging orgies on social media. What would the response of the great Martin Luther King be? He would oppose physical violence and I’m not talking about the protesters. I’m talking about the body of Christ. It is not our job to tell others who are hurting, who are in need, who feel afraid and threatened by the future that they are wrong. Instead we should be asking, as I have always taught my kids, What can I do to help? Or you journalists or writers, pull out your key questions, Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Ask these. Who are these people? What do they fear? When do they think these freedoms will be removed and how? Why do they feel threatened?

Everybody has a story. Every person that marched or protested has a story. Their lives are just as valuable as anybody else’s. They have a voice that needs heard. Let us not be the ones who say they have no rights, that they don’t matter.

Abortion is wrong, I believe that wholeheartedly. I state that to be clear on my stance. Not everyone marched for Planned Parenthood. Some marched because they have been sexually abused. Some women are rape survivors. Some were just afraid that their rights would be stripped away. Some have been abused and mistreated by men. Some have had abortions and feel a deep shame. Each women who marched has value. Their soul cry needs to be heard from the White House to the church pulpit.

Loving each other as Christ loved us does not mean we condone the sin, it means we love the person. We celebrated the sanctity of human life on Sunday, all the while choosing  which lives matter. That cannot be so.

“God loves everybody-including those who radically disagree with Him. And He expects His followers to do the same.” -Pastor Wayde Wilson

God is a God of justice. He is not deaf to our cries. We must cry out to him for justice. We must be ‘HIs hands and feet. For the widow. For the orphan. For the abused. The neglected. The brokenhearted. The captives to this present darkness.

“No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”- Martin Luther King Jr.

We Christians don’t need to throw our beliefs at others in order to win them to Christ. We need to hear their heart’s cry. We need to meet them there. If we Christians are persecuted, let it be for righteousness sake, not for yelling matches on social media. Let us stand firm in our convictions and at the same time be ambassadors for Christ.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up and heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the [physical and spiritual] captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound,

To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord [the year of His favor] [a]and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, … Isaiah 61:1,2

Like my mother in the Welfare rights building, let us preach the Gospel of good tiding to the meek, the poor, the afflicted. Let us, like Christ bind up and heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the physical and spiritual captives.

*More on Christian women and feminism on Friday, join me for Feigned Feminism Friday (it’s back)!

Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor and Three Word Wednesday! Join us!

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What Success Is…

 

I love the New Year, fresh and crisp as a winter wind. I love the new journals. The new business planner (that I still have no idea what to do with). I love the new Word. I feel refreshed and renewed. Christmas decorations have been put away, except for the greenery I couldn’t stand to put away.

greeneryI take off at a sprint, ready to accomplish all, whatever all is. Sometimes it’s as if I am playing whack a mole, no matter how many books I have read on goal setting and essentialism. Life just doesn’t always work that way, unless you have no family, friends or never get sick. With my personality, I must be careful not to make goals a god. Success is Not an Accident and Essentialism are a few of my favorite books on success and goal setting. I recommend them. They have helped me weed out things that aren’t essential. I have a better idea of how to set measurable goals. I have a definition of success. It’s not what I would have defined it as when I was in my twenties or even thirties. It’s not about knowing the right people, money or wearing the right clothes. And, grab onto your seat, success is not always about achieving your goals. Success is not about being able to do everything. It is more about being able to do the thing that is before you well.

“Successful people are those who have learned how to consistently apply God’s laws in their lives. They ascribe their achievements to focus, hard work, strong relationships, perseverance and the blessings of God.”- Tommy Newberry

I love this definition of who successful people are. We can’t always control our circumstances. Sometimes our list of goals get sidelined while we work on the business of living. Does that mean we aren’t successful? Of course not.

A mother working on a project to make her home more beautiful and comfortable is interrupted by sickness. Is she still a successful homemaker?

A writer working on a manuscript puts writing on hold to participate in a community project is still a writer, right?

A health nut who teaches about the blessings of whole foods and the benefits of exercise gets knocked flat by an immune system disorder. Is what she teaches still true?

I’d love to measure my success by a bar graph or a beautiful circle graph with bright colors. It doesn’t work that way. Often our path to success may seem as if we are running from the snake in a zig zag pattern (like my mama taught me). That’s what we see. That’s not what God sees.

Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart
And do not rely on your own insight or understanding.

In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him,

And He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way]. Proverbs 3:5,6

When I trust in and rely on the Lord, I have to throw my own insight and understanding out the window. Every day I must get up and acknowledge the Lord. I must recognize Him and say, “This is your day, Lord, what would you have me do with it?” The truth is, I pray in warp speed, acknowledge my plans and start a frantic frenzied race to the end of the day. I am, shoulders hunched, with frayed nerves, pursuing a success that never satisfies. Success is doing the will of God on the path He has placed before you with the strengths and weaknesses that He has bestowed on you. Success is not about being perfect. It’s about being obedient. It’s about acknowledging Him, recognizing that He is ultimately in control. If my plan falls through, I can be assured that He is has a better one. What about you?

Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor for Three Word Wednesday, join us!

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