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.

What Are Poor Choices In Behavior Saying?

Sandra Flach, of the Orphans No More Podcast, joins me again this week for the Positive Adoption Podcast series on the book Five Things: A Tiny Handbook for Foster/Adoptive Families. In this episode, we discuss what poor behavior in your child may be trying to tell you. We can fall into the trap of thinking our kiddos are misbehaving just to make us mad. I know. I’ve lived in that trap. When we change our perspective and try to view behavior through another lens, things can change. Read on to find out how. Plus grab a cup of coffee and listen to the podcast. Don’t forget to get your copy of Five Things! You can grab your free copy here.

I’m not behaving to make you mad.

Most of the time, it is because I don’t have self regulation skills. I maintain my control by keeping you out of control.

“I hate you! Why did you adopt me anyway?”

“I can break it I want to, it’s mine! It’s junk anyway!”

“I didn’t eat your candy!”

“That’s stupid!”

This is the voice of a child who cannot self-regulate.

“When a brother broke something that belonged to me and then screamed and yelled and struggled through not knowing how to regulate his own responses or manage his own brokenness or recognize his own sin, a family member asked me, ‘How do you keep forgiving him?'”- Audrey (excerpt from Why You Should Break Your Bio Kids’ Heart)

Adoption is messy. Children who are adopted from hard places have trouble verbalizing their feelings. They struggle with self-regulation and want to control everything and everyone around them. Trouble is, if we parents aren’t careful, we end up focusing on the behavior instead of digging deeper into the root of the problem. It’s quick and easy to think the child is misbehaving to get on our last nerve. We tend to think the child wants to make us angry.

Poor choices in behavior speak what the child is unable to state verbally.

Hurt children have a knack for making us adults feel out of control. They do know how to push our buttons. They seem to own a special button locating radar. Once they find the button, they push it mercilessly. And we adults, like puppets on a string flail around, flopping from hot to cold at their will. Rarely, if ever do these kids apologize. If they do, it is we parents have been steam rolled all day.

If we know our kids can’t self-regulate, how do we parents step out of the ring and become the coach instead of the opponent? 

A. Recognize “the child feels in control because you are out of control” is a recipe for detachment.

The child who is out of control seeks to control his environment. His desire is to be safe, secure. What he usually gets in return for his behavior is pushed away when what he needs is the opposite.

B. Stop letting the child push your buttons

Hurt children can scope out your buttons like a sniper and he is a great shot. The tough job of the parent is to keep those buttons off.Don’t react. Stay calm and give a consequence.

For example, if you watch a video of your child doing flips on the couch,that his sibling recorded, and the child lies and says he didn’t do it (true story gleaned from a friend’s Facebook page), don’t yell because he lied. Maybe jumping on the couch is one of your buttons. Tell him he lied. Don’t ask. Give him a consequence if you think it merits one. Help him put the pillows back on the couch and vacuum the room.

If the offense is more serious, the kid destroyed the baby swing with a machete. Or broke into the neighbor’s house and stole a jar of coins. Or choked, hit, or _______ another human being. The law in my house is people are more important than things so the harming of a person is the most serious offense. The violation of property is second. When a person is harmed, the consequence must be swift, involve an apology and usually some chores the  offended child was responsible for.If the If your teen becomes destructive and violent and things get out of control, call the police. Don’t be ashamed to do it. It is not you that misbehaved. It is him. Wouldn’t you rather a teen who went on a rampage have a stern talking to and some serious consequences when he is fifteen and under your roof, rather than him continuing on the path to self-destruction and seriously hurting someone or ending up in jail at eighteen?

The goal is to connect and redirect. The goal is to teach the child how to connect and therefore distinguish the behavior. You have to treat the sickness, not put band aids over the symptoms.

C. Be an in control parent.

Being a in control parent may seem like a repeat of number two,it isn’t. It is a totally separate job. Not letting your child push your buttons is an inward behavior. Being an in control parent is an outward behavior. Being an in control parent means you are the boss. You make the rules. You set the schedule. You are proactive, which is the opposite of reactive. You don’t wait for things to happen. You make sure they do.

A simple example of proactive parenting is scheduling meals. You fix breakfast. You don’t wake up and think the kids are playing nicely, we won’t have breakfast and then wonder why the kids are having a breakdown an hour later. You set a schedule because the hurt child does not recognize his own body’s signal for hunger and thirst. When you meet those needs by providing food and water every two hours, then you quell some meltdowns. You feed the body, hydrate the body so the brain can function properly.

Schedule play. Make it a point to play with your children on purpose. The parent who waits for this to happen with a hurt child may wait a lifetime. Hurt children need purposeful play to help them connect. Talk therapy usually doesn’t work with children from hard places. They can manipulate and lie to the counselor, plus they don’t want to continually rehash their troubled past.

Parenting a hurt child is no easy task. It is a worthwhile one. These children deserve a chance to attach and we parents can give it to them. We must be the more mature one in these scenarios. Helping these kids heal is a full time job. Dr. Karyn Purvis refers to it as “investment parenting”. The more time you spend sowing seeds the greater the harvest.

Believe me, I totally get it. I have been caught in the control trap. I have engaged when I should have walked away. When I step back and think about what is really going on. Raising a hurt child is like living in opposite world. He pushes away when he needs to connect. He controls when he needs to let someone else be in control so he can feel secure. He destroys because he feels worthless.

Are you an adoptive/foster parent?

Do you often feel alone in your journey? As if NO ONE else knows what’s going on in your home?

Because, which  of us stands on the sidelines of the soccer field and says to the neighboring Moms, “How are you coping with the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in your child?” or “Is your child finally attaching or what?”  “How are those adoption/foster classes going?” No.The truth is most adoptive parents don’t say a word about what they are dealing with on a regular basis. They just try to blend in and look normal. How do I know? I am one of them.This is a great handbook to encourage you and let you know, you are not alone. Plus, it’s full of tips, real-life stories, and some great resources. Grab your free copy today.

Episode 177-Tips for Thriving This Season



Are you feeling pressure to be grateful this season?
Are your kids regressing?
Feeling Stressed?

Then this is for you.

Reactionary and Codependent Parenting

Every year, the calendar hit November and we are all supposed to be overflowing with gratefulness. It’s a lot of pressure, especially if you are raising kiddos who have a capital letter syndrome or who have experienced trauma. We Moms can easily get our minds on the track of negativity or wallowing in behaviors. We can get in the vicious cycle of reacting to behaviors and stuck in a cycle of codependency with our kiddos. When they are okay, we are. That’s no way to live. We are supposed to be the leader, the coach, the parent, not the victim of everyday circumstances and behaviors. But, before you think I’ve got it all down pat and I live the parenting journey perfectly, let me say, I write about this because I’ve been stuck in the pit of reactionary parenting many times. If you can learn from my mistakes, then I’m happy to share them.

EVERYTHING TO BE GRATEFUL FOR OR SOMETHING TO BE GRATEFUL FOR

Maybe some days we can be extremely grateful because everything goes as planned for a few minutes. But then it falls apart. We need to leave behind the idea that we will have everything to be grateful for. We must grasp the idea that we have something to be grateful for. As parents of kids with capital letter syndromes or who have experienced trauma, we have to look for pinpricks of light. And when we see these pinpricks of light or small victories such as regulating in a stressful situation (such as wearing a mask when it causes sensory overload). Or maybe you regulated while a child raged.

On the podcast this week, I share three tips to help us thrive through this season (and I don’t mean just the holidays).

1. Create Memories to be Grateful for

I have friends who put up Christmas trees in October. Some are putting them up this week, watching Christmas movies, making cookies, and playing games together. We have the power to create memories. We can decide to celebrate. Next year, what do you want your kids to remember about this year? The stress? Anxiety? Or the way you celebrated just because you made it happen.

One year my family had moved to a new town, we had lost our business, and were starting over with nothing. I just wanted to stay in bed and pull the covers over my head. But I had kids depending on me. The Lord put it on my heart to do something fun with my kiddos and hug them every day. It was definitely hard for me to do. I did it and if you ask my kids about that year now, they say it was hard but we grew closer as a family. We had more family time, game nights, random water fights in the front yard, and roller blading on the driveway.

2.You have not gone this way before

It’s easy to look back to last year and think, wow, we had a lot to grateful for! I was reading the book of Joshua yesterday and the phrase “You have not gone this way before” really stuck out to me. Although other generations have gone through some pretty tough stuff, we haven’t gone this way before. It’s okay if we don’t know how to process it. What we do need, is the presence of the Lord in our lives to lead us. In the Old Testament, people didn’t have access to the presence. They had to follow the Ark of the Covenant at a distance. Today, we can boldly approach the throne for grace in our time of need. We can commit our way to the Lord and He will direct our path.

3.Find Your Calm

One of the most amazing abilities of kiddos is their ability to mirror us. Watch a baby smile at sister smiling at her. Or cry when someone is looking at her sternly. Kids who have experienced trauma already have a lot of anxiety. When we are anxious and fearful, they will absorb our feelings. This is why it is so important to find our calm.

The Bible says:


For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. – 2 Timothy 1:7

I’m a girl who has struggled with fear and anxiety from my early childhood. I get it, it’s easy to stay stuck in fear. It is tempting to hunker down in craven, cringing, and fawning fear. But that’s not helping us or our kiddos. And that’s not what God has given us. He gave us a spirit of “power and of love and of calm and well balanced mind and discipline and self-control.” It takes self-discipline to use this spirit of power. It means feeling the feelings and then processing them and talking to yourself in your upstairs brain. It means asking yourself logical questions. Is this true? Should I be concerned about this? What can I do about it? It also means doing the work of renewing your mind. Find scriptures to memorize. A big one for me this season is Psalm 23. God is my Shepherd. He leads and guides me. He restores my soul.

I also talk a bit about real self-care on the podcast. Hopefully, these three points are food for thought. There is a way to thrive this season and enjoy your live today!

Here are the links to the people I mentioned on the podcast:

Sandra Flack, of the Orphans No More Podcast on Justice for Orphans will be joining me for a podcast series in the first quarter of 2021.

You can find Kristin Hill Taylor here!

Delayed Effects of Trauma in Foster/Adoptive Families

Delayed Effects of Trauma in Foster/Adoptive Families

  • We potential adoptive/foster parents study the science of trauma. 
  • We learn about the five Bs affected by Trauma.
  • Foster/adoptive parents take all the classes and hear all the reports about how the kiddos were neglected/abused, etc.
  •  Then we willingly sign on the dotted line and say, “Yep, I’m in.” 

Adoptive/foster parents are not saints or superheroes. 

Adoptive/Foster parents are just regular people who want to part of the solution. We want to build safe/secure/family oriented environments for kiddos who have had trauma.

We are called special, saints, have patience, etc… when we bring the kiddos home. When they start exhibiting behaviors as a result of the trauma, suddenly we are bad parents. I’ve been there, along with the multitude of foster/adoptive parents who contact me.

I was on the phone with an adoptive/foster parent the other day. One of her seven kiddos exhibiting some violent and destructive behavior. It was evident that she was beating herself up, i.e. blaming herself. I asked her a question that I ask all parents in this scenario – How are your other kids doing? Have you successfully parented them? Every time the answer is slow to come, almost as if it’s something the parents haven’t thought about. “Yes,” she said haltingly. I knew the answer before I asked the question. It’s a question to change the focus. We adopted/foster parents are not responsible for the trauma kids experienced before they entered the home or the effects of it. We try to be. We want hope and healing for these kiddos more than anyone else.

Trauma doesn’t always exhibit after effects right away.

Here’s a key point. Trauma doesn’t always show the effects right away. There sometimes seems to be a delayed reaction.

When I was eight, I had a serious bicycle accident. I flew over the handlebars and landed on my head after sailing over a speed bump. I woke up on in the ER to a doctor pulling rocks out of my face with a tweezer-like tool. I got off the table and said, “This is a dream.” It was pretty horrific. I was placed in a room with another young girl. She was hooked up to wires and monitors. She was in a coma. I overheard the doctor and parents talking about the car accident she had been in a year earlier. Her body was exhibiting the after-effects of the trauma now. A year later, her body was shutting down. (This really freaked me out!)

This is a physical example of what the body may do. In the book, The Body Keeps Score, Van Der Kolk, M.D. says:

“There have in fact been hundreds of scientific publications spanning well over a century documenting how the memory of trauma can be repressed only to resurface years or decades later.”

The Honeymoon Phase

Adoptive/foster parents go through a honeymoon phase with kiddos similar to what young couples go through after the wedding. Everyone is polite, kind, trying to please and be accepted. Then it gets too exhausting. We wives wipe off the makeup and put on our yoga pants because now we feel comfortable enough to be our real selves. Yes, sometimes we take it too far (raising my hand here). 

The adopted/foster kiddos version of this is – I feel secure enough to go back to who I was. I don’t have to perform anymore. Or, the opposite end of the spectrum, they’re going to harm me, just like everyone else did, so I’m going to control my environment. I’m not saying these kiddos are doing this consciously or planning it out in their journal. It’s just the survival mode response. We all have it to varying degrees. Parenting the Hurt Child explains it this way:

“The struggle, however, represents something completely different for parents than it does for children. While the parents are simply trying to get the child to accomplish a simple task — such as dressing for school, getting ready for dinner or picking up his toys — the child is involved in a struggle to survive. He resists the intrusion and direction by others and perceives it as a fight for his life. As a result, his behavior becomes stubborn, tenacious, and intense. Think about it — how hard would you struggle if you thought that giving up or giving in would mean certain death?”

Be kind to Foster/Adoptive Parents

On a final note, be kind to adoptive/foster parents. You really have no idea what they are going through (unless you are one). Even if you are an advocate or therapist, you’re still behind a veil. You may know more than others, but you haven’t truly experienced the after-effects of trauma.

We foster/adoptive parents are doing the best we can. We need cheerleaders and prayer warriors more than we need judgement for our kiddos’ behaviors.

The Five Bs Affected by Trauma Part 5- Behavior

This is the last in the series on “The Five Bs Affected by Trauma”, you if you missed the rest, start here. Also, hop on over to the printable resource page for a copy of “How Trauma Affects Kids.”

Science says there are five Bs affected by trauma, and we cannot overlook them. In kids from hard places, behavioral disorders are a symptom of the effect trauma has had on their development. 

Negative behaviors will be taken care of once a child is securely attached. To achieve that, we must start with the five Bs and work our way out from there.

Behavior

Behavior — an altered ability to self-regulate in response to stressors. This can manifest as impulsiveness, self-destructive behavior, aggressive behavior, excessive compliance, sleep disturbances, eating disorders, substance abuse, a re-enactment of their traumatic past, or pathological self-soothing behaviors.

This is the one we seem to put the most emphasis on. Why can’t this kid just behave? 

Children from hard places have an altered ability to self-regulate in response to stressors. Kids are impulsive! 

When a baby is born, the mother regulates for him. She feeds him when he is hungry. Wraps him in a blanket when he is cold. She rocks him to sleep when he is tired. When he gets a bit older, he begins to co-regulate, this is the two-year-old who gets the juice out of the fridge and pours himself a glass and gets it all over the counter. He begins to recognize his needs and try to meet them. Self-regulated is the final destination of this journey. This is when a teen or young adult can regulate himself. He drinks water and doesn’t become dehydrated. He eats food. He sleeps when he is tired. He starts handling his bank account on his own.

 Children from hard places often have this cycle of regulation broken. Their needs are not met consistently. They miss the season of co-regulation. As a child, they don’t recognize their own body’s signals for food and water. Their sleeping patterns are messed up. They walk around slightly dehydrated. They don’t eat enough or do the opposite. Gorge. 

What we see on our end is dysregulation. A child who can’t sit still. A child who fidgets. Speaks out of turn. Who doesn’t listen.

Key to Remember – “Good/excited stress loads in a child from a hard place in much the same way as bad/traumatic stress. Generally, a child cannot tell the difference.” – ETC

As a result, children from hard places often experience heightened and persistent levels of stress and fear, driving them to develop an array of survival tactics and inappropriate behavioral responses. However, as Dr. Purvis reminds us: Every behavior has a purpose and a function. Behind every behavior and misbehavior is a need, and we must come to view our children’s needs not as something negative but as something very positive. Needs are one of the primary ways that God uses to bring people into a relationship with others and with Himself. So, we need to learn to follow the needs of our children.

Behavior is a need however inappropriately expressed.

 “It’s can’t, not won’t.”

Many children from hard places deal with heightened levels of stress and fear. In order to help our children heal and move forward, it is critical that parents understand how pervasive fear can be and what it looks like in our children’s behaviors and responses.

Fear is much more than a feeling. Fear is a state of being, and for many children from hard places, it has become a way of life.

There are three ways that children from hard places typically respond to fear and stress:

  1. Fight- frustration, explosive or aggressive, resistive, acting out, saying “I won’t, You can’t make me!”
  2. Flight- Goofy, Physically or emotionally distracting behavior, running, escaping behaviors, distractible, clowning, redirecting, easily bored, effectively saying, “I’m out of here.”
  3. Freeze- Body is often not receiving signals from the brain- whiny, tearful, clingy, fearful, reluctant to separate or to try new things, withdrawing, hiding, saying “I can’t!”

THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FEELING SAFE AND BEING SAFE!

Instead of asking, What are you afraid of, ask, what do you need?

In order to truly address the issue of fear, we will need to create a sense of felt-safety for the child.

 Key to remember-You provide felt-safety when you arrange the environment and adjust your behavior so that the child can feel safe.  Felt safety is just as important and real as actual safety, even for adults. Think of a time that you were perfectly safe and yet you had anxiety. Everyone has something that raises their anxiety level. It could be heights, snakes, spiders, elevators, flying, or crowds. 

Now think about how you react to those around you when confronted with those fears, and you’ll understand your children’s behavior better.

Want to hear more about behavior?

In this episode of Positive Adoption, Kathleen continues the series on the Five Bs affected by trauma with “Behavior.” Behavior — an altered ability to self-regulate in response to stressors. This can manifest as impulsiveness, self destructive behavior, aggressive behavior, excessive compliance, sleep disturbances, eating disorders, substance abuse, re-enactment of their traumatic past, or pathological self soothing behaviors. Grab a cup of coffee and join Kathleen as she finishes this series!