sensory processing disorder and the classroom

sensory processing issuesand the classroom
Does your child sit still in class? Does the teacher complain that your child isn’t focused? Does your child come home and act like a monkey that’s been let out of its cage?

Last week I was chatting with a friend whose daughter, Alexa, is having some issues in school. Not big issues, some of the exact situations I listed above. Alex’s teacher is saying things like, “She’s so smart, I don’t need to remind her,” “Alex won’t sit still, she won’t do criss-cross-apple-sauce.”

A little background. Something that doesn’t define who Alexa is, but is important in what I talk about here on Lovin’ Adoptin’, which is that adopted and foster kids often have sensory processing issues or Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

Alexa is seven and her mom, Raena, had been noticing some interesting things about her in the past few years. When she put lotion on Alexa, she’d cry and scream, often lashing out at Raena. When Alexa put clothes on, she would say how they were uncomfortable, no matter what brand they were. Between Alexa’s parents and their daughter’s physician, they’d come to realize Alexa has sensory processing issues.

In school, one issue Alexa’s teacher has is Alexa sits on the edge of her chair during class. Once I heard a professional say that teachers really do kids an injustice when they make them sit still. Some kids learn while moving, and if it takes a child rocking quietly and gently in their chair to learn and focus, then let them.

You might wonder why Alexa doesn’t have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). This is an education plan put in placed when a child has special needs, it  helps everyone meet certain goals for specific children. When a child has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), the school would have an Occupational therapist (OT) work with that child to help them stay focused in school and meet those sensory needs. The child might hold a fidget during class, sit on a balance cushion (a round disk with nodules that tilts), have sensory breaks where they can be in a dark inclosed space (hammock swing), or the OT or paraprofessional can do push/pulls to help alleviate stress on the joints.
sensory processing disorder

For some of you, it may take time to get an IEP complete, and depending on the knowledge of your schools staff, it can still take some effort to get your child’s needs taken care of. Sometimes teachers won’t recognize your child’s sensory issues and may think it’s behavior based and your child has the ability to fix it. This is how Alexa’s teacher has been viewing her, she thinks Alexa is smart, which she is, so she expects good behavior and for Alexa to remember everything she tells her and doesn’t want to remind her. She feels that reminding Alexa and helping her is enabling.

Alexa attends a private school, and the answer to Raena’s questions about an IEP is that Raena needs to go to a public school to get more information. Well, besides this being completely frustrating, Raena will need to do something in the mean time, and she’s already begun.

Raena has found articles and sections of books that pertain to what Alexa is dealing with, printed them out and shared them with Alexa’s teacher.

This is a great first step, beginning a conversation. Do your research and find out more about SPD and how to help your child, whatever helps you, share it with the teacher. Don’t bombard him or her with information, but sharing what works at home and what you feel will work at school will help your child in a big way. We’ve done this with our son’s teachers and aids, and I can’t tell you how much it’s helped Jeremiah at school.

Alexa’s teacher seems to be grasping what’s going on, but Raena doesn’t feel they’re where they want to be. During our conversation Raena mentioned going to the doctor to discuss Alexa’s sensory issues and a possible diagnosis, so I suggested she have the doctor make recommendations to the teacher.

I know it can be so frustrating to see your child struggling as the teacher makes comments and remains unaware of what’s truly happening. I’ve been unaware myself at times and forgotten the comment I mentioned above, sometimes it helps a child learn when they can move a little. My daughter doesn’t have SPD, but she often stands at the kitchen table when working on homework, coloring, or doing a project, and I can’t tell you how many times she’s fallen off the chair! I used to correct her and ask her to sit down, but finally my brain kicked in one day and I said, “Would you like to stand and do your work?” She said, “Yes,” and pushed the chair out of the way. This is how she works and thinks best. Standing or sitting, does it really matter?

I hope this helps you bridge that gap with your child’s teacher(s) and gives you information to begin working together to create a successful learning environment for your child.

Some posts by Lovin’ Adoptin’ that will help you and your child’s teacher:

Sensory Processing Disorder (part 1): What It Is
Sensory Processing Disorder (part 2): Does Your Child Have Sensory Processing Issues?
13 Funny Reasons You Know Your Child Has Sensory Processing Disorder 

Another great website that has information on SPD:
The Friendship Circle

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you may need to do this on the web version. You can also “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

don’t quit – why you want to quit and why you shouldn’t (adoption & foster)

our instant gratification mentality gets in the way of realityIt’s normal, it’s our society. We want things fast, and if it’s not bread and butter, we don’t want to stick it out.

We live in a fast, at our fingertips kind of world. Drive-thrus, instant books, t.v. and movies on demand, we can record any show we want and watch it any time, learn how-to on YouTube or Pinterest (don’t have to wait to chat with that friendly Home Depot employee). We can reach friends in other countries immediately and for free, heck you can SEE them for free via Skype or FaceTime instantly, texting, pay bills online or via cellphone, check your bank account. There are instant meals, photos of grandchildren, pics of everyones kids all the time via Facebook, groceries (anything from swanky Wal-Mart On The Go). You don’t have to go to stores anymore, order online – want a water bottle, tennis racket, crib – you can have it in a day or two, open your front door and get it while wearing your yoga pants.

Problem is, with foster care and adoption, things don’t happen quickly. At all.

Children are abused and neglected and the families who take them in expect immediate change, or at least change in a few months. We think if we put in the work, there should be a positive outcome, and quick. We have other things to do and we want to move on.

Our “instant gratification” mentality gets in the way of reality.

We also live in a society of quitters. Harsh, I know, but read what Jon Acuff has to say in his book, Quitter.

“I used to think I was unique, that perhaps I had a problem with staying at one job for a long time. It turns out I am extremely common. A recent survey revealed that eighty-four percent of employees plan to look for a new job this year. Furthermore, the average tenure at a job is dramatically changing from generation to generation. A U.S. Department of Labor study revealed that the median tenure for the fifty-five to sixty-four-year-old category is ten years. For the twenty-five to thirty-four-year-old category, the average tenure is only 3.1 years. You and I will quit lots and lots of jobs.”

Thing is, quitting goes far beyond careers, it reaches its tentacles into our private lives.

Don’t like your child’s teacher, move them to another class. Don’t like your child’s school? Change that too. Don’t like the coach, let your child quit the baseball team. Your dog is tearing up your house? Give him away and get a new one. (Six to eight million dogs and cats enter animals shelters each year.) Your spouse just not fitting into your idea of where your life was headed? Trade them in. This quitting mentality creeps into the minds of those doing foster care and adoption.

I get it, it’s hard. It’s damn hard. I’ve said, “I can’t do this,” words said in anger, frustration, exhaustion, and bitter dismay. But guess what? I did it. We did it.

I know it’s like climbing a monumental, flat, slick rock face without the right climbing gear. I know you’re tired, worn, defeated. But our focus has to be these kids – the ones we brought into our home because we knew we could do it. We do it for the kids we promised to protect, to love.

We do it because everyone else quit on them, and we can’t. We won’t. 

We won’t be quitters. We will show our children we love them no matter what. They don’t have the tools to fight their battles, inside or out, so we’ll battle for them and with them. We won’t be selfish, we will be selfless, remembering a child is a life, a life worth fighting for.

And when you get to the end of the real battles, you can look back and say, “I did it!” When your friend talks about her need for antidepressants because she birthed two kids in thirteen months, you can smile big, and know that you’re the one who did the hard work. You stuck it out, and even though your kids may not fall at your feet and thank you – because they won’t – you know in your heart you did your best, much better than you thought you could.

*To all the Facebook friends who “instantly” helped me with the immediate gratification list, thank you!

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this can be done on the web version. You can also “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

give your autistic child ways to “talk” about the past

give your autistic chlid a way to talk about the past
*Even if your child doesn’t have autism I encourage you to keep reading if you would like ways to reach your child in a deeper way.

Occasionally we are given gems of knowledge that I love to pass on to those who are raising children with autism. One such gem came from Michael Emmons*, who works with our kid’s school on including special needs children in the general classroom.

Emmons was at our home observing Jeremiah so he could make recommendations to the school about communication goals. While here, he noticed Jeremiah’s family photo books sitting on the coffee table, and said, “It’s great to have pictures so Jeremiah has a way to ‘talk’ about the past.”

At the time, I saw this as a novel idea, but since then it has grown into something more than I expected. It shouldn’t have been such a cutting edge concept for me, I mean it seems so simple when you really think about it. Give children who can’t communicate a way to ‘talk’ about the past, but it was something I hadn’t thought of. I was simply thinking present and future tense and that’s where it ended. Very unfair to Jeremiah.

Typical kids (meaning kids who can communicate, whether verbally, through sign language, or an augmented communication system) get to talk about the past and relate it to the present and future all the time. I like to put it in perspective with examples so we can really grasp how it is for our children who can’t communicate, or who can’t communicate well.

A child may want to talk about:
Their grandparents last visit and what they want to do next time.
The weather.
The scar they got when they fell off their bike.
They want to visit their cousins again.
They want to go to Disney Land.
How the hill you drive over every day reminds them of the ride at Disney Land.
What they do during school.
Who their best friends are.

I could go on and on, as always, but you get the idea. There’s obviously so much to talk about, and our children can’t or have difficulty doing so.

After Emmons was here I noticed Jeremiah flipping between two photos in his picture book that his Grandma made for him. One was of him sledding and one was of him swimming. He would stare at these pictures intently, and I talked about them, but beyond what I would’ve normally. Before Emmons shared this with me, I would have said, “You went sledding, that was fun,” but this time I added, “Do you like sledding? Maybe it will snow enough this weekend and we can go sledding.”

Jeremiah’s smile stretched across his face when I said this, and I felt like Emmons had helped us delve even deeper into Jeremiah’s world.
photo books help the autistic child talk about past and future

We were able to go sledding a couple weeks ago. Afterwards, Jeremiah was looking through the photo book again and paused at the one of him sledding. I talked about how he had fun sledding, and he grinned from ear to ear, that “Yeah, I know what you mean,” look.

In the past weeks, Justin and I had also been working on getting swim lessons on the schedule. When Jeremiah looked at the photo of him swimming with his Grandpa, I was finally able to tell him we were going to go to swim lessons. He smiled when I told him the first time, but when I was able to say, “We’re going swimming tonight. We have swim lessons tonight,” oh my gosh! He was jumping. clapping, and thrilled! I love it!

It just wrecks me when people don’t think those with autism can understand, that they don’t have feelings.This false belief is so far from the truth. Our children deserve so much more, for us to realize they have desires like every other child.

As Emmons pointed out to us, photo books are a great way to engage in conversation with your autistic child. You can do something as simple as putting pictures in slip-pocket photo books, or you can make photo books at or Adding words to describe what’s happening can help your child develop language, as it associates what’s happening in the photo with words.

I really hope this helps you in your adventures in autism, I can’t tell you what an exceptional jewel this is. It has the possibility of unlocking a treasure trove in your child, making those connections is priceless.
*Names changed to protect privacy.

Take a look at the CONTENTS page for more posts on autism, adoption, and foster care.

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

10 ways to bond with your adopted or foster child

10 ways to bond with your adopted or foster child copy
Are you bringing a child home from another country? Are you welcoming a foster child into your life? Are you adopting an infant? Here are some ways to bond with your adopted or foster child.

1) Rock. Rock. Rock. Rocking has been proven to help heal the traumatized child’s brain. A well-known child psychologist, Dr. Bruce Perry has done research that’s scientifically proven rocking helps heal the brain in children who’ve been neglected, abused, and traumatized. If your child can sit on your lap you can rock them. If your child is too big to rock, rhythmic movement can do wonders for them, and chances are they’ll love it. Rhythmic movement: rocking, swinging, jumping rope, jumping on a trampoline, riding a bike, swimming.

2) Carry your child in a front sling as much as possible (while cooking, cleaning, in the grocery store etc.). If your child is older see #3.

3) Make your child your sole focus for several weeks. Stay near your child as much as possible. Keep their toys near you, if you’re doing the dishes in the kitchen have an activity they can do on the floor near you.

4) Sit on the floor and play with your child. If your child is older, do what they’re interested in – make sure to have time for eye contact, but don’t force it.

5) Skin to skin connection is important for newborn bonding. If your child is older you can massage their hands. Always be aware of your child’s reaction to you. If they’ve been physically abused, this could be uncomfortable for them, so gage how they’re acting, are they avoiding eye contact? If so, start off sitting next to each other, getting to know one another. Adoptive and foster parents often want to act like they know their child’s history, but just because it wasn’t written in their file doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. There’s a lot our children go through that we aren’t aware of.

6) Keep your child’s old routines the same when possible. Implement new routines slowly. (For example, when Payton came to us she was still drinking 8 oz bottles every two-hours – she should’ve been on solid foods already – we slowly weaned her off the bottle and transitioned slowly to solid foods.) If your child is used to having a bath after dinner, keep it the same for a while. If your child was allowed to watch hours of t.v. a day, but your family doesn’t watch much, make a slow transition, don’t abruptly remove what they’re familiar with.
10 ways to bond with your adopted or foster child

7) Keep calm, your voice down, and your movements precise and not alarming. A friend of mine took her foster daughter to see her biological dad for the first time after she entered foster care. This girl had been great with other men while in my friends care, even reaching out to ones she didn’t know, letting them hold her. When this girl saw her biological dad, she didn’t want anything to do with him. She even made sure to put a piece of furniture between her and him at all times. There was no report of abuse by the bio dad, but the child can tell a story through their behaviors. Again, this goes to show we don’t know everything that’s happened to our children, only they do, and we need to pay attention and gain insight from their actions.

8) When you do have to leave your child at daycare or with a relative, leave an article of your unwashed clothing with them (the scent will remind them of you). You can also leave a photo with them.

9) Give your child time to adjust to their new environment. Don’t plan big trips for several months after your child joins you, it can be too overwhelming. Be a homebody, allowing them to get used to where they now live. How do children feel who’ve moved into foster care, left everything that was familiar? What about children who’ve made several moves while in foster care? What about children who left their orphanage or foster family in another country and moved to a new country where everything is different?

10) Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Before your child comes, think of answers to questions they may ask. Will I live here forever? Will you adopt me? Will I see my birth mom again? Will you get me presents on my birthday? There may be many questions your child will ask, but think of the big ones and don’t be another broken promise.

Find more posts on adoption and foster care on my CONTENTS page.

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device this can be done on the web version. You can “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

positive words: how to encourage your foster and adopted children

positive words- how to encourage your foster and adopted childrenYou can listen to a recording of this post, simply scroll to the bottom.

There is so much negative in your child’s life. Their mind alone is sending detrimental messages continuously. If they come from a neglectful or abusive background, kids and teens wonder:

Do they really love me? Are you going to treat me like they did? Am I good enough for them? Will they keep me? Am I pretty enough? I’m probably not nice enough. 

Our children heard, whether verbally, or by cues, they weren’t worth loving, weren’t worth feeding or clothing. They felt like nothing.

Now, it’s time to help them feel like somebody by adding some positives to the list, not only with actions, but with words. You may have heard the parenting advice that says to have five positives to one negative.

For example, if you say, “I’m unhappy with your behavior, you cannot hit people,” you would have five comments that praise your child when you see him/her doing something well (e.g. You shared your toys well, thank you. Good job helping me set the table, I love it when you’re so helpful. Thank you for being so nice to your brother, you’re a great sister.)

Look for every opportunity to praise your kids, and be specific. 

Another way to encourage and praise your child is, if they are really intelligent and good at their school work, hang it on the fridge. If you’re the type that likes to see a plain refrigerator, sparkling clean, think of all the years when you’ll have that opportunity. Your kids will only be little for so long, and you only have so much time to show them you’re proud of them. If you have other children who aren’t as good in school, I would tailor this so you don’t discourage other children in the home.

If your child is an artist, and enjoys doodling, painting, or pasting, support their artistic side by posting their art where it’s visible. You can create an art gallery on any wall. Magnetic paint is an awesome tool!

If your child is good at sports, even if you’re akin to Kelly Clarkson in heels on a baseball field, take the time to practice with your child. Play catch with them, shoot hoops, kick the ball in the yard.

One of my favorite commercials is one that promotes getting outside and getting active with your kids. The family’s in the driveway, mom isn’t fit, she isn’t a star basketball player, and it shows, but she tries her best. She enthusiastically tries to dunk the ball in the hoop that hangs from the garage door, while her two children look on in utter amazement. She then lobs the ball to her son, telling him to go at it. This involvement is encouragement, even if nothing is said. When you show your child you care, they’re encouraged.

Praise your kids when they do well, even if it’s something small. But be honest, they know when you’re fibbing. Even when your child isn’t the best in a sport, there are times when you can praise them. If they don’t catch the ball, but they stop it, praise that. Some children are good at gymnastics, taking them to the park gives them a chance to show off their skills. Most kids will love showing you what they can do.
replace negative messages with positive

I love the part in the book and movie, The Help, when the nanny says to the young girl, “You’re smart, you’re kind, you’re beautiful.” I have taken that example and created one a little different. I say to Payton, “You’re beautiful, smart, and kind, and I love you.” I imagine she will remember the last words I say the most, so I place the ones I feel are most important at the end.

In this day when there is so much emphasis placed on beauty, I want her to know that no matter what, I think she’s beautiful. I want her to be confident in her intelligence and believe she can be and do anything, so I tell her she’s smart. One of the most important ones for me is that she knows she is kind, and that she use every opportunity to be kind to others. Lastly, no matter where she goes or what she does, I want her to know I love her. Always. I never want her to question my love for who she is.

I constantly remind my children that I love them no matter what they do. If Payton hasn’t been doing well, I make sure to tell her she isn’t a bad girl, she just made a wrong choice, and I love her no matter what she does. I reaffirm with words, hugs, rocking her, touching her back, and holding her hand. In turn, she has come from wanting little to no affection to being a very cuddly little girl.

I remember the greatest example of what praise and love can do for someone. A woman joined the writers group I was in, I could tell she had some kind of disability, but she smiled during the whole meeting. Afterwards, she began a conversation with me. It wasn’t easy to understand her, but I made every effort to hear what she had to say. I was struck by this young woman’s confidence. How did she gain such confidence? Knowing nothing of her background, I would assume that someone who had great influence in her life stood beside her, told her she could do it, encouraged and praised her. What amazing things can be accomplished when someone believes in us! Do it for your children.

How do you encourage and place positives in your child’s life?

Check out the other posts in this series on words:
Our Words and How They Affect Our Kids
Your Words Are Hurting My Child (how others words affect our children)

You can find more posts on adoption, foster care, and autism on my CONTENTS page.

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this can be done on the web version. You can “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

navigating IEP meetings

navigating IEP meetings
Autism is an ever evolving world where I frequently feel left behind. I’m thankful our autism world is evolving because I know it could remain stagnant. This is all proof that I don’t always know what I’m doing in this autism world and I’m learning, just as you are.

IEPs is one of those places where I’m feeling less-than. Yeah, I thought they wouldn’t be too difficult. Wrong. I thought I could ignore those offers from outside agencies who can help navigate the IEPs and make sure the school is caring for my child in the proper way. For now, I can, but I’m realizing why they’re needed.

Last week we had an IEP planning meeting to update Jeremiah’s IEP. In the past I’ve made my requests known, and they were ignored. Professionals are really adept at arguing the points they’ve been ingrained with, even if those ideas are wrong and harmful to autistic people. There was only one goal on Jeremiah’s IEP in the past three years that I had a problem with, and that was with requesting snack several times during the alloted snack time.

This time around I had an aversion to something they placed in the IEP about requesting Jeremiah make eye contact for a certain amount of time. I had problems when it was first presented about a year ago, and I noticed it was in the IEP again. I raised my hand, summoning the argument from deep within.

See, I can argue my point exceptionally well at home. I can spout what I want to say and give the reasoning behind it, but I fail miserably when confronting the actual human. Gee, I wish it were a paper I was filling out instead of having to tell professionals I disagree with their approach and honestly find it harmful.

In the IEP it stated how many seconds they wanted Jeremiah to give eye contact; seven to twelve-seconds. Now, to perceive how long this is, please stare at something besides your computer/phone/iPad screen for seven-seconds, counting out loud. Was that very long considering the child is being expected to look in someone’s eyes? Now, do the same exercise for twelve-seconds.

I’m not autistic. Well, I don’t have a diagnosis, and whether I have autism or not could be argued. I DO NOT look at anyone in the eye for seven-seconds while I’m speaking to them. I said this in the meeting. My eyes dart everywhere. I look the person in the eyes and look away, make eye contact again, and repeat.

Asking an autistic person to make eye contact is torturous. The founder of Autism Speaks was recently called out by autistic adults when she said about autistic people, “…look them in the eye.” Why? Because autistic people have a great aversion to looking people in the eye. It’s a very common held understanding in the autism community.

Thankfully, and I really mean that with sincerity, Jeremiah will make eye contact with people without prompting. He’s an anomaly. I didn’t feel that asking him to look at them when requesting something was wrong for him, but it would be wrong for so many people with autism. But to ask him to make that eye contact for any amount of time is ridiculous. If he looks at you, he looks at you.

I gave this example, and I feel it’s true so often for our autistic kiddos. If a typical functioning child were to ask for something, all they would have to do is say, “Can I have some juice please,” and we might expect them to look at us for a moment – a moment. We would not expect them to stare at us for an alloted amount of time. Jeremiah’s communication is his PECS pictures, gazing, or pointing to something, this is all he has up his sleeve. So, when he hands them a picture and looks at them, he should get what he wants if it’s not out of reason. Period. No time limit. No eye gaze for seven seconds.

My point here is not only to vent, but to show you that you need to read over your child’s IEP carefully (they should provide you with a copy prior to the meeting), attend the meeting, and ask any questions you have.

Since I’m new to the IEP deal, I got some input from some friends who have children on the spectrum. This is what was advised: Request Jeremiah have a one-on-one aid (don’t let them write paraprofessional on the IEP service times) so he can access the general education curriculum in his least restrictive environment to ensure he gets his right to a Free Appropriate Public Education.

During the IEP meeting when I told the case manager I wanted a one-on-one aid, her and the Special Ed teacher who will work with Jeremiah when he moves into Kindergarten both said they would get in trouble for writing a request for a one-on-one aid. They did write in specifics; Jeremiah will need assistance with toiletng, minor and major transitions, both inside and outside the classroom, he needs someone available due to safety (eloping) concerns. Basically he needs a one-on-one aid, and they can’t write it. Whatever.

What I didn’t realize is my friend had recommended I have them place this request in the “Parents Comments” section, which I rectified the following day when the IEP was semi-finalized (yeah, we still have another meeting because a professor who is working with the school couldn’t make it).

I have a feeling some of you have been through these IEPs. Some of you have advice to offer others, some of you have things you didn’t do, but wish you did. Things you wish you’d known, but didn’t. So, I, and others, would love to hear what you have to say in the comments. You can share your advice, or a link to a website that has helpful information on IEPs.

Check out the CONTENTS page for more posts on autism, adoption, and foster care.

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this can be done on the web version. You can also “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

your words are hurting my child (adoption & foster)

your words are hurting my child
We are not an island unto ourselves, other people are involved in our lives, and therefore our child’s life. We can’t control those friends and families words, but we do need to be aware of them.

When a child comes from trauma, they have a heightened awareness of the world around them. Words can not only be hurtful, for a child who has a painful past and is always on alert, they can cause other fears or bring underlying ones to the surface.

For years we struggled with what family members said around our adopted children, it was as if some of them had no filter (well, truthfully, they don’t). I’m sure many of you can relate, whether it’s family, friends, or acquaintances you run into consistently, some people simply aren’t aware of what their words do to our kids or us.

Our daughter, Payton, used to worry a lot. For two-and-a-half years, one of the many things she obsessed over was our cat that passed away. We believe in heaven, so we told her he’s there and that Jesus is taking good care of him (let’s not get into theology here okay:)), but that didn’t ease her worries.

Certain people in our extended family didn’t recognize her fears, her fears that reach far beyond her cat passing away. They used words, such as “dead,” and “killed” flippantly while relaying stories, or even directly towards her, warning her of something dangerous that could happen.

While Payton was in close proximity, one family member told a story, saying, “…when a child is dying of a disease.” We didn’t need Payton worrying about something else! Children dying? What’s a disease? Will I die of a disease?

Children hear everything. You would be surprised, and probably have been on many occasions, by what they’ve repeated to you, when you thought they were busy somewhere else, engaged in an activity while you talked. Because of where our children come from, they worry, and we have to be careful about the words we, and others, use around them.

Find ways to ease the realities of life, because death, fire, and disease do happen (we don’t have to carry around a loud speaker and announce it). There’s a better way than telling your little worry wart, “If the house burns down, and our dogs are inside, they’ll die.” (Yep, this was said on more than one occasion.)

Others in your child’s life might believe that a child has to learn about the world sometime. They might say things like, “It’s life.” This is not okay, especially if a child has a predisposition to fear and concern in their everyday life. Frankly, my child has lived a “life” far more embedded in reality than most anyone who says this. Be thoughtful in your approach (although this statement kinda makes me want to yell), and help guide others in how to speak to your children.
WORDS can cause fear

Another way people can really harm our children is by what they say or ask us in front of our kids. We’ve heard them, and numerous articles have been written about them. I even addressed this in my post, The Fascination with Adoption, which I suggest reading because it helps lend a little understanding to where these questions are coming from. “Are they siblings?” “Why did you adopt her?” “What’s his story?” “I couldn’t do what you’re doing/you did.” “How much did they cost?” “Why would you adopt from (country) when there are so many children here who need homes?”

I didn’t mind many of these questions and comments when my kids were younger, because they didn’t understand. I was also naive many times and thought if I talked quietly my children couldn’t hear. Wrong. Most often those asking aren’t being rude or offensive on purpose, they’re curious and the more education I can bring to our world, the better it will be.

But, answering some of these questions and responding to these comments while our children are near isn’t beneficial, and our kids are our top priority. Here are some ideas on how to respond:

“Are they siblings?” I’ve been asked this a few times. If we say, “No,” then our children will look at us like we just mentioned the Brady Bunch. If we say, “Yes,” and one child is Asian and the other is Caucasian, well, it can get awkward. My response to this is, “They are now. They aren’t biological siblings though.” I’ve watched as a light dawns in the persons eyes. Hmmm, yeah.

“Why did you adopt them?” Well, you can give whatever answer you’d like here because for each one of us that answer varies. For some the answer is simpler, “There are (# millions) of orphans in (country) so we wanted to adopt.” For someone who adopted through foster care, you can decide what information you want to share if your children are present and IF you want to share at all. Or, you can make it about adoption or foster care in general,

“We decided not to have biological children because there are so many children in the world who need homes.” 

“What’s their story?” Same as above.

“I couldn’t do what you’re doing.” I’ve heard several answers in the adoption/foster community circling about this one. Many adoptive/foster parents would say, “Anyone can do it,” but frankly not everyone can. No, I’m not a saint. No, I’m not perfect, sadly and to my husbands and children’s dismay, I’m far from it. But, I know I couldn’t do this without my extremely supportive husband. There are numerous people who start down this road and quit, they even have children in their home and they quit. So, no, the answer is not, “Anyone can do this.”
However, I will say that I didn’t think I could before God changed my heart about foster care. I was full-speed-ahead going for China when my husband mentioned fostering, and I said, “No way!!!!” So, my answer would be, “You might be surprised,” and if my children aren’t present, I add, “I didn’t think I could either.”
People really don’t realize what an impact saying,”I couldn’t do what you’re doing,” has on our kids. It didn’t really dawn on me for quite a while. They’re essentially saying that what we do is hard, and what we “do” is our kids. Do you get that? It comes across to our kids as, “I couldn’t take care of those kids and do what you’ve done, because that looks damn hard.” Yikes! Okay, let’s put it this way. What would it be like if someone said to your spouse (while giving a sideways glance at you), “I couldn’t do what you do everyday!” Oy, that hurt.

“How much did they cost?” Again, up to you and how much personal information you want to share. You may not want to comment around your children though.

“Why would you adopt from (country) when there are so many children here who need homes?” I could give you a long dissertation here, but I would like to allow you to go on with your life. My response when we were on our path to China (you can read about that on our Our Story page) was, “I believe God created the world, not only the United States, and that we should care for all children. If we don’t adopt them, who will?”

*I titled this post in this way so you could share it with others.

Be sure to check out my previous post, Our Words and How They Affect Our Kids, as well as the CONTENTS page for more posts on autism, adoption, and foster care.

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