should I change my adopted child’s name?

should I change my adopted child's name
What’s in a name? If you really ponder it, there’s a heck of a lot, especially for someone who’s owned their name for a while.

I think this is what we have to realize as adoptive and foster parents, our child owns their name, it’s theirs, it’s the ONE THING they didn’t have to give up or lose when they were removed from their biological home or orphanage. It may also be the one thing they take away from their previous life that’s positive.

Changing a child’s name upon adoption is a big conundrum for many families, but there are a few things to consider before doing so. (Don’t worry, there’s an exception which I’ll discuss later.)

Your child’s name is all they own. They left any family (siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents) when they were removed from their family. If they left an orphanage to join your family, they left behind friends and caregivers they may have grown attached to. They may have left behind toys, stuffed animals, or blankets (even if they only had one), and in drug homes these items are confiscated and discarded. If a child is lucky, really lucky, they leave their previous life with a trash bag. Our daughter came to us with two sets of clothes, our son, one, and neither brought a toy, stuffed animals or blanket. Many children have nothing to take with them.

One thing, the only thing they do have, they do own, is their name. We have to recognize this. 

Changing a child’s name is not like changing a bald tire on your GMC, it’s not something to be taken lightly. Many parents think of it as giving their child a new name to go with their new life.

Your child’s name is all they know, and crazy thing is, they may like it. It’s part of who they are. It’s a large part of their identity. Think about that. Identity. And what would a child feel like if their name, an essential part of their identity (because they really don’t know who they are yet because they haven’t been given the opportunity with love and acceptance) was changed?

How do they think the parent changing their name feels about them?

Think about something you would like to change in your home. A majority of the time when we want to change something it isn’t because we like it. Let’s say you want a new couch, well unless you really hate that your credit card is only in the double digits, you’re probably doing so because your tired of the one you have, you don’t like it anymore, or it’s ripped, broke, or dirty. Basically, you aren’t happy with it.

This is how some children feel when their name is changed. They’re fully aware that you don’t like their name (unless you change it for the reason stated below) and you want something different. What they came with isn’t good enough and therefore it can easily transition to them feeling like you don’t think they are good enough. These feelings are already resounding in their head loud and clear.
changing the adopted child's name

Some parents change their child’s name because it’s different, maybe your child is from another country or has an odd name. Fact: Different is in. Today parents want their child to have a different name, they spell it phonetically or choose a name they’ve never heard before. I know a baby whose name is Prator. Different? Yes. So the concerns about your child standing out because of their name isn’t such a concern any more.

In my opinion, there is only one reason to change a child’s name, and that’s because of safety concerns.

I know many adoptive families who’ve fostered, fear the biological parents will show up at their door or school and take the child, and thus changing the child’s name makes them feel safer. In some isolated cases this is true, but for many it’s not necessary.

If the biological family lives in very close proximity, and I don’t mean that you simply live in smaller town, you may consider a change of name. And you may also want to consider the biological parents history. Most birth parents won’t come after their children (even when the parents are criminals), it’s very rare that this happens.

If you feel you have to change your child’s name, there are a few considerations you might want to make. You can use part of their name, a middle name as a first name, or you can change their name slightly, transforming Jacob into Jake or Michael into Mike, it allows the child to keep a part of their name and helps keep it familiar.

I also believe that if a name change needs to take place, there should be positive discussions about it.

1) Take your time, don’t whack a child with the news and not accept discussions.

2) Tell children, no matter the age, what you plan to do.

3) Involve your child in the conversation. Ask them what name they like, and listen to their advice. Get them involved in choosing a new name if you feel a change needs to be made.

We must weigh whether changing a child’s name is necessary or if we’re doing it because of our own desires. Maybe we’ve always dreamt that our child will be graced with our grandmother’s first name, maybe we’ve picked out a favorite name for our future child. But the child must be considered, this isn’t like choosing an addition of black beans for your burrito at Chipotle. This is connected to something far greater than many parents give thought to. It’s identity.

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this may need to 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.

it’s not “just a kid thing”: behaviors in adopted and foster children

it's not just a kid thing - behaviors in traumatized children

“Desi cries every time we’re in the car, no matter what I do she won’t stop,” Jason complained to his friend.
“Oh, don’t worry, she’ll grow out of it, Zavier did that when he was young too,” replied Zack.

As parents of hurting children we hear this often, far too often. Our friends and family share their similar experiences on everything; picky eaters, criers, infants having difficulty weaning from the bottle, problems with potty training. We hear of teens who act out, use drugs and smoke to escape. Friends tell us of their teens who don’t listen, pre-teens who are promiscuous.

But there’s a difference, our children didn’t get a healthy start in life with love, care, and affection.

They were neglected, wondering when they’d be fed, never held, never soothed when they cried. They were abused, beat on, hit when they cried, yelled at when they asked questions, and heinous acts were laid upon them that we don’t even want to contemplate.

So, when an adoptive or foster parent says their child cries when they’re put in the car, we have to think outside of normal, outside that box that feels so comfy and safe. How many of our children were driven away from all they knew, in a vehicle? Most.

When children are abused and neglected, even thought it’s terrible and frightening, it’s all they know, it’s familiar. So, when that social worker drives them away from their home, it’s daunting and scary. They don’t know what to expect, they definitely don’t expect something better.

Even if children who lived in an orphanage before joining their adoptive family weren’t abused, leaving those walls is harrowing, sometimes that orphanage is all they know, and maybe it brought something better than starving on the street in a frozen desolate country. When any of these kids are taken to a new place, it’s scary.

Maybe Desi, who cries every time she’s put in the car had a terrifying experience in a vehicle, and when that door closes, those horrific memories come back assaulting her, and she cries.

it's not just a kid thing

Maybe Desi is afraid her new family will take her and drop her off with someone new, because whenever she was put in the car, she was abandoned on someones door step and her mom didn’t pick her up again for weeks.
People who don’t live our lives and contemplate our children’s circumstances don’t get it. A few days after our son, Jeremiah, came to us, I was visiting with a friend of mine. When I mentioned that he cried all the time, she said, “My mom said my brother was like that, he was colicky.”

Yeah, we could chalk it up to colic, and a very small part of it was (because we worked on changing his formula and finally found one – plus gas drops – that decreased his crying by a minimal percentage), but a majority of his distress was caused by something else. Trauma.

Jeremiah’s biological father had let Jeremiah cry, he didn’t sooth him, and didn’t feed him nearly enough. Eyewitnesses saw him pushing Jeremiah around town in a stroller, while Jeremiah screamed, his bio father never doing anything to help the newborn. The same eyewitness saw the bio dad pushing Jeremiah in a stroller around town when it was fifteen-degrees outside (he wasn’t going to work, his travels sometimes had no purpose).

Jeremiah hadn’t yet learned that crying wouldn’t bring any comfort, it takes time for infants to learn that crying won’t bring food, a soothing back rub, rocking, holding, someone to change a dirty diaper, a mother to sing lullabies to help him go to sleep, a nightlight for the overwhelming darkness, something to look at from the bottom of the empty crib.

Until a child learns that crying gets him nothing, all he knows is crying, because that’s what babies normally do to get what they need. All Jeremiah knew was crying and being uncomfortable.

So no, avoiding the real issue and hearing that my friend’s brother had colic too made me mad. Sometimes our friends and family forget what our children went through, or they try to pretend, and want to believe that everything’s okay. They don’t believe that extensive trauma causes a plethora of issues, they don’t think people treat infants and children so horribly, to them it’s impossible to believe. Sadly, parents and caregivers do these horrific things and we need to recognize it if we’re going to help our children.

Another thing our two children did was stay awake on long road trips, even one that lasted twelve-hours. We’ve heard from other non-adoptive parents that their children don’t sleep much in the car either.

Neither Payton nor Jeremiah slept in the car for several years after they came to live with us, whether the trip last three-hours, seven-hours, or twelve-hours. In Payton’s case, we know she was left with strangers constantly, we’ve heard horror stories about some of the people she was left with. She lived in several foster homes before she came to us, and it’s no wonder her eyes were peeled on the road ahead when we took long road trips. She held them wide open as if invisible toothpicks were holding her eyelids open, no soothing, comforting words could convince her all was going to be okay, she could rest. No words, No actions. Just time.

Friends of ours adopted their two girls from Korea, and they’ve told us their daughters did the same thing, it’s as if it was exactly the same story, only different kids from another country.

There’s a really good chance Payton did this because she was afraid we were going to take her somewhere, drop her off where she would be abused, and never see her again. It broke my heart. But because my heart broke, I was able to help her in the ways she needed. Getting mad doesn’t fix it, blaming the child doesn’t fix it.

Having compassion and a willingness to meet your child where they are and dedicating yourself to them is what fixes it.

No, Payton didn’t do this because she was “that way.” It wasn’t a “normal kid thing.” It was trauma based, and we needed to recognize this.

So, when a hurting child hits, we don’t blow it off and say, “It’s just boys,” we have to address it where our child is, talking about what’s going on inside them, discussing feelings. Maybe that child’s father hit him, and taught him hitting was the answer, thus you have a child who hits, and it’s not “just a boy thing.” Saying “Stop it Daniel!” won’t help (although you still intervene), you have to dig deeper, get down to those feelings.

When friends and family tell you, “My kids did that too, she’ll grow out of it,” or “Don’t worry about it, it’s a kids thing,” or “It’s normal,” know that your story is different. Your kids didn’t have their beginning.

Your kids need you to recognize this and help them through it in an understanding and compassionate way.

What do you do when others give you this parent mantra? Do you respond, and how?

Here’s another post that will help you meet your child where they are:
What Emotion is My Adopted/Foster Child Dealing With?

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this may need to 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.

why the adoptive parent’s opinions matter

why the adoptive parents opinions matterEveryone has opinions, and when you adopt or foster, you get ideas on how you should raise your kids from every which way.

Birth mothers want to be called “mom,” or “mother,” but you want to refer to her as “birth mom.” Your son would like to call her, “tummy mommy,” but his birth mom wants to be referred to as “Mom.” What do you do? Older adoptees share their opinions on how we should raise our kids, what we should tell them, what not to say.

Our world is so focused on always being politically correct, and yes, there’s definitely a necessity for that, but it seems that in the case of adoption it takes away from what adoptive parents want. It’s as if our opinions don’t matter, and I’ve been told by adoptees exactly that, my feelings and perspectives don’t matter. Other parents have been told by their child’s biological family what to do and what terminology to use. But my feelings as an adoptive parent do matter, because I’m the one who adopted my child, I’m the one who’s raising them.

As for the opinions on biological families, for some adoptive families it works well to have the birth families (or some of use the term “biological family”) over for holiday celebrations, but for others that would be *beep* on wheels. It would not go well, and it wouldn’t benefit our children. Why? Because each of our children have different stories, different backgrounds, different needs, different relationships with their biological families.

No one person can tell everyone else what to do with their adopted or foster children. Just as in families who have all biological children, you won’t see two families who do things exactly alike. No one group of adoptees can tell every adoptive family how to raise their kids and how it’s going to end up in the future.
you can listen to opinions on adoption, but ultimately it's your family

Is it important listen to adoptees? Absolutely. However, when their opinions come with too many absolutes, then it’s time to beware. As adoptive parents we can also choose the voices we want to surround ourselves with. We can hear the less positive opinions from adoptees about adoption and foster care, but we can choose not to surround ourselves with it after hearing it the first time.

After hearing what those involved with Flip the Script had to say, I was told I didn’t want to hear what they had to say. I wasn’t the deaf one, I heard them.

It’s kind of like a pregnant woman. Does she want to hear negativity from the mother whose birthing experience was horrible, endless hours of excruciating pain, how carrying that child wrecked her back, she was bed-ridden, unable to do anything she enjoyed. Or, do would the newly pregnant mother want to surround herself with mothers who had a good, positive experience? Will she hear the negative? Yes. But what will she choose to listen to the most. And I would like to add, it’s ALL in the way it’s said.

Many adoptees involved in the Flip the Script movement tell us we need to listen to them, and that us adoptive parents don’t matter in the equation.

Madeleine Melcher wrote an article, What an Adoptee Wants You to Know About Adoption. In it she says, “Parents: there is no voice on or about adoption that is more important than YOUR ADOPTEE’S.” She also says,

“Adoptees have different feelings about their own adoptions.”

I love what Madeleine says. It’s true, our children’s voice comes first. Then come ours (shocker) because we’re the ones raising them. We should listen to others who’ve been there, but we get to choose who we want to surround ourselves with.

Unlike what some adoptees would like us to think, each child will have their own views of their adoption. Yes, it’s up to us parents to listen to a variety of voices on the subject, including those who’ve been adopted and fostered, but those voices are going to vary too.

Because everyone has their own story, shaped by their own experience.

Here are some more posts that may interest you:
Are Your Worries About Your Child’s Future Stealing Joy from the Present?
Birth Family Relationships

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this may need to 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.

15 tips on how to be an awesome foster and adoptive parent

15 tips on how to be an awesome foster parent
I came across this amazing article by a former foster child. It has excellent tips on what makes a good foster parent, but I also feel it’s without a doubt useful for adoptive parents as well. I’ll give you a snippet of LT’s post, but you’ll have to click the link for more.

1.  Caring and Interest

Show interest in the child. Ask what is going on in their world. Ask what they feel. They may not answer, but show that you are interested. Showing interest shows you care. In so many of the foster homes/group homes I stayed in, no-one even asked about school, let alone how I felt or what was going on in my world. I knew they never cared about me. Foster kids may act like we don’t want you to care about us, but deep down we do. We are just trying to protect ourselves from getting hurt again…
TO SEE MORE great advice, click here: What Makes a Good Foster Mom/Dad – Tips from a Former Foster Child

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.

are your worries about your child’s future stealing joy from the present?

“We can help pave the roads of those around us, but we can’t choose their direction.” – Shri Rama

* You can listen to a recording of this post, just scroll to the end.

When you adopt, occasionally worry comes with it. How will my child feel about their adoption? Will they feel like I took them away from their birth family when the birth family’s the ones who chose to not stay in contact? When my child becomes a teenager will he hate me? Will my daughter know how much I love her?

We hear stories from other parents and adoptees about adopted people feeling like their adoptive families took them away from their birth family, they wish they’d had more contact with their birth family, or they turn away from their adoptive family altogether. These situations are rare, but many adoptive parents can’t help but worry. If it’s not a consistent pestering of our hearts, then an occasional one.

First we have to remember that most teens (the non-adopted ones) go through the “horrible parent” phase; we’re horrible, uncaring, stupid, uneducated, mean, and all around “the worst parent on the face of the earth, and how come I ended up with you as a parent?!” It happens. All the time. Adopted children have an ideal to lean on though, and this is where it changes up a bit, or a lot. That ideal is that life would have been better if they’d stayed with their biological family. Most of the time this isn’t the case (excluding cases of corruption in adoption), hence the need for foster care and adoption.

I’ve worried and fretted about my daughter turning against me when all I’ve done is love her. But here’s the thing, I can’t worry about the future because I have no idea what it holds. I still do worry sometimes, but I try not to. I say this as a person who has a rare genetic disease that is worsening by the year and has no cure, so worry is my game, I’m winning. I’ve had plenty of training in how to worry about the impending seriousness of a situation.

we can only pave the road, we can't choose our child's direction

Because of this disease, and because of research done on cancer, I know that worry kills because worry is stress, and stress kills. And although you may not have a deadly disease, stress isn’t good for you either, I’m sure you’ve heard about the many scientific studies done on it’s outcomes. Not good.
As the quote says at the beginning of this post, we can’t determine what our children do in their future or how they feel. However we can love them unconditionally, and be open to talking with them about their birth family, adoption, or reasons they’re in foster care as they’re able to handle it.

All I can do is love my kids with all I have, and that’s what I do. Every day. Because in the end, my daughter may not have feelings of regret surrounding her adoption, she may not wish she lived with her biological family, she may be perfectly content with us.

I would like to add that what I’m talking about isn’t a desire to search for birth family, or make those connections and meet those family members. What I’m talking about goes much farther. The eagerness adoptive and foster children have to get in contact with their biological family is fairly common, however the anger about you adopting or fostering them isn’t the prevailing feeling.

As teens they may be angry, but as I said, many teens are, it’s simply that when they’ve been adopted or fostered they have something tangible to blame. Often this perception will pass and they’ll realize you are their family, the ones who loved them and took care of them, and they can accept their biological relatives as another addition to this family if that family is in a place to participate.

I know you feel like you’re pouring your whole life into your kids, and I’m glad you are because this is what they deserve, no matter how they treat you. They’ve been through trauma, and may take years to heal, years to accept your love and return it.

You may look at your child’s future as an adult and feel animosity at how they took so much of your time and effort, but they’re children and they deserve your unconditional love because they’re innocent. Nothing they’ve been through is fair, and they shouldn’t be expected to fix their hearts when so much damage has been done.

So keep moving forward. Keep reading Lovin’ Adoptin’. Also understand that love for these kids means having guidelines and expectations, you can read more about that in these posts:
Why Consequences & Rewards Don’t Work for Hurting Children
7 Reasons Why Time-In NOT Time-Out
Is Love Enough?

(I only talk about my daughter in this post because my adopted son has autism and doesn’t understand the concept of adoption at this time.)

Do you have any fears about your child’s future and whether they’ll be angry with you or turn away from you? If so, how do you deal with those feelings?

You can read more about talking about birth family in these posts:
Birth Family Relationships (How they can look different for each family and includes a checklist of “5 Factors to Consider in Open Adoptions”)
Questions About Birth Family (How to handle questions about birth family.)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.