emotional balance begins with us (feelings: part 1) – (adoption/foster)

Some of you see the title of this post and scoff, “Well, that’s never going to happen, I guess there’s no hope for me.” Others see it and say, “Of course, that’s why I’m so calm.” And yet others fall in the middle, and I am one of them, or I hope I am. I really don’t want to be a raging lunatic, but there are some moments that bring on a sort of nonsensical state. Not one of us is perfect, so rest assured, that’s not what this post is about.

This begins a four-part series on feelings, given the length it’s probably obvious that I believe feelings and emotions are an important aspect of helping our children heal. Todays post is about our specific role in being a catalyst for our child’s emotional health. We take a significant role in each of the sections I will go over in this series, but we must first look at ourselves.

Our children’s success begins with us. They won’t be able to do this on their own. As a friend of ours once put it, “Parenting is a verb.” It takes action, and part of that action, as scary as it may seem is to look at our own emotional health. We will need to look at our feelings, we’ll need to identify them just as our children need to, and we will need to deal with them, not shove them under the mud caked rug.

In The Whole-Brain Child, Siegel says, “As parents become more aware and emotionally healthy, their children reap the rewards and move toward health as well.”

How do we stay emotionally healthy and keep aware of the feelings we have? Frankly, this is a hard one for me to answer, because I am not good at staying in that “happy place.”

Here are some ideas (add whatever else might help you stay sane and in tune):

  • Alleviate additional stresses. When you have a child with attachment issues, RAD, ODD, or PTSD, every day is filled to the brim with monumental stress. I can’t believe we don’t all die of heart attacks after the first months. So alleviate that extra stress as much as possible.
  • Spend quality time with your spouse. For you singles, spend time with friends who encourage you.
  • Spend time in positive relationships.
  • Pray a LOT.
  • Spend time doing something that fills your bucket, but be sure it’s not at the expense of your family. It’s great to have hobbies, but investing too much time in them can cause your family to crash and burn.
  • Find joy in the small things. You can see my post on Finding Joy here. While the kids are playing in the backyard, I love looking at the sky. It seems so simple, but looking at a blue sky, or one bursting with clouds can make me feel a little better. What makes you feel more peaceful?
  • Be aware of what sucks your energy. I’m not saying to get rid of relationships or jobs, but your family needs all you can give.

~ “When we parent…from an emotionally connected place where we’re aware of the feelings and sensations of our body and emotions, so we can lovingly respond to our children’s needs.” The Whole-Brain Child

Although our children struggle with the emotions and feelings of life, it is important to recognize that we can help them. By being aware of our emotions, and dealing with them in appropriate ways, we can guide our children towards inward understanding and outward empathy.

You can find the second part of this series here:
name those feelings (feelings: part 2)
be available (feelings: part 3)
just deal with it (feelings: part 4)

Some other posts that may help you in this area are:
does your child make you mad?
staying calm in the midst of a storm

Any comments or ideas you have for staying emotionally centered? I would love to hear them!
If you haven’t yet, you can receive any updates from my blog right in your inbox, just visit the upper right corner. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.  See you later this week for the follow up posts to FEELINGS. 🙂

why is he so jealous?

In my previous post I talked about a training we attended with Scott Chaussee. In that training we also asked this psychologist about some odd behaviors that our foster son, Jeremiah, is displaying.
Jeremiah gets extremely jealous of Payton when we are holding or hugging her. He gets very angry and will come over to us, try to push her away, and will even hit her. We have been quite surprised by this, as he is the second child. Payton has always been around, it’s nothing new.
Scott Chaussee said that when children are deprived of something as an infant (whether it be food or attention) they tend to crave it when they begin to receive it. We have heard of this happening many times in regard to food issues in foster children, but we never attributed it to a child who lacked physical attention in their first years of life. This is exactly what happened to this little guy.
When a young child isn’t fed much or erratically, they hoard food when it is given to them (as in when they are in a foster home with adequate food provided). Scott equated  this to what Jeremiah is experiencing with affection. He lacked the appropriate attention needed in his first few months of life (even the time in-utero affects this), and now that he feels safe and secure, he’s going to make sure he always has enough.

rocking: it heals

We recently attended a pre-adoption training given by Scott Chaussee (psychologist). I had better ideas for a night without two kids, but felt that we should go.
I was so glad we did! The training was extremely helpful in giving us revelation into some of the issues Payton and Jeremiah are having.
I tend to forget that Payton has come from so much pain because she is doing so well in many areas. But, there are many behaviors that leave us constantly pondering what’s going on. We love on our kids constantly, have a very structured home, there are consequences for misbehavior, and we try to be consistent. So we often find ourselves asking what’s missing. Something definitely was.
During this training we asked the psychologist about Payton’s sleep issues and her behavior. She hasn’t gone to sleep well since the day she came to us. She has fought it constantly. When she was a little over one year old she would cry and scream, so we would sit next to her bed. We slowly moved away from her bed, and then outside her room. She stopped crying at night, but she would constantly climb out of her crib. We eventually moved her to a toddler bed, which she also got out of… EVERY day. She knew there were consequences for getting out of bed, but she didn’t care. Nothing worked. As she got older, even losing a trip to McDonald’s didn’t keep her there. We didn’t think she was scared because she would get out of bed, stand in the hallway, and smile or smirk.
Scott Chaussee asked us if she had been taken from a Meth home. We said, “Yes.” He went on to say that the nights in a Meth home are very scary (obviously) and that strangers are in and out of the home, etc. He said that she most likely doesn’t have a conscious memory of those nights, but that subconsciously she is in fear of night time (or any time she has to go to bed). He told us to try rocking her before bed and see what happens.
Rocking has scientifically been proved to heal children. Brain scans were taken before the children were rocked and afterwards and the results are visible. Physical healing takes place when a child is rocked. 
We had heard about “rocking therapy” back in March 2010 when we watched a video series by Nancy Thomas (Therapeutic Parenting Specialist). Except at that point Payton wouldn’t have let us rock her. She would hug us, but only for a moment. She wasn’t very affectionate.
So, two weeks ago we implemented the rocking. What a miracle it has been!!! She has been staying in bed most of the time, probably 8 out of 10 times. I just can’t believe how well it’s worked. To have a solution that doesn’t stress either one of us out is a God send.
Not only has it helped her to fall asleep, but her behavior has really improved. She was having problems with her temper and was yelling at me quite often, even though there were consequences for that too. Just a couple of days after I started rocking her, she started to yell at me, caught herself, and talked to me nicely. I can’t believe it! For the most part much of her behavior has changed. We still have “moments,” but not nearly as many.
I would HIGHLY encourage anyone who has adopted (it has shown to even help infants) or fostering to rock your children. There have even been parents who have rocked 9 year olds. If the child is older, It may take a few years of rocking before you see a change. In the end, it’s worth it.

Update: After these first few weeks of rocking, we found that Payton started fighting it. She would say that she wanted to go to bed. Since we knew that rocking was beneficial for her, it was now a fight to get her to rock with us. I talked to the psychologist Scott Chaussee again, he suggested that because Payton thinks it’s fun to play “opposites,” we could do that with rocking. I call it “opposites” because I will tell her in a joking manner, “I don’t want a hug. No hugs.” She turns it into a game and thinks it’s the funnest thing to shower me with tons of hugs. So, if you struggle with getting your kids to rock, I (as well as professionals) would recommend turning it into a game. Make it fun.