Tag Archives: compassion

hurting children CAN develop empathy (adoption/foster)

empathy

If your child was diagnosed with RAD, attachment disorder, PTSD, oppositional defiance disorder, or if there weren’t any diagnoses, but your child was neglected or abused, you may feel they won’t develop empathy. Heck, you may have even been told that your child will never show empathy.

It’s not true.

I know I brag about my daughter, Payton, in different posts, but there’s a reason. She was diagnosed with numerous disorders at a very young age, but she has come so far, she surprises us continually. I write about what she’s like to give parents hope. By sharing the attributes Payton possesses,

my hope is that you would see the positives in your children. 

Payton consistently shows empathy for others. She cares when I’m not feeling well (but my health isn’t good, so it’s nothing different when I’m feeling poorly). She regularly shows compassion for her brother, who has Autism. She understands and has empathy for all he is unable to do (for the most part, he is unable to communicate his desires, likes, and needs).

Once in a while there are situations that happen outside our home that really stand out and show her ability to empathize with others. The other day, Payton shared something that happened to her friend at school. The teacher asked Ashley* to get up in front of the class and point to the helicopter in a picture. Ashley pointed to buildings and people, everything EXCEPT the helicopter. Payton said, “Good job,” while the rest of the kids laughed. Throughout the day this took place, she mentioned it a few times, saying she was sad the kids had laughed at her friend.

There is hope that your child will care for others and not be self-consumed.

focusonpositive

Focus on any positive behaviors you notice, capitalize on them, talk about it with your child. As I say often, there is so much negative in your child’s life (their mind is consumed with it; anxiety, will these parents leave me, I’m not good enough, I’m bad, I can’t do anything right) we need to

fill it with positives.

What positive things has your child done lately? Have they done anything unexpected? Did you share with them how happy you were to see it?

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.

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time + time + time (adoption/foster)

healingtakestime

This world is full of immediate gratification. We can ask Siri and she will answer, we don’t even have to look on the internet. And speaking of the internet, we can look up anything we want, buy anything we want, whenever we want. We have fast food and fast flavored coffee, immediate books on our iPad (yes, I’m an Apple junky), and we can start our car from inside a building. (I don’t have that feature on my car, but I sure do want one.)

Because everything in our society is instant, parents think they’re hurting children should be bonded within months of entering their life. They think their child’s negative behaviors, should stop, they should lull off to a sweet slumber, and they should understand consequences and the rules of the house within a short period of time (and a few months is a relatively short amount of time).

I think of what happened to hurting children like tearing down a garage. We tore ours down to build a larger one and add a level on top, the deconstruction was quick and not too difficult (for big, strong, burly guys anyway). However, the rebuilding process takes a LONG time, it’s detailed, involved, it’s time consuming, and it’s stressful.

For some children, the tearing down process didn’t take long, even infants are greatly affected in a short amount of time by neglect, abuse, and trauma. Children are even affected in utero by what the birth mother does or doesn’t do. Just as a garage demolition doesn’t take long, neither did it take long for our children to be broken down.

And, just as the building up process takes a long time when creating a new deservecommitmentstructure, so does the building up of our children. It takes work, dedication, compassion, and understanding.

None of us want to face a battle and know it won’t end tomorrow. I find it helpful to remember what happened to the hurting child, and where they came from. Their trauma affected them beyond what we can see. So, focus on the positives and keep moving forward, you can do this.

Here are some links to help you out:
why consequences and rewards don’t work
the importance of consistency & routine
detecting attachment issues
rocking: a simple first step to bonding (and it doesn’t just apply to infants)

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hardly typical (reposted from Moved by Mercy)

I found this beautiful post on Moved by MercyI have previously written about our daughter, Payton, and how, despite her setbacks, she has always been amazing with her brother. As I read this post I couldn’t stop thinking about her. Dave’s words describe so much of who she is. She has been dealt a blow in life, but her ability to intuitively assist her brother in many aspects and the compassion she shows is just what the author of this post says, she’s hardly typical.

The following is reposted with permission from Moved by Mercy.

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Hardly Typical
by Dave Muirhead

I just learned that today, April 10th, is National Sibling day, a day set apart to celebrate brothers and sisters. The siblings of special needs kids are often referred to as “typical” siblings. Their lives are anything but typical and they, themselves, are anything but typical.

The truth is that typical siblings play a role in families with disabled children that sometimes looks more like a parent than a sibling. They change pull-up’s, help with dressing and feeding, protect against all manner of dangers, serve as Mom’s and Dad’s lookout, and more. Sure, they do those things because its helpful to Mom and Dad, but they also do it out of love for their sibling with special needs.

Typical siblings live in a world that seemingly has a gravitational pull towards their sibling with special needs. They sometimes feel forgotten and often have to settle for Mom and Dad “left-over’s”. Their activities are often constrained by the availability and cost of special needs child care. It’s not an easy life in a lot of ways.

My experience from meeting a number of typical siblings of special needs kids is that, despite all of those challenges – or perhaps because of them – these children are unusually compassionate, patient, accepting and forgiving of others, and kind-hearted.

Maybe the struggles and heartaches they’ve experienced from an early age forestalls the tendency toward self-focus, indifference and hardness of heart.

This is my favorite “typical” sibling, my daughter Shelby, now age 12. What a sweet heart!

Moved by Mercy 1

Shelby is the typically-developing sibling of her 7-year old special needs brother Jack whom we often call “Jack Jack” for his seemingly “super” ability to be creating catastrophes in two places at once (ever see Jack Jack Attack?)

Moved by Mercy 2

She endures looking at big machines…on TV…in person…for hours…

Moved by Mercy 3

From a very young age, Shelby has been one of Jack’s biggest protectors, advocates and comforters.

Moved by Mercy 4

Shelby loves the Lord and is a real prayer warrior. I’m always blown away when I get to listen in on her conversations with Jesus.

The other evening, Shelby handed me a short essay she wrote about what its like to be the sibling of a child with disabilities. Some of it was hard to read, to be honest.

The essay ended in “typically” Shelby fashion, though. She wrote that she has decided to start a sibling support group as part of the special needs ministry that my wife and I are starting at our church. She wrote that she would get other “typical” siblings together to pray for one another, talk about their struggles, enjoy one another’s fellowship and go do fun activities.

Hardly typical, but I wasn’t surprised. That’s just Shelby.

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Do you have a neurotypical child that has amazed you? Do you feel they are special because of what they’ve gone through having a special needs sibling?

*My thanks to Dave and his willingness to share this post with lovin’ adoption’.

You can find out more about Dave’s ministry and see more of his writing at Moved by Mercy.

most recent article

My article, Connecting with Compassion is in the June issue of Adoption Today. The issue focuses on Neglect and Trauma. Click on the photo to view it.
Bonus: This issue is being offered FREE!!!
Additional bonus: My daughter’s on the front cover!

“rock-a-bye baby” isn’t so simple

As I was watching my daughter, Payton, play with her “babies” (dolls), I remembered a conversation I recently had with one of our social workers. The social worker was in our home visiting Jeremiah, but Payton was present during this particular one.

I was sitting on the floor with Payton on my lap. We were singing, “Head and Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” and going through the actions. The Worker said to me, “It’s weird to think, but you are teaching her to be a mom.” She continued, “It’s sad, but so true.” This Worker is young and new to her job, and I think she was having an “ah ha” moment.

This truth is something that I have learned and seen repeatedly since starting Foster care. As parents, we are teaching our children (even our babies) how to be empathetic, compassionate, and loving.

A friend of mine adopted a girl through foster care. The girl was about eleven months old when they got custody of her. She didn’t play with dolls for a long time. When she finally did, she lined them up and fed them one by one. Notice, I didn’t say she wrapped them up, cuddled them, and fed them a bottle. It was more of a duty to fulfill, without a loving touch. This could have been strongly indicative of what she had been shown (or in this case, not shown) during infancy with her birth mother.

The book Ghosts from the Nursery shares an example of how parent/child interactions affect how humans learn to care for their own children in a true story about a girl named Monica. As a newborn, Monica was fed through a tube in her stomach. For two years she was fed laying flat on her back without any bodily contact. Another tube was inserted in her neck, hence, it limited how Monica could be held and her mother became depressed and withdrawn. At the age of three Monica was able to eat normally, and she grew up with no conscious memories of her early tube feedings. Yet, Monica fed her dolls in the same manner as she had been. Monica eventually had children, and even though her mother, husband, and sister all instructed her to hold her babies close to her in a face-to-face position, she consistently rejected close body or face-to-face contact with her babies while feeding them.

Payton and her baby

When I watch Payton play with her “babies” it touches my heart. Not only from the perspective of a mother watching her daughter pretending to be a mommy, but something much deeper. It’s a knowledge that if God hadn’t plucked her up from where she was, she wouldn’t be telling her babies, as she cuddles them wrapped in a blanket, “Shh, it’s okay. It’s okay.” “Are you hungry?”

the new couple

A new couple came to our Adoption Group last month. When I spoke with the woman she said, “There are so many children that need a home, I don’t see why I need to have my own.” I was so excited. I rarely hear these words that my heart feels so strongly. I look forward to seeing what child God has for them.