Tag Archives: parenting

why consequences & rewards don’t work for hurting children (adoption/foster)

consequences You can listen to a recording of this post, just scroll down to the bottom of this page and don some earbuds. 🙂

“My child doesn’t respond to consequences, I can take away anything and he doesn’t care.” “Rewards mean nothing to my daughter, I can offer an ice cream at McDonald’s or a new Wii game, it doesn’t matter to her.” I hear these stories ALL. THE. TIME. It’s as though all of us who have children who’ve been neglected, abused, and traumatized live in the same house! Yes, every child is unique, but there are many similarities in hurting kids.

One of the similarities that’s common in hurting children is their response to consequences, discipline, and rewards. At some point in your journey, you may have been encouraged by other parents to read Love and Logic or attend one of their seminars, other parenting advice may be thrown at you, saying, “I promise, this works.” The problem is, there’s a missing link, their child probably didn’t experience trauma, neglect, or abuse, or at least it didn’t have the same affect on their child.

Love and Logic, Have a New Kid by Friday, as well as other parenting books and classes have some great information, but they aren’t the cure-all for a hurting child.

When we were struggling with our daughter’s behaviors a friend of mine (she had adopted domestically) suggested I read Have a New Kid by Friday. She said, “It works. Find something she cares about and remove it if she makes a wrong choice.” I said, “I’ve tried that.” She replied, adamantly, nodding her head, “There’s something.” I read the book anyway, there were some good ideas, very helpful ones for children who aren’t hurting. But, why don’t consequences and reward systems work for kids who’ve been neglected, abused, and traumatized?

Because many adopted and foster children don’t care about the material world around them.

Often they don’t have a favorite toy, stuffed animal, or blanket when they’re young, they aren’t connected to anything, so removing it doesn’t make any difference to them. Neither are rewards important enough for them to turn off their strong emotions and behaviors for them.

The logic part of Love and Logic doesn’t work because hurting kids don’t think logically, their brain isn’t calm enough or reasonable enough to do so.

Their brain looks different than a child’s who has been loved and cared for since their birth. This DOES NOT mean they aren’t intelligent, oh no, most children who’ve been through trauma are very smart (all about that in another post), but logical they are not. Not until they’ve made significant attachments.

These kiddos are constantly in fight or flight mode. There are three responses that children have to trauma – fight, flight, and dissociation. When looking at the trauma response in adults, Putnam says, “Among the constellation of symptoms associated with the trauma response in adults is dissociation. Dissociation is simply disengaging from stimuli in the external world and attending to an ‘internal’ world. Daydreaming, fantasy, depersonalization, and derealization are all examples of dissociation.” Putnam goes on to explain what happens to a soldier during battle and how dissociation can take affect, and he concludes, “It is this very ability to dissociate which can keep soldiers alive.”

It is much the same for our children. They have connected to the world around them; what’s going on, where they are, and who is present, not a person or item. They were in life preserving mode before they came to us, and it’s going to take a lengthy amount of time to learn that their new parents and caretakers can be trusted.

It will take more than a few months to learn they don’t have to fight, flee, or dissociate from their life any longer. I’m not encouraging you to throw out all consequences or rewards, we need to use them to lay a foundation for their future. Your child still needs to know they can’t get away with hitting, tearing apart the house, or yelling.

Some ways to begin to curb your child’s behaviors are through time-ins.

Time-ins are time with you, if your child is small enough, that means sitting on your lap, preferably while rocking (make sure you are safe and not harming your child). If your child is bigger, you can have your child sit in a chair near you. You can also have your child do something with you, preferably not something fun if this is being utilized as a consequence.

Using natural consequences lays that foundation I mentioned earlier. An example of this is if your daughter draws on the couch with a marker, she can’t use markers or crayons for a set period of time. (I don’t recommend using natural consequences with food related instances.) Remember that you may not see a difference in your child’s behavior, they have to make attachments, then their brain will calm down and heal so they can think logically and care about those around them.

When you have a child who’s come from a neglectful or abusive situation, your parenting techniques need to be tweaked.

Dozens of times I’ve seen parents of older biological children say, “My other kids turned out great, what’s the problem? It can’t be me, because I did it right four times.” What they don’t see is that parenting a hurting child and one who’s been loved consistently is vastly different. Parents think they can implement the same techniques they used with their biological children with their hurting children and it will all turn out the same. Sadly, they’re wrong.

Hurting kids come with a whole different set of rules, and many of those rules are difficult for us to understand. One big one is that it takes time. Lots of time. Are you willing to be patient with your children? Are you willing to show them love, read on this website about how to parent your child, and be consistent?

  • A child who’s been neglected, abused, and traumatized will react differently than a child who has been loved consistently to consequences, discipline, and rewards.
  • Hurting children aren’t connected to the material items around them, so removing them won’t make a big difference immediately. You can use these discipline techniques, but understand you are laying a foundation for later.
  • A hurting child’s brain looks different than a child’s who has been loved and cared for consistently.
  • A hurting child doesn’t think logically because their brain isn’t calm. This doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent!
  • Often dissociating is what kept our children alive in their neglectful, abusive environment, and this will carry over to their new environment – your home. It will take time for them to heal.
  • Use time-ins when behavior is unacceptable. CHOOSE your battles. Use consequences and rewards to lay a foundation.
  • Parenting techniques for hurting children need to be modified.

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Be sure to check out my CONTENTS page for more posts on how to help your foster and adopted children and your family.
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we are our child’s best therapist

“After a hard days work, you don’t want to come home and be the therapist.” This statement was made by the father of an Autistic boy after a new therapy office specific to helping children with Autism opened up in our semi-small town.  This dad wanted the work to be done by therapists, but he was missing the bigger picture. We, the parents, are our child’s best therapist.

wearetherapists

Whether your child has Autism, attachment issues, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, PTSD, or any other disorder, we are the ones who know our child best and the ones who spend more time with them than a therapist does (or at least in my opinion, we should be). This means we have more opportunities than a therapist would.

If you have chosen therapy for your child, being present for any sessions will help you transfer what happens in that one hour at the therapist office to your home life. Pay close attention to what the therapist does and how she talks to your child. Talk to the therapist and ask questions, see what they notice in your child or in what your child does, and ask yourself if you see it the same way.

(If your child has attachment issues, not Autism, hang on, because I’ll get to that in a minute.) My son, Jeremiah, has Autism, so he has therapists who work with him at school. Although I don’t see those therapists (occupational, speech, developmental, etc.) every week, I make sure to keep communicating with them through emails, through the teachers, and occasional face to face conversations. This helps me know what they’re doing at school, so I can be working on the same strategies at home.

Jeremiah has outside therapies as well, he has speech, which we take him to, and a developmental therapist comes to our home. Either my husband or I are present for both of these sessions, and it has enabled us to incorporate consistency throughout the week. We’re able to take what they do in one hour, and multiply it exponentially in Jeremiah’s daily life. (That is if he cooperates, but I don’t stop trying – I might just be as persistent as my kids, they’re fabulous teachers.)

My daughter, Payton, has struggled with attachment issues, but she doesn’t attend therapy. We tried it for a couple sessions with a well known attachment therapist and it didn’t go well. Actually, that’s an enormous understatement, it went horribly wrong. I’m not recommending you avoid therapy for your child’s attachment issues, PTSD, ODD, mood disorder, or whatever they may struggle with, but the same holds true to what I said earlier. You are your child’s best therapist.

Taking a child to therapy once or twice a week and then hoping that’s enough won’t work. Our children need us constantly. How do you do that? You may think that would be overwhelming and that you don’t have time to maintain regular life and do therapy with your child. I understand! So what did we do? We have worked therapy into our lives so it became part of what we do every day, and now we hardly notice we’re doing it.

What does it look like? Well, I wouldn’t be able to write out everything we do, because it would take too long. Some of the therapy we do with our kids is so embedded in our lives that it’s difficult to weed out what we do that’s different from other families, because it’s normal for us, but I can try to list some.

Autism related in-home therapy:

  • Consistency in routine.
  • Using short sentences when telling Jeremiah to do something. Instead of saying, “Get off the table,” we say, “Get down.” While at the same time removing him from the table. We did this with EVERYTHING until he knew what we meant (meaning he followed our direction without us physically moving him), we then added more words to the sentence.
  • Using PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System). Using one word when eating, having snack, going somewhere until he understood what that word meant, then added more to make short sentences.
  • Using hand over hand for teaching how to do things.
  • Using floortime to help Jeremiah learn how to interact.

In-home therapy related to issues stemming from neglect, abuse, and trauma:

  • Consistency in routine.
  • Consistency in what we say and what we do.
  • Consistency with guidelines across all settings.
  • One on one, face to face time interacting.
  • Talking through situations and discussing (in short) what a better choice would have been, if there was a wrong one made.
  • Talk about feelings, naming feelings, and teaching how to handle them.

As I said, I haven’t even listed a small percentage of what we do at home, but this gives you an idea of what I mean by “therapy in-home.” These strategies do come easier as we develop ways to meld them into our lives. For us, most of it doesn’t seem like therapy, it’s our way of life. We don’t have the pressure that many parents feel of thinking we need to take our child to another therapist or another session. Yes, those can be beneficial in some instances, especially with Autism, but implementing what the therapists do in our home has helped our children make significant improvements because it’s consistent throughout all of their environments, and we spend more time with our children than any therapist can.

Some other helpful articles:
why consequences & rewards don’t work

making Halloween happier (adoption & foster care)

happierhalloween

How do we stay sane during Halloween? It can be hard, even with kids who don’t have sensory issues, or attachment issues. The first goal is to make it fun for your child. For children with attachment issues, I don’t agree with the approach of removing everything fun in their life. If there’s no fun, there are no opportunities to grow as a family, nor do they feel they will ever get to do anything, so why try to be good? Let them do something for Halloween, and I don’t just mean attending a school party.

Even though you’re letting your child participate in Halloween, that doesn’t mean all expectations go out to the trash with the candy wrappers. Have guidelines before you go out; what you will be doing, what you expect them to do, and how you expect them to act. That doesn’t mean it will happen, but you need to set a precedent.

A major component of Halloween is costumes, and they can be a catastrophe. Mom has expectations of what her child will wear, how cute it will be. She puts the costume on her adorable daughter, and daughter promptly removes it saying, “I hate the wig, it itches.” I’m not veering too far off our last costume trial. There are still some of us who still live in LaLa Land where cute children wear adorable outfits, where we spend too much money and are disappointed when our child doesn’t want to wear what we planned.

This doesn’t mean we come up with a new ensemble, no. But it does remind me that Halloween is for my child to get some candy and hopefully have fun. Battling the costume makes it fairly miserable for everyone.

If you adopted and your child was neglected or abused, there’s a chance they have sensory issues. In short, sensory issues means a person has heightened sensitivities to everything, and Halloween can bring on everything. (Sometimes people who have sensory issues need sensory input, but this night is usually a sensory overload.)

Bright lights, cold weather, hot costumes, screaming, laughing kids, blaring music, skeletons that make sudden movements, scratchy, itchy outfits. It’s a lot for a typical person, but add sensitivities and it can be an irritating, maddening conglomeration. So don’t fight the costume. If this is the first time you’ve become aware of sensory issues and notice them in your child (you can read more about them HERE), then go ahead and buy a different costume with comfort in mind.

We have a friend whose son has Aspergers, and he wore a sheet (ghost) for a couple years (he’s seven, so you know he’s not a teen who just wants easy so he can bag some candy). By the end of the evening last Halloween, the ghost was a ghost no more, the sheet was off. Wearing anything was irritating to him, and even the sheet was too much by the end of the day. His parents opted for a good time rather than a battle. They recognized his sensitivities and went with it.

Our son who has Autism has some of those same sensitivities. Last year he loved Cat in the Hat, in fact one of the few words he said was, “Go, go, go…” from the show Cat in the Hat on PBS. At the last minute we ran to the shop and purchased costumes, and they had THE Cat! Perfect. He also had an obsession with hats at the time, so we thought this costume was a dunk in the tank. Well, he wore the hat for two houses, and it was off. It’s okay, we were lucky he wasn’t tearing off the remainder of the outfit while he traversed the streets in his wagon.

J&Phalloween12

The wagon… while trick-or-treating, the adults on the other side of the door asked several times if he wanted candy, and they looked at him with a forlorn expression, feeling bad that our poor child was stuck in a wagon while his sister (who is the same size) walked to each door and collected her stash. What those people didn’t know: Jeremiah had no idea what we were doing, he would’ve fought going to each door (because he didn’t know what we were doing), he didn’t eat candy (not the kind they were handing out anyway), and he was comfortable in his safe wagon. That last point is most important. If we are going to let Payton have a good time trick-or-treating, then Jeremiah should be kept comfortable, and he was.

During trick-or-treating, or any event that includes walking farther than one-hundred feet, our son, Jeremiah, rides in that wagon or a stroller. (That doesn’t mean he’s inactive, on the contrary he’s VERY busy, but this is for his sanity, as well as ours.) This year his wagon will go as Lightening McQueen from the movie Cars, and he will be “driving.” He loves the movie Cars and any of the little Cars vehicles that have eyeballs attached. Even though he may not notice what he’s riding in, we know we did our best to give him what he likes and what’s most agreeable to him.

Don’t let costumes add to your battles, there are enough. Make an effort to have fun, and know that it may not work out, but if it does, that would be awesome, wouldn’t it? Have a Happy Halloween.

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be big picture positive

PUMPKINPATCHcollage

We went to the pumpkin patch on Saturday, and we all had a good time! It’s not too often that family fun outings go really well. Last year we attempted the pumpkin patch and were disappointed when our trampoline LOVING son decided he hated the big orange bouncy thingy. Right, that was a shocker. To back up our original dismay, Jeremiah also decided that he didn’t want anything to do with the gigantic slide, which was odd because he also loves slides.

Last year Payton wasn’t doing as well, and as with most kids with her issues, we left with her screaming and crying, while I struggled to drag her (well I felt like it  anyway) to the car. She wanted more. We had dropped an astronomical amount of cash, you wouldn’t even believe how much if I told you. She had jumped on the big bouncy thingy, gone down the slide numerous times, traversed the maze, picked out a pumpkin, and pet some animals. There was more to do if we wanted to fork over even more green, and Payton wasn’t happy that she didn’t get to do everything.

This year we wondered what would take place. Would Jeremiah jump, get on the slide, or whine and cry the whole time while we tried to spend time together as a family outside the house? Would Payton leave crying and screaming that she never got to do anything, refusing to walk through the parking lot?

None of that happened!!! I was so glad we braved the unknown, and frankly kind of scary, because we had a positive pumpkin patch experience this time around. Hurray! The prices weren’t as insane as they were the year before, Jeremiah JUMPED on the orange bouncy thingy, he really liked the slide, and he doodled on his ever present magna-doodle while we searched for the perfect pumpkins. Payton did quite a bit, but not everything, and she was good with it. We all left with smiles on our faces, and without sweat and tears dripping down our cheeks.

All this to say, we must focus on the positive moments in our lives. Whether regular life gets in the way; relatives, broken washers, friends, and crazy schedules, or the extras, like Autism, and attachment issues. There are so many things that can get us down, depressed, and feeling irritated, focusing on good times and progress will help us get through it all.

Happy pumpkin picking everyone!

detecting attachment issues (adoption/foster)

I have listed the behaviors children with attachment issues display in a post titled, signs of neglect, trauma, and attachment issues, but felt there needed to be a more extensive list and one that was more accessible. After all, that is why I’m here, because of attachment issues and to help children heal from their past, so here we are. (Be sure to check out the above link if you haven’t yet, as it gives real life examples of what a child with attachment issues deals with and the responses they present.)

Before continuing, it’s essential that you understand there is tremendous hope for you and your child. This list may seem daunting, but many children, including my daughter, have been able to check off every behavior on this list as their own. But with their parents help, they have been able to overcome it all with love, consistency, and special parenting. I am here to help and support families in this situation. You can do this, and your children can THRIVE.

“Adults responses to children before and after traumatic events can make an enormous difference in these eventual outcomes – both for good and for ill.” ~ Bruce Perry The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog

So, here’s a list of signs that your child may be hurting. (This is not an exhaustive list. (If your child exhibits the behaviors here, it’s not a diagnosis.)

  • Sleep Issues – difficulty going to sleep, waking during the night.
  • Anger
  • Controlling of their environment and others.
  • Hyper-vigilant – overly aware of their surroundings. They are so aware of the people and environment that they miss what’s being taught in class or said at home.
  • Lack of creativity and imagination.
  • Unresponsive to affection
  • Excessively jealous when others receive attention.
  • Sabotage events, even birthdays and fun outings.
  • Inability to focus
  • No reaction to physical pain – during attachment healing, can have an oversensitivity to pain.
  • Food issues – not noticing when they are full, eating anything in sight, also not eating.
  • Emotional deregulation
  • Manipulative
  • Bad behavior
  • Make careless choices
  • Consequences, discipline and rewards don’t work.
  • React oddly to situations that seem normal to us (this can be due to connecting an event, person, or object to the time of their trauma).
  • Obsessive about family schedule and worried about where primary caregivers are going to be at all times.
  • Go into fight, flight, freeze mode.
  • Dissociates
  • Defiant
  • Hyperactive
  • Blames others (often mom gets the brunt)
  • Depression
  • High anxiety (acid reflux can ensue)
  • Lying
  • Phobias
  • Seek independence, but are incapable of handling it in the correct way.
  • Toilet training issues
  • Familiarity with everyone they meet, overly friendly even with strangers.
  • Live in a “me” centered world

The Attachment and Trauma Network gives more behaviors which are associated with attachment issues:

  • Unable to participate in reciprocal relationships.
      • Infant does not respond to parent.
      • Infant looks away or pushes away when held.
      • [Toddler and older children] seem unaware or uncaring about others feelings (especially those of family members/caregivers).
  • Superficially charming, especially to those he doesn’t know well.
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Obsessive behaviors
  • Demanding
  • Lack of cause and effect thinking
  • Destructive, dangerous behaviors (This is more on the end of the spectrum that I talk about here.)
  • Lack of remorse

Please understand that your child may have attachment issues, but not display every behavior on this list. Also, note that their behaviors can change as they move along the Attachment Spectrum toward healing, sometimes seeming worse before they get better.

I am providing this list to help you recognize the pain your child is experiencing, because they are exhibiting these behaviors because of the hurt they feel internally.

“Ultimately what determines how children survive trauma, physically, emotionally, or psychologically, is whether the people around them – particularly the adults they should be able to trust and rely upon – stand by them with love support, and encouragement.” ~ Bruce Perry The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog
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Following this posting I received a comment from a woman regarding my list. I have written a follow-up post called, What’s Next? A Look at Life After Bonding Takes Place, that will help you understand what happens when our children still have some behaviors they hold onto after they’ve bonded.

Please be sure to visit the links within this post and the ones listed here, you can also find several posts under the Contents page:

when your adopted child doesn’t fit seamlessly into your life, what will you do? (adoption/foster)

To this day Dimitri’s bones ache when the winter cold settles in. As that chill cloaks him, memories of a frozen Uzbekistan scene play through his mind like a horror film. His father laying on the concrete floor of an abandoned building, drunk, and nearly dead. He’d wrapped a thread bare blanket around his sister, but her little feet protruded from underneath. His other sister sat watching those who must brave the harsh winds pass on the street, fur Ushanka hats, coats, and boots layered their bodies, warding off the sting of ice. Then it had come time for him to scrounge up something for dinner, but the chances were slim, they hadn’t eaten in two days.

Stories like this one are plentiful in the adoption community, whether a child came from Russia, Africa, or America, they all have their stories. They may not be exactly the same, but they all contain great heartache.

What is a child to do with that pain? Do they know how to be a well-behaved daughter or a perfect sibling? Will they fit seamlessly into their adoptive family within one year of meeting them? What about a child who hasn’t attached within two years? I don’t believe children are given enough opportunity to get past the anguish they have been through, and brought with them.

As I have said many times, our hurting children have developed a new way of living because of their previous environment. You may see different stages of behavior and say, “He wasn’t like this before.” When our children come to us, they may be quiet and reserved, as time passes they may try to be controlling because they have a need to dominate situations or they feel everything will fall apart if they don’t. (Their previous life did, so why wouldn’t this one?) Then you may see outbursts of anger and a complete breakdown of behavior – this can be a sign that they’re beginning to get comfortable and they are SCARED. Our hurting children want to replicate the chaos in their brain because it makes them comfortable if their outside environment duplicates what’s inside. So we can see that our hurting children exhibit behaviors for a reason.

In the past week I’ve mentioned the Reuters investigation The Child Exchange a few times. Why? Because it’s shocking. But shocking as it is, I feel the thoughts the adoptive parents have expressed there are more common than we want to think.

I believe part of the problem stems from our society. We are living in a “me” world. (Don’t worry, I live in the same “me” centered universe too.) Soon after we adopted our daughter, my mom said to me, “When you and your brother were little, I didn’t have date nights or weekend getaways.” True, they didn’t. But truer still is the fact that mothers can do a better job raising their kids if they can have some time away (especially if you have hurting adopted children – but always be careful how much you leave your kids and /who/ you leave them with).

This mindset, the one that says we need date nights or a break, can be taken too far. I say, everything in moderation. We can begin feeling that life is about us, and if you have a child who’s difficult, it can turn into ideas such as, “This is not what I signed up for,” or, “This child is taking too much of my time.”  Parents can even place the needs of their biological children above their adopted ones.

In The Child Exchange, Gary Barnes said he gave his adopted daughter, Anna, to another family because he lacked the finances to provide therapy, and that therapy would have been inconvenient. First, I wonder why therapeutic parenting couldn’t have been done in the home. (That’s why I do what I do – I want to help parents care for their children in the home. Yes, sometimes outside therapy is needed, but a majority of an adoptive parents success is accomplished in-home.)

My second problem with his statement was the inconvenient part. Really?? (By the way, this couple did not have other children.) It was too inconvenient for them to provide therapy for their hurting daughter? I am simply flabbergasted.

Third, they didn’t have the finances? I wonder if they’d had a biological child who went missing, what they would have done to get that child back safe in their arms. What assets, time, and effort would they have put into finding that child? It should be the same for an adopted child, because they are essentially lost without our help. They need us to move heaven and earth for them, they must be treated as our children because that’s what they are. If we don’t treat them as such, I can guarantee they know it, and their actions will speak volumes against us. This is a LIFE, and I can’t stress how important it is to put our child’s needs first.

Other adoptive families give reasons why they can no longer care for their child; he puts spaghetti in his pockets (well, he has food issues, and was probably starving before he came to you), she hides in the closet and won’t come out (really, is that the worst she throws at you?), she sneaks out her window (kids who are just being kids do that too). What I’m saying is, look at your child’s behaviors and decide that you can handle them, because that’s how you’ll make it through. If we begin to believe that we can’t handle our child’s behavior, that they’re too wild, too whatever, we slide down the slope of self-preservation too quickly. You can make it through this. There are hundreds of thousands of teens who are doing well and have bonded with their adoptive families. It takes a parent who is dedicated to doing everything they can to help their child, and a commitment that communicates, “I am never going anywhere and neither are you.”

When my husband was in ministry many moons ago, we went to a counselor, Louis McBurney (he has since passed), and his greatest question for us was, “And then what?” If you think something is so horrible, ask yourself that question. If your child hordes food in his room (there are solutions for this behavior that help), and you are angry and at your end, ask yourself, “And then what?” This means, what will be the outcome if your son stashes food in his room? The answer: The room will begin to smell. And then what? Answer: We might get mice! And then what? Answer: Well, I guess I could have him clean it. Yep. And that behavior of his will continue until you get to the bottom of his fear regarding food. (And the answer is NOT locking the fridge and cupboards.)

The point here is that often it’s not as bad as we perceive it to be. We are tired, we are worn down and worn out. But when we think clearly (and follow advice from this blog – insert smiley face), we can see that our problems can be overcome.

Believe me, I am not immune to problems. Besides having a child with multiple diagnoses stemming from her early neglect, I have a son with Autism. Autism can be extremely difficult, and one aspect that makes it such is my son is constantly changing. There is always an obstacle to overcome.

We are constantly having to problem solve; how do we potty train a child who doesn’t talk or use sign language, or understand the words, “Come and tell me when you have to go potty.” What do we do when he’s suddenly frightened by his room, but we can’t communicate through words that it’s safe, how do we take care of his sensory needs when we can’t go outside and swing?

If you have a hurting child, problem solving is part of your daily life, and the issues our children present can be solved. I know this post isn’t encouraging, but I desperately want to see families staying together because I care immensely about adopted children. They have been through hell and deserve to have a wonderful life. I also care about you, the parent, and I know that if you don’t follow through with your commitment to your child, you will ridicule yourself and the guilt will pester you. You won’t feel better if you don’t do all you can. And you CAN do it!

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. 🙂