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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negativity is contagious (adoption/foster)

Ebooks have this nifty technology that enables a reader to highlight a section of text. If enough people highlight a passage, it will be underlined in every issue of that ebook sold. In some books I’ve read, hundreds of people have highlighted a section.

I see it going like this: Reader sees underlined sentence. Reader hovers over said underlined sentence and sees that 657 other uber intelligent readers underlined said section. Reader thinks, “If 657 other uber intelligent readers underlined said section, it must be worth underlining,” so Reader does.

Besides it being creepy that whatever we highlight (and probably everything we write) in our ebooks is recorded, we see that the general populace are like sheep. We’ve heard it before, and we ignore it, but it has validity. You can flip through one-hundred plus pages in an ebook, come across a “special sentence that emulates all of mankind” and 843 other fellow readers agree that ONE sentence is highlighter worthy, not the past 6,000. They all happen to agree. Right.

negativityiscontagious
You may be wondering what the title of this post, Negativity is Contagious, has to do with following the crowd. Well, when we surround ourselves with negativity, it grows, it festers, and we don’t even realize until it has crept into every crevice of our lives. An example of this came from a friend of mine who grew up in a home that was riddled with negativity, her mom complained about everyone and everything. Then as an adult, my friends mother made a comment about her being negative. My friend said to her mom, “How do you think I became like this?” Her mother replied, “I don’t know.” Negativity had become part of her mom’s life, and she didn’t even recognize there was a problem.

Negativity sneaks in through several avenues, and much of it has to do with us following everyone else. What happens when we spend time on adoption focused forums where parents continually complain about their children? What about Autism forums where parents separate themselves because their child’s behaviors are worse than others? What happens when we fraternize with friends who constantly share the negative aspects of their kids, never looking at the positive?

If we aren’t careful, we fall into a trap that’s floating down the river with the caged fishcurrent. We don’t want to voice our opinion because it’s so different from everyone else’s. We want to be involved with these people because they’re the only ones who really get what our life is like. But, we “catch” the Negative Bug and go along with the crowd. It seeps into our lives and makes us view every aspect with shaded lenses, the positive attributes of our spouse, children,  and others who we should support, are shut out and only the unfavorable is seen.

This can be detrimental to everyone in the family when all we see is negative. Our spouse can do no good, our kids are persistent pests, our life isn’t satisfying anymore. Negativity is a tenacious tree that outgrows its all too small pot. It will swallow you up and spit you out.

Please understand, I know there needs to be a place for us to vent about difficult days to others who have been there. We need support to make it through when we are dealing with hurting children, disabilities, and disorders. We need to know we are not alone in our journey. However, we also need to temper the complaints with positive comments. We need to weigh what others say and not jump in and follow what everyone else is saying or doing.

Throughout the following weeks I will be writing about negativity and how it affects our kids, our spouse, and how it causes dissension in our communities. And so you know, these words aren’t coming from Mrs. Polly Positive, I struggle with negativity just as much as many of you, I have be aware of where it’s creeping into my life to kill and destroy any joy or progress.

Followup posts:
be positive for the little people – part 1 (Autism)
be positive for the little people – part 2 (Autism)
give negativity a noose (adoption)

How have you seen negativity creep into your life or someone else’s? Have you seen a crowd mentality turn bad?

my wish for you in 2014

wishfornewyear

I’m not a fan of New Years resolutions. Probably because I’ve never made a serious one, and all I’ve really witnessed of those who make them is that they don’t follow through. I’ve been in the gym in January, and then again in May, and many of the fitness fanatics who began the year with a bang petered out.

Maybe I don’t make resolutions because I make life decisions throughout the year. Oh, don’t think that I am some idol to worship. Nope, I still don’t work out weekly, I still eat my fair share of chocolate (okay, I’m addicted), and I am not super mom, nor am I an ideal wife. However, if I see an area that needs worked on (and if I can’t see it, God is sure to bring it to the forefront of my mind) I try to fix it. Or, I pray about it, and try.

Just because I don’t make resolutions, it doesn’t mean I don’t have expectations or hopes for the upcoming year. And with those, I also have wishes for you.

If you have a child with Autism:

  • I hope your child makes progress this year.
  • I hope you find answers to questions that plague your every thought.
  • I wish you peace in moments when it seems impossible.
  • I hope support comes alongside you and your family.
  • I hope you see the amazing child behind the Autism.
  • I wish you earplugs during your child’s sensory seeking moments.

If you are contemplating foster care or adoption, or are in the process:

  • I wish for clear direction for you and your family, that all of you would be in agreement on.
  • I wish for the right child to be placed in your home.
  • I hope your family and friends come alongside you and support you.
  • I wish you jubilation when you and your child meet.
  • I wish for you joy even in the difficult moments.

If you have a hurting child (a child who’s been abused, neglected, and traumatized:

  • I wish you peace in the upheaval where you wouldn’t expect it.
  • I hope you see progress.
  • I hope you find time to be alone with your thoughts.
  • I wish that your family would stick together and support one another.
  • I hope that support comes alongside you and your family.
  • I hope you find solutions to battles that are raging in your home.

Thank you to all who have visited this blog in 2013! May your New Year bring hope and healing!

the importance of consistency & routine (adoption/foster)

consistency&routine

I looked up “quotes on consistency” for this post. What I found was in direct contradiction to what I was looking for. Oscar Wilde says, “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” Aldous Huxley said, “Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only complete consistent people are dead.”

For the sake of being a rock in the shoe, let’s address the latter point. My in-laws are the most consistent people you will ever meet; dinner at five, dinner at Dollar Scoop Chinese on Friday nights, small group every Thursday night, spaghetti for lunch on Wednesdays, and grocery shopping on Tuesday nights. Point is, they are consistent, and they aren’t dead.

Both quotes are made by writers. It surprises me that writers would reference consistency in this way, as most would say they have the same routine every day to accomplish their writing goals. Most inconsistent writers aren’t writers, they are wannabes.

I also wonder how consistency is contrary to nature. Don’t Monarch Butterflies migrate to Mexico every winter? Don’t deer follow the exact path each time they go to the water source, and isn’t that why it’s called a “game trail?” Don’t Salmon swim hundreds of miles back to their hatching grounds to spawn?

If nature is so dependent on consistency for it’s survival, wouldn’t humans need some of the same?

What about children who come from neglectful, abusive, and traumatizing situations where they didn’t know if they were going to eat again, who was going to take care of them, if they would be going to school not, or if they would celebrate their birthday.

Our hurting kids worry excessively, and the above mentioned scenarios are only a clip of their life movie. We can take action to relieve much of that anxiety.

Consistency and routine are two important aspects to helping our children feel safe and know what to expect.

By implementing consistency and routine in our children’s daily lives, we build trust, and trust is another key element in helping our hurting kids heal and attach. If a child cannot trust their primary caregivers, they will feel their life is spinning out of control.

If you spin around until your world becomes tipsy, what are you likely to do next? Probably look for something to stabilize yourself. You are going to try to gain back that control you lost. It’s the same with our kids. They want consistency and routine, when they know what to expect, it will cut down on the worry, the questions, and the behaviors that stem from not knowing what will happen next.

When our children don’t know what to expect, they will feel the same way they did in their neglectful and abusive situation.

They weren’t able to trust their previous caregiver, nor will they be able to trust you if they don’t know what’s happening day to day. They will feel lost and out of control. You can help them stabilize by providing a consistent environment that incorporates plenty of routine.

Here are some ideas on how to implement consistency and routine:

  • If you say something, do it. This will require giving thought before you say anything, whether it be a plan you’re making, or a discipline you’re going to put into place.
  •  Keep daily and weekly routines as consistent as possible so your child knows what to expect each day. IF events in your week are going to be different, let your children know well ahead of time. Also, calendars are great ideas, something simple like a printed list of days and what happens on each one.
  • Stick to bedtime and waking routines. This will also cut down on behaviors because they know what to do and what is expected.

Do you have consistency and routines in your every day life? Does it seem to help your kids? If you are a fly by the seat of your pants type, is there an area that you can begin to incorporate more consistency and routine?


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Santa’s big secret: to tell or not to tell (adoption/foster)

santassecret

Our daughter’s been asking the question since she could talk, “How does Santa get in?” With no chimney protruding from our roof, our answer was, he’s magic. That response would appease most children. Not Payton. “Will he use the front door? Will you leave it unlocked?” Well, we didn’t want to cause worry, having her think that anyone can just pop in whenever they want, packages in tow or not. So we stuck to, “He’s magic.”

Every year she’s had questions about this Santa guy, the Eater Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. A few years ago we threw out magical flying food for Santa’s reindeer (oats mixed with glitter, an idea my husband’s sister shared with us when they visited with their daughters). Her girls loved it and didn’t have questions. But you could see the concern gnawing at Payton when we tried to feed some poor starving trailblazing deer. “How will they find it?” The oats and glitter had fairly disappeared in the snow or the grass, whichever it happened to be each year.

I had a feeling the Santa front wasn’t going to last long. Because all the afore-mentioned and because I am horrible at keeping secrets. Yeah, it’s really bad, mostly when it comes to gifts and not blurting aloud what we bought the kids, when it was supposed to be from the good ole jolly guy.

This past week I was in Payton’s room, she had called to me after she went to bed. I could hear a little fear etched in her voice, and I wondered what it could be. “How will Santa come? I’m always awake at night.” I asked if she was scared of Santa, and she nodded her head. I asked again just to make sure. Yep.

Decision time had come. Do I let my daughter continue to believe in Santa and be frightened of the big man in the red suit totting an extra-large beard or do I tell her the truth and crush any sort of child-like fantasy? Some parents scoff at me because they’ve always been honest with their kids about these fairy tale characters; the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and Santa. My husband was one of those kids that didn’t have the chance to dream about the great Claus because his parents were the honest ones. I, however, came from a family of liars. Well, not really unless I want to be added to that category because I let Payton believe the same.

I remembered what it was like trying desperately hard to fall asleep on Christmas Eve, waiting to hear any creak in the floor, or a thump as Santa left something for my brother and I. I remember the flight to my parents room as soon as my brother woke me (yes, I always slept later than he), begging them to go to the living room and SEE. I remember the thrill of eyeing the presents under the tree, waiting for us. They are still very special memories, and I wanted my daughter to have the same.

Problem being that my daughter didn’t come from the same background I did. Although she’s tremendously better now, worry has always been a part of who she is. She’s also very intelligent. She is able to think through things and figure out that Santa + no chimney = no Santa. Or, if Santa did come down the chimney, he would surely break a bone, if not several. Many of our kiddos who come from difficult places are highly intelligent, even if you don’t see it, it’s likely there beneath the surface, or you are being fooled.

When Payton told me she was scared of Santa, I told her to wait a minute and I went to chat with Justin. This is a two person decision if you are married, so I told him what was going on (he knew she had been concerned before about a strange man entering our house), and he agreed that I could tell her Santa isn’t real.

That was hard for me. Really hard. I was sad to tell her the truth, but then it felt kind of strange knowing that I had lied to her about Santa and the others. I then had to make sure that she knew Jesus and God ARE real, yeah, think I’ll need to work on that one for a while. She actually smiled and thought it was kind of funny that we’d been the ones to fill the Eater baskets, fill the Easter eggs and hide them, and put out presents from Santa.

Our kiddos have a lot of worries, many come from scary places. We need to think about adding to those fears, whether they have a conscious memory of their past or not. You can tell if your child seems overly fearful or worries more than he should. Maybe it would’ve been better for us to have begun this thing differently, no Santa, no Easter Bunny, no Tooth Fairy. If it had been up to Justin, that would have been the way it was done, but I got my way, and I’m seeing that it probably wasn’t the best.

Does your child have an unusual fear of Santa? How have you dealt with it?

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!

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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…

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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.

thankful therapy

thankfulnesstherapy

I thought the post I wrote last week would be the last one until after Thanksgiving, then I began thinking about just that; Thanksgiving, and what it means.

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen people posting daily about what they’re thankful for. Awesome idea. But it’s hard to be thankful when your children are hurting, acting out, and life is not what you expected. Some of you have kids who wrote the book on strong will. Some of you sacrifice your life daily for your child’s needs. Some of you have angry children who are attacking your world constantly because they’re scared. Life is hard, and the last thing you feel is thankful.

Yet, ask yourself where your children came from. Are they in a better place than they would have been if you hadn’t adopted or fostered? Adoptive and foster parents tend to get stuck in this idea that says, “I didn’t save my child or rescue my child,” in fact they can get downright angry when someone says this about them. But I love to ask if your child is better off with you. Would your son be sleeping in a comfy bed, enjoying family meals with people who love him if he were in an African orphanage? Would your daughter be well fed and warm at night if she was on the streets in Russia? Would your son be safer with a mom who’s doing drugs, and has different men over every week, and doesn’t take care of his needs? I doubt it, and I doubt you are saying yes.

Since this is where you are, and where your child is, you can be thankful for your kids. You can also be thankful they are safe. No, it’s not easy, but can you find things to be thankful for? I would encourage you to find attributes in your child that you can be appreciative of. Your child won’t fit into every category here, but ask yourself the following: Does your child…

  • follow directions?
  • eat veggies?
  • do school work without arguing?
  • enjoy creating art?
  • get along with siblings?
  • have manners?
  • think of others?
  • like to read?
  • follow the morning routine well?

Your child may not do any of these well, or at all, but there is something positive about your child, even if you have to dig to find it. They do have worth, and if you can build on those positives, it will help your relationship grow, and that’s the main goal.

Why is being thankful important? I clearly remember the Thanksgiving after we adopted Payton from foster care. It was only days after her adoption was finalized and we were standing in a circle with family members telling what we were thankful for. Someone (left to be unnamed as to avoid great controversy) said they had nothing to be thankful for. I was quite angry because my precious daughter was now in our arms forever and it was the most thankful I had ever been (we knew she was now safe and a year of fearful anticipation was over). I also saw that the thankless person was miserable. When we can’t find anything in our lives to be thankful for, we dwell on all the negative, and that list can be great. If we focus on what we are grateful for, we have a fuller more joyous life.

Why do I care if you are thankful? I care that you find something to be grateful for because I want your family and your kids to thrive, not just survive. I don’t want this to a Thanksgiving and Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) that you try to get through as fast as possible, I want you to enjoy it.

Our hurting kids are hurting, and there are days when there aren’t positives to be appreciative of. So what else in your life can you be thankful for? I am truly sorry if there isn’t much, but my hope is that you can find something. Maybe it’s something simple today, like rain or a warm house, maybe tomorrow will bring something else.

I am thankful for all of you who have chosen to care for the orphan, foster child, abandoned and neglected. Without you, they wouldn’t have much to be thankful for. Thank you for all you do! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Here is another post that might help: finding joy

avoid holiday hassles

avoidholidayhassles

We all know the holiday hoopla is fast approaching. Some of us look forward to it, but for many it brings a mixture of depression and anxiety, filling us until it’s all over and we can say it’s two-thousand-fourteen.

No matter where we find ourselves, many of us will be visiting family or friends during the holidays, and some of us will be playing host. This can create added stress onto school activities, social gatherings, special events, the present parade, cooking, and shopping. So what can you do to make that visit with Granny Beatrice go better? Communicate.

What do your children need? How do your children act? What will you need to do that’s different than other families? What do you need your family to do for you?

Explanations go a long way to help our family and friends understand what your child will be doing while spending time together, it will help them understand the special treatment or things your child needs. When we got together with family for Christmas one year, our son, Jeremiah, was fascinated with the string of lights and ornaments on the tree. Our extended family all looked like wide-eyed monkeys on adrenaline when Jeremiah stood close to the tree and touched the bright, beaming lights or the sparkling ornaments. He has Autism. I explained what was going on, it calmed them down a little, and I think understanding why he wasn’t leaving the tall, sensory overloading Christmas tree alone helped. It was a starting point.

There have been situations we’ve needed to head off before we arrive at someone’s house. When Jeremiah is outside his environment and we can’t go outdoors, it’s best to play movies he likes. This is a little bothersome around the holidays because of football games, but they were able to deal with some missed field goals while Lightning McQueen racing across Route 66.

That year I sent an email to all who would be there explaining that Jeremiah would be watching movies, we also added that he doesn’t do this at home (because we wanted to avoid any judgement up front). You can gauge your family and determine what needs to be said and what doesn’t. I don’t condone extended t.v. time for Autistic kids, but if we ALL want to enjoy the holiday, our child needs to be content, and if movies do the trick, okay by me.

In the past, my daughter has struggled with attachment issues and Oppositional Defiance Disorder. We’d had experience visiting extended family members, and a a few things came up that we wanted to avoid before we arrived. Those were that Payton couldn’t handle being told something and then having it changed, she also tended to sabotage anything fun. We kindly explained this to our family.

We asked they not tell Payton about any activities we were going to do. For example, please don’t say you’re going to decorate a gingerbread house before you realize there won’t be time to do so. Don’t say you’ll go sledding before you find out that the child didn’t bring any snow clothes. This can be true for any child, but the outcome can be much worse for a child who has attachment issues.

We also avoided telling Payton of anything we planned to do. Number one, because anything can get cancelled for numerous reasons, and two, she would sabotage anything. To her it was a test to see if we would still do that “special” thing with her (equaled love in her mind) even if she misbehaved.

Our family is learning, but Payton has also healed significantly. This year Justin and I were talking about what we would do when we went to see some family. We were trying to be secretive, and of course Payton wanted to know what we were saying. I thought she could handle it at this stage, so I told her we were probably going to go to the Aquarium. She was really excited, she’d been wanting to go back for a couple years. Then I got a text from my dad, they were thinking of going to the zoo since it was a such beautiful weather. I cringed, I had already told Payton what we were doing, would she be able to handle the change of plans? I broke the news to her, I used some paradoxical parenting, something I rarely do anymore. I said, “You’re going to get really mad when I tell you this. It’s okay, you can yell and stomp your feet.” She smiled and said she wouldn’t. I told her the new plan and she proved that she has come a long way, she said, “Okay.”

This year we will be having another friendly conversation with family about their expectations of Payton’s obedience. Although Payton is doing awesome, she’s still a child, and she’s stinkin’ smart. She knows when she can get away with ignoring someone’s request. When we aren’t around, and even when we’re near, family doesn’t expect her to be polite or follow their requests (many times they aren’t formulated as requests, but as, “I think your mom wants you to wash your hands.” It needs to be, “Wash your hands please.”) I know, it puts pressure on Grandma and Grandpa or Aunts and Uncles to lay down the law, but if they don’t let her know they expect good behavior, she’ll push it. She also has a certain little thing called a strong will.

Other families deal with this same scenario. A family I know went to visit Grandma, and while Grandma was preparing a pickle tray, their son, Caleb grabbed a pickle and said, “My pickle.” When your child has attachment issues and other diagnoses added on top, this behavior isn’t shocking at all, but this wasn’t something Caleb would have done at home. He was making attachments and his behavior was improving, but when expectations were lowered, he still struggled some.

Being around others who don’t have the same expectations we do can sometimes cause our children to backslide. It’s a training process both for our children and for those who are frequently involved in our life. They need to know what we expect and be willing to back us up.

These conversations we’ve had with family have dangled between congenial and heated. The outcome will depend on how you approach them, the tone, and words you use, so contemplate those three factors. It will also depend on your family and friends. Are they judgmental or accepting? Do they have experience with special needs?

Let’s review some questions to ask yourself when considering what to share:

  • Does your child do things that are different than others?
  • Does your child have needs that are special?
  • What will you need when you visit family or friends for the holidays, or act as host?
  • Do you need family/friends to avoid saying certain things?

I hope this helps you to have a better holiday with your family and friends! For those of you in the USA, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

the lies our children believe (adoption/foster)

liesbelieved

It’s difficult to see through the anger, the hate, the attitudes. If our children have created coping mechanisms, it can be almost impossible to see through the smiles, the laughing, and the efforts they make to see us happy. What can’t we see through all of this? The lies our children believe; lies about themselves, the world, and others.

The experiences our children had before they came to us taught them that they are unloveable, unworthy, that they can’t do anything right. They learned that the world is a scary place, that they’d have to protect themselves because no one else would. They learned that adults aren’t trustworthy.

This makes it difficult when they come into our home because these lies that are circulating in their head don’t go away. There are no magic words to fix what they believe. (You can see here what I wrote about how we consistently tell our children truths: you’re beautiful, you’re smart, I love you, but it’s our actions that will make the most difference in the end.) Eventually our kids will see that we care about them and we’re dedicated to them, but it’s not a quick and easy fix. Why? Because these core beliefs have become a foundation for them.

I was talking with a friend yesterday who has cared for some hurting teens. She said that every time she told one of the girls, “I love you,” the girl would become very angry. The girl became angry because she hadn’t been loved by anyone. Sometimes parents think that if they just show the child love (as in affection and caring for them) the child will accept what the parent gives, and that doesn’t happen with many hurting kids.

The birth mother who was supposed to love this girl didn’t, or had no idea how to show it, and this young woman believed she was unloveable because of it. Because my friend was the next mother figure to enter this girls life, she was blamed. This girl probably thought, “How could anybody love me?! I’m unloveable! I don’t even like myself!” (You can read more about how and why hurting children blame their foster/adoptive mom HERE.)

Even those of us who haven’t experienced neglect, abuse, and trauma have lies we believe about ourselves, the world, and others. Can you imagine (or maybe you’ve experienced it yourself) if your foundational views of love and acceptance were rocked and broken at the core? How long would it take for someones love to change how you feel about yourself? Would it be easy to transform those thoughts?

There is absolutely hope for our children to accept our love, there is hope that they will feel better about themselves, but it’s important that we see how they view life. They don’t enter our home and put on a new pair of glasses and see the world through our eyes, it will take time and consistency on our part. Show your children you accept them no matter what they do, no matter what they say. Don’t avoid them and instill what they already believe about themselves, that they are unworthy. See their pain and work through it with them. (This doesn’t mean we don’t have consequences for behaviors, but it does mean that we have empathy for them.)

What lies do your children believe about themselves? How can you help them see the truth of who they are?

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