give negativity a noose (adoption/foster)

original photo by anitab0000 via sxc.hu
original photo by anitab0000 via sxc.hu

You can view the first post in this series: negativity is contagious

You know who had a right to be negative, angry, opposing, and downright contrary? The Giving Tree. You know, the children’s book by Shel Silverstein? The Giving Tree is just that; giving. His owner, however, is selfish and takes everything he can from the tree to make his life better. The tree gives freely, never denying a request or complaining about its loss. In the end only a stump remains, and the boy comes back old and weathered, and sits to rest on the tree’s trunk. In the end, both were happy.

If we are to be like the Giving Tree, it doesn’t mean that we allow our hurting kids to pummel us into the ground, there are consequences for inappropriate actions, there are times when we say no, there are boundaries, consistency, and routine, but in the end it’s relationships that are of utmost importance.

“The capacity to care, share, listen, value, and be empathetic – to be compassionate – develops from being cared for, shared with, listened to, valued, and nurtured.” ~ Dr. Bruce Perry

If you are consistently sucked into a world that is negative, it’s nearly impossible to care, share, listen, value, and nurture regularly. If you have a hurting child who isn’t attaching and bonding, it’s because they didn’t receive that reciprocal, caring relationship Bruce Perry is talking about. It’s now up to us to step in where others dropped the nurturing, and to do so we need to stay out of Negative No No Land.

To do so, we need to know where negativity comes from:

  • Negative attitudes can develop because parents tire of the horrible behaviors, the lying, the potty training issues, the control. They want it to change, and they want it to happen now. When it doesn’t, they become pessimistic, and that pessimism can stop our child’s progress.
  • Negative outlooks expand when we fail to see our child’s possibilities. Jon Acuff said, “Fictional regret often cripples us from factual action.” I would like to change the second word in that phrase so it applies even more to parenting a hurting child, “Fictional [worry] often cripples us from factual action.” When we worry and feel negative about what our child’s future (even their tomorrow) looks like, we forget to live in the moment. And, this moment is the one that will help your child move toward healing; the hug you’re not giving, the praise you’re not sharing, the play you’re not engaging in, the interest you’re not showing because negativity is taking away moments you could be using to help your child heal.
  • Negative mindsets grow when we’re in community with others who constantly complain about their life. This can be people who speak disapprovingly about everyone and everything around them or a community of adoptive/foster parents who complain about their children. I do see a place for groups of parents who’ve adopted or are fostering. I think it’s great to have a place to vent our troubles, but with Facebook and places like Cafemom, it’s become all too easy to get sucked in and focus only on the unfavorable qualities of our loved ones and others.
  • Negativity can come from our own guilt, thinking we don’t do enough for our hurting child. Some parents constantly question whether they’re doing the right things with their child who struggles. (To put your mind a little more at ease, take a look at this: We Are Our Childs Best Therapist.
  • Negativity can creep in through others perceptions of us. A family that has a hurting child functions differently than the typical family. Friends and relatives don’t understand why you live the way you do. You are excluded, questioned, and sometimes scorned.

******

Negativity can come from anywhere and everywhere; as an avalanche of boulders or as pecking stones. In turn it can cause us to be negative, and the way you feel as a parent is always projected onto your child.

Our negativity about our children affects:

  • The way we feel about them.
  • The expectations and hopes we have for them.
  • Our ability to empathize with them.
  • What we say to them.
  • What we say about them.

As Dr. Bruce Perry said, our kids need US to be the catalyst for positive change. Our children CAN heal, but not without our help, and we can’t offer them all of us (think Giving Tree and remember why you adopted in the first place) if we are full of negativity.

The question now is what do we do? Well, I struggle with negativity, so I feel less than qualified to tell you what needs to be done. However, I can share with you what helps me have a more positive perspective.

#1, and MOST important: When dealing with a child’s Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), attachment issues, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a mood disorder, and my son’s Autism, I had to focus on the positives in my children.
Find the good qualities in your child. Is your son a good artist or ball player? Does your daughter like to be around you? What’s one thing your child does without a fight? Does your daughter do great with younger children? Find that positive attribute, even if it’s only one, and focus on it.

  • Remember where your children came from. Dr. Bruce Perry also says that by age four, your brain is 85% the size it is when you’re an adult. How much did our child’s early life affect their brain? Significantly. ADD LINKS How long will it take for our children to heal and form healthy relationships? More than a few months, more than a year.
  • Praise your children when they’re doing well. Be specific and tell the truth.
  • Focus on any progress your child has made. Think in small increments if needed. Did your son clear his plate off the table today? Did your daughter unplug her curling iron before leaving the bathroom?
  • Find joy in your everyday life. That post is a must read if you feel there’s no joy to be found. We don’t have the same struggles, but I’ve found it difficult to find the joy too, my friend.
  • If there is something you wish you were doing with your child, but you’re not, do it. Then throw away all the guilt.
  • Forget about all the negativity and misconceptions coming from family and friends. This is your family and they’ve never lived your life.

There, that should make you feel better! Actually, what would make you feel better is some hot chocolate, a good book, and a warm bath, but I can’t hand that to you over a blog, or as my father-in-law would say, the World Wide Web.

I hope this helps you see where negativity can come from, how it invades our existence, and how it affects our kids.

Do you see areas of your life that are full of negativity? Maybe just a little? What can you do to change your view?

If you would like to see more posts like this, be sure to check out all posts on the Content page. If you would like to receive each post made here on Lovin’ Adoptin’ you can subscribe on the right side of this page near the top. For more helpful information and links, you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Have a great day, evening, afternoon, or morning wherever you are!

HARD is the BEST thing I’ve ever done

original photo by kaniths via www.sxc.hu
original photo by kaniths via http://www.sxc.hu

We shared our adoption story (in short) with our church on Orphan Sunday, Well, since this post is all about honesty, I should say, Justin shared and I stood by. I had the easy part. Afterwards, we welcomed questions from anyone interested in fostering or adopting. One of the women who chatted with me, let’s call her Kaylee to protect her privacy, is an adoptee and was exploring this option of adoption for herself and her husband.

We talked, she asked questions, I had some answers, and I shared more of our story. She went away from that conversation thinking something very different than what I expected. She hadn’t decided to move in any direction of adoption, nor had she closed the door, but she was overwhelmed with emotion as she realized what her adoptive mother had given her and gone through for her. Before we talked she had a deep and profound respect for her mom, but when we finished there was something more that she had come to comprehend; it hadn’t been easy for her mom.

Why hadn’t it been easy for her adoptive mom? Because her mother is very me&P2012sensitive. I can relate, because I am extremely sensitive. Every day it’s hard for me to be in relationships with others, every day it’s hard to put myself out here on a blog, every day confronts me with pain. Then why did I do that foster and adoption thing that was so hard and seems impossible for the sensitive like me?

As Kaylee and I talked, she mentioned what we do. She said, “It’s not that it’s great that someone else is doing this (something Justin mentioned during his memoir spiel), but it’s WOW, that’s amazing. I’m not putting you on a pedestal, but what you’ve done is admirable.”

I’m not like some other adoptive parents who dislike hearing this, but I did want to tell her my truth. My truth is that I am flawed, deeply. My truth is that I am extremely sensitive. So, you would think I’d have avoided foster care and adoption like the plague.

But no, I had jumped on that plane headed to China immediately, well figuratively, but I wanted to hide in the baggage compartment when it came to foster care. Why? Because it looked hard, it looked impossible for the sensitive; me. When husband brought up the option of fostering while we waited to begin the process for China (I wasn’t old enough to apply), I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to jump in and get my feet muddy. I didn’t think it would change me, I didn’t think I could handle all it involved.

Payton&Jeremiah2012Was I wrong? An emphatic YES! Because when we really ponder what brings out a better us, what teaches us compassion, what changes us from the inside out, it isn’t the easy, it’s the HARD. If we think of world changers, I would bet their lives haven’t been cushy. I bet something happened to them, something moved them, or else they are consistently placing themselves in the middle of HARD.

I don’t mean that I have come out at this end (because my life is still being transformed by special needs) an awesome person. What I mean is that before I began this journey, I thought I knew about God, love, and faith. I hadn’t arrived, but I thought I was getting a handle on it. I didn’t. That handle I was grasping fairly burned up in my hand and I dropped it. I have found that I didn’t know much about God’s power, loves abilities, and faith’s transformation. It has all come crashing in on me, in a good way. I look at life in a new way. I see people in a new way, or I am still working on it anyway.

People don’t want HARD. But what if I told you HARD will be the best thing you’ve ever done? I love this quote by Brene Brown, “When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make. “Perfect” and “bulletproof” are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience. We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be–a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult conversation–with courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.”

I want to go back to my sensitivities. My heart is fragile, just ask my poor husband, he could write a series of books on it. Yet, I have seen how God has put an armor around my heart, not so I can’t pour out love, but so that some of the hurt my children can cause doesn’t make it through. What have I been through with them that could have hurt me beyond repair? Well, my son and daughter both bonded with my husband long before they did with me. Consider my daughters diagnoses and my son’s Autism. We also went through fostering them. My heart could have been pounded into the floor, but it wasn’t. Yes, I’ve been hurt, and yes it’s been hard, but it hasn’t had nearly the effect someone who knew me before all of this would have imagined.

When Kaylee shared about her adoptive mom, she told me how sensitive she is. Kaylee said, “I never told my mom, ‘You’re not my real mom!’ I think that was God’s way of protecting her, He kept me from making such hurtful remarks.” I believe she’s right. There can be so much about this journey that’s hard, but God is God, and when we trust and believe He will help us, He will. We are not on this journey alone

After writing the rough draft of this post, I read the November 2013 issue of Payton11.2012Adoption Today, in it Lisa Harper wrote, “If we didn’t have dark nights, we couldn’t experience the peachy glow of sunrise. If we didn’t ache, we couldn’t experience relief. If we didn’t suffer brokenness, we couldn’t experience restoration.” She’s right, and she should know because catastrophe struck her three times in one day. Now that’s living through HARD and still having the courage to move forward.

Has something in your life been HARD and changed you? I would love for you to share.

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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what invisible illnesses taught me about humanity

invisibleillnesses

My home is filled with invisible disorders and health issues. Autism, depression, mood disorder, PTSD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Attachment Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder. I guess some could argue that many of these aren’t invisible, yet most don’t realize what happens inside our home, which might be a good thing. I call them “invisible” because no one can SEE anything different from the outside. The only distinction they do see is negative behaviors, stimming (and if they don’t know what that is, they just think it’s odd), and that our family doesn’t work like everyone else’s, and they could chalk it up to bad parenting.

All of the issues my family deals with has made me see the human race differently. First I was forced to look at life with an altered perspective, and now I must look at others in an unconventional way. Maybe you who are reading this have already come to this place in your life, or maybe you’ve always been vigilant to not judge others. Even though I thought myself one of you, I was not, and I believe I still have a long way to go.

As I live day to day with these “invisible” disorders and sicknesses, I move through the universe in contrast to how the rest of society does. Because my life has been drastically changed, and I don’t feel that anyone notices what’s going on, or that I am being judged when our family doesn’t function “normally,”  I tend to look at other people with new eyes. When I see a child screaming (I don’t mean crying, but screaming mad, defiant) in the grocery store, I no longer immediately think that a parent won’t take care of their out of control child. I wonder if said child has Autism, and can’t handle shopping. When I see a child in public and she is talking back to her mom, not listening, being inconsiderate, I wonder if she has attachment issues.

My point is that you never know what’s happening with someone else. We never know if that mother or father suffers from depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or some other ailment. We never know if a child has experienced trauma or has Autism. Sure, there are parents who let their children get away with hell, but the fact is that we never know what their life situation is. Do they have enough money to buy what they’re shopping for? Do this mom and her husband agree on how to raise their children, or are they divided on every front? Children know this and will act out because of it.

Yes, I was prudish before my life took a drastic turn. My new life has taught me many things. It has given me a new perspective that I am so thankful for. I wish others could consider this viewpoint before making assumptions. People have stared at us, people have commented, people have avoided, people have failed to help, but then we are human and that’s what we do unless we decide to change our interpretation of life.

Do you feel you are judged? Do you feel others see the “invisibles” in your life? Do you feel like you are fighting a battle alone? Is there a way to change other’s perspectives of your family, yourself?

development stage or attachment issues? (adoption/foster)

“My child is five and she lies a lot, is this a developmental stage, because I know some kids lie, or is it an attachment issue?” Questions like this come up often in the foster and adoption community. No matter the age of their child, parents wonder whether a behavior (usually one they don’t particularly care for) is age appropriate or whether it stems from an attachment issue.

No matter what it stems from it needs our attention,

and I have a simple way for you to deal with this question. If your child has shown any signs of attachment issues (go to Detecting Attachment Issues if you aren’t sure), then treat their behavior as an attachment issue, or at least through that lens. Regardless of what our hurting child is doing; lying, yelling hateful statements, wetting the bed, getting angry over the simplest answer to a question, it can stem from the pain that has not been dealt with.

Why can’t you treat developmental stages (potty training regression, a teen throwing rude hurtful comments at you) and attachment issues differently? Because, as you may have read here before, our hurting kids who’ve been traumatized don’t respond the same way to consequences, discipline, and rewards. Does that suggest we don’t use those three components with them? No, but it does mean that we do it differently, we have to be creative, and we also can’t expect the same outcome. A child with attachment issues will not turn on the sweetness because you offered a reward of ice cream, it will take a significant amount of bonding before behavior changes because of a reward system.

Our children, no matter where they came from (even biological ones), go through stages.

Our hurting kids who go through those “normal” stages seem to take them to the moon and back, everything is amped up on adrenaline.

Every action, reaction, and emotion is taken further with our kids a majority of the time. Why? Because of all the things I write about; fear, need for control, inability to process, inability to focus, attention on something else, not on behavior, etc.

Treating a developmental stage as what it might be won’t work because your child’s brain actually looks different than another child’s who hasn’t experienced trauma. So reacting to them as you would a child without their background will be counterintuitive.

I like to say that our kids need special parenting, and a child who’s been neglected or abused has special needs. Your child is hurting, and you will need to see that pain to help them properly. That doesn’t mean baby them, it doesn’t mean don’t have expectations, but understand your child is looking at the world through different eyes. Their reactions and acceptance of how you respond will be very different from another child’s.

Worries and life fill our minds and we sometimes tend to over-think situations, and sometimes we don’t give them enough consideration. I think this is one of the former. It’s more simple than what one might think. It sure isn’t simple to help our children heal, to dig to the bottom of each issue, each behavior, but in the instance of this question of development stages verses attachment issues, I feel there’s a clear answer. I hope the list in the link at the beginning helps you identify if your child is suffering from some attachment issues.

More information on attachment: You can find several more topics related to attachment on the Contents page, but here are a couple to get you started:

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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!

does your child make you mad? (adoption/foster)

When I began blogging about attachment issues and helping adoptive parents, I wanted to know if there was anything out there in cyber world that encouraged parents and gave them tools to help hurting children the way in which I did. In my search I read a book that focused on the parents past. What??? What does a parents past have to do with a child that is struggling due to neglect, abuse, and trauma caused by someone else? I then complained to my husband about how the book had nothing to do with helping kids.

My husband told me to put on the brakes. Slowly I did. He’s kind of intelligent so I wanted to hear him out. He said something like this, “Think of how you were raised.” He paused. Okay, I ruminated over it and I won’t go into detail here. It really wasn’t that bad, but if I were to repeat the dynamics of my family it would look quite different in our house than it does at the present. He continued, “What if you hadn’t looked at how you were parented and decided to make some changes? What if you hadn’t worked through many issues that you had when we got married.” I wasn’t screwed up, really I wasn’t. (Insert winky face.)

He was right. Then I came across this article titled “How to Avoid Being Emotionally Triggered by Your Child” in Adoption Today’s June 2013 issue. Terry Levy and Michael Orlans wrote, “You can’t avoid bringing emotional ‘baggage’ into your relationships with your children. Your parenting style, attitudes and reactions are heavily influenced by your own attachment history, including expectations, patterns of relating and unresolved wounds. Your own issues can get in the way of being a healing parent.”

Wow. We can’t avoid it. We have to make conscious decisions on a daily basis to make the right decisions. Not that it always happens, but we still need to make efforts. Did you grow up in a home where lying was the top deadly sin? How do you feel when your child lies to you? What is your reaction when you’re lied to? Your child is looking for a reaction, and if they get one from you, it will continue. What issues get under your skin?

What about expectations? Did you expect your child to be potty trained by two or three-years-old? Good chance that if your child has attachment issues, that didn’t happen. Great if it did! Did you expect your daughter to be interested in the same activities you are? What about your son? Did you expect him to play football, but he hates catching a ball midair? See, we can put our minds at ease, because even parents of biological children have unmet expectations.

In the article Terry and Michael wrote, it goes on to say, “A parents state of mind with regard to attachment is the strongest predictor of his or her child’s attachment. A parent’s state of mind regarding attachment determines the child’s attachment pattern about 75 percent of the time. Even before a baby is born, the parent’s state of mind will predict the child’s attachment pattern at one-year-old.”

It seems that the attachment continues though. When our children come to us with broken attachments, we are the predictors of their healing attachment. They depend on us to accept them for who they are and what they want to do without judgement. Is your daughter interested in sports and running, but you’d rather scrapbook together? Does your child whine incessantly, and you remember being yelled at for whining when you were little? Is your child extremely outgoing and friendly and you become jealous because you wish you were like her?

Terry and Michael write, “…be aware of your early programming, which is the first step you take to avoid being emotionally triggered by your children.” You can find more helpful tips in the online magazine Adoption Today June 2013 issue.

Do you see where you’ve brought “baggage” into your relationship with your child? Did you have expectations that haven’t been met? Does your child cause you to react negatively?

While we do look at our past experiences and work through them, we still need tools to help us through.

We used to experience those times when our daughter was fighting, and I was holding her in a safe position. She was screaming, out of control, not listening to a word I said (well, she was listening because if I said something she didn’t like, she’d scream louder, as if that was possible), she was doing everything she physically could to get at me, and I was angry. There are many times that I wasn’t happy with my actions or words in those moments. I found something that helped me. I would say, “I love you no matter what you do. I love you no matter how you act.” I would name what she was doing and tell her that I loved her in the midst of it all. I repeated this mantra over and over. It calmed me, and helped me to see that I do love her no matter what she does, and after she had bonded some, the words finally began sinking in during those battles and I could see the fight slip out of her. She knows, or at least says, that we love her no matter what she does, and we’ve been through some really ugly times.

What about you? How do you handle being triggered by your child or keep from getting there in the first place?

Family members have asked us on numerous occasions why we don’t discipline our kids differently, with spankings or more time-outs. Fact is, those would have caused more problems. We need an entire paradigm shift when we parent these hurting kids. We have to look at everything from all angles. And as I learned after reading that book I read before beginning my blog, and the article mentioned above, it begins with looking inwardly at any issues we carry with us into the relationship.