Why Christmas Stinks Sometimes

It was the third day in a row, or maybe the fourth. I don’t exactly recall. I do, however, vividly remember coming home from work and being met by my normally patient and long-suffering wife declaring in an overly frustrated tone “Here, you deal with him. I’m done!”

The kids were home for Christmas break and one son in particular was being more than a handful. This was very uncharacteristic for him. The first day we thought it was simply childhood Christmas excitement. By the second day, we were beginning to lose our patience. When I arrived home this day my wife was almost at her wits’ end. Nagging, whining, crying, bugging siblings, arguing, you name it. But why? Didn’t he know Christmas was almost here? Had he forgotten that Santa was “making his list and checking it twice?” Wasn’t he aware of how much mom and dad had to do in order to get ready for Christmas? For so many reasons, now was not the time for him to be acting this way.

What I did next doesn’t come naturally to me.

Giving the Gift of Voice

Giving ‘children from hard places’ the gift of voice allows them to replace fear with trust. Giving them voice enables them to learn how to ask for their needs appropriately. Giving them voice helps them to begin to express what they are feeling. But these children will not find their voice on their own — they need insightful and equipped parents that are willing to give them voice.

Watch as Michael Monroe explains what it means for parents to give their children the gift of voice.

Confessions of a Sorry Father

I want to be a good father. I even like to think I work pretty hard at it – certainly much harder than I ever imagined I would. But despite my best intentions and in spite of all of my efforts, I am still a pretty sorry father at times. Sorry as in bad, rotten and no good. I can think of some other ways to say it, but I think you get the picture.

Take this morning for example. Mornings before school can be dicey in general, but for the most part we have our routine down and we’ve learned – parents and kids alike – how to make things run smoothly. Every once in a while, however, someone decides to mix things up. Maybe it’s because the kids went to bed late or one of them isn’t feeling well. Or maybe it’s for no reason at all, as was the case today. Whatever the reason, my kids need a father that can handle whatever they throw his way. I want to be that kind of father. Not some of the time; all of the time. But today I wasn’t. Today, I was the problem.

What Every Adoptive Parent Should Know

In order to truly understand children from hard places — what they have experienced, the impact of those experiences and how we can help them heal and grow — it is important that we understand some of the basics. That’s why we have put this collection of eight Empowered To Connect videos together — to introduce (or re-introduce) you to some of the most important basics that we believe every adoptive parent can benefit from.

Click here to watch all eigth videos.

When Sad Looks Mad

Children from hard places often experience pervasive and overwhelming feelings of sadness, and these feelings are often rooted, at least in part, in their personal history. The challenge for parents is that many times children express these feelings of sadness through anger and disrespect. In other words, their sad can often look mad — sometimes very mad.

Watch as Michael Monroe talks about some of his experiences with this, and encourages parents to look beyond the “mad” in order to help their children begin to identify, express and deal with their true feelings of sadness.

Replacing Dread with Joy this Summer

If I am honest I have to admit that in many ways I dread summer. In Texas, where I live, summer means heat – at times sweltering heat. While I do not particularly like the bitter cold of winter, the heat can be downright oppressive. One hundred plus degree days in June, anyone? I guess I am a “highs in the low 70’s, blue skies and gentle breeze all year round” kind of girl.

Summer also means kids, as in all four kids, all day long, every day – or at least that’s how it feels. Only a few years ago, before they were all in school, that didn’t bother me so much, but now it can feel, well, completely overwhelming at times. So the other day I was a little convicted when I was talking with a friend and she told me how excited she was that summer had arrived. Don’t get me wrong, getting to sleep a little bit later and having the option to be lazy all day long is great. But the whining, arguing and the overall opportunity for more conflict among the kids and between me and them – none of that is all that great.

Check the Expiration Date on Your Compassion

We recently moved out of our house to remodel the downstairs after experiencing a water leak. In the process, I was forced to confront one of the more unwelcome tasks of moving – cleaning out the pantry. In doing so I discovered that we had somehow collected enough random cans of food to survive for months, if not years. That was, of course, if we didn’t mind eating Spaghetti O’s that expired the same year my six-year olds were born! I’m ashamed to admit it, but I had more than a few expired food items lining the shelves.

As I look back on our adoption journey and I listen to the challenges of other adoptive and foster parents, it occurs to me that many of us view compassion for our children in much the same way as we would that old can of Spaghetti O’s. The honest truth is that for many of us, our compassion for our children – for the trauma and harm they suffered, the pain and loss that flows from their past and the lingering effects of their history – has an expiration date. All too often we think in terms of “they’ve been home for six months…they should not be doing that still” or even “they’ve been home for five years…they should know better by now.”

Explore Your Expectations

Watch as Dr. Karyn Purvis talks about the importance of parents exploring their expectations and motivations, as well as the impact that their own history can have when parenting children from hard places. This video is part of the Insights and Gifts video series, which includes a small group discussion guide that you can download here.

For more resources to help as parents explore their motivations, expectations and histories, click here.

More Than Just Words

When it comes to the issue of “talking” with your children about adoption or foster care, most parents immediately think in terms of what they should (and should not) say. However, effectively communicating with your child on these important matters involves much more than just the words you use.

In this one hour presentation from the 2010 Tapestry Adoption & Foster Care Conference, Michael & Amy Monroe (leaders of Tapestry) focus on how to communicate effectively and holistically with children about their story and your journey as a family. Specifically, they focus on the importance of nonverbal communication, learning to listen to your child and helping them to find perspective and meaning in your shared journey.

You can also download the slides from this presentation here.