I’ve been talking with a lot of moms lately and many of them are struggling with their kids. I get it. There are days I struggle too. The issues we face vary from the small, frustrating and everyday, to the big, infuriating and out-of-control. But no matter what the issue or challenge, the one thing I constantly remind them of, and the one thing I have to constantly remind myself of, is the need to see my kids with eyes of compassion…and to approach each and every interaction with them compassionately.
“Who are you?” I remember thinking this unthinkable thought as I looked into the face of my young son only a few years into our life together as an adoptive family. He did not share my DNA but he was every bit ‘mine.’ Yet while we were both made in the image of the same God, I was becoming aware that we were two very different reflections.
In that moment I began to be confronted by much of what I had brought into the journey of adoptive parenting – most significantly my expectations about my child and how this journey would unfold. In reality I hardly knew my son, still that did not stop me from creating expectations about the things he would like and how he would act and think. On top of that, I expected that the adoption path God had led us down would be relatively easy and straightforward once we were home. I convinced myself that adoption was little more than a historical fact of how we came to be, rather than an ongoing reality of the journey that lay ahead.
People who make things look easy really get on my nerves. You know who I’m talking about. Ever watched one of those cooking shows on TV? You see them making some recipe in 10 easy steps and it always comes out looking hot, beautiful, and delicious. So you try it at home and all you end up with is a giant mess of something ugly and inedible. Or maybe you’ve watched one of those home improvement shows where the host can build, repair, or decorate just about anything and it turns out great, all on a shoestring budget. So in a fit of inspiration you make a trip to Home Depot, spend twice as much as you wanted to, come home and four hours later all your spouse can say is “maybe we can call someone to come fix it tomorrow.” Why does it seem to be so easy for some people? Why are so many things in life easier said than done?
Recently I came across an Adoptive Families Magazine article entitled Band-Aid Mom. In the article, Wendy Flemons, an adoptive mom, asks this important question – “Can a Band-Aid do more than heal a physical wound?” As simple as it may seem, this is a profoundly important question and one that adoptive dads should be equally interested in answering.
Flemons explains in the article her initial aversion to Band-Aids given the tendency of many kids to over-rely on the simple first aid supply that lacks any real inherent healing characteristics. I can relate. However, as I continue to learn more about the important and complex subject of attachment, I have discovered that Band-Aids are actually a highly relevant tool – literally and metaphorically – for adoptive and foster parents as they seek to help their children heal from the effects of their past. Writing about the experience with her 10 year old daughter who they adopted less than a year ago from Ethiopia, Flemons noted that she had learned two important things: “Children have pain beyond what we can see, and Band-Aids are not just physical objects.”
Possibly one of the most practical and useful tools Dr. Karyn Purvis teaches parents is what she calls “Total Voice Control.” This tool equips parents to focus on how they use their own voice when interacting with their child.
Watch as Michael Monroe talks about how parents can use this tool to focus on how they say what they say, and as a result more effectively promote connection and understanding between themselves and their child.
Parents often encourage or even push their child to be independent. However, for children from hard places becoming independent can be a real challenge, primarily because these children have not developed trust and may not have had their dependency needs met consistently by an insightful, attuned and available caregiver.
Watch as Dr. Karyn Purvis talks about authentic and healthy independence and how parents can best foster this with their child.
It is important for adoptive and foster parents to examine their motivations, not only when they begin the adoption or foster care journey but also along the way. Watch as Michael Monroe encourages parents to consider why they are doing what they are doing so they can more effectively meet their child’s needs.
Time-in (as opposed to time-out) is an important strategy to help parents learn to “connect while correcting” with their children.
When using the time-in strategy it’s critical to remember that time-in is not intended to punish your child. Instead, time-in is designed to help your child calm and regulate so that he can express his needs (or wants) appropriately. Also, be sure not to jump the gun and resort to time-in when another, lower level strategy (such as playful engagement or choices) might address the behavior more effectively.
But there are times when a time-in is precisely the strategy that is called for. So here are eight keys to help you implement an effective time-in with your child.
When most children get hurt or become afraid, they go to a parent. After all, parents are the ones who protect children and keep them safe from danger. They are the ones who comfort children when they are afraid. For these children it’s a simple equation: mom and dad are safe and I can trust them to help me so I will go to them.
But things aren’t always that simple for children with histories of early harm such as trauma, abuse, neglect, or relinquishment. Their life experiences impact them in any number of important ways, often making them prone to prolonged states of fear and a limited ability to trust. Instead of going to their parents for help or comfort, these children often run from them, push them away, or shut them out.
The adoption and foster care journey is filled with joy, blessings and beauty. But it is a journey also marked by loss, pain and challenges of various kinds. As a result, parents must be mindful to ‘count the cost’ of traveling this journey.
Watch as Dr. Karyn Purvis encourages parents to ‘count the cost’ as they engage the adoption and foster care journey in a way that leads to true hope and healing.