I'm Dawn and I LOVE helping people!
I blog at yesterdaysorphan.org which is targeted specifically to parents and caretakers of children and youth who have traumatic backgrounds as orphans or with parental loss of some kind (even if temporary) and who may be struggling with what I call orphan mentality.
I'm an adoptive parent and seek to help others who are parenting outside the box from lessons learned with my own experiences as well as my research and learning from others' experiences.
If you are one of these parents, you know it! And you are welcome here as well as in our closed support group specifically for the Families of Yesterday's Orphan: on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/YOparents/
My other passions include orphans & orphan ministry; holistic Christian living and Biblical teaching; and nature-based health and wellness. I believe that my faith in God should permeate every area of life.
Want to connect? See my virtual business card!
Do you ever doubt yourself? Your value as a parent, spouse, person?
Things like stress overload, overwhelm, mental/physical disability, etc. can make a parent second-guess themselves and wonder if they are really even making a positive difference in the lives of their family members. I know for myself, I have had moments of self-doubt and feelings of failure that overshadowed the positive impact and value I bring to my family and people in my life.
If you ever have similar feelings I have an activity to help you, and an example below.
Begin by asking yourself three questions.
In what ways do I benefit my family?
How does my family show me they appreciate me?
In what ways could I be an even more beneficial presence in my home?
Answering these questions will give you the content to write out your own value statement to read, re-read, and remind yourself of your real value in the lives of those you love. Win the battlefield of your mind. God’s Word has a lot to say about the need to take steps to manage our minds. I’ve listed a few verses below (and in the workbook):
Colossians 3:2 directs “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
And 1 Peter 1:13 gives us the long-range view – “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
I designed a workbook which you can print and use to create your own Personal Value Statement. It includes these three questions plus some more content and an anonymous example of what a Personal Value Statement can look like. Of course each person’s would be unique to them. You can get the printable workbook with the button below.
Do you feel stuck and hopeless, like you have no purpose in life, or that you are helpless to fulfill it? Satan would love for you to continue in self-despair, but when you focus on the truth and God’s Word, you can break free!
John 8:32 – “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
I’d love to know how you like this post and if the activity and workbook are helpful. Comment and let me know what you think!
Teach Yourself to be More Understanding and Empathetic
“Everyone that hasn’t suffered a brain injury or mental illness is capable of empathy.” – – so I read.
But some of our children DO have brain issues that impact their ability to show empathy. And it seems so easy to spot in them, and even easier to become exasperated at their apparent lack of empathy.
I’m guilty of this.
And so I end up being “the pot calling the kettle black” with my own lack of empathy.
Some of us are in touch with this ability, while others could use a little practice. If you’ve found yourself exasperated over your child’s un-empathetic behaviors, how about taking an empathy self-audit?
What is empathy?
Empathy is the concern for the welfare of others. It’s the ability to detect or predict the emotions and thoughts of others.
It’s easy to see why this would be a handy skill to master. Empathy has an impact on your relationships. This is true for both your personal and professional relationships. Empathy can make your life easier and more fulfilling at home and at work!
It’s an ability that our children need to become competent in. And our modeling empathy to and before them is crucial.
So after your empathy self-audit if you find you need an empathy tune-up, I have some empathy tune-up tips for you.
Empathy Tune-Up Tips
Try these tips to increase your empathy for your child/children and others:
1. Avoid making assumptions.
Your view of the world is limited. Your experiences are just your own. Others have lived a different reality.
If you’re from a well-off and intact family from the United States, you don’t really have a clue what it’s like to deal with the weight of growing up in an orphanage in Ukraine. If you’ve never lost a job, avoid assuming that you know exactly what that experience feels like.
Making assumptions only gets in the way of developing empathy. When you catch yourself making assumptions, question them. Prove your assumptions to be true or false before making any decisions.
2. Ask questions.
One way to understand others is to ask questions. Develop a genuine interest in them. Enhancing your communication skills assists your ability to connect with, and to understand, other people. Ask open ended questions.
3. Listen intently.
I used to think I was a great listener! But I’ve found myself only half-heartedly listening and dividing my attention with my kids. Yikes! What types of messages does that send to them?
I’ve also been trying to help a couple of my children learn to pause and wait for my attention before they start blasting out their message and getting frustrated at me then. If they want understanding they need to learn to wait for my attention. Plus that’s a clue to me to give it.
Listening intently is related to asking questions and avoiding assumptions. We also seek to understand the emotions that the other person is feeling. Asking questions and then listening to the answers is a pivotal part of creating empathy within yourself.
4. Learn about a group of people outside of your experience.
You could learn about people of another religious background or culture. If you’ve never been poor, you might learn about the homeless and how they live day to day. Read books and talk to people. Strive to understand what it would be like to be born a part of a particular group.
5. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
One way to relate better to others is to imagine yourself in the same situation. This can be painful. It’s not enjoyable to imagine that your spouse has died or that you’re completely out of money. Ask yourself, “What would I be thinking and feeling if I were in this situation?” Just asking yourself this question is the biggest step you can take toward being empathetic.
6. Be present. Give your undivided attention to others. You can’t be empathetic if you’re thinking about something else. This goes along with number three above, but extends to family activities, meals, meetings, etc. We are so tempted to multitask and it’s an even bigger temptation these days with our smartphones and other tech at our fingertips constantly.
You’re not as good at hiding your disinterest as you think! You miss most of the information, verbal and non-verbal, communicated to you if you’re not paying attention.
7. Have more meaningful conversations.
Talking about sports is fine, but it’s not a deep and personal topic. One way to get the ball rolling is to talk about something that’s important to you. The more you share, the more you’re going to receive in return. Be open, and others will be more open with you. (Maybe.)
But don’t forget to give the other person a turn. One sided conversations are counterproductive to mutuality and connectedness.
Empathy is an important skill. It can greatly increase the ability to communicate and connect with others. Being able to understand their feelings and thoughts will boost your rapport with them, whether it’s your children, your spouse, or those outside the household. Enhance your relationships with empathy and you’ll benefit in many ways. And you’ll be modeling this important skill to your child or children!
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep”
First Things First
When our more basic needs are unmet is can put the brakes on empathy. If you feel unable to access your empathy or otherwise feel like you are missing out on basic needs such as safety I implore you to seek the help YOU need, putting your oxygen mask on first as it were, to address those needs and free up mental and emotional space for empathy.
Find More with Facebook Group
If this post is helpful to you you might like to join the small but growing Yesterday’s Orphan Facebook group for parents and caregivers. The group is free to join but closed — members only.
Posts in the group touch on a variety of topics that may affect you if you are caring for a child with a history of early childhood traumatic parental loss and possibly other serious trauma in their background.
So Trello, I wonder why no one has ever introduced me to you before (?) Perhaps I was just not paying attention or was otherwise engaged . . . but now at long last I am so happy to have finally found you!
Do you know about Trello?
I just started using this free resource and it looks fantastic! (There are paid options for their Business and Enterprise levels, but with unlimited numbers of board, lists and cards, the free version is not just a tease, but a well-rounded tool right out of the gate! And did I say free?!)
With Trello I can finally organize my life. (Yes!) And you can too. I’ve already started with a few boards and have been scoping out examples of more ways to use this fantastic tool for family, business, projects, whatever . . .
If you’ve ever used Pinterest you are familiar with “boards”. Trello also uses boards as the main sections. Within your broad category boards, you then add “lists” and “cards”. These can be labeled by color and further modified for a variety of needs and uses. And you can share boards, lists and cards as well as switch up cards from list to list and board to board (or duplicate them)! Are you getting excited yet?
As I said, there are tons of uses for Trello and Trello boards. Want to make a Vision Board? Make it on Trello, or make several! Got a project to plan, or a joint project? Make it and share tasks on Trello!
How I am using Trello right now (and expanding):
I’ve set up Boards for primary areas of my life so far:
Family (with lists for each family member) – I do plan to separate these out into a board for each person. Plus you can color coordinate your boards if you like, even upload your own background photos for each one.
Business – Working from home is an amazing opportunity. I already see how Trello can help me integrate work with the rest of my life without dropping (so many) balls that I juggle. I can bounce from work to child to dinner and not lose my place now (smile).
My parent support ministry (You’re here! Yesterday’s Orphan); I am excited to plug the beginnings of some future plans into Trello to keep moving forward on them. Stick around to see what’s coming up!
My upcoming mission trip to Russia; no stressing over the to-dos for this trip. Just plug into Trello, set a due date and get’er done!
I plan to add a weekly schedule board to house repetitive items particular to days of the week, and some more project boards.
Key to Success with Trello
One key I already discovered is to add a due date/deadline to anything you can. This will bring up that item (card) in your daily “What’s Next” list. No matter what board or list they are on, the due date will pull up whatever you’ve scheduled in order. (No flipping back and forth between calendars and lists!)
Trello for Back-to-School
It’s that time of year and I am so happy to have found Trello in time for back-to-school. Not only can Trello keep my life organized, but my children as well.
Keep the (perceived) nagging away when you share tasks with them through Trello. They can check off as done and you’ll be able to see when an item is marked completed. (I would have loved this for home-schooling!) There’s even an application to save the ist of completed assignments to a spreadsheet on Google Drive. (Record-keeping? DONE!)
Example boards for homeschool parents:
Personal parent/teacher boards with Master Lists, Student boards, Weekly Routines, Resource Links, Current and upcoming lesson plans; Materials checklists; Extracurricular activities; Field trips; Library books (with due dates)
Trello for students:
Homeschool or not, students can have their own project boards with checklists to break projects down into manageable tasks. My high schoolers can set up their own Trello boards for each subject at the start of the school year and add in their projects and due dates, tests and study schedules. Plus any other links to resources or important information.
Trello is compatible to various devices and so I can work on my Chromebook and also see the app on my phone when out and about.
For the family with intense kids, parents need to be able to communicate in a way that won’t promote internal pressure. (Sometimes even a look can do that with my teens!) Trello is a way to do just that. You can collaborate and share information in an organized way that doesn’t seem like you are just barking out random commands. And the engaging tech is the go-between!
Let me know, have you used Trello for you family and found it useful? What’s your favorite benefit so far?
Free Parent Resource
If you have intense kids who have a hard time with transitions and if back-to-school season is stressing you out just thinking about it (!!!) – – then you’ll like the following free resource, my tips for being the chill parent during back-to-school season, even with intense kids. Get yours with the button below.
Sometimes parents of emotionally and behaviorally challenged children can get to a breaking point where something has to give. There is a point at which you realize you are either stuffing your feelings and you are paying the price or your emotional outbursts rival those of your child. Ouch! You must be the adult. And that means taking whatever measures you need to to ensure that your emotions are not out of control. Emotions are good indicators. We need them. But they shouldn’t be driving the car.
When your GPS gives good directions it is super helpful! A great tool. But when the directions are off for some reason, we need to be aware so we can make the needed corrections or we can end up in a completely wrong location.
It’s the same with our emotions. They can be great indicators. They can inform us when we may need to take a detour. They can help us choose between options. Our GPS may show us a list of restaurants in the area and a little bit about them, so we have good information from which to make a lunch choice. Similarly, our emotions can let us know something doesn’t seem right. But it’s up to our thinking brain to take that information and do something about it.
When we feel an alarm of emotion we may not need additional information. We may know exactly what to do when a certain emotion pops up. But in other situations we do need more information. For instance if our child’s frequent sleep problems are not responsive to the measures we know and have tried, we may need to investigate further. Feeling tired and frustrated at the sleepless nights may prompt us to know something’s not right and needs to be addressed right away. But feeling tired and frustrated may also hinder us from thinking clearly if we are already stretched thin and it goes on for a while.
Think Outside the Box
My youngest adopted son screamed himself to sleep after coming home and normal soothing measures did not work. Occasionally we could get him to sleep by rubbing his back with lotion. Then we learned that melatonin supplements would help him relax. He also needed a night light and to be in the bed with someone, not alone(noteven in the same room in a separate bed), because as a deaf child he needed to be able to reach out and touch someone for assurance that he wasn’t alone. Oh how I wish we had gotten him to sleeping better sooner. But my box of sleep tools did not cover his particular needs at that time.
Thinking outside the box might be needed to keep our emotions from gaining control. When emotions prompt us to action or to seek out will be effective in a given situation our feelings are great sidekicks. When we stuff our feelings though, we disable their usefulness like a broken GPS system. We also disarm our thinking brain’s ability to supervise our emotions. So they can easily get out of control.
Emotional Alarm System
What if we think of our emotions as an alarm system. Different signals can alert us to different things. When there is an distress signal we know we should take quick action. We do not just ignore the situation and turn off the alarm. The alarm is not the problem. It simply alerts us to the problem or potential problem. We can turn off the noise of the alarm but we also have to assess and address the issue that caused the alarm to sound.
Turning off the alarm or ignoring it is like stuffing our emotions and feelings. And disregarding the underlying cause. Nor do we want to overreact to the alarm and fail to notice what set if off.
Free Parent Resource: A Christian’s Guide to Reclaiming Emotional Control
I’ve compiled a Guidebook that you may have for free, “A Christian’s Guide to Reclaiming Emotional Control”, jam-packed with information and ideas for steps you can take to keep your emotional brain in the passenger seat while your thinking brain does the driving. This is a free, parent-to-parent resource for parents who may have a lot of emotional upheaval and feel a bit overwhelmed. I hope it is helpful to you. If you know anyone else who can use this resource please direct them to this blogpost to get their free copy as well. Just click the link below for your free copy.
We don’t like to think of our family members as our enemies. But here it is.
” . . . a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” ~ from Matthew chapter 10.
(You may want to read all of verses 34-39.) So we shouldn’t be surprised when we realize one or more of our family members is opposing us.
Do you ever feel like your child is your enemy? Or perhaps your spouse clashes with you regarding how to deal with a child’s behaviors and it feels like you and your spouse are on opposing teams. It may be short-lived, minor conflict or long-term and/or high stakes.
If we have made “family” an idol, or wrapped up our own identity so tightly in our family, our family roles and relationships, then this opposition from within our own home may rock our world. It might even tempt us to stray from our convictions in following Jesus.
We should not stir up trouble in our families unnecessarily of course. But neither should we idolize “family” to the point of compromising our relationship with our Savior and Father in heaven.
Instead, look to our relationship with him and our identity in his family as our foundation. And while we shouldn’t make family relationships an idol, neither should we make reconciliation impossible by our negative attitudes or behaviors. Keep the door open and continue to pray for restoration and reconciliation.
The real enemy, the one who is the enemy of our souls is Satan. Remember this when you feel like it’s the person in front of you and understand that he may be using them to get to you but he would love to destroy you both.
Spiritual warfare. In the home. It’s real. Be prepared.
If you would like to get notified of new blog posts you can follow this blog and if you’re a parent or caretaker of a child with parental loss in their background, check out Yesterday’s Orphan, a closed parent group on Facebook. Subscribe to my email list for newsletters and more.
Have you ever noticed that your adopted or foster child seems to have held onto orphan thinking? Orphan thinking can lead to choices, statements and behaviors that are troublesome. I’ve learned about seven specific indicators of an orphan spirit or orphan heart (there may be more). Yet these indicators can be found not only in orphaned children with traumatic backgrounds, but in each of us. We are all born with an orphan heart and may display one or more of these indicators. How can this awareness help you? I’m glad you asked!
We humans tend to distance ourselves from those who behave in ways that upset our sense of self, preferring to see ourselves as somehow beyond that particular risk. But an awareness of the orphan heart in each of us and in ourselves opens us up to more and deeper potential for connection to our children — children who may have disturbing thinking and behaviors which on the surface may seem bizarre and difficult to understand, even beyond understanding.
One of the seven indicators of an orphan heart that I have learned of is the following:
You struggle to trust that God cares about your cares; that he is working things out for your good.
Does this describe you? Your child?
My children with orphan thinking may think or talk about me as their enemy more than their loving parent, refusing to trust my love and care. This is more than the typical eye roll as a teen gets into that stage of feeling like their parents are out of touch with today’s reality and living in the dark ages. Rather, it is a deep-seated doubt springing up occasionally or constantly near the surface. It’s a doubt that says, not only does your parent not understand you, but they really don’t care, or care enough, about you – – regardless of the evidence to the contrary. It causes them to mistrust and misinterpret the parent’s motives.
But what about you? I want you to do a little investigating. Notice any time you think or talk about God as your enemy. You may not think you ever do this but pay attention. Do you ever talk about how angry God would be if you did such and such, or how he must be mad at you since such and such happened? Do you ever express fear of God’s punishment or reluctance to share your needs with God, refusing to depend on him to meet or even care about them? For example, praying minimalistic prayers like “Oh God, I’m not asking for much and I know you are too busy for me; I’m just asking for a few crumbs and I’ll get by”. Or “I don’t want to bother you God with these needs over here; I know I should take care of them myself”. Do you think you have to do certain things to stay on God’s “good side”? Take a week and notice, writing it down, anytime you catch yourself speaking or even thinking things that express doubts that you have about God’s care. Dig into why you have those doubts and see what God’s Word has to say about it.
If you do notice yourself doubting God’s care for you, you can repent. You can also understand a bit more how your child may be inclined to doubt your care for them. Think about how you feel. You might want to journal about it. Another thing you might do is to regularly repeat an affirmation based on God’s Word that will help revise your thinking.
Affirmation: “God cares about my cares!”
Cast all your cares [anxieties] on him, for he cares for you.
I Peter 5:7
Write down the affirmation and the verse in your journal. Also write the affirmation where you’ll see it daily and recite it aloud to combat the orphan thinking and doubt of God’s care that you’ve noticed in yourself. Ask God for a change of heart and thinking. How can you reflect this change in the things you say? Write down alternatives beside the items you wrote down earlier that indicated your doubt and orphan thinking.
I hope this helped you understand how our orphan hearts are more the same as our children’s than they are different. The more we can identify with our children the better we can empathize and connect with them.
I plan to share the other seven indicators in follow-up posts. But to get my list of affirmations corresponding to all seven indicators of an orphan heart now, click the button below. Also, I’d love to hear about your experience using the affirmations! Get the Orphan Heart Affirmations list with the blue button below.
Many of the challenges that plague children are the result of low self-esteem. Teenage pregnancy, drug usage, poor grades, fighting, depression, and even suicide can be the result of low self-esteem. A child with high self-esteem will enjoy life more and have a more successful childhood. Children with high self-esteem are likely to grow into adults with high self-esteem.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
Genesis 1:27 ESV
Grow your child’s self-esteem and confidence with the following tips:
A is for Attention:
Draw attention to your child’s strengths. Notice the natural talents that God has created in them. Let your child bask in the glory of being good at something. Whether your child’s strength is in school, throwing a fastball, or playing Go Fish, let them know that you notice how great they are at it. It doesn’t need to be elaborate praise, either. Sometimes praise will backfire because the child may feel uncomfortable with much praise or may not interpret it as sincere. Even just an acknowledgement that you notice them and their efforts may be most appropriate. Excessive praise may backfire if your child internalizes it as pressure.
B is for Bounce:
Teach your child how to bounce back from failure. Explain that it happens to everyone and is part of life. Help your child to examine what went wrong in her approach and how to improve. Encourage your child to be persistent until success is achieved. Encourage experimentation, trial and error.
C is for Choices:
Give your child choices. Flexibility within boundaries. Options without overwhelm. Suppose your young child is getting dressed for school. Instead of choosing the clothes for your child you might allow him to have a few options that are suitable. Choose a few different outfits and then allow your child to choose between them. You’ll have a well-dressed kid that feels empowered because he chose his own clothes.
There are countless opportunities to make your child feel better or worse about himself. If the above tips were helpful, you can get a list of all ten of my tips with the button below.
You CAN help improve your child’s self-confidence.
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