Emotional Alarm System

Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

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.

Internal GPS

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 (not even 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.

Enemy Under Your Roof

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.


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Feeling Like No-one Really Cares

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.

Steps to Self-Esteem, Simple as A – B – C

Could your child have low self-esteem?

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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Pray. Plan ahead. Be proactive.

Life Lessons from Baby Shark

Life Lessons from Baby Shark

What makes Baby Shark so catchy? It’s a children’s song and a top 40 hit that appeals to kids and adults around the world. It has spawned dozens of variations and its own line of toys. It’s been viewed more than one and a half billion times on YouTube.

By now, you’ve probably seen the video regardless of whether you have any small children at home. Maybe you’ve even danced along as the family of sharks goes hunting and cheered for the happy ending where everyone winds up safe.

Besides the FUN factor, there’s plenty of unpredictable “magic” behind any internet sensation. However, you can tap into some of the ingredients that make these little sharks such a success, starting with these 3 basic principles.

The Value of Simplicity

The song is only 1 or 2 minutes long, and most of the lyrics consist of repeating the sound DO.

 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:33 (ESV)

Seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness first and foremost, what could be simpler than that!? We tend to stress, strive and strategize over so many other things. But putting first things first – – prioritizing God in our every day living is the number one way to simplify your life.

Free up your time, save money, and reduce stress by getting down to basics.

Use these strategies to simplify your life & model simplicity to others:

  1. Buy only what you need. Studies show that experiences rather than possessions contribute more to happiness. Develop a hobby instead of shopping for entertainment.

  2. Clear away clutter. Take a look at the possessions you already have. Put aside things you can donate or sell. Owning less stuff means less time spent cleaning and maintaining it.

  3. Be mindful. Forget about multitasking. Instead, focus on doing one thing at a time. You’ll experience less stress and the quality of your work will increase.

  4. Give thanks. Appreciate what you have rather than longing for more. Make a list of the things you’re grateful for.

  5. Set priorities. Your values and beliefs are foundational to making choices for living a meaningful life. Schedule your time so that you put God first, and allocate the rest of your time and your other resources where he leads.

The Importance of Family

Baby shark sticks close to his parents and grandparents. The quality of your relationships plays a big part in determining how happy and productive you are. Put the time and effort into building and maintaining quality relationships, remembering to put your relationship with God first and foremost. Always give space for the other person whether your spouse, child or someone else in your life to start fresh and reconnect. You may know you aren’t holding any grudges, but do they still feel a disconnect? Let them know that even after a blow up, your relationship is on solid ground.

Try these techniques to strengthen your family bonds:

  1. Talk more. Listen closely to each other. Describe your dreams and express your feelings. Help each other to feel valued and understood.

  2. Eat family dinners. Sit around the same table for a meal at least once a week. If dinner is difficult to coordinate, make it breakfast or lunch.

  3. Spend one on one time. In addition to family outings, plan activities that you can do separately with each child and your partner. You’ll create a closer connection and lasting memories.

  4. Share decision making. Giving each family member a voice in the process increases the enthusiasm for working towards shared goals. Vote on where to go for your next vacation. Let your child decide which homework assignment to complete first.

The Power of Repetition

Major accomplishments usually require many small actions. Repetition helps important lessons to sink in.

Follow these steps to make small changes with big results:

  1. Clarify your thinking. Even when a subject seems basic, reviewing the matter may deepen your understanding or reveal new facets. You could wind up with a stronger business plan or a scarier shark costume.

  2. Pick up new skills. Expertise is usually developed through extensive practice. Persistence and patience pay off.

  3. Form positive habits. It’s easier to make constructive choices when you make the process automatic. After a month of jogging each morning, it will seem like the natural thing to do.

Baby Shark is so much fun that it will make you feel safe to go back in the water. Let this children’s song inspire you to simplify your life and create your own happy endings.

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Pillow Presents

This is a photo of a pillow in my home office comfy chair. The Curious George pillow, lumpy and bumpy as it may be, is special to me. It was made (by my daughter) from a shirt that my youngest son had worn a lot. I didn’t want to get rid of it when he finally outgrew it. We felt like it was very fitting for him as he seemed so much like the famous little lmonkey character!

On this Mother’s Day Sunday I wanted to share an idea with those of you who have younger children (or even some older kids). They may require “help” in getting a present ready for next Mother’s Day (birthday or Christmas).

You can plan ahead over the course of the next few months or so and notice when your child outgrows a special shirt! You might suggest to him/her that you would like it and ask if they mind if you make it into a pillow and see their reaction.

Your child might be old enough and motivated to get in on the pillow project or even make it themself. If not, you could make it and let them give you the finished product.

For the how-tos just do a Google or Pinterest search for instructions.

Basically just trim the body into a square/rectangle shape (circles are trickier and would definitely require a pillow form) leaving enough fabric to form the sides and seams. Sew your seams inside out leaving enough open space to stuff with pillow stuffing or insert a pillow form to fit. Then turn right side out, stuff and stitch closed. And there you have it! Your keepsake pillow gift.

What do you think? Is this the type of keepsake that appeals to you? Do you think it might be meaningful to your child/children?

I do not tend to be very sentimental about things. There are just a handful. That’s probably a good thing with certain rabble rousing children. The idea of cherishing items from my children’s growing up years may not mean much to them right now. But hopefully in time it will be additional evidence that I love and cherish them.

Mother’s Day can be hard. It was hard today. But I was not surprised. I maintained my calm. Mostly. Lowering the pressure on ourselves and on the rest of the family to make Mother’s Day or any other holiday a picture perfect event can help.

My youngest daughter (whom I have had some extreme relational struggles with) had volunteered to make peach ice cream for Mother’s Day. I strategically waited until yesterday evening to take her to get the ingredients when it would be just me and her and not a regular grocery shopping trip. But the local grocery stores did not have fresh peaches yet and the produce stands were closed for the day. Yikes! But calm prevailed. I got up early and drove about 30 minutes away to “Peach Park” where I knew they would have fresh peaches. It was very much worth it in more ways than one! (Yum!)

Your child might be old enough and motivated to get in on the pillow project or even make it themself. If not, you could make it and let them give you the finished product. Helping them to participate in a way that says “we’re family” can dislodge another brick in the walls of resistance to relationship that may have been built as a result of trauma. There were some small (but huge!) Connections made today that could have been easily overshadowed if we had tried to pull off a larger event (that would likely have been an epic fail).

How about you? Do you have any helpful strategies for lowering the stress levels for holidays and events? Post them in the comments.

Is Your Child ELASTIC?

We know that something that’s elastic like a rubber band will, when stretched, return back to its normal state afterward.  That is the very nature of being elastic, the tendency to return to a normal state of being.  But what does that have to do with my child you may ask (?).

A securely attached child would feel uneasy and tend to seek to return to normal, having had a conflict with their parent, such as a reprimand or correction, a difference of opinion, a blow-up over a misunderstanding or disappointment over unmet or misplaced expectations perhaps.  This child might initiate an apology or “get over” a sour attitude and re-join family activities after a short time of sulking and re-grouping.  They may approach the parent for comfort and get assurance that the parent-child relationship is still intact.

The actual term is to “re-attune”.  I think of a piano out of tune that needs to be tuned in order to have the keys sound the correct notes when played, so the music is pleasant to the ear.

But if our children are NOT securely attached, they may not re-attune very readily and may tend instead to stay stuck in an out-of-tune position.  An ingrained fear of adults can keep them from seeking out reconnection like a limp rubber band that’s lost its elasticity.

“As our children are often fearful of adults and may have had negative experiences, it is almost impossible for them to ‘re-attune” to the parent following an incident” says Sarah Naish in The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting:  Strategies and Solutions.

She adds,

“A child who is fearful of adults, or overwhelmed with shame, is entirely unable to make the first move and will remain stuck, defensive and sad.”

This causes me to pause and recognize what big steps there have been for a couple of my children to initiate apologies recently, and to recognize that their steps of reconnecting, though they may look minor on the outside, are really so huge for them!

Recognizing this, I’d love to grab them up and bear hug them.  For one it would be ok perhaps – – except he’s asleep now and would jump out of his skin if startled!  For the other, it would push her away.  Note to self: Tread lightly, mama – – I am still learning!

I have to keep telling myself, it’s not about me.  It really isn’t.  It’s not about you, either.  They may not even understand it either.  But sometimes we may represent all the adults that have ever hurt them previously, and their brains just cannot – –  in that moment – – discern that we are safe.

But we can wait.  We can wait until their brains catch up and catch on.  Because that’s what we do as parents who love our children even when it’s hard.  Even when they don’t understand it or don’t believe it.

And with God, we can be patient and wait it out because we know that God is working it all out for good.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose”  Romans 8:28

Comment and let me know if this is something that you deal with in your family.  I’d love to hear any tips you have for reconnecting and keeping the door of invitation open to re-attuning with your children.