Tag Archives: adoptive parents

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.

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.

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.

Mom, this is for you.

 

I want to express a few thoughts and see if they resonate with any of you.

You may know that within our family we have special needs, attachment disorder (and reactive attachment disorder which is the upper end of that spectrum) mental health issues in addition to that; language delays, social delays; just all these special needs type things going on, and Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) and OCD , ADHD — and more alphabet soup!

What’s a mom to do!? I’ve learned that if you are all wrapped up in the family, the children, their special needs, and the relationships that attachment disorder has really put a negative spin on (with multiple kids and family members!) then it can really put you in a rotten space. If you have your own identity all wrapped up in the nature of being a parent of the alphabet soup, special needs, chronic illness and all that goes along with attachment issues that is.

The children are growing up and trying to forge their own identities. Some have additional issues with identity — identity crises — because of their past.

Now think about the parents. Moms in particular (and dads, I am not trying to exclude you but you know, I can relate most to moms).

What about your identity?

Your identity cannot continue to be wrapped up in the relationships and in the roles that you have — the roles that are changing — the roles that are up one day and down the next — the roller coaster ride that is this life, without some real damage, without losing yourself, without losing your own identity.

So, you MUST regain and/or hold onto your identity in Christ.

Your identity as God’s child.

Your identity as someone of value and intellect and purpose.

You can hold on to your true identity:

Whether or not a particular relationship goes haywire;

whether or not a particular illness continues or gets worse;

whether or not you have to deal with a mental health crisis that day;

whether or not behavioral issues pop up;

And whether or not other people judge you as someone who should handle things differently than you do, or should parent differently than you do, or is even the cause of some of the behaviors or issues with your children.

And so, who are we doing this for? Are we really just doing it for ourselves? No.

For our children? Yes! But not just for them.

If you are like me, then you agree we are really doing it for God.

And for our love of God.

And in obedience to God.

So we do it for our kids – yes, but as God gives us love and loves our children and our families through us he gives us the ability desire. And HE is the one we are really doing it all for!

He knows your heart.

He knows it all.

He knows these children.

He knows their background and he knows their needs. And furthermore, God is able to take them, continue to work on them, and maybe do it through you or maybe through other people or other ways. So it’s not all on your shoulders. Put it back on his, where it belongs.

That’s all of my rambling thoughts. I hope you ae encouraged. If you are, feel free to share and follow Yesterday’s Orphan for more.

Rage Against Love

So WHO exactly are we fighting? ?

The post-adoptive home can sometimes feel like an ongoing war, like you have to PROVE yourself as parent. (Did anybody ever really doubt that you were the rightful parent of your biological children?)  It’s one thing for a legal decree, for a declaration of undying love and commitment, for being there for daily routines, ups and downs, and all that goes with parenting and loving your child, but somewhere deep in the mind of two of mine, they have a deep-seated belief that I am not their mom.

How do I know? Aside from the verbal screaming in hateful voices “You are NOT my MOM!!!” and “I HATE YOU!!”  along with other similar endearments (insert sarcasm), my training, research and counseling on Reactive Attachment Disorder.  Plus it’s not just a passing phase or exaggerated in the moment push button thing.  It doesn’t go away, just maybe hides under the surface a bit.  Not every adopted or foster child develops R.A.D, thankfully, but it is a REAL condition.

Things to Learn & Do Right Away

If you have a child in your life who may have Reactive Attachment Disorder, I recommend doing your own due diligence to familiarize yourself with not just the basics, but the practical outworkings and recommendations for steps and strategies to deal with the effects on the attachment disordered child AND the people closest to them who may at any time become a target.  And realize that the child may appear VERY different with different people.  Moms are primary targets in general, but it can also be dads if dad is the primary caretaker/nurturer.

Boundaries are important, and implementing boundaries BEFORE they are crossed takes some forethought.  It is a lot easier to loosen stricter boundaries when appropriate than to tighten them when things get out of hand.

Respite care?  Yes that would be nice.  Unfortunately, it is not until the stress has mounted or a crisis ensued that it becomes urgent.  And if the children are not well-behaved it is a big chore for parents to arrange for regular time apart, for the child/children to be cared for by someone else who may not comprehend all their different needs or issues.

Long Range View & Goals

I recommend a long term view, learning what you can, plugging into a support group and doing the work to set up respite care with regular visits in non-crisis times so that it is available when you most need it.  Plan for the worst; hope for the best; don’t be caught off guard.

In addition, I recommend intentional self-care, marriage care and keeping separate time with the child’s siblings on a frequent, regular basis, not letting their issues dominated the household.

Fighting against the child, spouse, friends and extended family?  Teachers, neighbors?  Legal issues?  All of these are all too common in the adoption community.

Adoptive parents as you recall jump through many, many hoops to get through the process and so the bulk of them are not going to just be “bad” parents.  Sadly, there is not a lot of support for raising an attachment disordered child and keeping the family intact.

Truthful Perspective

To answer the question posed at the beginning of this post — Who are we fighting? — I’d like to suggest that while it may be anybody and everybody at times, primarily it is and should be recognized to be our mortal enemy, Satan, the father of lies.

1 Peter 5:8 tells us:  “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Satan lies to my kids and reinforces the lies that they have already believed.  Satan lies to parents telling us we are failures.  Satan lies to others who are looking for someone to blame and accusations fly.  Satan says you are not good enough and that you are not loved.

BUT GOD tells the TRUTH!  And I have to hang on to the truth to be able to survive, just as my children need the truth to believe they are loved and valuable and as much a part of my family as anyone else.  And that that is GOOD!

I have to know and hang on to the truth that I am GOD’S CHILD, and dearly loved and provided for by him, no matter the lies that I am told.  Through any difficulty, God is my strength. I don’t have all the answers, but I know who does!

As my children learn that they are loved by their earthly parents, my earnest desire is that it will help them be receptive to the belief that they are treasured and loved by their Heavenly Father.  I believe God can heal them so that they will be open to receiving and giving love without all the resistance they now have, due to the trauma they have endured.  Someday they will understand that even then, their loving Creator was sustaining them, and he has good plans for them and their future.

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Real life is often emotional and kid’s from hard places often have overwhelming emotions.  As a parent I want to help my children learn to use positive coping skills and give them tools to help.  There are some natural products we have begun using in our family that make a big difference in helping kids cope with overwhelming emotions, to manage and focus.  If you think it might be helpful for your family to learn more about these products feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to fill you in.