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Dr. Kris Kittle

Kids Parenting Kids

By | Blog, Challenges, Wisdom | No Comments

Sometimes when you read an article or a book, it changes your life. Maybe the reading speaks in a spiritual way that brings about change. Other times, it brings enlightenment about something unexplained. This article (When Kids Have to Act Like Parents) brought enlightenment for me.

I absolutely realize that early trauma changes the formation of the brain. However, I think many social workers and parents have always lumped a child having to parent other children (whether siblings or younger children at an orphanage) as early trauma. I know that I have. And it is. However, researching it in isolation can be beneficial as well. This article solely looks at parentified kids (kids with the responsibility to parent someone else) and the effects into adulthood.

The article has caused to me to rethink the long-term impact of kids parenting others. Take a few minutes to read it. You may find it help clarify one aspect of “why” behind behaviors you have seen in yourself or your child.

Loving your Child

By | Blog, Challenges, Parenting, Wisdom

This blog post was originally published as a guest blog post on WACAP Now Blog

Those who choose older child adoption face many unique challenges.  Many of the challenges are openly discussed in an attempt to obtain wisdom in how to address them. However, one of the most common challenges is not feeling love for your child, yet it is a topic rarely discussed. Few parents willingly admit they do not feel love for their child; those who do often receive judgment from others.

Admitting you do not feel love for your child is perceived as unacceptable because it runs counter to human nature so why do so many experience it? There are likely a variety of reasons; but consider this: when an infant or young toddler joins your family, you see the sweet smile that melts your heart. You hear the contagious baby giggle. You know how much this treasured baby depends on you for care and comfort. When that cherished baby becomes a preteen, who begins to exude an attitude, you know that sweet, precious baby you remember is tucked behind the challenging exterior. However, when you bring your child home as a preteen (or older), you do not have memories of the sweet, precious baby. You see only the tough exterior and you are not sure what is underneath. Often, it is difficult to look past the exterior to that hurt child hiding deep inside.

How can parents love their child when they lack the gushy loving feelings?

1. Set Realistic Expectations.

    Would you marry a complete stranger and expect to feel immediately emotionally connected to that person? No, of course not. Yet, older child adoption is similar: you are coming to a relationship with a complete stranger who has their own experiences, personality, and likes and dislikes. Yet as their parent, you are expected to feel emotional love for them from the start. It can come, but it often takes time to feel that love. It will take time for your child to feel love for you, too. And they may never feel love for you. You have to accept that loving your child is not about what they do (or don’t do), but who they are as your child.

2. Love is an Action, not a Feeling.

    One dad I interviewed shared, “Love is what you do, what you say, and how you interact with your child.” You can express love to them by meeting their needs. You can show love by giving sincere, authentic praise every day (even if you have to look really hard to find something praise worthy). You can show love through service such as teaching them skills like how to cook, how to sort laundry, how to manage money, etc. You can show affectionate touch by giving hugs, pats on the back, fist bumps, and high fives. Or spend quality time with your child listening to them and doing activities together that your child enjoys.

3. Take Care of Yourself.

    It is hard to help others when you have already given everything within you, and you feel dry. Parched. Out of energy. Done. As parents, it is so easy to get caught up in the needs of our children (or family in general) that we neglect taking care of us. However, you cannot pour from an empty cup; airline attendants tell us to put on our oxygen mask before assisting others. We need to change the narrative that taking time to care for our self is selfish (although too much of a good thing is not good either). Many parents struggle to find enjoyable things that help them feel refreshed. Consider different types of activities that you have tried or want to try; but if you are still unsure of what works for you, consider activities in these categories: reflective (i.e. meditation or positive self-talk), calming (i.e. reading or spending time in nature), physical (i.e. exercise), creative (i.e. hand crafts or coloring), and social (i.e. join a new group or go to a movie). There are many ideas within each category so search the internet for additional ideas. Do not be afraid to try new ideas. Keep track of what works for you as well as what does not. Make sure what you select is beneficial and not detrimental (i.e. over working, over eating, or drinking alcohol in excess). If taking time for yourself seems difficult, start with small increments of time and gradually increase it. Find what works best for you to take care of you.

Setting realistic expectations for yourself (and your child), acting out love by meeting your child’s needs (even when you do not feel like it), and making sure you have energy to give are vital for you and your child. If one day (or week) is really hard or unsuccessful, give yourself grace, recommit to showing love to your child, and purposefully act. It can be hard, but you, your child, and your family are worth the effort.

Ending an Adoption

By | Blog, Challenges, Parenting, Wisdom

Are you or someone you know needing to find a new home for an adopted child?  Perhaps they are considering disrupting their adoption (or ending their adoption) or “re-homing” their child. Re-homing refers to families finding new homes for their adoptive children often without the help of adoption agencies or some other child welfare organization authorized to ensure the new placement will be a healthy environment for the child (many states have laws against this practice). Yet another term is “second adoption” or “second chance adoption.”  These refer to finding new families to adopt the child after the first adoptive family decides they are unable to parent the child.

Of the families in our study, we had two families who had disrupted prior to talking with us and two who found new families for their children in the midst of the study.  Here is some advice from families who have been there:

  • Disrupting is a decision that should not be taken lightly. You may regret doing it when things settle down.
  • Try therapy before pursuing finding a new family. Look for a therapist who is familiar with adoption. You may have to try a couple before you find the right fit. Keep trying, don’t give up! You will find the best therapist for you and your family. Therapy is not going to bring change in just a few sessions, but it can provide glimmers of light in the darkness.
  • Do NOT find a new family for your child via social media groups or boards. Not only is this not helpful for you or your child, it is illegal in many states.
  • Contact your agency. If your agency cannot or will not help you, contact another agency that places older children to see if they can help you by either reaching out to your agency or potentially help you find a new family. Stay persistent. It may not be quick, but it will be the safest way to place your child in a new home.
  • If you need an immediately break, consider finding respite. Many adoption agencies have families who provide respite by individuals and couples who have been background checked, home study approved, and educated that you could consider.

You want the new environment to truly be better for your child and not another stop on the journey.  Working with an agency means the new family has been assessed by a professional to determine their ability to parent your child. These assessments may mean your child is in a safer environment than one you select yourself. An agency is going to help you find some relief so you can make the best decision for your child and your family after your emotions in the moment have diminished.

Finding a new home for your child should be considered only after all other resources have been exhausted. Find a therapist for yourself who can help you navigate your options and your emotions.

New Book Released!

By | Blog

We are excited to announce that our book, Wisdom from Adoptive Families: Joys and Challenges in Older Child Adoption was released a few days early!

Here are what some of the reviewers have said about Wisdom from Adoptive Families:

“This is a much needed resource! Anyone who has adopted an older child or is considering the possibility can learn from these insights and real-life examples. The authors understand the specific needs of older children and how their histories have impacted their current needs and behaviors. They grasp the relationship between trauma and brain chemistry while also conveying the hope that deep healing is possible when parents are both equipped and supported. Because attachment is developmental, this book offers practical ideas for connecting with older children with consideration to unique challenges that were learned survival skills. I admire Dr. Kittle and Dr. Reed for their own wisdom and compassion in tackling this subject. After reading this book, I hope parents are able to see beyond behaviors to their child’s needs and preciousness.” -Terri Coley, Post-Adoption Coordinator at Show Hope

“Wisdom from Adoptive Families is a ‘must read’ for anyone considering or currently parenting adopted youth as well as friends, family, counselors, and others in their support network. Parents who have experienced this journey share their stories with refreshingly raw honesty, and the authors’ practical tips will surely ease the transition of older children into their new families.” -Sheri Parris, PhD, Research Scientist with the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development
ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY!

 

Take a Peek INSIDE our NEW BOOK!

By | Blog, Wisdom

Dr. Kris recently had the opportunity to talk with Melissa at The Cork Board about our new book, Wisdom from Adoptive Families: Joys and Challenges in Older Child Adoption. Take a listen to part one where they discuss some of the things we learned from our participants and shared in the book. In part two, they talked a little more about topics covered in the book, but they looked ahead to what is next for Dr. Kris.

Melissa is an adoptive mom who adopted three unrelated older children from Ethiopia. They discussed topics discussed in the book as well as a few findings from the book. They even discussed some ideas the book offers parents!

It is a great opportunity to get a sneak peek on the book and some of the topics covered!

Creating Family Connection

By | Blog

Finding and taking opportunities to foster family connection after your new child comes home can be challenging.

Perhaps there are language differences between you and your new child. Or maybe some of your family members are not excited about participating. How can you create opportunities for family connection? First, capitalize on the fact that connection often happens around food. Be sure to serve snacks or incorporate some fun at meal time.

Here are a few ideas for family fun:

  • Find a family yoga class on YouTube and have everyone participate
  • Play a current (or past) favorite board game (even preschool games can create laughs)
  • Complete a family craft (every makes their own or the family creates something together)
  • Play a card game (such as Uno, Crazy 8, Old Maid, Go Fish, War, Rummy, etc.)
  • Play family charades
  • Read aloud a book while the family listens together
  • Select play system games for groups (such as bowling, MySims Party for Nintendo Wii, Wii Party, Just Dance, Carnival Games, Family Game Nights, etc.)
  • Musical chairs
  • Complete Mad Libs with various family members providing words to the story

Check out this website’s list of simple ideas that are sure to provide family giggles: https://www.buzzfeed.com/mallorymcinnis/20-insanely-simple-party-games-to-entertain-your-whole-famil?utm_term=.uyQ1LgzXm#.ewWEyLQ85

Wisdom from Adoptive Families: Joys and Challenges in Older Child Adoption has many additional ideas to facilitate family connection. Also check out the Resources tab where you will find a list of game websites.