Category

Blog

Why Lie?

By | Blog, Parenting, Wisdom

While nearly everyone lies, few understand why they do, how destructive it can be, or how to stop. Because the human imagination is limitless, no list can possibly encompass all the reasons people lie. However, Drs. Kittle and Reed have reviewed research on lying and complied a list of various reasons:

  • To avoid punishment.
  • To avoid shame, embarrassment, and being judged.
  • To avoid conflict.
  • For material gain, such as reward or sales. A child says she has done her homework, so she can go play with friends. While trying to get the best price when buying a home/car, the buyer tells the seller a certain amount is the highest they can afford. A salesperson tells you, “That fits you well” when it is too small.
  • To maintain or improve self-esteem. These lies are often told by people with low self-esteem, who experience a sense of failure and inferiority. They feel insecure and often lie because they want to try to fit in, or to try to get others’ attention, interest or admiration.
  • To preserve independence. Kids keep some secrets from their parents because they do not want them to know everything.
  • To create a sense of identity. People may feel more comfortable in a set role or identity, so they lie in order to be seen or treated in a certain way. This reason can be either unhealthy (pathological and manipulative) or relatively healthy. Professionals (e.g., teachers, doctors, counselors, etc.) need to behave a certain way so that people seeking their services will think they are competent and successful. Lying to make oneself look good on their resume (called “resume inflation”) or during a job interview is particularly common.
  • As a wish fulfillment. A child says, “We went to Disney World over the summer” because the child wanted to go to Disney World, wishes they had, and thinks if people believe we did, maybe that is good enough.
  • To assist self-deception. These lies are told to avoid confronting some painful truths about ourselves. Those who struggle to take responsibility for their own actions lie to protect themselves from facing some hard truths and to avoid accepting blame. Some people blame needing to work rather than admit they do not do well at social events. Your neighbors might choose to go on vacation after you had a huge falling out and say it is because they love to travel. A thief who justifies stealing only from rich people who do not give to the poor. An alcoholic who is self-deceived in believing that his drinking is under control. A girl who convinces herself that her boyfriend loves her even though he has told her repeatedly that he wants to break up. Lying to oneself is one of the most harmful types of deception and automatically leads to lying to others.
  • To obtain a sense of power. Some people experience a feeling of power from telling a lie and getting away with it. People may also lie to prove a point or to try to change someone else’s opinion because it makes them feel more powerful. The additional problem with these lies is that people can form a disconnect between reality and fantasy.
  • For the amusement of fooling someone. Unlike genuine humor, the practical joke can contain a bullying component.
  • To be aggressive and deliberately hurt someone.
  • To control or influence the behavior of others. Some people lie to pursue their own needs and wishes and, at times, the needs and wishes of others. This form of lying is manipulation.
  • To protect our own resources. Most people highly value their time, energy, and money, often feeling like they do not have enough. These lies are told to avoid doing something they do not want to do, but they do not feel comfortable admitting it. These lies may be told to protect others’ feelings, to avoid conflict, to avoid being judged, or to self-deceive, but ultimately the purpose is to protect their time, energy, and money.  Saying you “have to” get off the phone with someone, when really you “want to” get off the phone.
  • To protect or to please others. People like to be told what they want to hear, and this is usually determined by local culture. You say you are fine, rather than disclosing a serious illness because you do not want others to worry about you. You lie to try to hide the fact that the person you are talking to smells bad. We often lie to protect our friends’ and family’s feelings such as when we’re asked if we like a gift, haircut, outfit, writing, or a performance. Some might provide an alibi or commit perjury. Children often lie to their parents because they think telling their parents what they want to hear will make them happier than telling them they failed to live up to their parents’ expectations.

Look for tips on how to respond more effectively to lying in Dr. Reed’s upcoming September 2018 blog post: “From Lying to Honesty.”

Education Challenges

By | Blog, Challenges, Wisdom

In our research, the majority of older adopted children struggle in some area of education regardless of their home country. Honestly, this finding was surprising. I assumed those children adopted from other countries would struggle due to the language and educational differences. And they do. However, we found kids adopted through foster care struggled as well. Many experienced a variety of moves and school changes. Since every school tailors their curriculum to their school (within state and federal requirements), kids may have missed concepts when they change schools. Perhaps one school introduces multiplication in second grade while another waits until third grade. If a child changes schools between these years, they miss out on vital teaching.

In no way am I advocating that every school teach exactly the same curriculum at the same time, each school has its unique culture. They should have the freedom and flexibility to reflect their school’s community. However, changing schools can bring interruptions in learning for kids.

Kids in care tend to have holes in their education. It may be in social studies, math, science, reading, or writing. Really, it can be in more areas than academics. My daughter had been home almost two years and in high school when I discovered she had never been taught the order of the months of the year. She knew the month names, but she never knew what order they came in. I assumed she knew since it was something often taught in preschool or kindergarten, but she had never been exposed to it before.

Often kids in care “slip through the cracks.” Perhaps the child never had appropriate educational support at home and entered care at an older age. Maybe the child was not at one school long enough (or often enough) for teachers to discover a learning disability. Consequently, the child can go years without diagnosis and intervention causing further educational delays.

Difficulty or lack of understanding can often lead to lack of interest in learning. Some kids refuse to learn because they are embarrassed they do not understand. No one likes to feel dumb and sometimes a refusal has more to do with feeling inadequate than being unwilling.

How can parents help their kids?

  • Ask yourself if this is “can’t” or “won’t”. Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between (and do not be surprised if it is a little of both). Assuming “can’t” will help you have more understanding and patience for your child. Then remind yourself often that they cannot.
  • Talk with their teachers. Ask if they suspect learning challenges. Ask what areas where they believe your child needs the most help. Select a place to begin. Do not try to address everything at once. It will simply overwhelm you and your child which can lead to more frustration for everyone.
  • Encourage your child. They are probably as frustrated with their educational experience as you are. If they put forth the best effort they can do right now, celebrate that. Tell them you notice they are trying. Acknowledge the extra time they spent studying whether the grade reflects it or not. Encourage even small progress.
  • Breathe deep. Probably the best advice shared with me was from a mom who had adopted several older children. She learned early on in older child adoption to repeat: “my child’s behavior is not a reflection of me.” When we do not take on our child’s behavior as ours, we do not respond in embarrassment and frustration. We can want the very best for our kids, but they still have to do their part. And sometimes we need to adjust our expectations for ourselves and our kids.

Staying calm is key to helping our kids push through educational challenges to find a solution.

Kids Parenting Kids

By | Blog, Challenges, Wisdom

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.

Parenting Survival Guide

By | Blog, Parenting, Resources, Wisdom

School is almost out. For some, it is an exciting time of getting to spend time with their children who are at school all day. Maybe it means having donuts for breakfast regularly! (No? Yeah, us either.) For others, it brings feelings of stress and dread due to behaviors they now must deal with during the day and the evening.

If you are focusing on simply “surviving” the summer, check out this brief guide. It contains helpful reminders which can help change your outlook in moments of frustration. It is printable so you can post in a place so you can refer to it often! And trust me, you will never look at a donut the same way!

Parents Survival Guide by Dr. Kelly Reed

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.

Praise and Encouragement

By | Blog, Parenting, Wisdom

Many adults use praise (e.g., “Good job.” “Nice work.” “Beautiful.”) profusely because they believe it is an effective way to help children feel good about themselves and their work. Although well-intentioned, praise has been shown through research and practice to invite comparison and competition as well as to increase children’s dependence on adults to solve problems and to evaluate what is right, wrong, good, or bad for them.

Praise such as “I like the way Johnny is sitting” has been used as a management tool to get children ready to settle down and focus. However, praising one child to get others to conform can be damaging because children usually resent being manipulated in this way. The implied comparison can encourage others to feel competitive or insecure. Some praise may set up even the most capable children for failure. No child can “always” be good or nice or smart. Consequently, to avoid negative evaluations, children may tend not to take choices or try difficult tasks.

Praise (e.g., “That’s a beautiful picture.” “Your project is awesome.”) judges a child’s abilities and self-worth. It tells the child what YOU think about his or her abilities. It teaches the child to value him/herself based upon other’s positive and negative comments. If the child can make a beautiful picture or awesome project, then the child can also make a picture or project that displeases you. Too much praise can make children anxious about their abilities, discourage them to take risks and try new things, leave them unsure of how to evaluate their own efforts, have a negative effect on self-image, and can place them on the defensive. Moreover, if all your evaluations are positive, your child may doubt your authenticity and question how trustworthy you might be. Therefore, praise is not conducive to self-motivation, self-reliance, self-direction, or self-control. You want your child to feel good about him/herself regardless of others’ evaluation, praise, and approval.

Encouragement refers to a positive acknowledgment response that focuses on your child’s efforts or specific attributes of work he/she completed. Unlike praise, encouragement does not place judgment on the child’s work. An encouraging response (e.g., “You worked hard on that picture/project.”) acknowledges the child’s effort. This type of response helps a child learn to give credit to him/herself and to appreciate his/her own abilities. This child will learn to become self-motivated and will not formulate ideas about self-concept solely based upon other’s evaluation.

Let’s say your child cooks dinner, hands you a plate, and asks, “How do you like it?” A praise response is “This dinner is delicious!” This response evaluates and judges your child’s performance. It encourages your child to be motivated by your comments and praise. (And what if the dinner was terrible!?!) An encouraging response (while showing admiration in your tone) such as, “You worked hard making this dinner,” or “You were able to make an entire meal all on your own,” focuses on your child’s work and effort. Comments that acknowledge time, effort, and the child’s hard work can be internalized (e.g., “‘I’ worked hard on this project.”). Again, we want children to become self-motivated instead of relying on praise from others. And if you have other children, encouraging responses can lessen competition (e.g., who can cook the most delicious meal, etc.). Asking open-ended questions, such as “Would you like to tell me about your project?” or “What was it like cooking this meal?” or “What was it like cooking for us tonight?” or “How did you make ___?”, can initiate a dialogue in which your child is the expert on his/her own work. The process should always be more important than the product. Encouraging children to describe their activities stimulates the process of reflective thinking. It can also help children contemplate and describe what they have made or done. Children can recall the high and low points of their experiences and the problems encountered and solved. They become more aware of their own thinking and problem solving and more able to appreciate and evaluate their own experiences and achievements.

Instead of “Good job,” you could say, “(Child’s name), this is the first time I’ve seen you put that puzzle together. You stayed focused on it for a long time to get it completed.” Specific statements like these have the added advantage of being conversation-starters. Praise statements on the other hand, often diminish conversation. A statement like “Good work, (child’s name)!” can communicate the message that the conversation has ended and the child is dismissed.

Children will thrive in environments where they do not fear being evaluated, where they can make mistakes and learn from them, and where they do not need to always strive to meet someone else’s standard of excellence. Adults who create an environment in which children can make mistakes without being evaluated or judged are helping children learn how to value themselves and their work and to be self-reliant. It might take some time and practice to effectively apply alternatives to praise; however, you will soon see the results of your efforts – your children will be more independent, self-confident, and cooperative.

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.

The Importance of Allowing our Children to Struggle

By | Blog, Challenges, Parenting, Wisdom

Providing children with love and unconditional acceptance is important to helping them develop a positive view of “self”. However, it is equally important to their positive view of self to help them feel competent and capable. Allowing your child to experience what is it like to discover, figure-out, and problem-solve is the first step toward helping your child to feel competent and capable. When you allow your child to struggle with a problem (all while providing encouragement with phrases such as, “You’re determined to figure it out” or “You’ve got a plan for how…” or “You’re not giving up”) you are showing your child that you have faith in his/her capabilities. Your faith in your child’s capabilities also encourages your child to have faith in him/herself.

For most parents, allowing children to struggle is difficult. However, it is necessary for children to truly feel capable. Most parents do too much for their children and as a result their children have learned to depend on their parents to solve their problems, often believing they cannot do it themselves. When you step in to help or rescue your child, you rob your child of the joy of discovery and the opportunity to feel competent. You will never know what your child is capable of, unless you allow him/her to try! It might take a lot of practice in how to return responsibility to your child to do things he/she is capable of figuring out for him/herself. Using phrases like, “That’s something you can do” or “You get to decide” can be helpful. Returning responsibility to your child will help your child learn to no longer depend on you to solve most of his/her problems. To help illustrate the importance of struggle and self-discovery, I would like to share with you “The Story of the Butterfly.”

A man found the cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could not go any farther.

The man felt sympathetic on seeing the butterfly struggle so much. He decided to help it. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily.

But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings.

It was never able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it became free from the cocoon. (Author Unknown).

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives in order to fly (i.e., to grow and reach a higher potential). Learning to respond to your child in ways that gives your child credit for his/her ideas, efforts, and accomplishments, without praising him/her (e.g., You figured it out! You did it! rather than “You’re so good.”), will help your child develop a positive view of self as capable and competent. Our book has a section on praise and encouragement, and Kelly will discuss more on the topic in her next blog.

 

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!