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When Adult Children Struggle

By | Blog, Challenges, Parenting, Wisdom | No Comments

I’ve noticed a common theme on social media lately: Our adult children are struggling. But parents are struggling, too. I do not have all the answers, but I’ve learned a few things in the last two years since my daughter launched.

Kids from hard places struggle more than kids with little trauma in their background.

All parents desire the very best for their children. We often want to make our children’s lives easier. It is why we’ve invested in a variety of extracurricular activities to help them discover their passions. It is why we encouraged years of therapy to help them heal. And it’s why we attend conferences and read books to better parent our children through their past trauma.

All of those are great tools. But I’ve realized something else, too.

Our kids have to choose.

Whether it is hard for them to choose healing because they can’t or because they won’t, they still have to choose. They have to choose to do the hard work to heal. They have to choose to attend therapy. They have to choose to face the past trauma. They have to choose to practice the techniques and use the tools. We cannot do the work for them (although don’t we wish we could?). It is their work to do.

So what can we do?

Pray. It seems the least active, but it truly is the most powerful. Pray for their healing. Pray for their protection. Pray they will make right choices. Pray that God would correct any wrong thinking (in them and in you). Pray that you will have the wisdom to know how best to help them.

Support. It means listening when they are sharing their hardship. It means saying “Wow. That sounds hard.” Or “Gosh, I’m sorry you experienced ___ (a difficulty in a relationship; losing your job; a hard day at work, etc.).” It means offering them a home cooked meal or bringing them a bag of groceries when they have little to eat. It may mean helping them pay their rent. But it might not mean giving them money. It might not mean letting them move back home. It might not mean solving their problems for them. And sometimes it may even mean not giving them advice.

Accept. It means accepting that there is only so much you can do to help your child heal. It means accepting your child may not change today, in the near future or ever. It means accepting that your child is not where you dream or desire them to be. It means accepting that when you have done your best your child’s behavior may still be embarrassing and bring judgment from others. It means accepting you cannot fix them; their behavior is not a reflection of your parenting. It means accepting them where they are, although it is hard to accept that they are not making different choices.

It is incredibly difficult to see our children make poor choices. It is hard to see them continue to make the same choices that cause them to struggle. It is hard not to want to fix it for them. But once our children become adults, our role has changed to one of acceptance and emotional support.

An Interview with Christa

By | Blog, Resources | No Comments

In honor of National Adoption month, we interviewed Christa Jordan from Spoonful of Jordan. We met Christa and her husband, Jonathan, at Tapestry Conference. Christa has written a workbook to help prospective adoptive families determine which type of adoption is best for their family. We hope you find this interview helpful.

Please tell us about yourself, and what experience you have with adoption or the adoption community?

Jonathan and I have been married for 9 years. I’m mama to our 6 year old son who came to our family through international adoption from Japan in 2014. Aside from being adoptive parents, we both have backgrounds in social work: I hold a BSW and Jonathan worked in foster care for 8 years. I’ve served the foster and adoption community in a variety of ways from mentoring to leading support groups for waiting families. My favorite job, however, is being stay-at-home mom and homeschooling our son! I love to write and process life through words so I started blogging before we began our adoption process. You’ll pretty much always find me with a cup of coffee in my hand and likely quoting something from Mary Poppins.

What led you to write the workbook Before You Adopt: A Guide to the Questions You Should Be Asking?

The workbook was born out of many conversations and what we wished we would have considered before adopting. Personally, we were the first in our circle who decided to grow our family through adoption. After we came home, I began getting connected to those interested in adoption or foster care through friends, my blog or social media. I started meeting with people and began asking the kinds of questions I included in the workbook. Over and over as I asked the hard questions, I would hear “I’ve never thought about that.” Additionally, I noticed a lack of practical education and preparation for families in the process. While trainings offered great stories, rarely did I see a holistic view or practical tools. Even though we that were really prepared for adoption, there were many things we struggled with or simply were not prepared for. I’ve watch many families walk through incredibly difficult things and feel some could have been prevented or less difficult with conversations had beforehand. But, you don’t know what you don’t know! I searched for a resource like this. When I could not find one, I decided to write it!

What would you like your readers to get from reading and utilizing this workbook?

I want readers to learn how to think holistically and outside of the box. Often people come to adoption or foster care without previous knowledge or experience. They don’t even know what they should be thinking about and working through, or asking professionals and preparing for. My goal was not to give all the answers. I believe there are ethical practices and general guidelines that everyone should know and follow, but there are so many variables on the journey. The journey is going to look different based on your past, preferences, beliefs and worldview. My hope is that people will feel more empowered and less overwhelmed by working through the workbook.

What do you think is most important for those considering the journey of adoption?

There are several things. First, if you are married, it is essential that your decision is 100 percent unified. I have seen so many couples come into this with one being passionate while the other is dragged along. That will not work. It won’t be good for the child or children who may be coming into your family, and it is certainly not good for your marriage either. I intentionally designed the workbook for each person to have a copy to work through the questions as individuals, then come back together to talk about your answers. You will quickly identify areas you need to discuss, do more research and ask for help. If you’re single, I encourage you to find someone you fully trust who will be an essential part of your support to be your sounding board on questions. Secondly, I think every prospective adoptive parents need to closely examine at their expectations and motivations. I believe it so important that I dedicated an entire section of the workbook about that.

What do you think makes a good book on adoption?

I think one that encourages you to look at the complexity of adoption and foster care. Carissa Woodwyk calls it the “both/and” which is my favorite phrase. If a book only gives the beauty and doesn’t address any of the loss or pain in adoption and foster care, that’s a problem. Likewise, if it’s addressing only the pain and not the beauty, healing and restoration, that’s also a problem. Both can be held together, simultaneously, and I think that is incredibly important. Another big thing to look for: is it honoring to all members of the triad (birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents)? It is important to know how the book is centered as it impacts the narrative.

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share?

I’m working on my second book which is scheduled to publish in January 2020! It is very different from my workbook. It is our story of how God has moved so many mountains in our lives from our marriage, to finances, and adoption. I’ve entitled it Moving Mountains, and I hope others will find it encouraging when in a difficult season.

If you are considering adoption (or know someone who is), we hope that you consider getting a copy of her workbook! You can find it here. It is a helpful resource.

Resources about Trauma for Teachers

By | Blog, Parenting, Resources, Wisdom

As parents we often struggle to help our child’s teacher understand the impact of trauma in the classroom. We try to share information we have learned. So we try to share articles and resources from professionals “with credentials” with teachers and administrators.

Some teachers and administrators gladly accept the knowledge we share while others are less enthusiastic. I always struggle walking the fine line between being forceful and strongly encouraging their understanding.

Last month on Facebook, I posted a variety of resources that can be shared with teachers about the impact of trauma on the classroom. Here are a few of my favorites:

How Trauma Affects Kids in School

Helping Traumatized Children Learn (includes video lectures from a professor about the impact of trauma)

This is a Student’s Brain on Trauma

10 Things about Childhood Trauma Every Teachers Needs to Know

Hopefully, the teachers and administrators you share these resources with will be receptive to the research and become aware of students’ needs! Tell us how your teachers and administrators responded! We’d love to hear from you.

Things to Consider when Looking for a Therapist

By | Blog, Challenges, Parenting, Resources, Wisdom

Finding a therapist with adoption experience – specifically older child adoption experience – who is trauma- or attachment-focused can seem nearly impossible. We have some recommendations for finding a therapist or counselor who uses a developmentally appropriate approach.

Seek Recommendations

  • Look for recommendations of therapists or counselors who work with children and families. Check with other adoptive families, professionals (such as pediatrician, family lawyer, social worker, pediatric occupational therapist, audiologist, school counselor), family and friends, your employer, or your insurance company.

Search Online

  • There are online services like GoodTherapy.org, PsychologyToday.com, and others that can be helpful in locating therapists in your area; however, keep in mind that listed therapists pay a fee for membership to be included on these lists. There are some great therapists listed, but there will be some great ones not listed, and others may be listed but not so great.
  • There are many professional organizations, institutes, and networks that contain directories of therapists and other support that may assist in your search (such as Attachment & Trauma Network, Inc; Association for Training on Trauma and Attachments in Children (ATTACh); The Theraplay® Institute; The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN); TF-CBT National Therapist Certification Program).

Travel Distance

  • Good and convenient often do not go hand-in-hand. You can probably find a therapist 10 minutes from your house, but you might find a better one who is worth a longer dive. A longer drive home can provide time to process feelings and thoughts from the therapy session.

One or More Therapists?

  • There are no easy answers to the question of should we have one therapist or multiple therapists. Discussing the pros and cons with the therapist will be helpful in avoiding potential pitfalls in your therapeutic work.

Therapist’s Gender

  • You will want to choose the gender you or your child prefer to work with. However, your reasons may be something you need to discuss with the counselor.

Things to Ask Therapists

  • Are you a licensed counselor or therapist?
  • Are you a registered therapist, or do you have any additional certifications?
  • What is your training or educational background?
  • What percentage of clients are adolescents (if you are seeking counseling for your teen)? …families? …foster, adoption, or attachment related issues? …trauma related?
  • How much of your work involves the use of art, play, or team building exercises with adolescents and with families?
  • What do you believe is required for healing?
  • Do you work with other professionals in your clients’ lives, such as medical doctors, psychiatrists, schools, or other interventionists?
  • Are you willing to work with both our family and our child individually, or do you suggest we have different therapists?
  • If you will be seeing our child individually, how involved or informed will we be?
  • Do you make referrals if you identify my child or family needs additional or different services?
  • Do you provide psychoeducational assessments* or do you have someone you recommend who does?  

*A variety of psychoeducational assessments are available to assess individual aptitudes, attitudes, abilities, achievements, interests, personal characteristics, disabilities, and mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.

Ask About Their Fees

  • If you cannot afford them, tell them what you can afford because this could be a long-term process. Some may be willing to reduce their fees.
  • Many community clinics can provide counseling on a sliding scale fee.
  • Some universities have clinics where students-in-training provide counseling at a lower cost. However, they are students, and therefore they will not have the training and experience of a fully-trained therapist.   

Listen to Your Intuition

  • Is the person you are talking to trying to sell themselves or are they really telling you about how they work?
  • Who makes you feel the most relaxed and encouraged?

It is our belief that it is essential for therapists or counselors to network with caregivers, school personnel, and sometimes other professionals to obtain a complete and accurate picture of the child and his or her needs. We also like the use of assessments that are up-to-date, valid, and reliable. If you struggle to find a therapist or counselor who fits our suggested criteria, you may find one who is willing to research and learn. Remember, counseling is an investment that often brings great returns. 

Improving Your Support Network

By | Blog, Conferences, Resources, Wisdom

We are excited to be leading a breakout session at the 2019 Tapestry Conference which will be held October 18-19 in Irving, Texas. As we considered what to present, we consistently went back to the importance (yet challenge) of support. In preparing to grow their family, parents often focus on the paperwork and preparation aspects of bringing their new child home. However, too often we forget about the support we need after our child comes home.

When the new child is older, we fall into the trap of believing the addition of the new child will not significantly impact our daily routine of cooking and chores. What parents frequently find, however, is while the child does not have the needs of an infant, the stress of getting to know the child is exhausting. You are learning your new child’s non-verbal responses and personality. You are attempting to connect with your child as well. The emotional toll can be unexpected and exhausting.

What kind of support do you need to gather? Here a few we will talk about in our session.

  • Social Needs. This blog post can provide ideas on how to strengthen your support network. Don’t forget about the social needs of your kids, too!
  • Physical Needs. Help with meals, household chores and maintenance.
  • Emotional Needs. Find people you can honestly share your fears, frustrations and joys.

What support do you still need? Do not be afraid to be vulnerable and ask for help. Having a good support network can help create a smoother transition for you and your entire family.

You can find out more about the conference and the other speakers here. We hope to see you there!

Being Fully Present & Connecting with Your Loved Ones

By | Blog, Parenting, Wisdom

What would your child or significant other say if you asked, “Do you think I use my phone (iPad, laptop) too much?”

What do they see? Perhaps they see you on your phone and think your phone is more important than them.

What do they hear? You might not realize that they hear your adult conversations or videos. Perhaps they hear you, your friends, or other family members gossiping or complaining – not things you want them to learn or think are okay.

To be that young vulnerable person ignored behind the phone held in a parent’s hand is far worse than we can describe. It has become a disturbing problem in our society. One that is shaping who are children are today and the people they will become.

Are your online communications more important than your child? No one wants to think their child feels forgotten or neglected because of a phone or electronic device.

Are you distracted and disconnected by your phone while your family is present? The truth hurts, but the truth can also heal. There is hope for changing from distracted to present, from not truly living to living, from disconnected to connected.

I want to share Rachel Macy Stafford’s article, “How to miss a childhood: The dangers of paying more attention to your cell phone than your children.” I enjoyed how she laid out the things we might do that are sacrificing our children’s childhoods and our own lives as well as her suggestions of things to focus on instead, so that we can grasp their childhood rather than miss it.

Maybe you will find this article difficult to read as I did. Maybe you will feel “mom guilt” like I did. But your child and society thank you as you try to get back to what really matters – connecting with our loved ones and being fully present.

I recently made a few adjustments to my phone use. I have turned off most notifications on my phone. I can control when I check email rather than letting my email disrupt me and my time with my family. I know 95% of those social media notifications are not worth the distractions. If I want to know what’s going on with friends before getting together with them, then I can browse their pages after my kids have gone to bed. I stopped exploring the Internet in the morning before the kids got up because they would see me on my phone or computer when they got up. I did not want them to think the Internet was the most important thing to me. This past year, I also found myself becoming a little resentful of how some of my phone conversations were taking time away from my family. I want to support others, but now I schedule time with friends twice a month where I can be fully present for them. Communicating my desire and goals with friends and family has helped them to better understand my need for change and my good intentions of a better childhood for my kids. Further, I can be a friend who can be fully present instead of half listening while also trying to parent kids.

What about you? Do you need to make changes in your electronic use to be present with your kids to grasp their childhood?

Please comment and share your experiences with us.

What I wish I had known…in Older Child Adoption

By | Blog, Parenting, Wisdom

When I talk to families who have chosen to adopt an older child, I often wonder what were things they wished they had known about before adopting their child.

Here are a few I hear most often:

“I wish families who have already adopted an older child would be honest with how hard it is.” So often parents talk about the joys (and there are many), but rarely do they share with raw honesty the intense difficulties. Many agencies have prospective parents talk to other parents who have already brought their child home (which is GREAT!). Except these parents minimize the challenges and emphasize the blessings. While admirable, it does an injustice to prospective parents. A family cannot truly determine whether older child adoption is a good fit for them if they only hear the good. So if you are considering older child adoption, search out those who have adopted an older child. In fact, I would suggest that you reach out those who have been home OVER two years. Why? I don’t know what it is about two years, but things shift. Truth surfaces. Eyes are opened. Patterns are identified. Things start clicking. This was true for the majority of the forty families we talked to and it was true for us.

“I wish I had realized how important finding a support group was before we adopted.” Find social media groups. Find area support groups. Get connected. This group will be your lifeline. Or maybe you will find one or two people who you reach out to when you are challenged. Or empty. Or need encouragement. Find them. Before you bring your child home (if possible).

“I wish I had realized how absolutely consuming this journey would be.” Yes. 100% yes. One mom advised that you plan to set everything else aside for the first year, perhaps two. Maybe giving up everything is not realistic for you, but please consider reducing your involvement. You truly cannot understand the demands your new child is going to place on you (some purposely, but a lot to simply meet needs). And you truly cannot anticipate the how one person’s trauma impacts an entire household. Everyone will be impacted. Expect to make your world small for you and your family. I would also follow that up with find coping strategies that work for you. And do not feel guilty about TAKING time for yourself doing something you enjoy.

“I wish I had known how much un-teaching would be necessary before I would re-teach appropriate behaviors.” One mom commented their household appeared to have absolutely no rules and completely out of control children that first year. Remember, you cannot focus on everything your child needs to work on from day one. It is not possible. Another mom suggested focusing on issues of safety at the beginning. Once those have been unlearned, then relearned, you can focus on other issues (such as manners, grooming, etc.). It is a long journey marked by small successes that lead to larger ones.

These are only a few of the things families wish they had known before they adopted their older child. But I hope these help you—if you are considering older child adoption—to make an informed decision on whether it is the best fit for you. For those of you already home, I hope these help you know what to share with other prospective adoptive families who ask you about your experiences.

Strengthening your Support System

By | Blog

Are you struggling to parent? Do you feel alone on your parenting journey? You are not alone! This may be one of the loneliest journeys you could walk. However, finding other families to walk beside you is vital.

But where can you find a support network?

Social Media. There are a number of groups on social media where you can connect with other families who are parenting adopted children. Groups on parenting with connection, older child adoption, parenting adopted teens, and adopting out of birth order are just a few groups you could search. Many other groups focus on families who adopted from a specific country. Get creative in coming up with key words that fit what you are looking for. Request to join a group, but if you find it is not what you expected or you find it bringing more heaviness instead of helping lift your heaviness, do not be afraid to exit the group. Thankfully, it does not have to be a long-term commitment if it is not a good fit!

Area Support Groups. While groups on social media can be fulfilling, there is NOTHING quite like meeting people in real life. (And it is possible to meet via social media yet become real life friends!) But people in your community you can meet one-on-one or as a small group can be helpful as well. Many churches have begun to create adoption support groups. Several larger churches have groups, but even some smaller churches have responded to the call to fill this void. Agencies often have support groups for their families as well so if your agency is local, get involved in their support group. If your agency is not local, contact some of the local agencies to inquire whether they have a support group you could join. Most agencies have a desire for ALL adoptive families to be successful (regardless of what agency helped you adopt) and would welcome families seeking to connect with others.

Adoption-educated Friends. Ok, so maybe social media isn’t your thing. And maybe you have tried to find a support group and have been unsuccessful. Create your own! Select friends (or find new ones) who are willing to become educated about the unique challenges of adoption. Those who are willing to not pass judgement when you share some of the hard aspects of your journey. They may be the people you least expect! However, they can serve as a great listener and a great encourager to you.

I hope that you will commit to strengthening your support system to help you through the bumps guaranteed to occur in parenting.

Overcoming Exhaustion

By | Blog, Parenting

Are you exhausted? Maybe the holidays have taken what little bit you had left right out of you. Perhaps spending time with extended family was simply too much. Or maybe your children’s behavior over the holidays simply drained your last drop of strength.

If you are experiencing parenting challenges, it is easy to fall into the mindset of “I just need to get through today.” You wake up the next day with the same thought on your mind. I have been there. Sometimes I still struggle to think that way.

How can you get off the hamster wheel of exhaustion? Purposefulness.

There really is no other way to do it than to be purposeful. We often tell our kids to make good choices even when it is hard. Yet, we often forget that sometimes we also need to make the hard choice to get rest despite the many demands on us.

What are some ways that you can purposefully rest without spending several thousand dollars on a vacation? Here are a few ideas you could implement today!

Have “Must-Go” dinner night. What is that, you ask? Whatever-in-the-fridge-that-must-go is for dinner! When I was growing up, every Sunday night was must-go. You could also serve cereal (if your family will go for that, but mine won’t). Pick up a ready-made meal that could easily been cooked in the oven. Make it a night with little work or preparation for you.

Leave the mess. Let go of the need to have your house looking perfect. The toys can be picked up tomorrow morning (with your kids help!). The messy kitchen and dirty dishes can be washed tomorrow. Just leave it and go to bed early. There will be more dirty dishes tomorrow and maybe you can garner help to wash them.

Is that hard? YES! Who wants to wake up to a messy house? But, getting more sleep will help change your outlook on your circumstances so you can face the mess.

Call for an “early” night. If you have older kids, give them the option to read, listen to soft music, or work on a quiet activity in their room until lights out. Then you do the same. Avoid blue light (light from electronics). Instead chose to participate in relaxing activities such as taking a bath or hot shower, reading a fun book, listening to calming music, or practicing mindfulness activities. If you enjoy essential oils, select one a calming one (like lavender, a relaxing blend, or a grounding blend) and put it in a diffuser or place a small amount in your palms and breathe it deeply. You may also want to safely apply it to your neck and shoulders or to the bottoms of your feet.

Maybe you want to do all of these on the same night or maybe you want to pick just one. Perhaps consider working on your personal bedtime routine to incorporate more relaxing activities that promote restful sleep.

It is easy to keep pushing when you are exhausted. However, being exhausted can diminish your immune system and lead to illness. Be purposeful in finding ways to rest even when it is hard.

Adjusting Your Expectations

By | Blog, Challenges, Parenting, Wisdom

The beginning of a new year provides us the opportunity to reflect and look at our own expectations.

Unrealistic expectations put too much unnecessary pressure on you, your adopted child, your existing children, your spouse, and others. Unrealistic expectations can harm your relationships and leave you working toward false goals. They can, will, and most often do lead to disappointment. If you want your relationships to be successful, work on being aware of what is going on with you, with others, and within your relationships and set realistic expectations.

Do not expect others to be able to read your mind and always act according to your wishes. You do not share one mind, and they are different from you. Good communication is vital to a healthy family. Your family (existing children, spouse, and others) will likely need to adjust their expectations as well. Most families we spoke to found that their existing children had difficulty adjusting to their adopted sibling’s behaviors and the attention their adopted older sibling received. Make sure you check in with your family members to learn how they are doing. Have frequent, purposeful discussions with them acknowledging the successes and difficulties they are experiencing. Give them opportunities to express frustration that their expectations are not being met. Provide them with potential reasons why things are going the way they are. Have family members try to look at things from other family members’ perspectives.

Equally important, your expectations cannot change people. One of the biggest challenges people face in life is learning to accept people as they are. You can accept people while not accepting their behavior. People who do not feel accepted feel rejected, which is a form of identity destruction and can lead to many negative outcomes. Your older adopted child will be required to do a lot of work to adjust and change. You cannot change people, but you can help facilitate their process toward positive, healthy change. Life does not always work the way we imagined or planned and working hard to adjust accordingly to where everyone is at and what they are capable of may be beneficial. Adjustments can be long-term or moment-to-moment as needed.

Though we tend to set our expectations unconsciously, it does not prevent us from consciously adjusting them up or down. If you observe yourself repeatedly disappointed by experiences you feel you should be able to enjoy, you may benefit from consciously lowering your expectations somewhat. Similarly, if your expectations are continually low, your pessimism may prevent you (and possibly others) from enjoying the anticipation of good things, and you may want to work on allowing yourself to expect a little more. Going into situations with an open mind, not expecting certain things, allows you to fully engage without the pressure of living up to preconceived notions.

Consider taking a few moments to reflect on your expectations for yourself and for others.