Showing posts with label Anxiety in Adopted Kids. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anxiety in Adopted Kids. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fourth Grade Photo - Swoon!

What a beautiful child! This photo makes me swoon.

Yesterday, I went for a little walk with Wenxin and snapped some photos to commemorate his fourth grade year -- my version of school pics for my homeschooled kids.

Once  again, this adoptive momma had to pause, peek back over her shoulder, and savor the moment. Look how far we've come!

Gone are the days of Wenxin dodging the paparazzi, ducking out of family photos, and daring me to see if I could really get a Christmas card of all of us. 

New adoptive mommas, those first years are hard! But compassionately parenting, with connection as the goal, eventually bears sweet fruit. Looking back, I can even see how learning to parent Wenxin has made me a better parent to all my kids. Parenting with connection isn't just for adopted kids.

This morning I read a beautiful narrative of what parenting with connection looks like in real life. In Walking Through a Re-Do, this momma gives a blow by blow description of how she handled things when her daughter got frustrated during homeschool and threw a book, notebook, and pencil to the floor before fleeing the room in anger.

This momma didn't excuse the behavior. Far from it. But she was mindful of her child's background, and responded with compassion, keeping connection as her goal while correcting the behavior. The results were beautiful.

My parenting is far from perfect, and I blow it more times than I'd like to admit. But this is what I'm aiming for. I hope you enjoy, Walking Through a Re-do, as much as I did.

Sharing today at The Long Road to China and WFMW.

Ni Hao Yall

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Can We Just Give Other Moms a Break?

A couple of weeks ago, one of my Facebook friends asked a question.

"Do you think that kids today throw fits at older ages than they did in years past?"

As the opinions rolled in, I felt myself getting more and more agitated.

The traditional wisdom that kids only throw fits when it works for them was a common thread.

In other words, if a 7-year-old is melting down in Wal-Mart, it is definitely because he has parents who have given in to tantrums in the past, teaching him to throw a fit whenever he doesn't get what he wants.

Kid throwing a fit in public = a bad / permissive / weak-willed parent.

While many of the comments were kind and sincere, others adopted a superior tone. Not one commenter confessed her own bad parenting that resulted in her own kids throwing fits well into their elementary years. Nope. This was all about the other moms out there.

It wasn't wrong for my friend to ask the question. She's the mom of two very active little boys, and I suspect she had personal reasons for wanting to know. And I'm not trying to blow the discussion that followed into something it wasn't.

Maybe I'm just touchy.

Thing is, I know a few big kids who still melt down in public.

Each one of them has a hidden special need.

First, there's the kid who had a mild brain injury at birth. He looks normal on the outside, but he and his mom face ongoing learning and behavioral struggles that are baffling to them both.

Then, there's this beautiful child who is autistic. He has the world's best parents. Place this child in a group of same-age peers, and you can't tell the difference at first. But it doesn't take long to notice that something about his behavior is off. There always has to be an adult, ready at a moment's notice to remove him and keep him safe if his behavior becomes explosive.

Finally, there are our kids adopted from hard places. 

So when you see a big kid throwing a terrible-twos style tantrum in public, I recommend that your first thought be, "There's probably more to this story than meets the eye." And then I recommend compassion.

Because the mommas in these situations are dealing, first of all, with parenting a child whose daily challenges are exhausting. Second, as if to add insult to injury, they find themselves judged by strangers. Judged according to traditional parenting wisdom when their situations are anything but traditional.

Give them a break.

"But how can you know for sure?" you might ask.

You can't. That's why you choose to give them the benefit of the doubt.

I choose to give them a break because really, the only person's parenting I need to evaluate is my own. That's the one situation where I have all the facts. That's the one situation where I can make a difference. I own that one.

Dealing with my own parenting challenges is a full-time job.

And by the way, I'm not so sure that the kids of this generation are so much worse than the kids of previous generations.

"Kids these days. . . "

Haven't people been saying that since the beginning of time?

Links - Because I Love to Share What Others are Saying

A Plan of Attack for My Picky Eaters - Traditional parenting wisdom says, "If they get hungry enough, they'll eat whatever you put on the table." But what if they won't? What if your newly adopted child will lose weight before she touches most foods? What if mealtimes trigger outbursts on a regular basis? Nancy shares her heart and her plan of action for her pickiest eaters.

Dear parents, you need to control your kids. Sincerely, non-parents - This dad takes on a single man who is criticizing a mom because her child is melting down in the grocery store. This one goes on my list of posts I wish I'd written myself.

It's like a theme park for your peace of mind - If you happen to be on the receiving end of criticism related to your parenting, this one's for you.

Sharing at WFMW.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Is Older Child Adoption a Special Need?

The other day, someone mentioned on Facebook that I had adopted a special needs child.

That phrase took me by surprise.

Because sometimes I forget. 

Being an older child is considered a special need in the adoption world.

That used to really bother me.

It used to bother me that China would call my perfectly healthy, incredibly bright son a special needs kid.

It felt like a put-down, like they couldn't see his potential.

It doesn't bother me anymore. . . well, not as much as it used to. 

Because being adopted as an older child is a special need.

I've said it before. No older child is available for adoption because he's had a great life. Older children available for adoption have experienced real trauma. And being a trauma survivor is a special need with long-term implications.

The death of a parent = trauma.

Abandonment = trauma

The loss each time they were moved from foster home to foster home or into an orphanage = trauma

Being adopted internationally and having to adjust to new parents, a new country, a new language, a new culture = trauma

It's easy to forget. 

It's easy to think that a lot of love and plenty of food and having so much more materially than they ever had in their birth country will fix everything.

It doesn't.

So if you're thinking of adopting an older child, it may help you to remember that older child adoption is a special need.

Think about it this way. If you were adopting a child in a wheelchair, you'd be constantly aware of their special need. You'd be prepared to deal with it long term. You might hope that with great medical care your new child would learn to walk one day. You might even be praying for a miracle. But in reality, you would also be preparing to push that wheelchair for years to come. 

Adopting a kid with a background of trauma is no different, even though their special need is hidden. 

You would never tell the kid in the wheelchair, "You've been home for 18 months now. We've taken you to the best doctors. Everyone at our church has faithfully prayed for you. You can't let this thing limit you forever. We're done pushing this wheelchair. It's time for you to quit making excuses and get up and walk."

You would never do that.

But it's done all the time when a kid's special need is hidden. 

Here's what I'm not trying to do in this post. I'm not trying to limit your child or put them in a box. I'm not telling you, as a parent, to excuse all their negative behavior. I'm not encouraging you to set the bar low.

My son, adopted at age 7 1/2 and home three years now, has made amazing progress. His heart has healed in so many ways. I am full of hope when I think about his future. Please don't ever give up hope! But in the same way, please don't ever forget to be compassionate as you parent a child with a real, but hidden, special need. 

I'll give you an example. When we started our new homeschool year back in August, both Mike and I noticed subtle changes in Wenxin. He was needier, clingier, louder . . . he seemed to be on high alert. We remembered that with his background, change is hard for him. Change makes him afraid. 

So we made subtle changes in our behavior in response to what we saw in him. We held him more, snuggled him more, kept him closer to us. Even though he's able to do a lot of his homeschool work independently, I spent a few days doing almost everything with him. That little bit of extra attention from us was all it took -- this time -- to help him feel safer and more confident starting a new school year.

I read a great blog post this week that reminded me to parent with compassion for the long haul. When I read it, I knew I wanted to share it with you. 

Sharing today at Emily's Imperfect Prose and Ni Hao Y'all.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Day 29: A Dad's Eye View of Adoption

I cannot imagine our family without our girls. It makes me cringe to think of where they would be now and what their lives would not be like if they had remained in their orphanages in China.

I also know that as much as they have been blessed by being adopted, I have been blessed through their adoption all the more. They have taught me more about myself than I ever would have known had God not brought them into my life.

There are times when I laugh and when I cry. Times when it becomes painfully obvious that a meltdown or rage induced by the trauma in their background is being used by God to heal something in me that needed healing.

The first time we had a real honest to goodness full on rage (which is different from a tantrum!) I was as much scared as I was shocked. I believe in that moment if she had a weapon she would have used it on me.

It started with a simple correction and consequence from my wife. No big deal. To us – but not to her.

My main thought at the time (besides feeling this was way beyond me) was to protect her from herself. I tried physically restraining her (discovering later that was exactly the wrong way to do it). But that only made it worse.

It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. My older kids had thrown a tantrum a time or two before – but this different.

We realized that we were in over our heads – and needed help.

Oh the things I learned about trauma over the next few months. About how it interrupts development. About how it can be triggered by seemingly unrelated things. About how raising a trauma child will almost always reveal the trauma and hurt in the parent's background as well.

And trigger our own traumas.

This was far more than I had bargained for when we began this adoption journey. It was not supposed to be about me – it was supposed to be about them.

I had successfully managed to lock away the trauma in my own past in what I considered a most effective manner. I had logically and rationally dealt with the issues from my childhood in a most reasonable and grown up fashion and was functioning quite well.

Until a 9-year-old girl with more hurts than a 9-year-old girl should ever have invaded our home and my heart.

Suddenly, I was the 6-year-old boy again witnessing things a 6-year-old boy shouldn’t see. Experiencing rejection and hurt that 6-year-old boys aren’t meant to deal with.

Being a typical, macho guy – my first response was anger. I was mad at her. Mad at the situation. Mad at my wife. I realized that for the sake of my family and my children, I needed to move through that and deal with my own stuff. Not easy for anyone, but I think guys just have more trouble with this.

After a lot of trying, I realized that my anger was only making it worse, and was directed in the wrong places.  My anger was actually my hurt – and it wasn’t helping heal their hurt.

They needed to be told they were safe, not screamed at by a raving lunatic. They needed to be loved while their behaviors were out of control. Not traditional parenting techniques  - because they weren't traditional kids.

The only way to help heal them was to love them over and over and over and over again. And then tell them and show them some more. And while I was pouring that into them, I realized that my own childhood hurts were being opened and then healed.

I thank God every day that I listened to His call on my life and that He loves me enough to have blessed me with these three wonderful girls.

It has not been easy. But God has been with me. My peers, business associates, old friends and family ask me often,“Why did you do this? Shouldn’t you be out playing golf, traveling and enjoying your life?”

My answer to them gives me the opportunity to share our adoption story, but it’s also an opportunity to share what Christ has done in my life.
As surely as it seems that we rescued these girls, Jesus has used them to help rescue me from being held captive to my past.

Doug is a 55-year-old father of 6 and grandfather to 1. His hobbies are chasing his kids and indulging his wife. When he needs a rest, he is president of Mission Beverage Company in Los Angeles. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Day 28: How To Help Your Church Help You

We're coming full circle here. We've covered a lot of topics this month -- topics designed to help you prepare to parent. Karen is back again today sharing once more about how to get help -- this time, from your church.

A little while ago, I wrote a post titled Alone in a Church Full of People. It was in response to my many friends who felt that their church families had abandoned them in the tough times of parenting a traumatized, older child. I was saddened at the number of friends who had stopped going to church, had no support from their church, and even had negative experiences with their church family. I was saddened for them and for what it said about the church. Here is something I hope will help –

An Open Letter to Our Church

Dear Pastor and Church Members –

As you know, we have recently adopted a (insert child’s gender and age here). We are entering into a very new and scary world, and we need you to help us. Before we tell you what we need, here’s a little information on what it’s like to adopt an older child.

Most people figure that adopting an older kid is actually easier than having a baby. The child sleeps through the night, feeds themselves, and actually has the cognitive ability to understand that they have entered a wonderful new world of family and safety and security and love.  It’s an easy transition for all – filled with hope and new beginnings.


The reality is that our older adopted children don't act their age and don’t always assimilate well. Their traumatic beginnings have affected them in ways we are only beginning to understand.

They can’t walk into a room full of kids who have been in Sunday School together since pre-school and make friends easily. Some weeks we are simply trying to keep everyone alive. The more subtle issue is that no one understands that the bruises on my arms are from restraining my child during a rage  - and getting to bible study would be easier if I could come in my pj’s and know that during child care, my child was OK. Given that, here are some things that you can do to help us.

  • First and foremost, our family needs prayer. Dedicated and committed prayer partners who will come along side our family and pray us through the times ahead. If there are one or two prayer warriors that would be willing to do this – that would be wonderful. 

  • Our meals ministry is a blessing to new moms; we could use meals, but not just for the first two weeks home. Rather, feeding us one or two nights a week for several months or more would feed our souls and relieve a significant amount of stress.
  • Educate your lay leaders and pastoral staff about raising children with backgrounds of trauma. There are some wonderful resources available for you, and they will help you understand what our family is going through. We need you to understand.

  • Please release us from our volunteer obligations. It simply isn’t the season for us to pour into others; all we have is being poured into the broken soul God brought into our family to help heal. Guilt about not teaching Sunday School or leading Awanas or volunteering at VBS is hurtful, not helpful.

  • Please refrain from offering parenting advice to us about our adopted child’s behavior. More discipline won’t help him – trust me, we have tried. What he needs is healing first, and that looks different. It doesn’t help when the Sunday School teachers tell us “you just need to be more firm with him."

  • Help our child transition. Find a buddy for them to hang out with in Sunday School. Our child doesn’t know how to make a friend or be a friend; help us show them what that looks like. 

  • Show up and be the hands & feet of Jesus. Come sit with our kids so we can take a walk together. Offer to clean my house. Take my adopted child out for ice cream to give our other kids a break from the chaos for an hour or two. We are not asking for days or weeks – just an hour or two a week.

We need church. We need the healing that only God can bring into this child. It is harder than anything we have ever done. And we need the Body of Christ to stand with us and sometimes hold us up while we fight for the healing and the restoration and redemption that Jesus will bring our child.

In Him – 

In our case, our church has been very supportive. They have supported all of our children for two services every Sunday so that we can attend one service and can sit and have a date during the other service. It’s an unconventional way for us to have a date each week – but it works. They also have a college volunteer who is our older daughter’s buddy for children’s church and the transition time. Their disability ministry helps Katie be in class for two services.

This is important. We needed to be connected to the Body and to Jesus while walking the last year and a half. It’s OK to ask your church to help – and to help them understand how to help you.

Ask for help. 

Karen blogs at Casa de Alegria.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Day 22: So. Your Adopted Child Hoards Food.

We are honored to have Robyn Gobbel back again today at Death by Great Wall.

Food issues are such a complex, yet such a common struggle for adoptive families. So complex and so common that I’d say almost every single adopted child I work with has some sort of food thing. They may not hoard or overeat or do anything that interrupts their daily life, but it’s there. 

Over on my trauma momma blog, I sometimes talk about the four superpowers that trauma mommas develop after being in the trenches with their traumatized kiddo.
n    Understanding the neurobiological impact of trauma on the brain. What happens to a child’s attachment, emotion regulation system, and sense of self when he spends months or years hungry? How does your body react when it believes it is starving? How does your brain respond to a slight dip in blood sugar level (a cue that you need to eat)? Know that hunger is registered in the brain stem, the most primal area of your brain. When your blood sugar dips, cortisol is produced. Brains that have lived in chronic fight/flight/freeze mode register that slight dip in blood sugar as “I’M GOING TO STARVE” as opposed to “It must be getting close to lunch time…my stomach is growling!”

2.    Understanding how their child’s specific trauma has impacted their specific brain. OK, so you are starting to understand the theory behind how hungry tummies impact the brain. But how does this translate to your child specifically? Look at your child’s history. Compare it to what you know about brains. Look at your child’s present life and find her common themes. “I’m starving!” “If I don’t eat RIGHT NOW I never know when I’ll eat again!” “I don’t like this feeling so I will soothe myself with food.” “I don’t trust adults to take care of me so I must take care of myself, always making sure I have enough food to eat.” These themes help us peek into their past.
3.    How are you participating in the trauma tornado? The trauma tornado is the cycle of the scared child who acts scary who triggers the parent to feel scared and then act scary. Say WHAT?!?!

The scared child (hungry! When will I eat again!) acts scary (hoarding, overeating). Scared momma (“The doctor is on my case about my overweight child!” Or maybe “My parents were restrictive and shaming regarding food and this is triggering my old stuff!” Or maybe “I can never satiate or make my child satisfied. I’m a bad mom!!”) acts scary (restricts food). The cycle continues. Trauma mommas get very good at jumping out of the trauma tornado. And the place to jump out is at the “scared mom” step.

Heal thyself. Is food a huge trigger for you? Do you love to prepare good, healthy foods and therefore watching your child gorge or hoard junk food is really a sore spot with you? Take what you learned in step three and sooth and heal yourself. This is how we jump out of the trauma tornado. If you can turn around those negative beliefs and feelings by reminding yourself of what you learned in step one and two, you’ll respond in a way that is not scary to your child. “My child hoards food because her brain believes that every time she is slightly hungry she is actually starving to death. I will make sure my child knows that food is always available to her.”

OK, you want some practical advice now!
It’s impossible to blog about the perfect solution for your specific situation, unfortunately. But my #1 suggestion to families is to create a place-- a drawer, a cupboard, a backpack, a container of some sort.

Together, you and your child fill it with healthy foods that you both agree on.  Allow your child unlimited access to this stash.  If dinner is five minutes away…your child can still take from his snack drawer.  If dinner was just over five minutes ago…your child can still take from her snack drawer.  If you child fills up on the healthy foods you’ve agreed to put in his snack drawer and doesn’t eat dinner, no problem!  It was healthy!!  If your child raids the fridge at night, then give him a bedroom snack container.  Or place a granola bar or an apple on her nightstand.  Give this several days.  Weeks.
This may alleviate your child’s food anxiety. This may just alleviate it a tiny bit. It may not alleviate it at all.  Oftentimes children with traumatic pasts will benefit from both therapeutic parenting and trauma healing.  Look for a therapist that promotes and believes in attachment, as well as one trained in trauma healing, such as EMDR or Somatic Experiencing. Check out the therapist listing at the Attachment & Trauma Network- they are a great resource.   

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a therapist in Austin, TX and the founder of the Central Texas Attachment and Trauma Center.  She specializes in helping children and families heal after attachment trauma.  Robyn blogs at in an attempt to help trauma mommas feel more supported and less alone. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Day 19: Understanding Negative Behavior

Today's post is by Robyn Gobbel, LCSW.

What is your child’s behavior trying to make you understand?!

Behavior is always an attempt to communicate something.   Hugs communicate things like, “I love you,” “I trust you,” or “You help me feel safe.”  Angry words communicate, “I am really mad at you right now!” “I’m afraid but hate the feeling of being afraid and mad is so much more powerful!” or “I need you to LISTEN TO ME!”

When we parent a child from birth, we have the luxury of having a pretty good idea of what their behavior is trying to communicate.  We know the child intimately and develop a sixth sense about what is going on in their inner-most experiences.  This is so much harder when we are parenting an older child that we are just getting to know.  To know what a behavior is communicating, we have to slow down and listen.  Listen to what is NOT being said.  Listen to what is underneath that behavior.
For so many adopted kids, their negative beliefs about themselves and the world are driving their challenging behaviors.
First, let’s look at this in reverse.  Children who are raised by an attuned caregiver in a safe environment develop positive beliefs about themselves and their world, including:

  •        I am good/loveable.
  •       I am safe.
  •        I can trust grown-ups to meet my needs.
  •       It is safe to love and trust.
  •       My needs are important.

They learn these things when a parent always answers their cry.  When the parent knows what the cry means.  When the parents remains available and soothing even when they can’t figure out what the cry means.  When they feed, change a diaper, rock, gaze lovingly into their baby’s eyes, tenderly stroke their skin, lovingly dry them off after a bath.
If you bring home a child who missed out on those subtle, gentle, intimate, yet powerful aspects of being a cherished and loved child, you will need to consider what negative beliefs are underneath their challenging behaviors. 

  •       I am not safe.
  •       I am not a good or loveable baby.
  •       I did something wrong/this was my fault.
  •       I cannot trust moms/dads.
  •       I am not important.

These negative beliefs become “stuck” and continue to contribute to children’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.  When parents are trying to determine if a child’s behavior is “normal” or related to something from their past, it can be helpful to look for the child’s possible negative beliefs.  The child who tantrums when asked to do a chore may have a negative belief that “all chores are punishments, and punishments are not safe.”  This child may have experienced harsh and inappropriate discipline.  Or maybe the child has a negative belief that "only the bad kids are made to do chores," and this hits the negative belief of “I am bad.” 

If we work hard to be attuned to our children, we can help identify these negative beliefs outside moments of severe behavioral challenges.  Then, when we are faced with a behavioral melt-down, we already have some clues about their core negative beliefs and can consider if those negative beliefs came into play.  Attuning to those negative beliefs-- truly understanding what is driving that anxiety and challenging behavior-- is the true path toward change. 

Read the whole series.

Does anyone else see negative beliefs underlying some of your child's problem behaviors?

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a therapist in Austin, TX and the founder of the Central Texas Attachment and Trauma Center.  She specializes in helping children and families heal after attachment trauma.  Robyn blogs at in an attempt to help trauma mommas feel more supported and less alone.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Day 17: Listening to Adult Adoptees, Part I

Tara's Family
There is only one group of people who can tell us, from experience, what it's like to grow up adopted. We must develop the habit of listening to the stories of adult adoptees.

Please don't think that just because you've known one adult adoptee in your life that you've got the whole picture. Each story is unique. We need to develop the habit of lowering our defenses and listening because only adult adoptees can help us see adoption through an adopted person's eyes.

Today, I interview Tara Bradford about growing up as an international adoptee. Tara has a unique perspective as she is a transracial adoptee, a mom by both birth and adoption, and an orphan care advocate. 

Welcome, Tara, to Death by Great Wall. Tell us a little about your story.

We know that all stories of adoption begin with loss, and mine began with my relinquishment by my Korean birth family, resulting in my adoption by a Caucasian family in the US. The family I came into had a son two years older than me. 

Unfortunately, the loss did not end there.

Within a year of my adoption, the couple separated. There was much pain in my childhood from experiencing the effects of what divorce can do in a family, especially as an unattached adoptee. I was close to my mother and grandparents, but did not have a good relationship with my adoptive father. Years of emotional pain culminated in him telling me he had not wanted to adopt me, but did it only to save his marriage. As a result, at the age of 21, I legally dissolved my relationship with him and had my mom’s third husband named as my legal father. 

The challenge of being a transracial adoptee in a small town --population 800 -- with no other minorities but myself, coupled with what I was experiencing through the divorce created a lot of insecurity, identity confusion, and fear of being rejected. I’ve since reached out to my mom’s first husband and told him I forgive him and have been on a healing journey from my circumstances for the last 13 years.

Was being adopted a positive thing or a negative thing in your life?

It is both. I realize that because of the unknown circumstances of my relinquishment, I could have ended up in conditions that might have taken my life down a very different and negative path had I stayed in Korea. The positive part of being adopted is that despite the circumstances of my adoption, it brought me here to the US where I met my husband and have a very blessed life.

The negative part of adoption is also the unknown circumstances of my relinquishment. It caused me to grow up without my birth family. I experienced further abandonment with the divorce of my adoptive parents and the eventual dissolution of my relationship with my adoptive father. The effects of others' choices on my life dug deeply into my heart and soul, and the road to healing has been long.

What was it like growing up in a family with people who didn't look like you? Did you have any Asian friends or role models?

It was very difficult growing up as a transracial adoptee. My racial background was not something we discussed intentionally. My childhood was challenging because I knew I was different, and I was trying to understand where I fit in since everyone at school was white, and everyone else in my family was as well. I began to think that in order to fit in, I had to look and act white. I remember dreaming about getting my eyelids fixed so I would have folds in them and could look more like the white people around me.

I didn’t know any other Asians and only came into contact with them when we would visit a Chinese restaurant at which point I would feel terribly uncomfortable and embarrassed. I really wish my parents had been more intentional about teaching me the history of my racial background and helping me understand how to feel comfortable with my racial identity within a white culture.

What was your parents' attitude toward your birth family and birth culture? How did that affect you?

We never talked about it. I would like to believe that they respected my birth culture, and I guess I honestly can’t say how they felt about my birth family as again, it wasn’t a topic of conversation that we engaged in.

In looking back at my childhood, I can see how that was very disempowering to me as a transracial adoptee. Not understanding my birth culture or how one exists within the American culture as a transracial adoptee created a huge chasm in my life. The lack of knowledge of my birth family coupled with my ignorance of my birth culture caused me to experience a deep identity problem.

Have you ever gone back to your birth country?

I have never gone back to Korea. I hope to do so soon and have been talking with my husband about when that will be.

If you could meet your birth mother today, what would you like to ask her?

If I met my birth mother, I would want to know the circumstances of my relinquishment. There is a constant gnawing inside of me that beckons the question, “Why?” It’s as if I have a chapter of my story that has been torn from the book leaving blanks that can’t be filled in. Even though I’m at peace with not knowing, there is a sense of wonderment about my birth family.

Friends, Tara's honest, vulnerable answers brought tears to my eyes. She's given us a lot to think about. If you have a question you'd like to ask Tara, please leave a comment, and I'm sure Tara will be glad to respond. You can also hear more from Tara on her blog, Smore Stories.

Tomorrow, I'll ask Tara about how her own adoption affects the way she parents her adopted children. See you then!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Day 16: Kids Camp Two Years Later

Exactly two years ago, I posted the following story on this blog.

"I hate everybody in this room!"

Earlier that morning, Wenxin and I packed his lunchbox for his first day at Colorado Kids Camp. We filled his water bottle and put on sunscreen. We talked about how Daddy and I would go to the meetings for our conference, and he'd go to camp. (Our other kids were at home with grandparents, but since Wenxin's only been home 10 months, we chose to bring him with us on this work trip to Colorado.) We planned to pick him up at 3 pm and then come home and swim together. So far so good.

But when we pulled up to the elementary school where the kids camp was held, the whole atmosphere changed. Things went downhill quickly.

Wenxin began to cling to my leg and whine. He didn't want to stay. He wanted to go with Mom and Dad.

First stop:  the Health Check station where they weed out any kids who might be sick. Wenxin tried his darndest to fail the health check. Cough, sore throat, stomach ache? He had them all.

On to his class: Wenxin  refused to take a seat. In fact he stood, stiff as a board, in the middle of the room and mumbled loudly, "I hate everybody in this room!"

The teacher greeted him. At my request, she brought the day's schedule over and explained about all the fun things they'd be doing. But Wenxin wanted no part of it.

I asked if I could move with him to the side of the room where we could just sit together and observe the class for a while. He gathered his sunscreen and water bottle from the desk. He took the name tag they'd prepared for him, emphatically throwing it to the floor.

By this time Mike had parked the car and come in to see what was taking so long. I walked  over and talked with Mike for a moment and when we looked back, huge tears were rolling down Wenxin's face.

Our hearts hurt for him, but we were not surprised. Over the last 10 months, we've learned that certain situations trigger anxiety in Wenxin. A big one is places that look institutional. This includes doctor's offices, schools, churches, etc.

I talked with Wenxin and told him that all the kids at the camp had parents who would be picking them up at the end of the day, just like we'd be picking him up. No children would spend the night at the camp. I tried to ease his fears.

Context is everything. With no context, if you saw an eight-year-old boy refuse to take a seat, say that he hated everyone in the room, and purposefully throw his name tag to the floor, you would probably think that his parents should impose swift consequences for his disobedient and disrespectful behavior. What eight-year-old acts like that?

But what if you knew that only three years ago, this child had been removed from the only home he'd ever known and placed in an orphanage that housed 1000 kids? Would that make a difference? Could you see how getting in a line with a bunch of other kids and being dropped off at a place that looks an awful lot like an orphanage might push all his buttons, putting him into fight or flight mode? Could it be possible that even though this kid now has loving parents and life is good, this makes him even more afraid that he might somehow lose everything again, for a second time?

We did not punish Wenxin for his behavior because it was rooted in fear, not rebellion. Mike sat down with him at the edge of the room and I went out to talk with the kids camp director. At that point a couple of really good things happened.

First, Mike began to play with Wenxin. When I came back in the room they were quietly having a war, taking turns shooting each other with a bottle of sunscreen. The tears were gone, and Wenxin was smiling.  The next think I knew, Wenxin was sporting Mike's sunglasses and conference name tag. As he laughed and played with his dad, he relaxed. Play is a key to Wenxin's heart.

Next, the camp director was quick on her feet and assigned a teacher to stick close to Wenxin for the whole day. She had that teacher come and get to know Wenxin while Mike and I were still there.

Finally, I felt we might be able to leave. So I asked Wenxin, "Would you like to wear Dad's sunglasses when we leave, or can he have them back now?" Wenxin chose to take his seat in class, hiding out behind Mike's sunglasses, and we were able to slip out the door. Wenxin had a great first day at Kids Camp, and since then, he's marched right in like a big boy each morning.

Fast forward two years. We're back in Colorado again. Attending the same conference. With the same kids camp. This morning was Wenxin's first day.

Even after two years, new situations are still stressful for Wenxin. As he walked into his new classroom this morning, he was extra quiet, answering all the staff's questions with a stress-filled, "I don't know." But he took his place quickly, and Mike was able to make a graceful exit. The first morning drop-off two years later wasn't a crisis, and by the end of the day, he was having a blast.

I call that progress.

Here are all the posts in this series so far:
Day 1: Drowning in Paperwork
Day 2: A History of Loss
Day 3: Tantrums
Day 4: Parenting with Connection
Day 5: Prayers for the First Days Home
Day 6: Others Share about the First Days
Day 7: The Best Advice
Day 8: How to Get the Help You Need
Day 9: Thing People Say to Adoptive Families
Day 10: More Things People Say
Day 11: Unexpected Challenges
Day 12: Unexpected Blessings
Day 13: Manipulation and Control
Day 14: Sharing Control
Day 15: Packing with Attachment in Mind
Day 16: Kids Camp Two Years Later
Day 17: Listening to Adult Adoptees, Part I
Day 18: Listening to Adult Adoptees, Part II
Day 19: Understanding Negative Behavior
Day 20: Does Race Matter?
Day 21: Bedtime, Spanking, & How We Parent
Day 22: So. Your Adopted Child Hoards Food
Day 23: A Movie I Recommend
Day 24: Bullying
Day 25: The Post I Wish I Didn't Have to Write
Day 26: Stitch Fix Just Keeps Getting Better
Day 27: Naming
Day 28: How to Help Your Church Help You
Day 29: A Dad's Eye View of Adoption
Day 30: Online Might Be Your Lifeline
Day 31: Look How Far We've Come

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Day 14: Sharing Control

We're on the ground, safe and sound in Colorado. Our conference begins tonight

Before I share today's Preparing to Parent link, I want to share with you about something fun I've been doing this summer. I've been taking Ordinary Miracles and the Crazy 9's manual photography class, Manual 'n More.

I've always loved taking photos, and I even have a fancy DSLR camera. Problem is, for years I've used it like it was a big, bulky, expensive point and shoot.

When I looked at all those dials and modes and settings, I felt a little woozy, and I usually quickly chose that green box, fully automatic mode.

Over the years, I've gotten some great shots -- totally by accident. I was at the mercy of that beast of a camera. It controlled me; I certainly didn't control it. I didn't even understand it.

Last Friday, after just a couple of weeks in Manual 'n More, I took the above photo of my 13-year-old son, Nathan. I took it totally in manual mode. I chose the ISO. I chose the shutter speed. I chose the aperture value. And I'll tell you a little secret. Now, I even know what those words mean!

I know a lot of you are waiting to travel to adopt your new child, and I know that for some of you the wait is getting long. Now would be a great time to take a class and learn to capture amazing photos on your once-in-a-lifetime adoption trip. After our 31 days series is up, I'll fill you in a little more on the details of the class. But for now, you can learn more about Manual 'n More here.

Nancy, who teaches the Manual 'n More class, is also an adoptive mama. This week she wrote a post that perfectly illustrates what Karyn Purvis talked about in our video yesterday. Even though Nancy adopted her daughter at 12 months old, parents of older children can learn a lot from how she's handling her daughter's current struggles with food. It's a beautiful example of sharing control.

Take some time today to read "Food issues and binging 5 years later."

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Day 13: Manipulation and Control

How should you respond if you feel your adopted child is trying to manipulate and control you?

Dr. Purvis shares her insights in this short video.

Today is a travel day for my family. We're headed to Colorado. Because flying a family of six anywhere isn't cheap, we're using as many of Mike's frequent flyer miles as we can. The result: two tickets on one airline and four tickets on another. Hopefully, when all is said and done, we'll all land in Denver at somewhere around the same time. If we don't? Well, then our trip will be off to an interesting start.

Check back tomorrow for the story of how one adoptive mama is sharing control to help her daughter feel safe. It's going to be a good one.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Day 7: The Best Advice

Today's guest post is by Karen, mom to these three little ladies. 
When you grow your family, you get a lot of advice – some of it good, some not so good. My favorites are:
Sleep when they sleep.

Never wake a sleeping child.

Accept offers of help.

I had no problem executing the first two; as a matter of fact, I prayed for a child that would sleep well, long & often (an unanswered prayer!) because I love sleep. However, for a long time, I ignored the third.

I was the Queen of Competency. Blessed with gifts of administration and organization. Wrote the book on multi-tasking and functioning for days with little sleep.  The master of my domain – by myself!

When my second child arrived home at age 4 with autism, I struggled, but basically was able to do it all on my own – not well, but it all (mostly) got done, and we were surviving.

My third child, an older child adoption, changed all that. Only I was slow to accept the reality because of my Pride.

When our oldest daughter arrived home at 9 years old, she was full of emotions and fears and uncertainties. She underwent a huge cultural shift. She lost the only home she ever knew (and even if it’s a “bad” place, it’s a known place for them).  The loss of her biological family was finalized. She was in a foreign country with no language where everything was different. She lost everything she knew up until that moment.

That would be a lot for a healthy adult to process, but for a child whose developmental stages have been interrupted by trauma – it was a recipe for chaos.

Which is exactly what erupted in our home.

I struggled by myself for a long time trying to hold everything together – meeting everyone’s emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. I was trying to be everything for everyone – and several of those everyones had high needs and were struggling with trauma.

I was exhausted. My marriage was strained. My kids were a wreck.

I needed help.

Tangible, physical, come cook dinner for me and tend to one child while I soothe and calm the other two kind of help.

I lived in this chaos for months before getting help. Why?

My pride.

Pride – a deadly sin, for it isolates you, hurts those around you when you let it stand in your way, and goes against God’s plan for His people. His plan is for us to be in community and be part of the Body.
 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function,  so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

This design is intentional. God’s plan requires we break the bonds of pride that say, "We are an island of sufficiency." It allows us to accept our dependence on God through the physical reality of accepting our dependence on others.
It humbles us. In a good way.

It also allows others the opportunity to participate in God’s grand plan for these hurting children. By allowing them to help you, you help them see what it truly means to lay down our lives for one another.

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

One of the things we discovered was that the places help came from were not necessarily the places we expected. The family we expected to step up to the plate slowly receded into the background, while other family members unexpectedly waded into the deep with us. Friends who had stood by and prayed these children home disappeared, while those we considered merely acquaintances became the glue that sometimes held our family together.
That was something to process.

I also discovered that I had to do some work. I needed to figure out exactly what I needed, which is no small feat for someone who felt like she had never needed anything!

Help comes in many forms, and during this 31 Day series I will be writing about focusing on your friends and your church. I'll give you some ideas on how to figure out what you need and how to ask for it – hard things, but necessary and part of God’s design for us.

You can find Karen blogging at Casa de Alegria.

Here are all the posts in this series so far:
Day 1: Drowning in Paperwork
Day 2: A History of Loss
Day 3: Tantrums
Day 4: Parenting with Connection
Day 5: Prayers for the First Days Home
Day 6: Others Share about the First Days
Day 7: The Best Advice
Day 8: How to Get the Help You Need
Day 9: Thing People Say to Adoptive Families
Day 10: More Things People Say
Day 11: Unexpected Challenges
Day 12: Unexpected Blessings
Day 13: Manipulation and Control
Day 14: Sharing Control
Day 15: Packing with Attachment in Mind
Day 16: Kids Camp Two Years Later
Day 17: Listening to Adult Adoptees, Part I
Day 18: Listening to Adult Adoptees, Part II
Day 19: Understanding Negative Behavior
Day 20: Does Race Matter?
Day 21: Bedtime, Spanking, & How We Parent
Day 22: So. Your Adopted Child Hoards Food
Day 23: A Movie I Recommend
Day 24: Bullying
Know someone adopting an older child? Part of an adoption message board? Invite your friends to be a part of this series by using those tiny share buttons at the bottom of this post. Thanks!