I recently attended the HOPE conference for foster and adoptive parents in Little Rock. This was one of the most beneficial things I have been to in a while. There were so many things that I tucked away in my tool belt feeling more confident to parent my two and others and most of all feeling like there was hope for lil miss.
Most of this will be straight from my binder, I just thought I would share the wealth, because we could all use some new parenting tools right?
* Instead of "they lived happily ever after" our goal as Christian parents should be "they lived faithfully ever after."
*Foster and adopted children have unique backgrounds and history, they have unique needs and therefor needs a unique approach
* Prenatal Matters! Babies lay down "implicit memory" even in utero.
Risk factors for children from hard places:
1. Prenatal stress or harm
2. Difficult labor or birth
3. Early medical trauma
*The "hard places" that they've been through affect their brain, their body and their beliefs.
They may have:
1. Heightened levels of stress or fear that manifest themselves in different ways (Explode, Distract- able/silly, run away, introvert)
2. Sensory Struggles
3. Attachment issues
4. Deep feelings of shame or questioning their worth
5. Survival tactics instead of appropriate behavior
* Nurture can change nature
* Every behavior has a purpose and a function.
* Behaviors are rooted in what we believe about ourselves
*A child cannot be healthily independent unless they have been first healthily dependent.
*Healthy relationship share power. Show your child that its your power to share when you let them (within reason) negotiate.
*Help the child understand the appropriate way to express needs, but recognize that the child is expressing a need and needs are an opportunity to build trust.
*Children can't find "their voice" on their own. Parents have to share power and "give" voice. Parents that have a hard time giving their children voice if they were never given on.
* Children's behaviors are always asking 2 things:
1. "Can I have my own way?"
2. "Do you love me?"
* Don't lob responses or questions across the house or the room. Go to the child. Use every opportunity to connect with your child and build trust.
*Ours kid's buttons trigger our buttons, but they don't always relate to the current situation. Often times, they trigger our buttons from our own childhoods.
* "If we're willing to piece together our stories and see the relationship between what happened then and what's happening now, we get to make choices about what happens next." -Scott McCellan, Tell Me A Story
They said at the conference that most/all of this material came from "The Connected Child" by Karyn Purvis. Which I think every parents should read, honestly, even if you don't have a foster or adopted child because its good stuff. I had several light bulb moments even about Jax. He is not adopted but having a cleft lip and palate included him in the risk factors 1-3. This helped me stop for a second and go, "OHHHH….that's why that is such a big deal in his life." From mealtime, to sleeping, to anything mouth-related to sensory struggles/preferences, I am a believer that nothing is for no reason. ( Judge me for that bad sentence if you want, but you know what I mean)
So really great things that we've started to implement are:
* For both my control freak twins: I give them negotiating power in the mornings.
(ie: They have three minutes to play before we have to change our clothes. Jax says four. I say ok, we agree on four minutes. After four minutes is up, they both happily change their clothes. We do this for almost all choices or transitions now. They both love it. And I shout and hurry them less in the mornings :)
*Setting up expectations before activities or events, "I know you're going to struggle with _______, so we need to really try hard not to ________. If you can't _______, then your consequences will be XYZ."
(ie: "Lil miss, I know you're going to struggle with keeping your hands to yourself and listening to the teacher. You need to try really hard today to keep your hands to yourself. If you cannot, then we will lose gymnastics on Friday."
*Recognizing my own frustration over small things that lil miss didn't know how to do, I changed my approach and though its painfully long and tedious, we went back the the basics and learned how to put socks on by herself, how to wipe herself, how to dress herself, how to brush her teeth…etc.
I sat with her, in a calm voice I taught her how to do it, instead of being impatient that she didn't know how…causing her to shut down and withdrawal. Within a few weeks of walking her through everything and letting her depend on me for EVERYTHING, she is now putting her shoes on the right feet, putting her own socks on right side out and right side up, she can brush her own teeth and wipe her own bottom. (healthy dependence promotes healthy independence)
* Not forcing apologies. We've taught them how to say "sorry" but we're no longer forcing them to say it. Remorse has to come naturally. And though I may feel the need to be vindicated by their apology …its not heartfelt. And now, even this week, the twins on separate occasions said they were sorry all on their own. Huge moments!!
* Having compassion of their irrational issues and walking along side of them to find a solution and work through the problem rather than enforcing, barking and blowing a fuse which doesn't promote trust, openness or cooperation.
We are far from ideal parents. We fail miserably, daily. As my sister-friend Kayla always says, "We are not qualified to do this." And we're not. Being a parent is hard, being a parent to a hurting child is even harder. Its like, on the job training. He who he calls, he also equips.
We have a few new tools in our tool belt and I hope now, you do too!