Tag Archive for: how can I help my adopted child

Tired of the Shouting Match?

Getting to the bottom of our emotional reactions to our kids can be difficult.  The heat of the moment can cause us to do things we said we would never do. And it has taken me a long time to understand these reactions even in myself.  Years, in fact.  If I’m feeling something going on inside of me, my tendency now is to get to the bottom of it and understand why I feel the way I feel.  And then make amends with my kids if I’ve responded in an unhealthy way.  I’ve learned that rather than listening to my feelings, I need to put my prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) in charge.  I’m finding that I’m better at it now — well at least most of the time.

But at times I’ll admit that anger, frustration, or fear will well up within me and I have to fight it back.  It’s a skill.  It is an awareness.

And it doesn’t typically come naturally to any of us unless we’ve seen it modeled.

That’s what puts many of us as parents at a deficit as to what to do with our emotion and what to do with our kids’ emotions.  Typically it becomes a standoff.  We tend to match our child’s emotional level trying to get them to “hear” us.  The next step becomes the escalating shouting match.

It doesn’t work.

And it hurts the relationship.

Parents from my generation usually didn’t give much thought to how a child felt in the moment.  I’m guessing most of us have heard the proverbial “sit down and shut up” or “will you just be quiet” or “stop crying”.  Maybe we’ve even said it to our kids when we’re exhausted and don’t think we can take the whine another minute.   Yes, our child might calm down in the moment, but we’re setting them up for future emotional outbursts.

The goal of helping us and our kids become more aware of our independent feelings is so that we lessen their sometimes destructive hold on us.  There is  a case study conducted by a UCLA professor that showed that awareness and naming our feelings lightens the emotion and actually makes us happier.

Who doesn’t want happy kids?

What I’ve discovered through working with moms is that sitting in the emotional ‘spin’ of our child actually helps contain them.  What I mean by that is that by validating that it is okay for our child to feel the way they feel helps them accept themselves and love themselves in the moment despite how they feel.  It doesn’t matter that what they did was hurtful or disrespectful or uncalled for.  It doesn’t matter that they aren’t handling themselves in a mature fashion.  What matters is that they know that in the moment when they feel out of control, that they are loved and everything will be okay.  

When we validate our child we’re communicating that they are valued and precious even in the moment they are in.   It says that we love them even when they are spewing all over everyone else.  A hug, looking them in the eye, and sitting with them holding their hand and offering tissues helps them know that someone is there to help them deal with the pain of the situation even when it might seem totally uncalled for to us.

Their feelings are their feelings.  Our job is to just be there for them in their moment.

Let’s say your 14 year old comes in after school, slams the back door, fails to take his muddy shoes off as he walks across the carpet.  When you ask him what is wrong, he shouts, “I hate you”, and then proceeds to slam his bedroom door breaking the hinge in the process.

Most of us tend to focus on all the things our kid did wrong:

  1. Slamming the back door.
  2. Wearing his muddy shoes on the carpet.
  3. Shouting “I hate you” which hurts us deeply.
  4. Breaking the door.

We focus on what happened rather than what our child is feeling.

When we put the emphasis on what was done wrong, we fail to get to the root of our teen’s feelings–the heart of the issue.  When we react in a harsh way, “How dare you speak to me like that” or “You are going to have to pay to repair this door” or “Come clean up this carpet right now”, we’re focusing on what was done to us not what is going on inside our teen.  By ignoring the reason for the outburst and not letting them vent in the moment, we are teaching our teens to either stuff and ignore their feelings or that their feelings don’t matter.

Research is showing that these are the very things that trigger addictions — emotional pain that the teen isn’t able to contain.  When feelings become overwhelming and aren’t understood, more and more teens start medicating to deal with feelings they want to get rid of.  When we choose to be in their moment and help contain them, we are lightening their emotional load.  We’re letting them see that nothing is wrong with those feelings and we’re here for them.

Galatians 6:2

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

I’ve sat with moms who have shared the frustration of not being able to connect with their adopted children as they become teens.  The hurt and feeling of abandonment of a teen can be overwhelming.  Dealing with the fact that they were given away can bring much pain deeply rooted in who they are.  The same goes for the girl who has become an outcast in her circle of friends or the boy who doesn’t measure up in sports or has a creative bent unlike his male peers.  

The teen years are a time of self-discovery as they try to figure out who they are.  It’s a time when they need to be nurtured–not taken to task for the things they do or don’t do.

Spending time in their emotional world and teaching them to self-process their feelings will help them move from emotional “doom and gloom” to “this will all blow over and I’ll be okay”.  It will allow your teen to move the situation from their emotional brain to their thinking brain which moves them toward maturity.  Once you’ve helped them, then and only then is it time to help them cognitively process the muddy carpet, the harsh words spoken in anger, and the broken hinge — in a gentle, matter of fact way.

Teaching our teens to process their emotional stuff will help them move to the more mature process where they can start viewing situations from the other person’s perspective.   It means that they will begin to move from the emotion of  ‘I can’t believe she did that to me’ to a mature thought process of ‘she typically doesn’t treat me this way, I’m guessing she is having a bad day.  I wonder if I did something to upset her.’  

Wouldn’t it be great if even as adults we could quickly move from the emotion to mature logical thinking? What if we could give the other person the benefit of the doubt instead of spinning in their emotion getting caught up in the other person’s level of anger? Wouldn’t it be satisfying to realize that instead of heaping our emotions on top of an already volatile emotional situation we could help soothe the other person in such a way that we both felt good about ourselves and our relationship?

Dare you to think about the emotional situations in your own home.  Are you responding to your child’s emotional fire in a healthy way?

“Let go…and Let God”,

 

 

 

 

The Lies of the Enemy

The week has been overwhelming as we lay our daughter to rest.  The prayers offered up on our behalf, the texts, the phone calls, and the food have all been a blessing — to know we are loved — to know that Andrea was loved and touched so many lives.

Thank you to all of you who have reached out to us.

I’ll admit that when we heard the news of our daughters death, while a shock, it was not a surprise.  For years I have gone to bed with my cell phone turned on next to it.  I wanted to be there for her even in the middle of the night.  She knew that I was only a phone call away if she needed me and at times either she used the lifeline that we extended or others called on her behalf.

As a parent of a challenging child it is easy to go down the path of the shoulda, woulda, couldas — the lies of the enemy.  If only I had done this or said that, things might have been different.

It is easy to play the blame game — remembering those who said something, did something, or didn’t extend the love that we thought they should extend.

But here’s the deal, we aren’t God.  God has a plan with each of our children’s lives.  After all, He created them — challenges and all.

He is the one who is weaving the testimony of our children.  

We don’t have to like it.

We can try to do everything within our power to change it.

But we have to let God be God.

We have to remember that he uses everything, EVERYTHING, for His glory.

As people came to pay their respects to our family on Wednesday evening, I heard lots of coulda, woulda, shouldas from friends and family members.  It is easy to feel the weight of guilt when we see our own sins in light of eternity.  Trust me, I’ve gone down that path too during this trial.  As a parent looking hindsight, there are so many things that I’ve pondered wondering if a different decision, a different word, a different response could have changed the tide that brought us to this moment.

My prayer is that you will seize this opportunity to allow God to change you as a result of our daughter’s death.  Ponder the inner turmoil you are feeling and give response to God in how her life changed you for the better. 

As my boys are grieving the loss of their sister, they’ve brought many things to the surface on choices my husband and I made as parents.  While I’ll admit some of those have a sting to them, I am thankful that they are choosing to voice their questions.  As we remind them that we too did our best parenting before we had kids, the healing process has begun.  We’re the first to admit that we aren’t perfect parents.

But here’s the thing — we don’t know what we don’t know as parents.  Our kids didn’t come with an instruction manual.  And our family is living proof that God doesn’t create all our kids the same.

While my daughter’s death has made me painfully aware of choices I could have made differently as a parent, I am thankful that God allowed me to recognize that relationship begins with me.  It was through the difficulties with my daughter that God has given me opportunity to speak truth to many parents.  The things I’ve learned in the last 10 years in trying a forge a respectful relationship with my daughter in the midst of her struggle have grown me in ways I never dreamed possible.

It is through my struggles as a parent that With All Due Respect was written.  It is the process that transformed me as a mom.  It helped me realize that I only have the ability  to change me and by changing me, I can impact my children in a positive way.  The struggles with my daughter taught me that the way to survive was to have God as my lifeline.

Even through the struggles and Andrea’s untimely death, I am grateful for the gift she gave me.  Because of her I see the world through a whole different lens.  I’ve been given opportunity to touch other parents’ lives who so much want a better life and relationship with their difficult child.  

But the biggest gift of all that she gave me were words she actually spoke to my husband a few months ago, “My mom is my best friend.”  

As moms, isn’t that one of our parenting goals?  My heart rejoices in that at the end, she saw me as her best friend.

While my grieving process began over a decade ago when she chose to move our of our house,  I still need to remind myself in the midst of the last two weeks to…

“Let go…and Let God”,

 

 

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