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Trying to Conceive (TTC) MASHUP

Trying to Conceive (TTC) MASHUP

After a year of trying for a baby early in our marriage, we were told that there was a pretty big possibility we may never get pregnant and should look at all of our options.  Granted, this was also about 9 years ago.  We tried Clomid, and NOTHING.  So, we ...

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!  (On This Day...12/31/2014)

HAPPY NEW YEAR! (On This Day...12/31/2014)

Outside my window… It is cold and the wind slices through like a sharp knife.  It is gray outside and when the sun rises, it will be a new year. I am thinking… So much has happened in 2014. We went to Chicago and Disney World.  Spent much time as a family, having fun ...

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(Not) DEFEATED.

(Not) DEFEATED.

I can hear the children bickering in the kitchen, while another empties out the clothes in the dresser.  I'm slumped over our homeschool grade book, wondering if I have done enough.  If I can ever do enough. Old wisdom says not to cry over spilled milk.  But, the kitchen floor needs ...

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Chicken And Dressing Divine (So Easy Your Preschooler Could Do It - A Recipe)

Chicken And Dressing Divine (So Easy Your Preschooler Could Do It - A Recipe)

Like, seriously.  Your preschooler can make this.  I mean, besides the putting it in the oven part.  It's THAT easy.  AND, it doesn't make a mess of your kitchen.  HALLELUJAH.  I'm not kidding.  I don't joke about these things. What you'll need: - Foil sheets - Frozen chicken breasts or tenders, one per ...

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Fun With Water Beads

Fun With Water Beads

We've been enjoying the fun that is WATER BEADS!  These little guys are hidden gems that have been around quite a while in the floral department.  Right now, they are getting lots of attention for creative play. The ones I bought look like these (at Walmart--they were a little over $3 ...

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A Day In The Life (Homeschooling 2015-2016 edition)

by bosssanders on July 27, 2015 with 3 comments

I’ve had a lot of requests lately to post our schedule or “routine,” if you will.  I cringe at the word schedule, because with 5 littles ages 1 – 8 spanned over 4 teaching levels, keeping an EXACT schedule is near impossible!  But, we DO have a general routine that we follow most days.  This routine solves the confusion, and helps me address the many things I need to do day in and day out (bills, menu planning, starting supper, homeschooling, keeping our home, writing, studying my bible, etc.)

6:40 AM – My alarm clock goes off.  I check my phone for important emails, messages, and may even scan facebook for a few minutes (if I do it on my phone, it’s more of a hassle, so I’m less likely to get sucked in.)  I do this for a few minutes to help my brain “wake-up).  Then, I get my morning dose of God’s word.  –Lately it’s been Jesus Calling Devotional or just a Proverbs a day.  I always find ONE line to meditate on throughout the day.  This keeps me grounded.  (Some days I do more in-depth study during nap time, as well.  But, this daily dose in the morning is just enough to hold me over in case my best plans go haywire!)

7 AM – Get kids up and I take my shower.  The two 8 year olds help with getting the younger kids fed and ready.  The “bigs” have a list on their doors of things to do each morning.  They also know how to clean up after themselves, so rooms should be tidied and kitchen table and dishes all cleaned off.  I also start supper if I need to.

8 AM – School begins!  It takes me a couple of weeks to get into the groove with new curriculum or a break, but this is what we end up with.  During this time, the 1 year old gets toys in the playpen (which is in the middle of our homeschool room so EVERYONE and EVERYTHING can be seen.  He loves to watch and play and talk to everyone.  The 3 year old starts off drawing, playing with Play-Doh, an educational show on the IPAD, or a Montessori activity.  We begin with subjects I need to teach the bigs actively.  They also get a list or a folder of assignments to be completed.

9 AM – Somewhere in here is about when we get to our first homework “break” –Which is really a break for ME and homework for them.  It’s part of the time where they are working on their math homework, worksheets, etc.  THIS is where I take time to work with my three year old.  These are still my favorites for Pre-K age.  Right now, I’m working with him on ABCs sooo very slowly :)  He also sits in on Bible lessons with us.  One year old gets a break from being confined to playing in the playpen and we do age-appropriate Montessori activities.

10 AM – More active work (teaching) with the bigs.  By 10 or 10:30, we are getting around to the individual grade level instruction in language arts and math.  I will get one kid started by teaching/explaining and then have them begin homework and move to next kiddo.  I cycle around several times.  My 3 year old has an “activity” he’s participating in.  Depending on his mood, I may set it up entirely (like, Montessori) OR he may choose to use our geometric blocks to make shakes, play with puzzles, play with his cars…or, like today… build a fort in the living room while pretending (ever so quietly) that he’s going to capture all of us.  Our one year old is playing in the playpen with a fresh array of toys or getting a snack right about now.  :)  Or, he and I catch up on some snuggles while I teach.  Any kids who finish early get to go play with the younger ones.

11 AM – LUNCH TIME – We eat a quick lunch and then get back to finishing our work.

11:30/Noon – USUALLY, we are mostly finished with the “desk” work.  We may have a couple of stragglers with homework, and they will get that finished on their own for the most part.

1 PM –  If we have any special projects or science experiments or science projects… we do them during this time, generally.

2 PM –  4PM –NAP TIME!  Depending on the day, I do different things during this time.  I have days set aside for deeper cleaning, errands, planning, writing, hobbies, etc.  If it’s a deep cleaning day, the older kiddos may go down for nap 30 minutes after the younger kiddos so they can help me clean a few things.

4 PM – If a kiddo still needs extra time to complete an assignment, they may do it now.  Otherwise, it’s free reading time.

6 PM – SUPPER

7 PM – Clean up, dishes, etc.

8 PM – Bedtime

**Occasionally, we’ll have a little one who REALLY struggles with a concept.  On those days, if we have quiet time, I’ll work with them while the other kids nap (unless by that point *I* really need a break).  OR, daddy will work with them right after supper (or, I will if I need to RETEACH the lesson).

I hope this helps.  What are YOUR routines/ schedules like?  What do you struggle with?  What have you found that works really well?

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Adoption At School: When Your Older Adopted Child Begins Public School

by bosssanders on July 20, 2015 with no comments

You are most likely reading this post because you are either a parent of an older-adopted child, a teacher or administrator in the school system, someone who supports an adoptive family and wants to understand, or someone who got lost trying to find my awesome recipes.  If you are the latter, I’m sorry (check the links on the side).  :)  But, no matter how you got here…THANK YOU.  THANK YOU for stepping up and out and being WILLING to learn more about these beautiful children.

As July slowly slips away, I know for many of us (parents of older-adopted children), anxiety sets in.  Depending on the school system and the individual teachers, our year is about to be a breeze…or, hell.  And, we’re sitting here wondering which it will be.  I pray that this post will be an encouragement to both school officials and parents.  I pray that it will be both informative and empowering.

School can be HARD when you bring home an older child from a foreign country.

Everything you THOUGHT you knew, can (and should) be thrown out the window.

When we brought Z home, I knew I was in over my head (even though we were a homeschooling family).  Where do you start with a kiddo who you lost out on so many years?  And, then there were the speech and language and other therapies I didn’t know if he needed.  And, honestly?  I was overwhelmed.  I was afraid to FAIL.  But, for almost 2 years, I did it anyhow because I felt it was what he needed in that period of time (we still stand by that).  We have a list of reasons why we think public school would be better suited for Z at this particular time, but it’s probably not what you might think.  When we’ve told others, they automatically assumed it was because 1) he wasn’t learning at home (we have psychological evaluations to prove otherwise) and 2) for socialization.  Some days I think folks forget that we don’t have ONE child and live on a secluded homestead.  What we DO think will help are VERY structured schedules, someone other than mom teaching him, ability to easily integrate any needed therapies as needed, and the ability to ONLY focus on bonding with my son.  He has worked his tail off (and so have I) in the past 18 months.  He jumped through 4 grade levels in less than 18 months…which is HUGE.  So, now, I’m passing the baton.  And, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious at all.

When our older adopted children first come, they often do not know the English language.  Sometimes, they’ve never even had a school experience at all… so what do you do?

This was one of our first questions.  And, even as veteran homeschoolers, we felt overwhelmed and ill-equipped.  Search as I might, I couldn’t find ANYONE who had really forged a path for us to just follow behind.  The little research we found suggested two main things:  Have your child FULLY tested (full psycho-educational testing) and/or homeschool for 6 months or more before transitioning them to mainstream school.  While part of the reason for homeschooling is to help acclimate your child to their new home, family, language, and culture, I also believe the other huge reason was quite simply…schools often don’t know what to do with our children (keep reading, I’ll explain).

Once we arrived home, we had floods of physical tests and specialists to go see, as well as appointments to make sure all of our paperwork was good to go. –Not to mention, the first month of craziness as we all figured out what this new family dynamic would look like.  When we finally poked our heads up for air 3 weeks later, our son was already beginning to lose his language…meaning, even if we could FIND an Amharic translator…he was entering a period where he would be “without a language” for a bit, making testing IMPOSSIBLE.  Also, the language he spoke wasn’t Amharic, but bits and pieces of Amharic and other tribal languages that he had picked up.  Think, slang.

I sincerely wish we had better systems in place within our schools (not everyone can stay home and homeschool!), where we had relevant and updated research that guided how we transition older adopted children into our academics.

Boris Gindis, Ph.D states (source):

“…Early, well-planned, systematic and intensive cognitive and language remediation is a necessity for the majority of international adoptees who will start formal schooling immediately after the adoption. An overall functional model of such remediation should include four steps:

  • Accurate initial evaluation of educational needs.
  • Proper placement according to actual readiness.
  • Supportive and remedial services at school.
  • Remediation via specialized methodologies, if needed.

Unfortunately, this proven model typically encounters major roadblocks at schools due to persistent misconceptions among school personnel and administration regarding international adoptees, such as:

  • Internationally adopted children are similar to children from recently immigrated families and therefore should be educated the same way: placed academically according to their chronological age and taught English as Second Language the same way. The parents would be generally advised to “wait and see” how their children adjust to the new social/cultural environment.
  • No testing should be done before the children learn English.
  • Difficulties, both academic and behavioral, are solely due to the children’s institutional background; thus, loving families, good nutrition, and consistent schooling are all these children need for recovery.
  • International adoptees may not be eligible for special education services because of the language and cultural issues involved.

All these assumptions are damaging for internationally adopted post-institutionalized children, depriving them of needed help and support in education.”

Being Prepared…

I don’t think a person can be adequately prepared for this journey.  It’s one of those where you get thrown out of the cart and are scrambling, trying to move your feet as quickly as possible to minimize impact upon hitting the ground at break-neck speed while simultaneously, trying to keep your gait and not get even more behind when you’ve missed out on so much (and, the world slows down for NO ONE).

However, we need to research and educate ourselves as much as possible.  Parents are often more educated on education when it comes to their older adopted child simply because they have spent months (years) anticipating, researching, and being trained.  However, with the willingness and research of our school systems (or some really amazing individual teachers), this could all change…

What You Need To Know:

First, older adopted children are NOT the same as a child in an immigrant family.  And thus,  teaching and handling behaviors in the same manner will NOT be effective.  Older adopted children are NOT in their original families, speaking a common language.  Second, older adopted children likely have encountered much trauma which impacts the brain in significant ways.  Comparing an older-adopted child to a child who had been through major neglect/abuse in foster care would be getting a little warmer, but still incorrect, as older adoptees have not had the “base” of American culture and education built since they were infants.

Second. Parents and teachers, alike, must understand the effects of such things such as Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder and Post- Institutionalized Behavior in children AND understand and be able to successfully implement coping strategies both at home and in the classroom.  Parents and teachers will need to forge a relationship built on teamwork.  Teachers must also understand that what LOOKS like “normal behavior” in an non-adoptive child does NOT necessarily mean normal or healthy for an older adoptee.

Some common behaviors seen with Post-Institutionalized behavior are (source):

- Poor self-regulation – difficulties with sustaining goal-directed behavior, emotional volatility, reluctance/unwillingness, difficulty with delaying gratification.
- Mixed maturity-a child may seem advanced for their age in some areas and delayed in others.
- Self-parenting – taking “justice” into their own hands, bossing around siblings/parents, constantly attempting tasks beyond their age level and ability.
- Learned helplessness – this seems to be the opposite of self-parenting, but both can be found in the same child.  A child may act helpless in order to get attention (for example, with schoolwork because they want someone to sit with them)
- Controlling and/or avoiding behavior
- Self-soothing and self-stimulated behavior
- Hyper vigilance and “pro-active” aggressiveness
- Feeling of entitlement
- Extreme attention seeking
- Indiscriminate friendliness with strangers – I know we all love hugs, but many adopted children will show indiscriminate friendliness with ANYONE and EVERYONE.  This is NOT healthy for our children and should NOT be encouraged.  It has nothing to do with feelings of love or affection.

While the above behaviors may SEEM like “normal kid stuff” – let me tell you that the behavior itself may seem benign, but what is underneath it is NOT.  Please understand that if you encounter this in the classroom…we (parents) NEED to know.  It means there are things going on in our kiddos that we need to make sure we pay very close attention to (in many areas).  Please understand that when we try to explain that our child has some special struggles that we are not MEAN nor do we HATE our children.  We are wanting you to WATCH for these things so that you know how to handle them in a way that will prove beneficial for our child and their emotional well-being (which often does not look like conventional ways of dealing with things.)

Third.  Please use positive adoption references.  Here’s a list to help (as many of these never occurred to me before we began this journey.) (source):

Instead of….   Try this…

Real parents… birth (or biological) parents
Give up… terminate parental rights
Give away… make an adoption plan
to keep… to parent

Also, our children ARE American (or whatever country they are a current citizen of).

* For a complete list, check out the source above, as well as here and here.

Fourth. Please use alternatives to the following assignments.  –They cause much stress in families like ours.

- bring a “baby” picture assignments
- family tree assignments
- family history assignments
- genetic history assignments
- cultural or ethnic heritage assignments
- create a timeline of student’s life

Instead, here is a link with some alternatives.  Also, books and learning about great people who were also adopted can help adoptees feel more accepted and develop a positive self-awareness.

Fifth.  Please seek to understand our children.  Books like The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis will give you great insight into our children’s minds and some great tools to handle things.  Also, please understand that while most of us own Karyn Purvis’ books, sometimes even her methods don’t work for us.  Please just talk with us to see what we’ve found works with our kids.  And, please NEVER try to tell us how to raise our children better by one article you read online or something from a book (even if we gave you said book).  The truth is, we have tried most of it.  We know our kids extremely well, better than anyone else.  We see the hardest parts, because they feel free to be themselves with us.  Which is both good…and hard.

Sixth. Sometimes we see a different side of our child than you do.  Actually…this is pretty true most of the time.  My child will act golden for most people.  This is also post-institutionalized behavior.  (See the links above.)  Please don’t accuse us of making things up.  Please understand this is part of it.  Sometimes we get tired.  Sometimes we may seem like we are rough, tough, and jaded.  Maybe we are, sometimes.  But, we love our kids.  And, we need others who listen, believe us, work hard with us, and love our children WITH us and are willing to FIGHT for our children.  (And if you are a parent and have these types of educators in your life, VALUE them more than gold.  Bring them lots of chocolate and CHERISH THEM.)

Preparing For Back To School

I asked Chris Troutt, LMFT,  Executive Director and Therapist at the Papillion Center for FASD (Gallatin, TN) for her top 5 recommendations for parents of older adoptees beginning school.

1.  Begin getting into “school” routine 1-2 weeks prior to school starting. Go to bed like you would for school instead of summer, get up the same.

2.  Block off 2-3 hours during the day where “school related” activities such as worksheets (easily found on the internet), reading books, etc, become a part of their daily routine again. This helps to get their minds back into “learning” mode, instead of vacation mode.

3.  Pay attention to sensory overload when they come home from starting school. Most of our kids do their very best to “hold it together” during the school day, but fall apart when they get home. Make sure that they receive nutrition/hydration when they arrive home and allow them to “rest” for a short period before expecting anything else of them.

4.  If at all possible, request “no homework”.    Again, our children struggle with overload much of the time.  Homework is counterproductive for them.

5.  Lastly, encourage your child to begin some mindfulness exercises as a preventative method to becoming overwhelmed (most parents need to do this as well).   Simply stopping every two hours, taking time to take deep breaths, feeling where their feet are planted and calming their brain can help ward off meltdowns.   I also encourage nutrition and hydration every two hours to keep their brain in the most optimal place possible.

Some More Resources

Cognitive, Language, and Educational Issues of Children Adopted from Overseas Orphanages (a peer-reviewed publication)

Adoption In The Schools: A Lot To Learn

Supporting Adopted Children In School

Children of Trauma: What Educators Need To Know

In The Classroom…helping foster or late-adopted children succeed

Adoption Basics For Educators: How Adoption Impacts Children And How Educators Can Help

Papillion Center for FASD in Gallatin, TN - “Bringing Hope & Healing to Children and Families in Hard Places” and specializing in Attachment Disorders, Trauma and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

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Adoption At Home: Attachment And Bonding In Families

by bosssanders on July 16, 2015 with no comments

Whether a child comes into a family in infancy or as an older child, the journey of attachment and bonding can be a long and arduous road.

The Difference Between Attachment And Bonding


While attachment and bonding are often used interchangeably, they actually ARE NOT the same.

If you need a quick refresher of the difference between the two, consider this (it’s one of the simplest ways I’ve seen it put):

BOTH refer to the feelings and emotions you and child feel toward each other.

Bonding refers to the surge of love and tenderness YOU feel toward said child.

Attachment is about a relationship built over time between you and child that leaves your child feeling secure, loved, and ready to face the world.

Attachment and bonding are BOTH disrupted in adoption (or foster care) scenarios.  There is much loss that precedes both scenarios.  Children who have endured maltreatment, neglect, and/or abuse often struggle with basic family and life concepts.

Struggles

Often, children with attachment issues struggle with (and, this is the short, abbreviated list ;) ):

- The need to know you will always be there. At some point, someone they loved in a parenting role either badly hurt them or left them (or both).  Some children will cry just to be comforted.  Others will run away, hoping you will chase them and bring them back.  Others will refuse to get close to you because they do not believe you will always be there and if they remain distant, they feel they can’t be hurt again.
-
Trust that their basic needs will always be met. Many children from hard places steal and hoard food.  Even babies will sometimes “overeat” because their brains have been rewired to say “this may be it for a long time.”
-
The need for control over SOMETHING in their life. In toddlers, this can be hard to tell if it’s adoption related or just toddler years, but either way, you can approach it much the same.  In toddler years, their brains can feel some very COMPLEX emotions and yet, the language and knowledge of how to express it isn’t quite there.  This is a very frustrating time for them (and us) in development in general.  Add in some pretty intense feelings of loss of sadness and anger…and you quite possibly have your hands full.  With toddlers and older children, they may avoid eye contact, test boundaries, lie, pretend to not hear you, do the exact opposite of what you say, etc to try to control their little piece of the world.  This is a battle of control, but also a test to see if you will stay with them.
-
The need for validation. Some children internalize their hurt and develop some very unhealthy belief systems about themselves like “I’m unwanted,” “I’m disposable,” I’m bad,” etc.  They feel like they did something wrong or weren’t enough and therefore DESERVED the treatment they received.   If these are their core beliefs, they will often try to live up to them.
-
Understanding what family is and what family is not. We have experienced this a lot with our older son who we adopted as an older child from Africa.  Mostly growing up in orphanages, he knew the culture of an orphanage but had never had a mommy to tuck him in at night.  Or parents who set boundaries and kept them.  He didn’t know what it meant to respect, feel sympathy, and show affection.  These were all so foreign to him.  In his world, lying, stealing, and manipulation was how the game was played.  Switching to American society and family life with our rules and expectations was a HUGE change over from orphanage life where boys ran mostly unsupervised with little consequence.
- Seeking attention in a positive way. If you are a child from hard places, often ANY attention is craved.  –Even if it’s attention where you are angry because the 9 year old who should know better just drew you some pictures…with sharpie… on the couch…and walls…  Some kids will also use their bowel movements to gain attention (although this can also be a sign of them not feeling safe or sexual abuse or other physical issues.)  Also, many children from hard-places show indiscriminate affection to strangers.
- Misinterpreting non-verbal cues and phrases. Sometimes a child who does not have a good “attachment base” with you will automatically filter non-verbal cues and phrases with a negative lens (often due to their thoughts about their self and belief system).
-Anxiety
-Ability to regulate emotions like anxiety, anger, sadness, etc.
-A lower emotional and social age than their physical age. Great trauma can often “stunt” our growth in areas, leaving us behind emotionally and socially.  I remember when our son first came home, we were really surprised that our 7 year old boy connected best with 3 year olds socially and emotionally, he seemed between 1-2 years old.   I don’t often quote Karyn Purvis, but I do like what she said about emotional age.  She said,

” It’s not uncommon to find within a single harmed youngster:
the trust and bonding needs of an infant
the independence needs of a two-year old
the shame issues of a three-year old
the concrete thinking of a four-year old
the reasoning skills of a five-year old
the street smarts of  sixteen-year old
…all wrapped in the body of an eight-year old.”

(If you’ve not read The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis, I do recommend you read it to at least get an insight inside a child from a hard place’s brain.  She has some pretty good nuggets of wisdom to offer.)


Ways To Help Your Child Develop A Secure Attachment

(Please note that while these things have been helpful to us and others, it is a LONG and arduous road.  So, take care of yourself, friend, and also give yourself grace as you go along.)

= One of the top things you will likely hear over and over is: Make their world small. We call it cocooning, oftentimes, in the adoption world.  It’s one of those things you need to not overlook!  Just trust me on this one!  And, another thing… this isn’t an exact science and every child is different.  And, honestly, they can go through things in stages…they may be experiencing trouble in one are one month and something else the next.  They may be doing awesome with boundaries and then two months later, you’re like WHAT JUST HAPPENED?  One of the things we asked when we first brought Z home was, “How long?”  And, there really isn’t a timeline.  You just do it.  You do it until you think maybe they are ready and you gradually invite someone into their tiny world… and if it works… do it again the next week.  If it doesn’t… close your circle again and go slower.  DO NOT RUSH THIS STAGE.  If your children are still indiscriminate with their love for strangers, you may want to consider making their world a little smaller.  (And yes, we are FULLY aware of how HARD this is when you have a marriage you want to nurture AWAY and you have lots of family who doesn’t understand why you aren’t at family functions and you have friends you NEED to see and the other kids have STUFF TO DO!)  Be creative :)  My husband and I would often switch duties.  When we first began going back to church after months of being home, he couldn’t handle interacting with people…so, he sat right there with us.  The whole time.  We held his hand (he was too big for me to carry or else I would’ve).  We asked people to not pat him or hug him or cuddle him (as irresistibly cute as he is).  Just high-fives or shake his hand.  It took him almost 2 full years before he finally trusted us that THIS was his family.  Forever.  He didn’t need to scope out other families and win them over just in case.
- Routine. Kids from hard places THRIVE in routine.  We are a homeschooling family generally, but our son needs routine so much, that we are opting to try out public school this year (keep in mind he’s been home for almost 2 years).  Make them a picture chart that shows them when they eat, when they sleep, when they play, etc.  There are lots of fun activity charts online and some fun ones you can customize and DIY, too.  Then, follow through.  In time, they will come to trust it.  (Also, warning before changing activities can also help … In 10 minutes, we are goint to bed…in 5 min, we are going to bed…Okay, time for bed.)
- Give them SOMETHING to control…but, don’t let them control you. If you said bedtime is at 8, bed time is at 8.  Be consistent.  However, do give them some choices… do you want to wear the red shoes or green shoes?  Would you like an apple or an orange?  (Or, if they can handle it, maybe even a basket of breakfast options that they can choose from.  –However, if this one goes awry, you may want to simplify the options to only 2.)
- Validate them. If they have negative self-beliefs, it’s important you zone in on those and help them readjust those beliefs.  It will take a LOT of work and time.  Some ideas are: Consistently tell them positive things about themselves.  Reframe their past circumstances… Your birth mom was scared and THAT is why xyz happened or… SHE made choices because SHE didn’t have resources or whatever.  NOT because your child was “bad.”  We have even given our child an outside story to help show this (when the storyline doesn’t involve them, they can sometimes see it more clearly and can talk through it…then relate it to them).  We also do individual date nights with our children, write good qualities on each of their fingers, and go around the table with each person saying something positive about each person.  They all LOVE this!  Also, compliment them to someone in public if they are old enough to understand.
- Teach them what family is.  And, what it’s not. If your child is a baby, this will be an ACTION sort of thing.  Showing up and providing for his/her needs.  For toddlers and older kids, constantly repeating things like “Family loves each other.  We are kind to each other.  Family needs to be able to trust each other.  Family is FOREVER.  Even when we are mad at each other.”  With our older son, we have had many talks about what happens in a family when trust is destroyed.  We have also employed some tomato-stake parenting (keeping the child close at ALL times…if you are in the living room doing laundry, they must be in there doing whatever…even when the other kids go off to play.  The idea is that until I can trust you to do what you are supposed to do, I need to help you make good choices.)
- Teach appropriate behaviors. We ingrain appropriate behaviors from BIRTH!  Instead of just saying “don’t hit your sister”, we try to figure out the WHY and then address ways to better deal with it next time.  Maybe he hit his sister because he wanted the toy and she said no.  So, we would walk through how to deal when we feel angry and we want something and if we feel like we may hit again, to come get mom or dad, and we will help them navigate that.
- Be clear in your cues and what you say.
- Pay close attention to your child’s emotional and social age and then, meet them there.
One of the things we did when our son first came home was make a list of normal things families do at different stages in a babies life.  There are different stages where we cuddle a baby to feed it with lots of eye contact and rocking, singing them to sleep.  They need to be held a LOT.  There are stages that come later where a child can sit to eat, but you are still handing them the food and sometimes putting it in their mouth.  They become more independent, but you still keep a very close eye on them.  They are not ready to play independent from you, just yet.  They still must learn the do’s and don’ts.  Once they hit 3, they gain a little more independence.  They can do things for themselves but still need a lot of validation and cuddling, etc.  They still need some supervision, etc.  —-Now, while I do believe there is some truth to this, please know we aren’t ones to bottle feed an older kid.  We did begin rocking him more in that time, though.  Who doesn’t like to be rocked?  I tried feeding him and that was weird for us… but, hey.  Try it.  It may work for you!

Ways To Build Attachment As a Family

- Laugh together.  Be silly. It sounds simplistic, but it really works.  It’s a way to bond deeply with each other.  Learn some new jokes or riddles and practice telling them to each other.  For babies and toddlers, you can make funny faces and sounds or tickle them.  Take photo booth style photos while acting goofy!  Play games that require you to make a fool out of yourself.  Tickle wars!
- Touch. Holding, cuddling, massage, etc.  Rub lotion on each other’s arms/hands, etc.  Rocking.  Baby-wearing if baby/toddler age.  Let your children use you as a jungle gym, climbing, crawling, swinging, etc.
- Help child feel like an integral part of the family. Our son, Z, actually asked for chores when he got acclimated a little because he wanted to be like the rest of us.  It helped him feel like he belonged and had purpose.  Beginning at 3, we give our children little “chores” or tasks to do.  As they grow older, these are more structured.  He also identified with his “place” in the family (older brother) and has taken great pride in helping with the younger children.  (Little brothers and sisters can also feel important in the family by making a big deal over their part in the family, too.  Little brothers and sisters in our family have special privileges, too!)
- Do special things together and  TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS! There’s nothing like going through an adventure together, and having photographs to remind us of those bonding experiences.  Also, when you take photographs of you and your adopted child (and them with their siblings), it helps to reinforce bonding and attachment, further making them feel like they belong.
– Focus on the most important 8 minutes of the day. The first 4 and last 4.  Focus on making sure these 8 minutes are positive and used to validate.
- Let your children choose something to teach the rest of the family. Even young toddlers can “teach” us how to build a tower of blocks or how to sing a song or dance a dance they’ve made up.  Older kids could read up on a fun skill (or watch youtube kids videos to learn) and then teach it.  The possibilities are endless!  And, it leaves them feeling important and validated and special!
- Exercise together. Cardio and yoga have both been proven to help regulate our children (and us!)   This is a two-fer!  It helps regulate AND creates a memory of something done together.  Learn some simple calming yoga poses or go jump on a trampoline together.  Other ideas: playing tag, hopping around like frogs, jumping rope, swimming together, etc.
- Do projects together. The sense of accomplishment and togetherness that comes from completing a project together is huge!  Complete a puzzle, clean the house (scrubbing floors!), color, plant flowers/garden (let them dig!), moving big and small rocks,  building something, etc.
– Display photographs of your adopted child and you, and another with them and their siblings in a PROMINENT place in your home.
-  Play games together…the funnier, the better!  Games where you have to act things out, guess things, draw and guess, etc are always a hit!  Choose games that focus more on fun than winning.
- Be sensitive to over-stimulation in your child. Some children need a space of their own to calm down, while others simply need to run or jump on a mini-trampoline.  Provide sensory activities in a box or a little tent in a corner that they can access as needed.  Pinterest has lots of ideas, but a weighted blanket, stuffed animal with a calming scent (lavender or Gentle baby by Young Living), headphones to cancel noise, exercise ball to balance on, stress ball, bubble wrap (if old enough to not swallow), discovery bottles.

**Please know, this is NOT an exhaustive list.  More like, just the beginning of a conversation about a journey :)  Not all of these will work for every kid and sometimes you will be required to change up your game plan in stages (it may work a while and then stop!)  Also, I’m not a doctor of anything.  I’m just a mom.  I’ve walked the road of both adoption and foster-care and parenting, in general.

Another NOTE:  I see a HUGE difference in ALL of my children if they do not have good, nutritional meals.  I’ve noticed that lots of artificial flavorings and dyes and sugar do not react nicely with my children.  They also have a huge need for exercising (which I wish I was as passionate about in my own body!).

And, Lastly…For You…

- Join a support group. You need people who “get you.”  I’m a part of both internet support groups (several) AND local.  They both have their positives.  I LOVE having a local group that comes together and supports one another in a very real way.  And, when things get too hard, we switch up kids with each other.  Not to mention, they get it.  And, no judgement.
- Take time away. Do it.  Go away for a weekend.  Go with the girls, spouse, by yourself…whatever.  Just do it.  It’s necessary to recharge to be a good parent.
-  Eat well.  Get enough sleep.  Drink enough water.  Move your body. Take care of your health.  You can’t run this race on fumes.
- Write out a thankful list. And, read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts if you haven’t already.  Seriously.  Review said list often.
- Ground yourself in God’s Word DAILY. Preferably before your feet even hit the ground in the morning.  My 3 year old is more accurate than an alarm clock at daybreak each day, so I rarely beat him up.  For this stage of my life, it’s not feasible for me to do a Bible study in the mornings.  So, I picked up a short devotional (Right now, I love Jesus Calling.  It’s simple and gives me a nugget that I meditate on throughout the day.  You can also go through Proverbs, one a day and choose a verse or two that really speaks to you to meditate on throughout the day.)  Then, at nap time, I TRY to study the bible for an hour or more.  It grounds me and makes me feel more peaceful and gives me strength to keep going.
- Start a journal and write down every. little. bit. of progress your child makes.  Every tiny bit.  And, when you feel like NOTHING is changing, look back at just how much HAS changed.
- Take time to nourish your marriage. It’s important.  Don’t put each other on the backburner.  Instead, remember to focus on your marriage and you will both be invaluable support and a safe haven for one another.
- Remember to laugh…and buy some wine…and laugh some more. For real.  I didn’t even like wine 2 years ago.

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bosssanders

Mid-July Updates

by bosssanders on July 15, 2015

Outside my window… It’s STEAMY hot with ninja mosquitoes. Going outside equals 39,934,387 mosquito bites.  SERIOUSLY?! Thank goodness for this…

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Parenting: Swimming Upstream In Mainstream America

by bosssanders on July 13, 2015

It seems like once we become mothers, every decision we make somehow becomes open for public discussion and opinion. And,…

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Trying to Conceive (TTC) MASHUP

by bosssanders on July 11, 2015

After a year of trying for a baby early in our marriage, we were told that there was a pretty…

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