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Friday, November 2, 2012

Parenting Paradigms and Life Style Changes

 I sometimes get nervous about writing such personal thoughts.... but if this helps just one person, I am willing to be transparent and open. Sorry this is long....

I have been teaching a support group for awhile, and things are going well.  We have been going through The Connected Child, and the bible study that goes along with it, from "Empowered to Connect". 
I think this chapter is PIVOTAL in understanding the message of the book.  BCLC parenting which is VERY similar to what Karyn Purvis teaches, is  what I firmly believe will bring about close, successful relationships NO MATTER what your child's background. 
These ideas are not just "how to fix your kid" ideas.  They REQUIRE growth, lifestyle change, soul searching, and understanding WHY YOU have buttons and how to turn failures into successes.

Shifting one's thinking from, "It is all about FAS, RAD, or it is all about TRAUMA or it is ALL about Manipulation, selfishness, ADHD, ODD", etc. etc.  can be HARD, especially if we use those diagnosis as a crutch for "lazy parenting" or "hopeless parenting". 
The "why bother" attitude or "I'm tired of trying" attitude will get you NOWHERE!  Who wants to continue to do the same things and never get out of the stress and unhappiness? 

THINGS CAN CHANGE FOR THE BETTER! THEY TRULY CAN! BE ENCOURAGED~! 
And NOT ONLY can it  change in your family for the better, you can see your children HEAL and SUCCEED! 

So take a deep breath.... and please stay with me. :)  I  DO understand, VERY WELL the frustration and heartache that can come along with bringing very hurt children into our home.  I also know first hand how misunderstanding intentions, personal struggles and overwhelm can turn into a big mess, and suddenly, a child is the scapegoat.  It is ALL THEIR FAULT....and there is nothing different anybody can do.....:(   THREE out of FOUR of our precious girls were in these situations. The accusations were severe and serious.

But.... God...... intervened......

He first had to intervene in ME. Yes. ME.  LONG before my girls came home, he was intervening and involved in some very difficult paths of my life.  By the time I was 24. I had 4 little boys and was in a severely unhealthy marriage. 
I was the "good Christian girl" who thought I knew everything at 18, when I said in Sunday School. "Divorce is a sin. I would NEVER get divorced!"    Um yea. Well..... Time for some humble pie. :)
God KNEW what experiences in my life I would need, and the blessings came through tears many times.  They were "blessings" I did not understand at the time.
I was blessed with a child who had a stroke at 16 days old and nearly died. He had MANY special needs.  I was blessed with a child who was ADHD with a little speed added to that!  He also had an incredible temper and  to this day have not met another one quite like him. :)
(although I hear his son is a good match) :)
I was blessed with a quiet child, and a compliant but passive aggressive child.
I was STILL a child.... looking at it from this angle. :)
I was blessed with a  PRECIOUS MOM IN LAW who's 92nd birthday is TODAY! :)  Happy Birthday MOM!
She taught me so much! She was patient and kind and loving and caring. She helped me to learn to understand  my little hyper guy. :) 
She also helped me so much to think outside the box in many areas of my life.  I am forever thankful for her influence in my life.

As my boys grew, I used to sit and study them, just to see what made them tick.... I studied their likes and dislikes and practiced different ways to relate to them.... All this was under tremendous stress that brought me to homelessness, rejection and divorce.
It was a very sad time, yet it was that VERY TIME when I pressed HARD into my Lord.... I was the "fallen" good girl. I was the person I never dreamed I would be. :( 
GOD GAVE ME THE GIFT of NEEDING to depend upon Him.  HE carried my burdens and HE taught me.  I had nowhere to go but to the Lord and His word.

I went through raising 4 boys pretty much alone for a long time. Surgeries, doctors, decisions were made by a 27 year old mom of 4.  There was nobody to go home and cry to.  I went home to 3 other boys who needed me desperately. So my tears had to be saved for night time prayers. 
"Why wasn't God hearing me?" 
HE WAS.... He was preparing me.  In FACT... one of the Scriptures in Isaiah that I believe the Lord led me to, TOLD me that very thing!  I just hadn't figured that out yet. :)

"Fear NOT, For I have redeemed you. I have called you by your name, you are Mine. When you pass through the water, I will be with you. And through the waters they shall not over flow. When you pass through the fire you will not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon you, for I am the Lord your God."
There were many more verses.

As time went by and the boys were getting bigger and I met Mike.... life started to settle down and we married when I was 31.  And then I met my new inlaws who were AMAZING, loving,  people.  I began to be surrounded by love and my broken heart began to mend.....
My circumstances brought about much growth in my life... and I was still trying to make sense of them.

FAST FORWARD......13 years.  All the guys are in college and we adopt Anna.   I cannot explain or tell you how, but all those experiences from my early life, came into play in understanding my Anna. The fear, the rejection, the pain..... helped me to deeply understand that she was NOT what they said she was.  She was a reflection her wounded little soul.  She needed GREAT and DEEP love and healing, not punishment and judgment.  Oh I do understand judgment. I have felt it's sting.  She had too.
As I began to work with her, I found areas in my life that needed much tweaking, some of what I wrote about in my "Any Unpacked Bags" post.  Why did a 5 year old get a strong emotional reaction from me?
I had to search my own soul for that answer.  I had to be WILLING to do it!  It is hard to face ugly.
But in order for parents to GROW and have DEEP relationships, we MUST FACE the UGLINESS of our own sin.
And we must forgive ourselves.

One thing I learned with my boys, was to play with them and make sure their little lives were joyful.  We had enough sadness, they needed mommy to be happy and give them joyful experiences. I took this very seriously.
I played a lot with Anna, and she began to open up and heal.  We would play games in the car on the way to the bank, like "radio".   It was silly really, but one of my favorite memories.  She would pretend to turn the channels on the radio and I would sing, or give news, or tell a story. She would pretend to turn the volume up or down and my voice would follow..... she LOVED this game and it would make her laugh heartily.
Our social worker thought that we had been trained through BCLC  but I had never heard of it. She introduced me to the book and said, "I think you'll really enjoy it. "   I did.  She then introduced me to
"The Connected Child" when it came out and said, "I KNOW you'll like this too!"  I did. :)
Those two books gave me the "science" behind what I already understood about behaviors.  And it seemed like everything just clicked.
So when we were told about Sarah, there was no fear in bringing her home. 
When we went to get Erika, we were prepared to do whatever it took to help her transition safely and carefully into life within an American family.
We knew it would be hard.  Even the orphanage Doctor questioned us.... "Are you sure you want to see her? She is IMBICILE! She is stubborn!"  

When Alli was about to come, it was a little different.  We had not adopted for almost 5 years.  Everybody was healthy and happy and flourishing.  And Alli was older.  Erika was nearly 8, but Alli was 11.  The social workers were cautious and BLUNTLY honest with us.  They gave us all information up front and  we prayed.  Was I afraid? Yes. 
Why?  Because everybody told us we had just lucked out.  The girls were doing well because we were just lucky?  I knew this wasn't so.... but it was in the back of my mind. 
"Maybe, I'm in for another lesson in humility.....maybe this child will make me know that I don't know what I'm talking about.  Everybody will laugh....Everybody will say, "told you so"..... "
Those were thoughts that popped into my head and I would quickly pray them out..... that was FEAR talking and FEAR has no place in my life.
We had also come to the conclusion that the outcomes in life are not completely up to us. We know what to do, but our value as people or parents will not be tied into whether this child heals. HOWEVER, that said, we would choose not to be complacent or give up.

And then the Lord opened the door and we walked through.  And ONCE AGAIN.... our lives were changed forever.  And I am so glad we walked through that door.  Why?  Because it has solidified in my heart that LOVE HEALS.  And LOVE, TRUE LOVE, GODLY LOVE brings about CHANGE.... LIFE GIVING CHANGE!

Our first months with Miss Alli were trying and joyful.  She was so hurt from 2 disruptions, besides all the trauma from her birth family and orphanage..... was it too late?  It is NEVER too late for God to intervene.
We had no expectations. We knew we were to love her. Period.  We figured it would be a very rough ride and we would ALL be a team and make it work no matter what.
I did NOT expect to fall in love with her the first week. :)  I did not expect her to respond and open up so quickly.  It was shocking actually.  
And then,  the depth of her anguish and pain began to surface. She trusted us enough to show it.  I had to remember through tears..... "It isn't personal, it's trauma" and walk the path of love. We ALL did.
There were times Mrs. Nasty in myself would pop out and I'd be reminded of my own sinful nature.
And then I would ask forgiveness and model to her, what eventually she would come to understand. It is ok to ask forgiveness.  It is right to want relationships that are healthy.  When we do wrong, we need to be sorry. 

Oh the layers that were unpeeled.... each one raw, each one painful... each one bringing me back to memories of long ago, when it was ME who was hurt.
It only made me love her more.... love her more tenderly, love her more gently.

If your child is hurting.... you have NO ROOM.. for selfishness.  They MUST come first and YOU MUST DIE TO YOURSELF....  but you must also gain your strength from the Lord. 
THIS KIND OF HEALING cannot come from just you in your own pitiful strength.  It cannot! It is essential that we understand that loving our children will cost us everything, and then lay down our lives before the Lord..... for the joy set before us.  In the process, WE too are transformed.

Parents, speak LIFE into your children.  Find something to LOVE about them, even a tiny little thing if you are in a very difficult place, and concentrate on that one thing. And then find another.  Find SOMETHING to praise them for.  Tell them they are precious.  Do NOT EVER speak negatively about your children. Do not refer to them in sarcastic ways.  This is not helpful for your attitude and they will pick up on that subtle underlying anger. 
Tell them when you have a great moment with them..... "You are such a great kid!"   Rock them OFTEN, hug them OFTEN.... LAUGH with them often!

Be VERY careful that your love is not performance based "conditional" love.  This will NEVER work and is an easy trap to fall into.  It will make children insecure and feel as though love is on precarious ground.  Instead tell them they are precious to you. Be JOYFUL towards them. Tell them they are valuable to you. Always have your arms open and welcoming, EVEN WHEN YOU ARE HURTING.....You MUST!

As RELATIONSHIP builds, things will fall into their proper place.  Old behaviors will be replaced with new and better behaviors.  Your family will be happy and secure.  It is up to us as parents to bring about change.  And the change MUST BEGIN in US! :)
Life changing LOVE... Changes LIVES. :)

This post is too long. So sorry.  But I will be writing soon about how to take a child who's words are out of control, and teach them to bring them under control.  Stay tuned.

(I'm reminded of an old song)

"Something Beautiful, Something good. All my confusion, He understood, All I had to offer him was brokenness and strife, but He made something, beautiful of my life."

6 comments:

TheCoffeys said...

Good one! May I share this post? Your transparency has helped me more than you know in the past!

Fatcat said...

Wow. This is very well written and very poignant. Thanks for sharing.

Ruthann said...

Your writing was not too long. You said just the right things. Yes, true love brings back some painful memories sometimes...Painful, but necessary.

Mike and Christie said...

Yes, you may! :)

Brooke said...

Thank you for writing this. I had similar fears before bringing our son home. It's amazing to see a life transformed.

Annie said...

It was only "too long" in that I need to break it down and think seriously about MANY various parts of it....

I'd like to ship you a daughter.

I thought I was doing so well, and in a sense, I was. And, I love her! But, it has come to my attention that SHE really does seem impaired in her ability to bond.... She is shallow. I had thought that she was getting better, but it was all surface.... Just don't know what to think..... I think she trusts us; she asks my opinion, wants me to approve of her artwork, hair style, etc. But, I know now that if someone came and moved her to a new home.....she'd be just the same with someone else. It isn't true attachment.

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