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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Attachment Is NOT Just Up To Our Kids!

 Have you ever thought "They aren't attached?"  or "They aren't attaching to me?"  Have you ever thought, "They have no relationship with me?" Do you catch yourself picking out or noticing all of your child's flaws, and not their strengths?  Do you struggle with even seeing the good things about them?  Are you at a point where you have allowed yourself to think, "I am just here to give them food and shelter and then, they are outta here at 18?" 
(dramatic photo courtesy of me) :)
It DOESN'T have to be that way!  It really doesn't! 
   
It is my prayer that this post offers hope and encouragement for the discouraged.

Let's take a little peer into a work place scenario:

Think about going to a new job. You are nervous and want to do well, but your job has many new concepts to learn and many more responsibilities than you knew about when you took the job.
Now, let's say your manager is watching all you do.  This makes you rather nervous, because you don't know how to relate to him or her.  Things are rather "disjointed", and then, you do something that you have been doing, and she blows her stack! She gets angry, and you don't understand why!
You are trying, but it is rather hard to know what to do because nobody is really communicating with you. There are all these unwritten rules and expectations! This is HARD! You become more stressed, because you don't want to make your manager mad, or to disappoint them, yet at the same time, you don't know what to do, exactly....
Then, the other employees begin to judge you. They speak unkindly to you. "How come you don't know how to do THAT??" "I can't believe they hired you!"  "Why don't you CHANGE?" "WHY DON'T YOU DO BETTER?"  "Things were better before YOU came!"
You begin to feel that every time you try to do something, or even relax, your manager and the other employees are  there to tell you how you did it wrong and they are dissatisfied with you.  You begin to feel ashamed and that something must be wrong with you! In fact, something MUST be wrong with you, because you have had this experience before!  The shame becomes greater, and you give up.
You stop trying because, "Why does it matter?  Nobody cares if I'm trying! I feel like my manager is dissatisfied with me all the time, and that I'll never measure up to the expectations of those who have been on this job much longer than I have. "
And you shut down.
Your manager then accuses you of not trying. They accuse you of being lazy and make sure they send you to the HR department for help.  The HR department discusses how you can do your job better, but never discusses how you feel lost and don't really understand your job description.  They give you a small hint that you need to shape up! But the information is disjointed, and you are told all of the problem is YOU.

 (photo courtesy of google)

THIS is what it is like to be a traumatized child coming into a home where they are expected to attach, when RELATIONSHIP is not looked upon as the responsibility of ALL  parties, but for the child to attach to the family; placing huge responsibility on the child to conform.

I STRONGLY believe that RELATIONSHIP'S GREATEST responsibility is upon us, as parents, and then siblings!
When we bring a new child into our home, it is a STRESSFUL yet JOYOUS time.  It is different than bringing home a newborn. Our children have lived lives outside of our home. They have developed habits, had hurts and pain beyond imagination. 
How DARE us, be critical of them.  How DARE us, expect them to just fall into line with the children that have always been with us, or been with us a long time! And HOW DARE us, be a bad example to our children already home, causing them to judge also. 
OUR example can cause our children to SIN. 

(dramatic photo courtesy of Miss Alli) :)

Our children come to us very broken.  Gently putting the pieces of their lives together cannot happen OUTSIDE of true relationship! 
RELATIONSHIP MUST COME FIRST!

Looking back on Alli's arrival to our home, I was reminded of this incident in my childhood:

I distinctly remember 2 little girls coming to stay at our home when I was about 11. They were my age and younger, and it was an emergency placement, just for 2 weeks.  I remember the oldest one crying when she was corrected for over pouring her cereal and then wiping the cereal on the floor.
It wasn't the correction. It was HOW it was done. She was shamed.
I remember feeling two ways. 
1. I felt sorry for her.
2. I thought to myself, "Why did she do that? Didn't she know any better?"
The answer was NO! SHE DIDN'T KNOW ANY BETTER.  I still feel guilt for even thinking that.
Her stress level must have been so much.   She cried at night as we slept in the same bed.  I didn't know what to do.  I layed there, turned the other way, silent.  I was scared. I didn't know how to relate. I was totally unprepared as a child to deal with such a thing.
My parents never even talked about it or offered any guidance. NONE! The girls  were there; they were gone.  I felt sad and empty. I didn't even know they were leaving. When I came home from school, they were gone. I didn't even say good bye.  I still feel empty from that short 2 week period in my life. I still feel shame that I did not do better to try and relate.

Alli was the same age as these girls, and the same age as our girls.   I was determined when she came home to make sure that our girls understood NOT to judge any of her actions, but find compassion for her, and everybody would then help to guide her through our kindness and acceptance of her!
Was it easy? No. It was not.  But OH HOW VALUABLE were the lessons we all learned through her coming into our lives.  We ALL had sin that needed rooted out. :)

We learned that we can be judgmental and prideful attitudes and OUR hearts needed some weeding.  We learned that  "A Soft Answer Turns Away Wrath!"  We learned how very much she wanted to be accepted and loved, but was so used to being misunderstood, she was totally shut down. 
We learned together, to encourage her to open up just a smidge..... and then, we KNEW the floodgates of love would open.
We learned that our acceptance of her, ALL of her personality, FLAWS AND ALL, was REQUIRED for her to move forward and heal.  She held onto her behaviors like a shield of shame. She slowly began to let that shield down as she felt accepted and loved.
We took our girls out one at a time as needed to encourage them to keep up the good work, to listen to their hearts and offer understanding and direction, and then to pray with them along with us for guidance and direction. 

Erika, Anna and Sarah  have been  an integral part of Alli's healing.  They LOVED her unconditionally from day one, and LOVE her and each other unconditionally to this day!

If you have other children in your home when you bring a new child home, please help them to see
that they too are responsible to foster a TRUE LOVING relationship with their new sibling!
Prepare them, that this new child will not know how to attach or have a relationship, but it will be up to you as a TEAM to teach and guide them, gently, slowly, steadily, with great Steadfast love.... and that child WILL attach!

Relationship is a two way street.  If we become drawn into our child's rejection of our attempts to love them, and give up.  The relationship will stagnate and fester and die on the vine.
We are SUPPOSED to be the ones who guide our children into relationship. Don't let your child's hurts DICTATE how you respond to them.  ALWAYS respond with RELATIONSHIP in mind!
WORK HARD FOR IT. 
If it is not happening, reassess how you are relating to your child. 
Are they stressed?  If so WHY? 
Are you angry? Yelling?  Judging? 
You may be thinking, "Well, if my child does xy or z, I have the RIGHT to get upset or even angry! Or of course I'm going to judge them! They are hoarding! "They are not going to sleep at night!"  "They are making mess after mess after mess!"  THESE BEHAVIORS ARE FEAR BASED BEHAVIORS STEEPED IN SHAME!  Punishing a child during this stage will only be a self fulfilling prophecy for them that they deserve to be punished and that they are NOT worthy of your love.
I DO feel your pain. :)  We have been through all of those things with EACH of our girls.
But THINK RELATIONSHIP!  How can I help my child through fits of rage, hoarding, stealing, lying, making huge messes by getting mad at them?  How separating them into time out, or grounding them to their room, spanking them, or making them miss a family event,   help them to be honest? How will that help them to  do the things we  want them to do and get rid of unwanted behaviors?
IT WON'T! 
WHY?  Because  relationship is NOT there. It is not established yet.
I have heard it said, "Don't let them take an inch!" "Lay down the Law!"
I disagree.  That does NOT mean to let anybody wreak havoc either.  But get BUSY establishing relationship!  Study your child to see how old they are emotionally and parent them according to emotional age, NOT gestational age!  Get to know them. Try to understand them. 
No amount of "punishment" is going to cause a hurt child to suddenly say, "Oh mother dear, or father dear, I am so sorry. I will never do this again! You are  right, and I am  wrong." "Hugs and kisses!"
No. Not YET anyway! :)
Those times DO come!  But not until a real relationship that goes BOTH WAYS is established!

Now, how CAN we help them?


1.By LOVING THEM.... GIVE YOUR WHOLE HEART TO THEM NO MATTER HOW YOU FEEL! Choosing what is best for them at all times, even when you don't feel like it.
2.By discipling them. 
3. By teaching them self discipline. 
4. By being  the steady, the ROCK in their life.
5. By gentle, instruction, a little at a time, with great love and hugs and rocking and reassuring.... solving one problem at a time, not dumping everything wrong about their behavior onto them all at once.
6. By opening dialogue.

A little at a time with great reassurance, our children will respond to RELATIONSHIP.  They want it. They CRAVE it.  But they are also AFRAID  of it.  They don't want to lose it.  Sometimes the fear of losing a potential relationship they cherish, will cause a child to be too afraid to feel and attach, because they don't trust that relationship to be solid. If they feel disapproval, they may stop trying because they are so very fragile.  That is why it is so important to US to be on top of our OWN emotions and behaviors!

Have we done this perfectly? No. We have not. Nobody does.  But we work HARD at it. VERY HARD... and when we blow it, we APOLOGIZE to our child. A REAL apology, not a "I'm sorry I got mad, but if you handn't done...."
No, a REAL apology.  "Sweetie, Mama was wrong. I am so very sorry. Will you forgive me?"

That vulnerability opens a door for our children to be vulnerable too, and teaches them to learn how to forgive themselves. :)
Our humility, brings about healing in our children! :)  And it also helps US to improve our OWN personal skills in dealing with relationships!
Isn't that awesome!

None of us have "arrived" yet. We are all on the road of life.  I pray that we each continue down that road, trusting the Lord to help us, and treating our children as HE treats us, with GREAT LOVING KINDNESS.
"It's your KINDNESS that leads us to Repentance". Romans 2:4
"A soft Answer turns away wrath!" Proverbs 15: 1
"Children Are a Blessing From the Lord"  Psalm 127:3
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.  James 1:27


Our dependence is upon Him; we cannot walk this walk, alone. cm
"I can do ALL things IN CHRIST who Strengthens me." Phillipians 4:13


8 comments:

Hevel Cohen said...

I would make this compulsory reading for anyone planning to adopt! Wonderful article.

Alysa said...

Totally off topic-- but the first thing I noticed in this post is how straight Alli's teeth are!! lol!

Christie Minich said...

Yes, she has VERY straight teeth!
I remember taking her to the dentist and she had a tooth coming in in the back. The woman actually suggested that the tooth was behind another tooth and might not come in and suggested braces! Ummm can we wait and see if that tooth come in?
6 months later, it was in a perfect place.
Makes me wonder sometimes about dentists. Now that is REALLY off topic! LOL

Alysa said...

Lol!! Yes- alot of times dentist want to do things that aren't necessary.. Same with orthodontists. My orthodontist talked my mom into getting me braces in 3rd grade, even thought I would need them again in 6th. Looking back, there was absolutely no benefit from them!!! I wish I had Alli's teeth! I should have my braces off in the next few months, though. :)

Sergey and Tatyana said...

Christie, thank you for this post. Sometimes we as parents forget that we do have to do a huge part in order for our child attach, and do well in our family.

Hope Anne said...

As usual, you hit a home run with this one, Christie!

Dawn said...

Thank you.

Missy at Its Almost Naptime said...


Christie,

I am friends with Mary Ann Day and she has passed on many of your blog posts to encourage us. You have so many phenomenal things to say!

There are a few things that could be done to your blog to make it a little easier to navigate, and therefore reach more people. If you would like any help on giving it a bit of a makeover, please let me know. I'd be thrilled to :)

You can email me at missydoll@gmail. com. Mary Ann can vouch for me!

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