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Monday, August 19, 2013

Understanding The Fear Factor

 I wrote a few days ago about how Sweetie 4 feelt safe in the orphanage and frightened in America.
I wanted to follow up on this because I think there is a valid "questioning" as to why that would be!
How could a seemingly unsafe place without hope and without future seem safer than a loving home WITH a future?
 (This is what sweetie 4's  orphanage looked like, and her town.)





 This is the craft room she remembers so well!

 The village was beautiful!
It is all about perspective, the unknown, and change.

Some children transition from one culture to another or  one home to another quite smoothly, and  with minimal bumps.  They have a clear idea of what is "normal".
Others however have very strong reactions to the change and it terrifies them.  Their "normal" is quite different from what it should be.  Their brains get wired at an early age to cling to chaos. 
So when "normal" comes: a.k.a.- Loving parents, good intentioned parents, structure, etc.
The reaction can be quite strong.  There can be a STRONG fight or flight fear reaction that can come out in many different ways.
For some children, they shut down, become robotic, unconnected and lifeless.  For others, they become combative, angry, violent, aggressive, disrespectful, and more.

BOTH OF THESE are FEAR REACTIONS..... YES FEAR!

And yes, a child can long for the chaos left behind, even though they have a seemingly wonderful situation right in front of them. YES! They can be blind to new parents and promising lives, and be TERRIFIED!

As adoptive parents 2 out of 4 of our girls had this very reaction.  Even though we loved them and were loving to them, their first response was rejection and anger.
(Rejection and Anger are FEAR based responses)

This is the part that is hard for all of us as adoptive parents.  We cannot and MUST not take the reactions personally. 
Even if a child is screaming "I hate you! or "I want to die!"    With limited English in the case of International Adoption, this might be the strongest language a child has to express their grief!

We must understand that they are reacting to the unknown with great fear . Their new normal is actually CHAOS to them!  And they will do anything and everything to recreate what they are used to. 

When I wrote that sweetie 4 had fond memories of her orphanage, I was serious. She really did. She also has fond, healthy memories of her earliest life with her bio parents.
We have worked HARD for her to talk about both...the good and the bad.
And the truth is, there is no experience that is all good, or all bad!

She has memories that are horrific....but she also has memories where she cooked with her mama, or went to visit a relative.  She has memories of playing under the house, and having a little friend; and memories of following her big brother around and going to the small store in their village.

I want her to cling to those memories and hold them in her heart.  The memories that landed her in an orphanage need to be remembered too, but only so she can forgive and learn what NOT to do!

The same goes for any other home she was in.  There are good and bad memories. 
We have encouraged her to keep the good ones and be thankful for them.  Let the bad ones go, forgiving others and forgiving herself.

The trick in taking a child from chaos (fear) to regular life (a place of love and regulation) is in our reactions to their fear.
I say this, and it sounds so simple.  The concept IS simple.  The task of carrying it out is not so simple. :)
That is just true.
It can be VERY HARD!
Why?
Because it requires us to die to ourselves.  It requires us to put our own feelings aside over, and over and over.....
A perfectly great day can occur and then.... SABOTAGE!    The child forgets their shame for part of the day and then something happens in the brain and they remember.... oh yea.... and they begin to act out.
THAT is the time where we need to be on our guard the most!
We can miss a perfect opportunity for healing, if we over react, or react out of fear ourselves!

I remember one time when we had had a WONDERFUL time and then suddenly one of our girls  began to cry and kick the backs of the seats, throwing a huge fit.  "I hated that time!" "I  hated those people!"  and more....

We had been at a cross roads with this child.  She was beginning to turn from chaos to embrace love.
But this day was just too picture perfect and her shame overcame her. 
She didn't feel she deserved such a good day and tried to recreate the day to fit her view of herself.
"Undeserving"..... "not worthy to be loved".... "Problem child"!
I would have called her "Much Afraid".  :(

Both my husband  and I immediately realized what was happening and quietly responded to her screams.
"You deserved to have fun!"  "You are lovely!"  "You are a great kid!"
As we carried her into the house kicking and screaming, we got her to the rocking chair and I repeated all those things to her, quietly.
She began to go from tantrum to sorrow....
Her screams of anger turned to sobs of sorrow.
She wept properly this time, grief pouring from her little heart and we witnessed another piece of her heart healing.

I shudder at what could have happened had we reacted to her tantrum in anger or frustration!  What if we had said, "Stop that right now!"  "You are being terrible!"  "What a bad girl!"  "You are really going to get it when we get home!" "You are going STRAIGHT TO BED!"  and then, we separated from her.... and licked our wounds of pride after her verbal assault?

I honestly KNOW what would have happened, because we HAD reacted that way before with some of those words!
Bitterness would have set in, and the next time would have been worse. We would have reinforced her very thoughts about herself, and solidified in her mind that she deserved to be treated badly.
And yes, she received it as being treated badly. 

Here is a picture of  Sweetie 1 in "time out" before we knew about "time in". :)

This picture still makes me sad. :(


NO deep healing can really take place if we are "punishment" oriented. We need to always move in the direction of healthy relationship!

It is possible that SOME kids might even respond to that type of reaction externally.... but we are looking for INTERNAL healing that shows itself in EXTERNAL and INTERNAL thoughts and behavior!

I do not desire my children to simply obey at my every command.  I want them to obey out of love and desire!  I want them to be motivated by LOVE and proper respect.
But that kind of obedience takes TIME and a whole lot of hard work!

I love the words to the song below.  It is so true for our children who come from hard places!
It is also true for us, if we are open to being changed!



"I Will Change Your Name"
G       C                    D
I will change your name
G                     C               D
You shall no longer be called
G        C       D   Bm    C               D
Wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid
G       C                    D
I will change your name
G                C                  D
Your new name shall be
G        C         C       Bm
Confidence, joyfulness
C      G            D
Overcoming one
G           C        D            Bm
Faithfulness friend of God
C                D              G
One who seeks My face
G        C         C       Bm
Confidence, joyfulness
C       G           D
Overcoming one
G           C        D            Bm
Faithfulness friend of God
C                D              G
One who seeks My face

7 comments:

Speechless said...

I love the idea of this type of parenting for my post-institutionalized child. But, I just can't see it being effective with his constellation of special needs. Do you know of anyone who has used it (successfully) with a child with FASD/autism/cognitive impairment/etc? My kiddo's behavior is partially trauma-based, but he's so impulsive that sometimes I think a tantrum over ice cream really IS just a tantrum over ice cream.

Aus said...

Great stuff Christie - no secret that we support this parenting style as well - may I throw out some fodder for another post?

We parents - at least 99% of us - were parented in a reasonably intact - or at least not International Adoption related - home. We were also parented by parents who were raised themselves in the era of "spare the rod and spoil the child" style of parenting. I'm older than most adoptive parents (54), my father died when I was 8 so raised in a single parent household, and while my mom "watered down" the 'spare the rod' thing - a whack on the head or two happened regularly. But still - that punishment / fear oriented parenting style was how I was raised.

As a result - it goes against my "nature" to not parent that way. My "inner stress" caused by not parenting that way is frequently difficult to overcome, and when I'm already stressed / tired / whatever (not from a child) and then one of our adopted kids tantrums (probably caused in part by my lack of balance) I will occasionally slip and "bark / order / use my "command voice" - and that doesn't help contain / control / or most importantly HEAL the situation.

All that said - as a parent - it's really easy to beat yourself up over one of those. Guard against that - that "part" of you is you too - and you have to love yourself (warts and all!) if you really hope to love your child!

How's that for another blog post?

continue in a like and similar fashion - and hugs -

aus and co.

JJ said...

Have I told you lately how utterly amazing you are??? You ARE utterly AMAZING, Christie! Shared a link to this post with someone just today, before I had even read 1/2 of it. My heart sings to know how much these posts are going to help other. ALMOST makes me want to blog, too...almost. :)

TheCoffeys said...

Those pictures of Anna totally made me want to cry Christie. I too did this with Zoe and Joelle in the past and that makes me want to cry as well. Thankfully God showed us a different way! I am thankful for your posts. I believe they are so encouraging to many parents.

Christie Minich said...

That sounds like a good idea!

Christine Smith said...

Nice pictures!

Melissa said...

Speechless, it can absolutely work with children with other special needs. Have you read the book God, Are you Nice or Mean? by Debra Jones?

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