Why Won’t Your Foster or Adopted Child Look You in the Eyes?

It Might Be the Key to Why They Resist Your Love

My son is just now beginning to look me in the eyes when I talk to him. He is almost seven and has been in our family for six years. Sometimes I gently hold his cheek and ask him to look at me. He seems to try, but he looks at the ceiling, to either side, glances at my eyes for a split second, then quickly looks away.

I feel sadness rather than anger or frustration. My father heart longs for his trust; for him to feel safe with me.

As I said, he is looking into my eyes now more than he ever has, and when he does, I try to hold his eyes for as long as he will let me.

Do you find it hard to look into someone else’s eyes?

To look fully into the eyes of another person takes vulnerable courage. It’s like we can see into the other person’s soul as they pear into ours.

Sometimes the reason a person won’t look you in the eye is they feel guilty or did something wrong. But more often the reason is…FEAR.

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Dad to Dad Series Introduction [Podcast 026]

Why it Is Important that We Fully Engage as Foster and Adoptive Dads

I am introducing a new podcast series I am calling Dad to Dad. While attending the CAFO (Christian Alliance for Orphans) Summit earlier this year, Amy Holman, who ran the bookstore at the summit, suggested that I create some podcast episodes directed toward other foster and adoptive dads. I loved the idea.

Our wives tend to do a better job of seeking support and encouragement where we men often try to handle it ourselves. We aren’t always comfortable sharing with others, especially when it reveals a perceived weakness or failure.

I hope that the Dad to Dad episodes will give foster and adoptive dads some support, encouragement, and challenge. I also hope that this isn’t just a one way conversation. I want you to dialogue with me, ask me questions, share your stories, even schedule a podcast interview with me.

To kick off this series, after introducing it, I touch on three reasons why I think it is important that we as fathers fully engage and embrace our role.

After you listen, let me hear from you. Also, share the podcast with your friends who are also foster or adoptive dads.

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Your Foster or Adopted Child Needs Space to Heal

6 Ways to Give Your Child Space

Summertime with a son is so much different from when we didn’t have any kids. When it was just Danielle and I , summer wasn’t much different than any other time of the year.

 

That is all different now that we have a six-year-old son. Danielle’s main summer job is thinking of ways to keep a very active boy busy. So we spend days at the swimming pool with friends, going out-of-state on a plane for the first time, vacation bible schools, sports camps, visits to family and friends in other towns. Did I leave anything out?

We easily could have signed our son up for a baseball league, a swim team, a soccer league, and gymnastics. Why not? It’s what American, middle-class families do these days. We don’t want our kids to miss out on anything in life. Or, for me at least, I don’t want to hear those words, “Daddy, I am bored!” Besides what will we post on social media if we don’t do all of it?

The thing is a busy schedule might not be the best thing for your foster or adopted child. Some would say it’s not good for any kid.

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Why Does Your Foster or Adopted Child Reject Your Love?

It is a scene that plays out in foster and adoptive families over and over. Parents tearfully share stories about the children they welcome into their families rejecting their love. It’s especially painful when, no matter the child’s age, they stiff-arm every effort a parent gives to help them feel loved and find healing.

This past Sunday the pastor at my church quoted from a book by Dr. David Benner—Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality (Spiritual Journey). First as I listened, I identified in my own life the ways I struggle with surrendering to love. Then I began to listen through the lens of my experience as a foster and adoptive dad.

I bought the book and began reading, and I can see clearly how many of my son’s actions—His high need for control; his overly cautious tendencies; his need to be with one of us all the time, yet struggling with trusting us with his deepest thoughts; His desire to be the center of attention and to always be right, the first, and the best—point to one thing.

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Taking A Closer Look at Empowerment—A TBRI Principle

Do you get the idea that it’s good to empower your child but struggle with exactly how to do it? How do you find that balance of empowering yet remaining in control?

Trust-Based Relational Intervention, or TBRI, is becoming the standard for connected parenting. Schools, Child Protective Services, counselors, parents, and others recognize this and are applying these principles in their work and families.

I posted a blog a couple of years ago, Three Principles of Trust-Based Relational Intervention, that still gets a lot of traffic. Basically, the three principles are Empowerment, Connection, and Correction. If you want a quick overview of TBRI, please check out that blog post HERE.

Over the next few weeks I will post a blog digging a little deeper into each of the three TBRI principles sharing not only what I have learned about each, but some of my personal experience as I attempt to apply the principles to our family.

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Find One Reason to Say Yes. An Interview with Jason Johnson. [Podcast 013]

I began following Jason Johnson’s blog a few years ago when a mutual friend told me about his site. I appreciate Jason’s practical approach to foster care and adoption. His communication style cuts straight to the heart of the matter whether you are considering becoming a foster or adoptive parent or if you already have children from a hard place in your home.

Jason Johnson

I wanted to get to know Jason a little better and give you the same opportunity.

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Sometimes It’s the Parent Who Needs to Regulate

Isn’t it a shock when you see yourself on video? Often we say, “I didn’t know I looked or sounded like that.” We aren’t aware of our tone, our posture, our facial expressions, or even how we communicate our emotions.

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Part of self-awareness is recognizing that what we think or feel on the inside doesn’t always translate accurately through our voice, emotions, and actions. Or do they?

Remember Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood? I can hear him now singing his simple greeting song:

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood. It’s a beautiful day for a neighbor. Could you be mine? Would you be mine?”

Hearing that song in my head calms me. He was always calm. Always smiling. Always pleasant.

How I wish I was more like that.

I remember when my son was about four years old, and I noticed him exploring my face when we talked or played, even when I corrected him. He still does this a lot. I think he is gauging to see how safe I am.

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Year Four Adoption Update

Hard to believe that it has been four years since we stood before the judge and adopted our son. The actual “Gotcha Day ” was September 21, 2012.

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Working hard at the new house.

Our son isn’t old enough yet to fully understand what his gotcha day means, but this year I got to eat lunch with him at school. He is in kindergarten now, and it was Dads for lunch day at his school. I thought it was a great way to spend some time with him on this special day.

This past year was a year of transitions. Last September I had major surgery on my right ankle; we moved to a new home in January; our son graduated from a preschool that he had attended for three years; Danielle had surgery in May; and finally our son began kindergarten at a new school where he didn’t know anyone.

Whew. As you can imagine all of those events made life just a little interesting around our house.

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Why Can’t We Tell Our Kids “Yes”?

I get really good at saying no. I can say it kindly, with force, in rapid succession, with anticipation of the question, and even without looking. In my mind, I always have a good reason for telling my son no. I don’t want him to do that, eat those, or bother me at the moment.

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I think I should invent an app kind of like the ones that record every step you take so you can see how many miles you incidentally walked in a day. Except this app records every time you say no to your child. On second thought, I don’t think I want to know.

Why is it so hard for me to just say it. Just Say Yes.

I think I know why. I am afraid if I say Yes too much it will ruin my son. Won’t he end up thinking that he can have anything he wants, do everything he wants to do, and never have to wait his turn?

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His Hands. His Feet.

Sent to the fatherless, the brokenhearted, and those far from Him

You not only notice the person standing on the street corner holding a sign asking for help, you have compassion for them. You are the person who brings the child of another person into your home and treats them as if they were your own flesh and blood. You use your resources, like time and money, to invest in people who are in need.

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You engage with people who are hurting and broken knowing that it is going to get messy. You are the one who uses your vacation time to travel to places so you can share Jesus with people who might otherwise never hear about Him.

Even though you are that person, you don’t always know what to do. Some days you need encouragement. Other times you look for inspiration.

Why do you live life like this?

You understand that you are His ambassadors. He didn’t create you, then redeem you so that you could live your life the way you want. You know you are sent.

You are His Hands. His Feet.

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