What’s the Point of All of This? (part 2)

A majority of this blog’s content comes from the Empowered to Connect Training material. Danielle and I are certified trainers and will offer the course a couple of times in 2015 in the Austin area.

We began this discussion last week in part 1 of What’s the Point of All of This?  We discussed how our history, attachment style, and default parenting style effects our relationship with our child. Also, we talked about owning your stuff and repairing your mistakes. If you didn’t read that article, click on that link to get to it.

All parents bring expectations with them into parenting—some realistic and others not. For adoptive families, however, lingering unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment, frustration and even a real disconnection between parents and children. When a child’s history of pain and loss begins to taint the beautiful picture of what a parent expected their adoption journey to look like, parents are tempted to protect their image rather than embrace their child’s feelings and struggles. When a child’s behaviors (rooted in fear and an instinct to survive) begin to collide with the “way we do things as a family” and are only made worse by a parent’s attempts at discipline, parents can find themselves exhausted and quickly nearing the point of despair.Empowered to Connect

 

Do you feel exhausted and quickly nearing the point of despair? I hope not, but I completely understand if you are. And you are not alone.

We all tend to bring our own motivations and expectations into the relationship. The challenge is “to hold our expectations loosely, always willing to surrender them to the One who has called us to this amazing adventure.”

I wrote a blog about 9 Misguided Motivations for Adopting or Fostering. I took a little heat for the article, but I wanted to bring attention to how we easily walk into fostering or adopting with our own agenda rather than what is best for the child or even birth family.

Evaluating our motivations is important because out of these “flow our expectations.” This is true for any relationship.

Jayne Schooler, author of Wounded Children, Healing Homes: How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Families, writes about how foster and adoptive families form unrealistic expectations with what she calls the “Model of the Myth.”

The Model of the Myth consists of the following five steps:

  1. Something is learned. For example statistics are given about foster care in your community.
  2. Information is filtered and something is believed. After Danielle and I heard these statistics, we believed that we needed to consider fostering.
  3. Expectations form based on the filtered information and resulting belief. We expected any child we fostered or especially adopted to appreciate their better life.
  4. Unrealistic expectations fail. In our case, we had an eight-month-old foster son placed with us that we eventually adopted when he was two. Of course, he had no ability at this age to express appreciation.
  5. Resulting in conflict, disappointment, discouragement, and despair. One of the biggest challenges in our home is our son’s difficulty of attaching or showing compassion toward Danielle.

When we experience this model, the question is how do we respond. Do we “point the finger at our child or back at our unrealistic expectations?” It’s not a matter of lowering our expectations; it is simply about setting your expectations appropriately.

Our target is arriving at being fully present and attuned with our child not allowing our past or future expectations to hinder our goal. Easier said than done! And it doesn’t happen overnight or without error.

Three more parenting tools to help be fully present with your child:

  • Regulate your Emotional State—When your child is “out of control” match his expressions without matching his emotions. Allows you to communicate to him that you understand what he is feeling while staying regulated yourself and helping him do the same.
  • Practice Total Voice Control (TVC)—Let’s just say I am terrible at this! “Specifically, your voice, and how you use it, matters a great deal when responding to fear-driven responses from your child as well as dealing with misbehavior.” “T” stands for Tone, “V” stand for Volume, and “C” stands for Cadence.
  • Focus on Nonverbal Communication—Consider not only the words you use or don’t use, but also your nonverbal signals. Is your posture relaxed and inviting, or rigid and threatening?

My son is almost four now, and I see him exploring my face when I am correcting him. He is looking to see if I am “safe.” My emotional state, tone, volume, cadence of my voice, and my nonverbal cues greatly effect his ability to regulate.

What is the point of all of this if you’re not going to let it change you?

This challenges me every day. Even though I painfully see all the times I fail, I do see some positive change. I want to become what I need to be to help my son heal and grow.

Here is Michael Monroe explaining Total Voice Control:

 

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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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