How Hosting Changed My Life

My family was part of the first host program at Nightlight in 1995. It really was a unique program, the first of its kind, as school-aged children from overseas orphanages were being offered an opportunity to visit the United States. Ron Stoddart, Nightlight’s founder, brought over 12 children from a Children’s Home in St. Petersburg, Russia, ages 7-14 years old.  The children performed their version of The Little Prince at venues across Southern California.

 

We had actually only been home with our daughters, adopted from the same Children’s Home, 2 months earlier, so were dealing with our own adjustment as new parents. We agreed to host two 7-year-old little girls from the group of children our eldest daughter had belonged to at that orphanage. It was a wild 2 weeks! It brought up some issues with our daughters as their friends told them they would be going back to Russia and not to believe us that we were their ‘forever family.’ We did a lot of talking, processing of feelings and reassuring our daughters that they truly were here to stay. We became close friends with all the other families involved. It was an amazing experience!

 

We continued to host over the next 23 years, having over 75 children in our home! Nightlight had several years where there were two tours, summer and winter. After the first few years, I began to work at Nightlight and also took on the responsibility for the tour program. We hosted children from China, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Russia, Taiwan and Ukraine. It was a fun experience for our children, as they got to practice their Russian and Spanish or learn words from yet another language. We enjoyed experiencing another culture, as we tried new foods, listened to different music and heard their stories. Ron named the tours, ‘”Every Child Has a Name’” at remind us that each child has a story uniquely their own.

 

We brought the 10-year-old soccer champion team from St. Petersburg Russia one year. It was fun to take the children to different places and see their faces as we went to the beach, Costco, Disneyland or a real, manicured soccer field for the first time. The boys were used to playing with a ball made of tape and on a rocky playground. They didn’t have any equipment. Through families and sponsors, we sent them back with soccer cleats, balls, uniforms and a wonderful sign with all of their names. They were so excited!

 

Most of our tour programs over the first 15 years were performance tours. The children performed traditional folk dances and their National Anthem, having prepared prior to their visit. The first performance, the children would be very shy. However, with each performance, as they received applause and tokens of appreciation, the children blossomed!  They enjoyed sharing their culture with the appreciative audiences.

 

Each child came to the US with a small backpack, sometimes with one or two sets of clothing and a toothbrush, but more often, empty. They left with rolling suitcases and character backpacks stuffed to the brim with clothing, new toys and school supplies. We knew everything would be shared with the other children at the children’s home once they returned, so sent clothing, toys and supplies that would be enjoyed by children of all ages.

 

We saw the tour program as a way to advocate for older children hoping for adoption, we also saw it as a way to learn more about other cultures, share our home with children who may not have had a positive family experience. The children experienced having a story read to them before bed, cooking together and going swimming in the ocean. We kept in touch with some of the children, some for a brief time until they were adopted. We continue to stay in touch with others, long past the time they visited. One even stayed with us as she completed an internship for her university, at Nightlight.

 

The majority of the children did find their ‘forever family.’ However, for those who were not adopted, they had a wonderful vacation where they got to experience a loving family who cared about them and shared their family life. They left with memories that would last them a lifetime. As our 4 daughters grew up, we found we had room for two more children and adopted our sons. We did not anticipate adopting again after our first four daughters, however hosting brought us our boys.  Hosting changed our lives in so many ways, leaving us with so many wonderful memories and best of all, our sons!

 

written by Rhonda Jarema | Executive Director, California Office Nightlight Christian Adoptions

 

 

The Importance of Honoring Communication Wishes of Birth Parents

 

We all know, keeping an agreement, any agreement, is important for the simple sake that it’s a measure of your integrity and moral character. Another helpful question to explore maybe this, “How do I establish a post adoption communication agreement with birth parents that will allow me to act in the highest degree of integrity and honor and is most beneficial to my child?

 

Your child, as they grow, will learn your true character through how you treat others. Additionally, your child is an extension of both you and their birth family. How you treat their birth family may be interpreted by your child as, “this is how they feel about me.”

 

Here are a 7 few tips that will help put you on the right path.

 

Examine yourself. Long before the matching process you need to ask yourself, “What are my feelings towards open adoption and continued contact with birth parents?” If feelings of fear or anxiety begin stirring in your heart, it is time to take a pause and look at the root of these feels. Maybe you have unaddressed fears of being rejected by your child or your child favoring their birth parents over you.  Don’t be afraid to discuss these fears with your adoption social worker. They welcome these questions and will help you work through them. Once these fears and anxieties are addressed you’ll be better prepared to have beneficial conversations about openness with birth parents.

 

Start the conversation about openness as early as possible. It’s important to talk about the level of openness you are all comfortable with during and after the adoption even before you are in an official match.  Talking openly and truthfully about everything lays the foundation of an open communication. This may feel stressful and awkward at first, but it is the best way to establish boundaries and expectations from the beginning.

 

Continue ongoing communication throughout the pregnancy to build a level of comfort with the birth parents. The Doors stated it well in their song lyric “People are strange when you’re a stranger”. The strangeness and awkwardness you may feel towards a birth parent (and they feel towards you) only has a chance to subside with time spent communicating and getting to know each other. Hopefully during this time parties are building a mutual respect. This doesn’t mean asking them personal intrusive questions but instead getting got to know their likes and interests. Just having more exposure to each other over time is likely to make you both feel more comfortable.

 

Know your limits. Don’t promise to more contact than what you are really ready to commit to, just to have the birth parents like you more. You are making a commitment for 18 plus years.

 

Understand the post adoption contact can and will change. One of the key characteristics to a successful adoptive parent is the ability to be flexible. Understand that during the course of your child’s life the communication from the birth parent may ebb and flow, depending on several variables.  If they haven’t had contact with you in a few years and then return, don’t scold them but welcome them back and begin a conversation. (

Additionally, if a birth parent hasn’t been able to commit to their communication agreement, it doesn’t mean you have a pass to break your terms of the agreement. Try to be as consistent as you can. Again, your child is watching you J)

 

Know not to take things personally. You may have established what you thought was a great open relationship with your child’s birth parents only to have them discontinue communication with you or they ask for more contact then what you both originally established. If you are abiding to the communication guidelines clearly established in the beginning, you should not fear that a birth parents’ absence is about you or that you need to abide to their wishes for increased contact.

 

Never hesitate to reach out to your adoption agency for advice. Lastly, if communication between birth parents and adoptive parents become contentious, it’s never too early for either party to reach out to an adoption professional or the adoption agency to ask for help and mediation. It’s much better to involve a third party when the conflict first arises then wait until it escalates.

 

 

These are simple and basic tips to assure that a post adoption communication agreement with your child’s birth parents can be established and sustained throughout your child’s life. Although it seems to be the exception and not the rule, I have spoken to birth parents who had signed an agreement of an open adoption, but then the adoptive parents cut off communication. This is heartbreaking. Remember, a birth parent’s decision was not made from a lack of love. She chose you because she felt that you would raise her child better than she could at that point in her life.

 

Written by Michelle Alabran

 

*For more information about why Nightlight believes that open adoption is in most cases the healthiest choice for all involved in the adoption triad, click here.

Overcoming a Millennial’s Perceived Adoption Roadblocks

 

Those born from the 1980s to the mid-1990s are what society calls millennials. It is not uncommon for individuals and couples born in this generation to delay traditional life milestones like marriage, home-buying, and parenting. With that said, there are a few perceived adoption roadblocks that are unique to this generation.

 

Finances

 

One potential roadblock for this generation is the cost to adopt a child. Adopting a child can be expensive, but of course, international, embryo, foster care, and domestic adoptions all have different fees to successfully place a child with a loving family. Millennial unemployment or underemployment is currently more than double the national average. There are certainly several different causes for the rise of millennial unemployment and financial struggle. The number one cause is student debt. The average millennial who has attended college has more than $37,000 in student loan debt. This debt can take years to pay off which can potentially postpone plans for adopting.

 

Fortunately, there are several opportunities for fundraising an adoption. Families seeking adoption may sell T-shirts, put on a spaghetti dinner, have a bake sale, receive contributions from their church community’s financial support, and fund raise in many other creative ways. There are also tax credits, scholarships and other financial assistance available to help families further grow their family through adoption. Click here for more helpful resources for funding your adoption.

 

Schedules

 

Another roadblock for millennials in regards to adoption is scheduling conflicts. Millennials primary education was geared towards the end resulting in pursuing college, the military, or some sort of trade. Because of this a lot of men and women born in this generation earned a degree or certificate of some kind. Therefore, it is more common in this generation than generations preceding that spouses are both working part-time or full-time jobs. These couples may work the same hours, or be on opposite schedules. There are also a lot of jobs held by millennials that require frequent travel to other states or countries. With this said, couples born in this generation consider who will care for their child while they are working, can they afford to hire someone or a daycare to care for their child, how much paid time off or Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) will they have to spend with their adopted child after they are matched? All of these questions and more could be potential roadblocks for these couples considering adoption.

 

The great news is that a lot of corporate agencies and organizations offer great Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) benefits that are accommodating to adoptions, regardless of the age of the child. Families have been able to travel internationally with airfare and hotel costs covered by the company they work for, some families can take months off of work to help their 12-year-old adopted child from a different country accommodate to their adopted family and a new culture. Of course, this is not the case for everyone but it is something to consider and talk to your supervisor or human resources department about at your job. Another thing to consider is that schedules typically have flexibility. Couples considering adoption will have time to modify work schedules, modify routine and to plan for time spent as a family.

 

Age

 

The final roadblock millennials perceive regarding adoption is their age. Depending on who you ask millennials age range from about 23 to 38 years old. Families who adopt might be adding another child to their family or they could be adopting their first child. That said, young couples may fear they will not be approved to move forward in the adoption process because they are too young and/or do not have any experience raising a child.

 

The good news is that there are educational requirements to fulfill before being matched with a child. All adoptive families are required to to complete education including articles and videos on parenting, adoption and if adoptive families are pursuing international adoption, learning about your child’s country of origin. There are several parenting classes offered virtually and face to face across the nation that are typically free or low in cost.

 

There are perceived roadblocks to everything we do in life whether that be applying for a new job, moving to a new state, or adopting a child. It is important to access any available resources or information to assist families in navigating roadblocks.

 

written by Margaret Baldwin | MSW intern

Encouragements for Fathers-To-Be

 

Preparing to enter the world of fatherhood can be exciting, nerve wracking and overwhelming. Preparing to become a father through adoption can amplify those feelings as it adds another layer to the new dynamic of becoming a dad. There is no nine month countdown or abundance of ‘What to Expect’ advice when it comes to becoming a parent through adoption. It is very normal for the paperwork, education, meetings and waiting to cause fear and uncertainty to begin to surface, even for an experienced parent, never mind anticipating the lack of sleep, travel, adjustment of your child and the difficult questions that adoption may bring as your child gets older.

There are plenty of places to turn to deal with the uncertainty that this new role may bring, however you can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone, that God has uniquely called and prepared you and your wife for this journey. While no one would argue that parenting and adoption are difficult endeavors, this journey will grow you as an individual and as a couple. There may be many days that bring challenges; however, there will be the days that bring you more joy than you could imagine – when you get “the call,” when you meet your child for the first time, when you see your child reach a new milestone, when you look into your child’s eyes or see them begin to trust you. Though your path to fatherhood may not always make sense in the moment, we can trust that God is weaving together a beautiful story of redemption and grace for your family. As Christians, there is no better source of comfort or encouragement than God’s Word.

  • God is faithful and He loves us

Lamentations 3:22-23

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

  • God is working all things for His purpose and our good

Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

  • God has made everything beautiful in His time

Ecclesiastes 3:11

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

  • God is gracious

Romans 8:31-32

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

  • God is able to do more than we could ask or imagine

Ephesians 3:20-21

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

  • We can bring our concerns, our anxiety and our doubts to Him and have peace

Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

written by Lindsay Jones

Adoption Fundraising during COVID19

You have embarked on the journey of a lifetime after much prayer, investigation, decision-making, and paperwork. You have committed to a huge financial commitment and are ready to begin fundraising, then the unthinkable happens – a pandemic. Large gatherings are out the window. Foundations have delayed application dates. What is an adoptive family to do? Remember, this time is temporary. Thankfully, some states and cities are slowly opening. In times like this, an alternative plan is necessary. Fundraising does not need to stop, but it does need to change. Map out a new route for raising funds. Here are 10 ideas to keep progressing in your financial goals.

  1. Plan for a GARAGE SALE. You have time to clean out your closets, garage, and attic. Begin organizing items and marking prices. As you feel comfortable, offer to pick up items from family and friends. When your town or city approves garage sales, you will be ready to roll.
  2. Sell larger items or a collection of items on FACEBOOK MARKETPLACE, OFFERUP, or your selling place of choice. As people have not been able to shop in stores, capitalize on personal sales.
  3. Plan for future GRANT APPLICATIONS. No, you may not be able to submit them now, but make a list of the ones which your family fits their criteria. Put the list in order of submission based upon deadlines listed online. Gather all documents and have your family’s story written, proofread, and perfected. Please do not get discouraged with the number available to your family. What matters most is not the quantity you submit but rather the quality of clarity and excellence with which you submit them.
  4. Make your ON-LINE FUNDRAISING PLATFORM accessible and easy for donors to use. This can be done at adoptionbridge.org. All donations are tax-deductible and only a 3% fee is charged for credit card processing. Of course, we are mindful of those who are affected by unemployment, but there are those family and friends who are able and willing to join you.
  5. OFFER SERVICES which people might need at this time. Pick up prescriptions, groceries, or run errands. Charge a set price or accept donations toward your adoption. As you reach out to people who need these services, give them assurance with protocol as to how you will accomplish the task with the highest protection level for them and you.
  6. RUN 5, GIVE 5. Quarantine and extra baking equals unwanted pounds! Invite your friends on social media (Facebook, Instagram …) to run or walk 5K followed by a donation of $5 to your adoption. Then ask your runners to nominate 5 of their friends to the challenge. Go big and make it WALK 10, GIVE 10, then nominate 10! Number 4 above will ensure an effortless donation procedure. Exercise and funding will be a win/win.
  7. Plan a VIRTUAL GALA. With the options of Facebook, YouTube Live, or Zoom, plan a gala that fits the interest and strengths of your unique family. Have an invitation blitz, sell on-line tickets, and create a fun and fast-moving program. The possibilities are endless. Invite special speakers or artists, read aloud a children’s adoption book, and have donated items for a silent auction. Make it a dessert event or a scones & tea night. Send out recipes ahead of time. Be creative and give people an opportunity to laugh and be inspired!
  8. Create a CONTEST. Offer a talent competition or challenge in dance, art, baking, pet photos, or anything fun you can imagine. Charge a fee to submit entries online. Post those entries for public votes. Charge a voting fee and then offer fun but inexpensive prizes for 1st, 2nd, & 3rd Consider intangible prizes such as their photo posted on Facebook for a month or a personal porch delivery of a plate of homemade cookies.
  9. Reread and reconsider ideas in the NIGHTLIGHT FINANCIAL GUIDE. Upon becoming a Nightlight family, a Financial Guide specific to your personal adoption became available to you. Some of the ideas may not have seemed to be a good fit for your family before COVID19; however, now you may see them as new options. Consider a shoe collection such as angelbins.com or www.funds2orgs.com. Utilize quarantine time to plan a Both Hands project at www.lifesongfororhans.org. Choose a sales fundraiser to meet the needs of this season such as First-Aid Kits at www.first-aid-product.com. If you did not receive a Financial Guide for embryo, domestic, or international adoption, please contact [email protected].
  10. Send an UPDATE LETTER to your family and friends. Start with a message of thanks for the many types of support you have been given from words of encouragement and prayers to donations. Give an update of your adoption journey and explain where you are in the process. Be honest about funding. Share what you have done to raise funds, how much you need to raise, and the ways in which the pandemic has affected your fundraising plans. Share how you are using personal stewardship during this time to add to your adoption fund. Give details about your current online funding platform and the exciting fundraisers you are planning for the summer and fall. Put out a plea for event volunteers.

In a time when global reactivity reigns, you can be intentially proactive. View your fundraising not as cancelled but as altered and even improved. In a season of financial lemons, make lemonade! We can be confident that even during a pandemic, Ephesians 3:20 is still truth, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.”

 

Camie Schuiteman is the Financial Resource Specialist for Nightlight Christian Adoptions.

She can be reached at [email protected].

 

 

 

Adoption Through the Eyes of a Father

My wife and I felt called to adoption for quite some time, but the process always seemed daunting, and fraught with uncertainty. After completing long years of medical school and residency, along with having two children during the process, our family finally had more time together, and life started to feel pretty “comfortable.” However, we did not feel complete, and we knew we wanted to add another child; we just did not know how. Adoption weighed heavy on our hearts, but we were still plagued by doubts and insecurities. We feared the unknown and we held tight to our newly found, and long-awaited, sense of “comfort.”

 

Ultimately, we decided to fast for clarity and wisdom; and God answered in remarkable ways, as we know only He can. Our story leading to adoption is long and detailed, and one we love sharing, but it was during this time He made it undeniably clear our family was called to adoption. God had reminded us that we are not called to a life of “comfort,” rather we have been called to a life of purpose, regardless of the challenges that lie ahead. We have been called to exercise our faith through action, even during times of doubt and uncertainty.

 

Following our fast, we began our home study process, and started making our family profile book. Within a couple months we became a “waiting family,” and several months later we received the call we had been selected. Later that day we held our girl, Hayden Grace, for the first time, and our family was forever changed. Our “gotcha day,” also just so happened to be my birthday; so, every year we have plenty to celebrate.

 

I imagine every adoptive parent has their faith tested and refined throughout their adoption journey, and ours is no different. Over Hayden’s first year, she battled multiple health issues, each one testing our faith in new ways, and each one resurrecting more insecurity and doubt. Yet, through every storm, God calmed our unrest, and reminded us of His greater purpose and of His steadfast presence. Looking back, we cannot believe our fears almost led to missing out on our sweet Hayden. Well-intentioned friends and family often say, “she is so lucky to have you,” and my wife and I feel that statement could not be further from the truth. We are the ones who needed her, and we are infinitely grateful she is family.

 

Hayden just turned one, and she’s far too young for the difficult conversations of identity, grief or any other challenging topic that comes with adoption. Her older siblings have already started asking some pretty hard questions, hopefully helping to start prepare us for what is to come. We know there will likely be difficult conversations ahead, but as we have experienced time and time again, He will be there every step of the way.

 

written by an adoptive father  |  submitted by Lara Kelso

Pray For Adoption With Child Like Faith

 

Whether you are waiting for an adoption placement, walking next to a birth mom, or know an adoptee, here are some ways to pray for the adoption community, with child like faith.

Pray for their Grief. There is grief that exists uniquely for all parts of the adoption triad (birth mom-adoptee-adoptive family). There is loss and joy existing all at the same time. Pray that these emotions would be experienced without shame.

Pray for Openness. Pray that there would be openness that is right for all those involved. Every adoption situation is different, and openness looks different for everyone.

Pray for Peace and Comfort. For peace and comfort through the life lived and forever changed by adoption as a birth mom, adoptee and adoptive parent.

Pray for Perseverance. Adoption is a journey and is one that can change day to day for everyone involved. Emotions often run high and stamina can run low. Support systems can change and the road ahead looks uncertain. Pray for perseverance to press through the circumstances.

 

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God:

that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

I John 5:14

 

written by Amanda Harmon

Preparing Your Biological Children for Adoption

Bringing and adopted child into your home will be a huge transition for your children. There are some practical ways that you can make this easier for your children and at least help them to better understand adoption and the changes it may bring to your family.

Explain the process

You want to be honest and realistic with your children. Explain what this process will look like and be honest about what the timeline might be. You also should work on preparing your children for some of the issues that your adopted child may have after coming home. You can use your education to talk with your children about issues that come from trauma that your child may struggle with. It is important not to paint a rosy picture about what things will look like because there may be some really difficult times.

It is also important to use positive adoption language when talking with your kids. You shouldn’t use phrases like “giving up their baby for adoption.” Instead you should tell them that the expectant parent is considering “making an adoption plan for her baby.” You can check out one of our older blogs to see more examples of positive adoption language: https://nightlight.org/2017/12/positive-adoption-language/

Read books together

            There are several books that are specifically written to help children better understand adoption. You can find many recommendations from Creating a Family HERE.

Involve your child

            It is important that your child feels involved in this process and preparation. Perhaps they could help pick out some toys or decorations for the child’s room. Maybe they can help get the room together. It may help them to feel more excited if they get to play a small part in this. Depending on the age of your child, it is also important to talk with them about the adoption and get their input and opinions. This isn’t to say that if you child isn’t on board that you need to stop the whole process, but you can at least address some of their concerns and work through these issues to help them feel more comfortable about the situation.

Spend one on one time with your kids

Obviously bringing a new child into your home is going to change things greatly. It is important that during the preparation period you aren’t completely focused on the adoption all the time. There should be a degree of normalcy in your child’s life still and you should cherish that time with them before everyone’s world changes. Once you bring your adopted child home, it will be important to continue some of your same routines and to make sure that you are having some quality one on one time with each of your children so that everyone is taken care of emotionally and physically.

 

written by Rebecca Tolson

Embracing Autism

 

Autism can seem mysterious to people that have not experienced someone with the diagnosis in their family or know people that have the diagnosis. It can leave one feeling uncertain about how to respond to someone who does not make eye contact or respond with enthusiasm.  One might ask “how do I communicate with someone with the diagnosis?”

General Information

One thing we know for sure is that not all persons are the same regardless of the diagnosis. It can range from mild to severe in symptoms and functioning. Only a doctor or psychologist can diagnose it, and they do not use a blood test or medical test to detect it. They must look at behaviors and development stages of a person. There is not a known single cause other than differences in brain structure and function. Brain scans show that there is difference in the structure when compared to others without the symptoms. It is treated with behavioral therapy to learn skills to interact with others better and manage emotions. It can be assessed as early as two years of age and is four times more likely to be diagnosed in males. Forty percent of children do not speak.

Common Characteristics

Many persons start at a young age appearing distant from others and not responding to their name being called, and they lack eye contact. Their face and voice tone do not show emotion, and they may not join in with others to play or do activities. They have interest in certain objects they repetitively play with such as lining up cars and other repetitive behaviors. Difficulty transitioning from routines and activities is common and inability to process sensory inputs from the environment. They may cover their ears or eyes because the sounds and sights literally hurt or are too strong compared to the general populations experience.  Certain textures of food and fabrics or flashing lights can feel extremely strong to them. Their brain does work the same for them to pick up on the social cues that everyone else learns to express themselves, but they do love and care about others.

Reasons for Challenging Behavior

As mentioned above, persons with Autism have difficulty with unstructured time and are sensitive to their environment.  The overwhelming feeling, they experience with the sensory inputs can create stress and anxiety. The sensory overload makes it difficult for them to focus, and they may become irritable and resistant due to discomfort. They do have feelings, but they struggle with how to express them in way that others understand. A change in their routine, transitioning from activities, feeling hungry, tired or sick can make it difficult for them to express themselves, and they get angry or frustrated. Signs of stress can be pacing, rocking, or repeating the same question.

Tips for Interacting  

Speak clearly and precise in short sentences so that children feel less overwhelmed. Using pictures of items can help them communicate their needs. Activities that relax children are bubbles, music, and swimming, when talking with teens use their name and ask questions about their interest. Address adults as you would anyone and say what you mean directly. Take time to listen and wait for responses. They  need our respect and love.

 

written by Lisa Richardson

Basics for Surviving at Home With Trauma-Impacted Kids

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought stress, anxiety, and fear into our lives in unprecedented ways. As an agency, our hearts are burdened heavily for our adoptive families, knowing that many of you already live in a household full of stress, anxiety, and fear due to struggles and trauma in your adopted children’s lives. School can typically provide a respite from difficulties in the home for both you and your child so in its absence, we wanted to share some helpful behaviors and attitudes you must remember to focus on to help your family survive, and maybe even thrive, during this chaotic time. Our Nightlight offices and Post Adoption Connection Center (PACC) are here to support you, so please reach out for any help you need to any of our staff or Heather with the PACC at [email protected].

 

Keep your child regulated – We all know prevention is better than being forced to respond to a crisis. Stay on top of the simple things you can do every day to keep your child regulated and potentially prevent the tantrums, meltdowns, dysregulation, and outbursts.

  • Keep a regular schedule of healthy snacks and meals, drinking plenty of water, making sure they are getting good rest, and physical activity. As adults, we know how cranky we can get when we are “hangry” and we have the maturity to handle ourselves better. Perhaps your child’s meltdown or bad attitude is due to be hungry, thirsty, tired, or under stimulated. Before you blame their past trauma, ask yourself when the last time they had snack was. If it was more than 2 hours ago, grab and apple or granola bar for them.
  • Create a routine. Children thrive in routine and especially our children with trauma who live in a constant state of uncertainty and hyper-vigilance. If they cannot predict what is coming next, they will get fearful, and be triggered into flight/fight/freeze mode. Make a schedule, do regular activities at times they expect, and stick to it. Not only does this help save you brain power of thinking up how to spend time but also allows your child to rest in what is expected.

 

Self-care for Parents – You cannot give the additional care your child needs if you are not building up strength and patience in yourself, by caring for yourself. You are used to having space away from your child, so create some of that space at home. Take a break from your child every day.

  • If you are married, talk with your spouse about giving each other daily time alone, away from your children, to do activities that refresh you. You need to be intentional to balance the load and work out a schedule during this hectic time. If one parent needs to focus on homeschool during the day, the other parent should handle morning and evening routines with the child.
  • If you are a single parent, utilize “rest time” for yourself while your child does an activity they can be trusted to do alone in another space. Maybe this means is a little bit more screen time than you usually allow if that is an activity that will keep your child occupied for a little longer. Remember this time is not our normal lives and it is ok to do some things you would not normally allow if it will meet the ultimate goal of caring for yourself and your child better.
  • Identify your goals and expectations for each day, focused on your family and child. How do you survive, connect, and give grace to each other today? How will that be different tomorrow? Lower your expectations for yourself and family during this time if needed. It is ok if the laundry does not get done if it gives you some extra time to care for your soul or connect with your child.

 

Increased structure needs increased nurture – With everyone contained in the home, you may see an increase in difficult behaviors from your child. They are reacting to the change in their routine as much as you are, and we encourage you to see this as an opportunity to connect with your child. As Dr. Purvis once said, relationship based trauma needs healthy relationships to heal. Notice where your child’s behaviors push you away from them and develop strategies to overcome this in yourself. It is good if rules and structure need to increase but that must come along with increased connection in your relationship.

  • Only rules with no fun, connecting engagements between you and your child will not develop the much needed trust your child needs to follow those rules with a happy heart. If your child is resisting your rules, engage in conversation with them about your expectations and listen to their responses. You might be asking for more than they are able to give, especially if your child is developmentally delayed in any area.
  • Consider the rules you are setting for your child and what the ultimate goal is for those rules. Is it to teach your child to be a healthy, attached adult or are the rules just to get them to obey what you say? Do your rules and discipline reinforce an attached relationship with your child or do they push them away?

 

Read adoption books and resources – Instead of seeing this time as a limitation, see it as freedom. Our American lifestyles are so busy and we never have time to do the good things that allow us to grow and strengthen ourselves. Have a family reading time and pick up that adoption book you’ve always said you should read, but haven’t. We would recommend:

  • Books
    • The Connected Child by Dr. Karen Purvis
    • The Whole-Brain Child by Dr. Daniel Seigel
    • Wounded Children, Healing Homes by Jayne Schooler
    • Attaching in Adoption by Deborah Gray
    • Raising Adopted Children by Lois Ruskai Melina
  • Online resources from Harmony Family Center
    • This organization has provided wonderful resources for parents, children, and families. There are training resources for parents, giving you tips on how to handle challenging behaviors in your children and sensory resources for children with sensory processing disorders. They also provide activities for children and families at home. https://www.harmonyfamilycenter.org/harmony-at-home 

written by Heather Sloan