Category Archives: adoption trauma

Preparing Your Adopted/Foster Child for School Bullies

I’m thinking about your kids going off to school and some of the jeers they may experience from bullies:

  • Where do your real parents live?
  • Why is your skin a different color than your parents?
  • When are you going back to the place where bananas grow?
  • Why didn’t your real parents want you?
  • How come your hair is so curly? How do you comb it?

The thought of your child being bullied must make you nervous. You are like mama and papa bears and would do anything to protect that child of yours.

However, you won’t be there.

You won’t be there, but there are two practical things you and your child can do to prepare for such times.

First, you can make “story stones.”

STORY STONES

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I love this activity because you can do it together as a project.

Here’s how:

  • Gather 20-30 river rocks, at least 3″ in diameter. You can get them at Menard’s or Michael’s.
  • Purchase a plastic box with a lid large enough to hold the rocks.
  • Get a magic marker/s. (do they still call it this?).

Then, together with your child, draw on the river rocks:

  • Different people
  • Buildings (school, church, jail, hospital etc)
  • “Feelings” (happy, sad, mad, scared)
  • Vehicles (car, jeep, ambulance, fire truck)

When complete, encourage your child to create his own story with the rocks.

This is where parents step back and watch the creative juices flow in your children.

You will see your child come alive as he chooses the river stones to accompany the thoughts about adoption that come to mind.

Of course, you’ll be applauding and affirming all the way. I can just see you!

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This method will instill your child’s creative story his his heart, rather than trying to memorize facts about his adoption or what he thinks others expect him to say.

I now share my adoption story by saying, “I relish the fact that I was adopted!”

There’s another tool I know you’ll appreciate if you aren ‘t familiar with it yet. In the past, whenever speaking, I taught it.

The WISE-UP POWER WORKBOOK

WISE-UP-powerbook-for-foster-care-502x634

Another effective tool helps your child set healthy boundaries. Created by the Center for Adoption Support and Education, it’s a hands-on approach to help your child remember four healthy choices for when others are mean and hurtful.

The first choice is:

W=Walk Away

Not long ago, I spoke with a teen adoptee about bullying. When I told him he could just walk away, he was shocked. He couldn’t imagine doing that. The explanation is that when you turn your back and walk away, it says to the other person, “What you did was hurtful and inappropriate and I will not take it.”

The second choice:

I=It’s Private

Perhaps your daughter is asked who her real parents are. She can put her fingers up to her lips, and say, “Ya know what? That’s private.” Then, walk away.

S=Share

Third choice:

Maybe another child is just curious about your child’s story. You can teach your child to first ask himself if he feels comfortable sharing. If so, he can share something personal, such as, “I was adopted from Russia.” Assure your child that he doesn’t have to tell the whole story. Share one tidbit and see how the listener responds. Only share more if your child feels safe.

The last choice:

E=Educate about adoption.

I love thinking about nasty kids being educated about adoption. “Did you know that 60% of families in the US are touched by adoption?” That might make the bully’s chin drop. If he comes back with another bullying statement, go for Walk Away.

 

 

 

 

Do Adoptees Have A High Pain Tolerance?

Adoptees and High Pain Tolerance

“Ouch!” I almost screamed, as the chiropractor began deep muscle massage.

Now, I’m not one to scream…even when delivering babies.

In fact, I take pride in my high pain tolerance.

I think I’m tough and can handle almost anything.

Well, not today on the chiropractor’s bench.

A month ago, I had a horrific fall on our slippery front porch. I landed with my legs split and my head in the bushes.

Since then, I’ve had X-rays of knee and hip, gone to a knee replacement guy to make sure I didn’t dislodge replacements, and iced my knee when I think of it.

The real reason I went to the chiropractor was to find out if it was still okay to box. That’s it.  I thought I had already conquered the worst of the fall injuries.

However, when the massage therapist began deep muscle massage on the tendon and MLC, that was when I almost screamed.

As I left the therapy session, I thought about something I once learned: “Those with a high pain tolerance are in a lot of pain.”

Really? It doesn’t mean we’re tough as nails?

No, unfortunately. It means we are in denial, big time.

Then, I thought about this principle in regard to adoption.

I bet many adoptees think they are tough. After all, we had to be to survive traumatic loss. But we tackled all the issues and gone to a gazillion therapists.

How can we walk through this journey with unbelievable pain that we aren’t even aware of?

We forget that adoption is a lifelong journey and that we may run into unexpected trauma along the way. A birth mother rejects us, we feel we don’t belong in our adoptive family, we have non-existent self-esteem and worth. Trauma continues.

However, to deny the pain as I have with my porch injury is not smart.

But, where can we go?

Are there chiropractors for adoption?

Of course not.

But, we do have one another. And, I still believe that an hour with a fellow adoptee is worth more than months of therapy.

So, let’s not allow ourselves to get to the screaming point.

Let’s tell one another where we’re hurting and allow ourselves to be nurtured deep in our adoptee muscles.

#14: CHOICE:  To choose to accept our limits and be nurtured.

 

 

 

 

Why Do Many Adoptees Feel Guilty?

Get Rid of False Guilt

Dear friends through adoption,
Many of us adoptees suffer from haunting guilt. Oh, we won’t tell you about it, but it’s there, like a sticky shadow.

Guilt-Producing Beliefs

Some of the things we feel guilty for are:

  • YOU are responsible! (You were an unplanned pregnancy)
  • You have no right to be alive
  • You must justify your existence by helping others
  • The pain and shame of birth parents is our fault
  • You haven’t confessed all your sins

The truth is that these are the messages of false guilt, which adoptees have plenty of.

Difference Between False and True Guilt

There is a solid difference between false and true guilt.

False guilt won’t go away no matter how many times you confess wrong. True guilt will disappear the moment you confess a wrong-doing to God.

And so, the choice we must make to be rid of false guilt is:

Post-Adoption Care for Adoptees

Use this book as a post-adoption resource for adoptees. Chapters are named specifically about common problems, so you can read as needed.

CHOICE: Weed out false guilt and begin thinking about how to meet basic need for connection. (Chapter 12: 20 LIFE TRANSFORMING CHOICES ADOPTEES NEED TO MAKE)We will talk soon about how to actually weed out nasty false guilt.

For now, catch yourself on self-condemnation.

Remember…the Good Shepherd speaks only edifying words…condemnation comes from the enemy of your soul.

Suggested Resource: Focus on the Family http://www.focusonthefamily.com/lifechallenges/emotional-health/living-without-constant-guilt/the-origins-of-false-guilt?nosplash=1&utm_campaign=forums2016&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=forums

 

Detecting Trauma Triggers in Foster/Adopted Children

Dear friends through adoption,

I write this blog post with caution, knowing that this type of trauma–sexual abuse– doesn’t happen in the majority of adoptive/foster homes.

I’ve seen many parents weep with love for their children. They would rather suffer than have their children suffer.

But, for the loving, weeping parents, I beg you to not tune out to this message because there may be children in your area of influence that are suffering from sexual abuse. You can be an advocate for them on many levels.

In order to be free from this trauma, or any trauma, it is necessary to look for clues and try to uncover the triggering incidents.

This particular post focuses on sexual abuse as a trigger, but for adopted/foster children, there are many other triggers.

Common Adoptee Triggers

  • Entering new situations where child/teen/adult knows no one
  • Family gatherings when child would rather stay in room alone
  • Pre-birth wounds from a desperate mother trying to abort
  • Loss of a loved one, a pet
  • Saying goodbye

Being a newbie about this trauma stuff and being an adoptee who’s recently realized there is a smoke alarm going off in my brain, I have to think about the complexities of trauma in simple ways.

Then, I can learn to regulate out-of-control emotions and be the person I was created to be.

With that in mind, think about why adoptees and foster kids get triggered to the point of meltdowns or  shut downs.

Here’s a simple illustration of trauma.

Trauma Basics

Ten-year-old Jimmy, now living in his sixth foster home, rages on the floor, seemingly without reason.

Adoptees Can Understand What's Causing Meltdowns

Meltdowns can come from seemingly nowhere and make no sense to parents who are observing raging behavior.

His parents had no clue. Nothing could stop him.

After the rage, Jimmy’s sense of shame will spread, like mold in a musty basement. And, as he matures, he will wonder why he can’t control himself.

Is there something wrong with me? Is that why I was placed for adoption? Why do I get madder at things than my friends?

Here’s Jimmy’s backstory.

Finding Trauma Triggers

Dad abused Jimmy sexually and ordered that it be kept a secret.

A previous foster dad belonged to a bowling league that sported green team shirts. Jimmy dreamed of bowling on such a team.

On bowling nights, dad returned late, but Jimmy stayed awake to say goodnight.

Secrets

I know you can fill in the missing pieces here.

Something horrific happened that would haunt Jimmy for a lifetime. But, Jimmy followed dad’s orders to not talk about it to anyone.

And so. in the future, whenever Jimmy saw the color green, like his dad’s shirt, he raged, like a roaring freight train. He couldn’t control himself. It was like he went numb and was in another world.

Trauma Triggers Require Detective Work for Parents

Whenever Jimmy saw the color green, his mind flashed back to his bedroom and what happened to him there.

And so, green became Jimmy’s trigger.

It would take time and professional help for Jimmy to recover from this childhood trauma…or at least for his anger and shame to become manageable.

There was nothing wrong with Jimmy, even though he was convinced otherwise.

There was no hope in his heart that change was possible.

Recovery Is Possible

In time, however, through prayer and professional help, Jimmy could begin to see himself through God’s eyes… a jewel.

“On the day you were born, you were thrown out into an open field, unwanted. But, I came by and saw you lying there in your own blood, and I said, ‘Live, thrive, like a plant in the field. And, you did! You became a jewel among jewels.” (LB: Ezekiel 14:6-7).

Thus, we come to the first choice from the Choices book (above) that Jimmy must learn:

CHOICE: To claim both the positive and painful emotions as valid, and verbalize them. (Chapter 4: 20 LIFE TRANSFORMING CHOICES ADOPTEES NEED TO MAKE.)

Suggested Resource: THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE…Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel Van der Kolk, M.D.

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Thinking Logically Seems Impossible for Attachment Disordered Kids

Are you kidding? Logical thinking.

For years, I have struggled with what I believed was a character disorder. I can’t make up my mind because I can’t think logically. It affects every relationship in life. But, there is hope if we can identify and work on it together.

Dear friends through adoption…

Last week, Bob and I were painting my office. I got all the color chips and showed him the best colors.

Within two hours, I changed my mind, and by the next morning, again. The following day, other colors and then back to the first.

“I just can’t track with you!” Bob said, leaving the room, shaking his head. This tendency has been a huge stress between us over our 51 years of marriage. Yes, adoption is surely a lifelong journey.

Then, I proceeded to hit myself over the head with a Bible verse….let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.”

Why couldn’t I do that? Was I a wimpy Christian? What would God think about my spinelessness, not only on paint colors, but lifelong choices? Would he reject me like my birth mother did at reunion?

For the first time I realize that this inability to think logically is symptomatic of reactive attachment disorder.

Later, with paint colors strewn over the floor, Bob and I talked about attachment disorder and reached a new understanding. Shame rolled off me, like water over Niagra Falls.

Just before choosing the paint, Bob held up different colors repeatedly and so patiently to help me decide.

I felt understood.

No shame.

We can work on attachment disorder as a team now…at least this symptom of it.

Oh, and by the way, God has a special place in his heart for those of us who struggle.

Love to all…

 

The Game Changer for My Attachment Disorder

Trauma=Smoke Alarm in Brain

You’d have anger issues and learning difficulties too if you had a smoke alarm going off in your brain.

Can you imagine waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of your smoke alarm? Panic, right? Hasten to turn it off, right? Hate the loud, disturbing sound, right?

Adoptees and foster children live with a smoke alarm in their brains everyday, but no one knows it. Therefore, it doesn’t get turned off.

It goes off the moment we are taken away from our birth mothers. Or, for foster kids, multiple alarms go off over a span of time.

No one knows about the smoke alarm, nor do we.

We just live with it and it shows up in learning disorders, anger and rage issues, inability to think logically, sensory issues, stealing, lying, etc, etc.

What a relief it was for me to learn about this…even at the ripe old age of 72. Suddenly, all the stupid, wrong, clumsy, impulsive, idiotic things I have done throughout life washed away.

I felt God’s unconditional love.

I could see myself as a precious baby, a teen that had special needs that weren’t met, and an adult who has worked so hard to appear normal.

What a relief.

(Credit: Shefalie Chandra: Smoke Alarm)

 

My Set-Up for Reactive Attachment Disorder

Warm tears landed on my newborn body, like a spring rain.

I wanted to feel them forever.

To my once-orphaned delivery doctor, life was something to be celebrated, to shed happy tears over.

I couldn’t wait to feel his tears again.

What was it about those tears that soaked into my soul? Were they saturated with hope and comfort? Were they bright lights at the end of the traumatic tunnel of living my first nine months of life in the womb of a mother who fantasized abortion? Or, were they seeds, sown in secret, to produce a great harvest later in life?

Whatever it was, I wanted more.

Orphan Doctor held me up, gazed into my big brown eyes, and smiled.

But then Nurse Kratchit bent close to Orphan Doctor’s ear, whispering.

Orphan Doctor’s eyes pooled with tears.

What did she whisper?

Was there something wrong with me?

Was I ugly? Too little?

Is that why she suddenly whisked me off to a dimly-lit room where pleading and plaintiff cries hovered over me, like smog in LA?

Where was Orphan Doctor?

Where were those large, gentle hands that welcomed me to earth with orphan tears?

Why didn’t he come back?

Then, Nurse Kratchit shoved me into a box made of glass.

I kicked and screamed bloody murder, but the sounds of my cries bounced back at me, like ping pong balls.

No one hears.

And, so I give up and “go inside.” It’s safe in there.

Then, I hear Nurse Kratchit waslking near the glass box which was going to be my dwelling for ten days.

Proudly, she announces the name she’s chosen for me.

Baby X.