Start your day right

Start your day right

I am always asked what to do next, what will help us change our lives as adoptive or foster parents? My answer always starts with… Intentionally build a safety net for your child. There are many ways we do this, and I think one of the most fundamental ways is when we meet them right where THEY are.

Our children come to us with so much life and loss behind them. Among other things, they have missed developmental milestones and the impact of the trauma is amplified. They had to adapt and survive. There is so much behind the book cover that is the story of their lives.

As I continue to answer my question, I urge you and those who have asked it before to realize that we seem to know this story, as if we have read this book before, and that we seem to know the ending. Here’s the BIG part – it may look the same, but it’s imperative to remember to never judge the pages of a book by its cover. It is VERY important to check our expectations and read the book with an open mind and heart… even if we memorize every page.

Meeting your child exactly where he/she is at increases your child’s success in life and ultimately in relationships. Start by realizing that his chronological age and emotional age are NOT the same. He may look 13, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to emotionally deal with whatever that entails (remember… book – cover). Do you see your child sabotaging the good in his life? What about problems making friends or doing housework or taking care of toys/things? What if emotionally this 13-year-old can really only handle life at about the age of 6? What if your seven-year-old can only cope emotionally at 3? What if your 3-year-old is still trying to master the stages of childhood?

Remember, my friends, your child’s story is about being a survivor. Survivors may look fine on the outside, but they’re “doing fine” for now. What it costs them inside, every time they have to survive, gets in the way of healing. This interferes with his ability to maintain positive, loving and trusting relationships.

Many misinterpret survival behavior as a challenge. Many misinterpret their child’s emotional inability to manage a moment, to get work done, to do chores, to connect with a person, to pay attention to something, to interpret nuance, etc., as a challenge, manipulation or, even more bad, lack of conscience or respect.

I once had a client who was so frustrated with her twelve year old daughter. She really felt like when her child didn’t do his chores the right way, on time, without being reminded, she was being disrespectful and showing that he didn’t really love her. (Had I done that – I get it!) Now my response is usually something like… “Would you want a 3-year-old to do this job the right way every time, on time, without asking? It seems absurd when you say it like that – doesn’t it? Her daughter was SO emotional at 3! She was dealing with most emotional situations from the perspective of a 3-year-old – especially in her relationship with her mother.

Meet your child at his emotional age as well as his chronological age…and most of the time in that order!

I want to challenge you to start today and every day by remembering to read every word on every page. Don’t guess or paraphrase. Don’t look for the ending to be like someone else’s ending. When we see our child’s pages with clarity, we can meet them where they are, allowing us to build them the safety net they have lost. From this web comes confidence, self-esteem, regulation and belief that I am worthy of good… from the web comes healing!

#Start #day

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