Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
As you simplify life the laws of the universe will be simpler.
~ Henry David Theoreau
Hands down the two books I open regularly for parenting advice are: The Bible! and Simplicity Parenting.
One of the most profound differences in our parenting style since adopting is Simplification! Hands down! We chose this way of life simply out of necessity. There was no other way to help children born into trauma cope with an American way of life.
They came from most likely very meager, poor homes, dropped into orphanages to live very cold, institutionalized days, and then placed in an American family where daily life can be TOO MUCH!!!
If we think we can bring home our children from these places and not make changes to our way of life, then we are headed for a train wreck!
This can be a sort of soap box for me so hang on for the ride or click over to someone else’s blog for respite.
Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross have written Simplicity Parenting: Using the Exraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids. As I read this book, it has given me SO many things to think about in my day to day life of parenting and raising our children. The framework of their chapters has given me a framework from which to share so I’ going with it. I hope this comes out well!
As I’ve share before, Scott and I made many mistakes when EK came home, but we were vigilant in helping her cope with her new life. One huge obstacle was remembering she didn’t CHOOSE any of this, and it wasn’t HER job to act better, sleep better, eat better, or ANYTHING better.
It was our job as her new parents to make her life as secure as possible filled with more love than she had ever known.
Also there were SO many things she would have to be taught that just came natural to our big girls… mainly that our love for her was unconditional and sure NO matter her acceptance or denial of it. WE were the ones that chose adoption, and we would be the ones to make every effort in making it successful.
Scott reminded me of one example: When our big girls were little and we met new people, we always made sure they looked the person right in the eye and spoke up with confidence. The constant security within our home gave them that confidence and we were able to put that expectation on them. They were very compliant too.
With our little ones, it is NOT a practice for us to expect them to speak to anyone. The only people they HAVE to know and respond to is US. There is no looking in the eye until WE have gained their trust. There is no confidence in speaking until they have learned the language and had massive amounts of time to practice. There is no expectation of being in front of strangers and feeling secure to speak with joy. SO SO much comes before all that.
Because all of our children have come from institutionalized lives, we have chosen to keep their lives at home simplified.
With the big girls we were on the go all the time and people were in and out of our house constantly. The longer EK was home we realized we had to simplify all we had going. It couldn’t be done cold turkey because our girls were so involved but as time passed, the biggest change we made was moving away from suburbia life and into a small town.
With a new town and house, we were able to make big changes to simplify. Lots of STUFF was sold or given away or put in storage. We moved into a smaller house where EK would share a room with her big sister. We went to a super small church where grandparents and other family familiar to her went, and the big girls only had school and church activities.
I stayed home and spent my days making a new life for our family and helping EK acclimate to everything new once again. The ONE thing that remained constant was the security in family. The same people came home each day and began showing her what Family really looked and felt like.
Payne quotes in Simplicity Parenting, “Stress can push children along the behavioral spectrum. When you simplify a child’s life on a number of levels, back they come.”
It WAS when we simplified our family life that we saw the most change in EK, and God began our journey toward the next 6.
Quick Action: Determine what is important and make that priority. If something isn’t edifying for family security and simplification, it isn’t worth chasing.
Payne states, “Soul fever… something is not right; they’re upset, overwhelmed, at odds with the world. And most of all, at odds with their truest self.”
Doesn’t that describe our adopted children to the T? I would go on to say, our adopted children don’t even know their truest selves. They’ve never been given the chance to know who they are or allowed to say what they want to say.
There is deep stuff that needs to come out and where else do you want it to happen than at home. Haven’t we all had times where we’ve watch our child pitch a fit on the floor because the day had been too much; then say ‘I’m glad they do that at home and not in front of other people’. Well guess what? It will happen in front of other people so you better get ready to allow it. Yes, I said allow. IF you overextend a child’s limit, get ready for the consequences.
Many behaviors our children express are messages to us life it too much.
Pulling them in, holding them in a tantrum, soothing boo boos with the 1000th bandaid, or humming them to sleep in a rocker… whatever it takes to nurture love, security, and attachment.
Quick Action: Give grace in the tantrum moments and hold them every single time you would rather sit them in a corner. Soothing souls is a lifetime commitment and definitely not for the weary but OH SO worth it!
HOME is where our children have wanted to be since birth. Many of them had times with biological families and many were left at orphanages a few days old. There lives were turned upside down. Their environment became sterile and institutionalized with fear being a constant state.
We pick them up, thrust them into a family, and care MUST be taken to create a specific environment to ensure security while reducing fear.
With each child that has come home, we have learned more and more the importance of Sanctuary in our Home. Staying home and cocooning our children has made all the difference in the world. I have made it habit to limit the times we leave home for only a meal or emergency trip to the store. I don’t go grocery shopping or church or library. Either Scott does those things (which he does) or they don’t get done. He and the big girls are huge helps when it comes to cocooning our children.
If I had to nail down ONE thing different about parenting our children is STAYING home!
We have the great privilege to school our children at home, and this has given us much time to build trust, security, and love on a 24/7 basis. Scott is able to work from home about 3 days a week so having our dad in the house is a huge plus as well. Going to church is huge priority for our family but when cocooning, it takes a backseat and we do church at home too. Jesus is okay with that, I promise!!!
One other thing I might add is keep the people in your house immediate. Meeting neighbors at the door, or a walk up the driveway to chat is better than having people in and out all the time. Having the same people around all the time shows our children how family is different from orphanage life with nannies and volunteers.
Quick Action: Keep Home a safe and predictable environment by cocooning as long as you possibly can. You will never regret it or get a redo. I also promise it will give you respite just as it does your child!!!
Rhythm simply means making our days the same as much as possible: so much so that they can tell US what is next.
I know this is not possible for all families and at one time it wasn’t for our family either but we have chosen this life for now and it empowers our children greatly.
Our rhythms include a set breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner time. It is extremely important our children know we are going to eat and when. Eating is one of the best ways to build trust and attachment. When our kids are newly home, we even encourage eating on demand. Sitting with them and putting each bite on their plate or even into their mouth encourages eye to eye contact which leads to a deeper bond.
One thing we’ve done is teach our kids from very little to read the FIRST number on the clock to know what is next. For example: They know at 8 we eat breakfast, at 9 we start school, at 12 we eat lunch, at 1 we rest, at 3 we eat snack, at 4 we play outside, at 6ish we eat dinner, at 8 we go to bed. It’s our rhythm and barring some special occasion or catastrophe, we pretty much live by this routine.
Other than food, SLEEP is the other necessity for smooth rhythms. We still have 6 year olds that take a nap every single day and we have a 10 year old that goes to bed at 8. All that rest is healthy for them and for US! Scott and I tell people all the time we are able to handle the energy of our kids because they sleep and let US sleep too! 🙂
Quick Action: Secure a predictable rhythm to your day making sure everyone is fed nutritiously and gets plenty of rest! That goes for the parent too!
Filtering Out the Adult World~
When I taught K, there were students in my class that just needed another year to grow and mature before moving to the next grade. It was quite the hit to a parent’s ego to decide another year was positive. In helping them come to terms, I would always ask, “Wouldn’t you rather give your child another year of childhood than an extra year of adulthood?” The answer would unanimously be YES!
YES! I want my children to be children as long as they possible can! It is with intention we protect our children from many adult and worldly things in several ways.
Keeping tv to a bare minimum. Our children watch PBS mostly with a tiny bit of NickJr or Disney thrown in. We don’t watch the news in front of them or other adult shows which might give them thoughts they can’t handle. The slightest little image can begin an avalanche of emotions we can avoid with good practices.
Scott and I also keep our adult conversations to times when our kids are out of the room or after bedtime. There are just some things kids don’t need to hear or know. We try to build each other up in our conversations setting an example of how they should treat others as well.
Our family life affords our children massive amounts play. No place better than outside in the yard to play, imagine, and pretend. NO tv or video game can give children what they get in nature. A simple ‘Get outside’ can be the greatest gift to a child!!!
Quick Action: Limit adult influences and give your children an extra year of childhood. And maybe give yourself permission to do the same thing!
There is no substitute for Intentional Parenting and Parenting Adopted Kids must be different.
Scott and I are amazed constantly of the things we have to show or teach our children they don’t realize on their own. Everything from social graces to private modesty. They don’t know lots of times if something is appropriate or not. It takes much patience, grace, and mercy to parent kindly in all situations.
More than anything it ALL must be done in LOVE!
We as adoptive parents CHOSE this life for our family, but the adoptive child DID NOT. It is our responsibility to create a loving, safe home for our children to thrive and mature. It may take months, years, or they may never leave us but in it all, God gives us every thing we need for the moment we are in. Give Him each day, each child, each need and watch Him bind all wounds and give us good gifts.
Peter 4:8~ Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 1
You’ve heard the saying It takes a villiage…
I would say It Takes a Family and Home to parent differently giving our children every thing they need to heal and restore.
I have to thank my husband who never wearies in parenting along side me. To my big girls who contantly support this amazing journey we are on and help parent as well. And to our extended family who always help and pray in any way we need. We are so very grateful!!!
James 1:17~ Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.