Children who no longer live with their birth parents must go through their own version of grief…

by Ron Huxley, LMFT

In 2014, Child Welfare Services checked up on 3.2 million children reported as abused or neglected, in the United States of America*. Many of these children are removed from their birth parents and enter foster care. Some return to their parents while others are adopted by loving families. The goal is always permanency for children but the issues of grief must be addressed regardless of the child’s placement.

What is Grief?

Grief is the state that individuals experience when a significant loss occurs in their life. The loss might occur as a result of death, divorce, and/or abandonment by a family member. It might be said that nontraditional families, like foster and adoptive families, are born out of grief as they are formed as a result of a loss. This is confusing due to this is a time for both celebration and sadness.

Grief is a profound loss for children that is not always recognized by parents and professionals. One reason is that children do not grief in the same way that adults do. Young children often act like nothing happened at all and adults wrongly assume they are not grieving. Later, when they erupt in anger and aggression towards others, adults are surprised by their behavior. Misunderstanding the behavior will lead to incorrectly managing it and parents miss an opportunity to address the loss and create a healing bond.

Stages of Grief

Despite the confusion, grief has predictable stages of development. This is beneficial to the nontraditional parent as they attempt to make sense of their child’s grief experiences. Most importantly they know that the most negative feelings of grief and loss will not last forever, at least not in the same intensity as when it first started.

Perhaps the best known framework for grief and loss are the stages listed in the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who wrote the book On Death and Dying (1969). Her stages of grief include:

Denial
Anger
Bargaining
Depression
Acceptance

These stages can manifest differently depending on the child’s developmental stage. As a child matures, their ability to understand themselves and their world changes, allowing for deeper levels of grieving. This is why young children can act like they don’t grief or care about their past. They may not want to talk about their past or have any questions for adults. When they are older, however, they may “suddenly” have questions and this can be perplexing to adults.

Another way grief can affect children is creating a division between “age and stage.” A child may be 16 years of age chronologically but act emotionally and socially like a 6 year old. Would a parent allow a 6 year old to take care of his or her younger siblings? Of course not! A 16 should be responsible to watch their younger siblings for a short time. A 6 year old would not have the cognitive ability. A 10 year discrepancy between age and stage can cause grieving children to look like they are on an emotional roller coaster ride. One minute they are responsible and calm. Then next they are reactive and impulsive. Parents can easily make the mistake of dealing with the child’s age and not their stage.

Close the gap between the child’s emotional and chronological stage by creating a space for them to grief past losses.

Waves of the Ocean

A useful metaphor for understanding grief are the waves of an ocean. When you are way out in the ocean, the waves are large and frightening. They pull you under and twist you about, creating a sense of hopelessness or fear of your future. This is similar to the stage of Denial or shock at the reality of the loss. When the waves pass and the ocean feels momentarily calm, this is called the stage of anger or bargaining. The shore represents the stage of acceptance. As nontraditional parents and children swim for the stage of acceptance, waves continue to crash over them, sometimes threatening to pull them under in denial and shock and at other times settling down and letting anger and bargaining propel them forward to the shore. The closer you come to the shore the less intense the waves. But even small waves, when standing on the edge of the ocean can unsettle and cause you to lose your balance.

Parents can use this metaphor to help themselves and their children find emotional balance. Because they are in the ocean and not on the shore they cannot compare their children’s action to others. In addition, rather than live up to society’s expectation of what an ideal family should look like, parents need to concentrate their energy on helping their child swim for the shore, in their own timeframe, even if it must be developmental stages.

Art and the Heart

Expressive arts can open the heart of the child who is grieving by allowing them to freely process thoughts and feelings that have been trapped in her heart and possibly . Parents have to set an atmosphere of acceptance to help the child “swim to shore”. Parents who avoid talking about sad or angry feelings communicate that it is unsafe or unwise to share. You don’t have to be an art therapist. Just get out the crayons and paper. Pull out paints and use your fingers. Play with legos and dolls. Make believe and role play. As adults we can interject healing ideas and allow grief and loss to work naturally. 

Talking about Birth Parents

It can feel rejecting for foster or adoptive parents to talk to their children about birth parents. Ironically, opening up conversation and allowing children to grieve will create a closer, more intimate attachment. Not talking about them will reinforce shame in the child and idealizing birth parents creating a vicious cycle or hurt between parent and child. The loss has already occurred. Avoid it doesn’t make it go away. It stays buried until it comes out in more painful ways. 

If parents need help in this area, consult with a child therapy and spend some time working through the age and stage of grief. 

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Sources: 

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/07/in-a-year-child-protective-services-conducted-32-million-investigations/374809/

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying (1969).

Ron Huxley, Love and Limits: Achieving a Balance in Parenting (1998).

Adoption Parties’ Help Form New Families:

According to the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), at one recent activity day event in Kent 34 out of 54 children found possible links to new foster parents.

The events are designed for people who are already well advanced in the adoption process.

They get to meet children at play while the youngsters enjoy face, painting, climbing and other activities.

The children’s foster parents or social workers attend the event to support them.

It is part of a scheme to help speed up the process and find adoptive parents for those children who may be more difficult to place.

More than 6,000 children are going through the adoption process with only 1,800 prospective parents approved and waiting for a child.

Are Non Traditional Families the Same as Traditional Ones?

One of the biggest hurdles that nontraditional parents must jump over in society is the feeling of being “less than” traditional, two-parent families. Nontraditional families suffer under the weight of guilt and grief as a result of their particular family structure. They often feel isolated and alone, as if no one else could possibly understand the struggles they are going through. The reality is that most nontraditional parents feel that they do not met with societies standard of acceptable parenting and labor under the same feelings of guilt and grief. One way to help nontraditional parents adjust to their family structure is to look at their situation as the “same but different” and “different but the same” as other family types.

Same But Different

Nontraditional families do not have a clear job description or they try to use an inadequate model of the two-parent, traditional family when operating their blended or broken family. This model only frustrates them further. A new, more relevant plan is needed for nontraditional families. The motto: “same but different” can be used when creating this new job description.

Nontraditional parents may have the same values as traditional parents but the way in which they exercise them may be different. The need to have a strong executive or marital subsystem is the same but the makeup of that subsystem may be different. It may be made up of remarried individuals, grandparents instead of actual parents, nonbiological rather than biological parents, or a single parent instead of two parents. Birth order is the same in the nontraditional family as in a traditional one but is different or more complicated where a first-born child in a remarried family changes roles due to the inclusion of new siblings after the remarriage and becomes the middle or last-born child. This can lead to a difficult adjustment and the need to continue respecting the child’s old position along with their new position. Boundaries are the same as in the traditional family but where and when these are set will be different due to the different structure of the nontraditional family. The perfect parenting standard will be the same in the nontraditional parent but differs as nontraditional parents fall farther from the parenting ideal. And power plays will be the same in the nontraditional family as in the traditional family but detriangulation or diffusion take place differently from traditional families. Focusing on nontraditional parenting as the “same but different” helps normalize parenting for nontraditional parents while acknowledging their uniqueness.

Different But the Same

Likewise, focusing on being “different but the same” is also important for the nontraditional parent, to a point. They need to accept, if they are to move through the states and stages of grief, that they are very different in structure and composition from traditional families. Therefore, their experiences and feelings will be something traditional parents may not share. To believe that nontraditional parents are carbon copies of traditional parents and to attempt to live according to principles establish on their terms, will result in further failure in balancing love and limits.

Another way for nontraditional family to balance love and limits is to focus not of differences or sameness but on solutions. Finding what works, regardless of the traditional or nontraditional family parents find themselves in, will assist parents in achieving a greater balance of love and limits.

Love and limits represent two sides of the parenting coin. To have a balanced home, nontraditional families need to have both a “relational discipline” based on affection and communication and an “action discipline” style based on firm limits and structure. How a nontraditional family organizes these two principles of parenting will be similar and yet different from traditional, two-parent homes. By keeping in mind the concepts of “same but different” and “different but the same” nontraditional parents can better manage this balance of love and limits in their own unique fashion.

What are your thoughts on non traditional vs. traditional families? Share here or at http://www.facebook.com/parentingtoolbox 

Try our Micro-Education for more parenting answers!

Mary Hartzell | Parenting from the inside out

If you are interested in learning more about relationship based parenting, you can go to Mary’s website at MaryHartzell.com, where you will find parent education CD’s on Parent/Child Relationships that help parents make positive, practical changes in their everyday life with their children. 

Q: Tell us a bit about your background and what led you to First Presbyterian School in Santa Monica.

Mary Hartzell:

A: “I went to graduate school in UCLA where I completed my master’s degree in Early Education and Psychology. While I was there I was invited to join the teaching staff of the Early Childhood Unit at the UCLA Elementary School. This wonderful opportunity gave me a very strong foundation of integrating theory and practice. Because the school is part of the UCLA Graduate School of Education, I was involved in research projects and mentoring student teachers. The aspects of visibility, team teaching, dialogue, research and innovation that I learned there have continued to inform my work as a teacher and a director of a school to this day.

I became the Director of First Pres 26 years ago and had the opportunity to work with the teachers to evolve the school in a way that supported children’s thinking and development in social, emotional, physical, and cognitive areas. When I read an article in the journal of The National Association for the Education of Young Children, called “Beautiful Spaces, Caring Places,” I became very intrigued about what was going on in the schools in the municipality of Reggio Emilia, Italy, and set out to learn more. It’s a philosophy that is constantly evolving. We never say we are a Reggio school—because we are not in that part of Italy—but we have been inspired by their philosophy.

*While I was at home with two young children, I organized a parent education class for a group of my friends that met with success. After starting at First Pres, I began an individual consulting program as well because I found that some parents wanted more personal support. I continue to teach parenting classes and consult with parents as well.”

Q: Can you tell us a bit more about Reggio Emilia and how this approach to education works within a school?

A: “At First Pres, we have been inspired and working with the Reggio Approach for 13 years. We continue to consult with Amelia Gambetti, a liaison between Reggio Children and schools in the U.S and throughout the world. She encouraged us to embrace our identity within our own context and community.

The Reggio Approach sees the school as a system of interactions and relationships and the daily life of the school reflects and values children, teachers and parents as protagonists in the learning process. The system is about facilitating children’s own powers of thinking. In doing that, there’s a sense of the expressive and the communicative and cognitive capacities that each individual has. The environment is rich with many materials, which can give form to their ideas. They are learning through all their senses. It is a pedagogy based on listening. Teachers listen to children’s ideas, document and reflect with them as they formulate, test and revisit their theories while building knowledge and skills. When children come to school, they already have their own theories and ideas developed through their early experiences. We begin with a strong image of the child as capable and competent. Children are protagonists in the learning process and learning is co-constructed with the teacher and other children as they work together in small and large groups sharing their ideas and listening to others’ ideas.

There is a pedagogy of listening that gives respect to each individual’s ideas within the context of the community and a give and take between children as they talk and solve problems together. Most of the learning takes place in small groups, which promotes deepening levels of thinking. Children are provoked by others’ questions. Everyday there is engaged, dynamic learning!”

Q: You co-wrote Parenting from the Inside Out (which I would recommend as required reading to any parent) with neurobiologist Daniel Siegel, M.D, and if you had to sum up what this style of parenting is, how would you describe it?

A: ““Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Helps Us Raise Children Who Thrive,” is a parenting style based on relationships. Becoming a parent can trigger unresolved issues that we may unknowingly carry from our relationships with our own parents, and can interfere with us being the kind of parent we want to be. I work with many parents who are stuck in ineffective relationship patterns with their children. Because our book integrates both left and right brain processing, offering both narrative stories and neuroscience research on the brain and relationships, it offers a hopeful message to parents. The feedback I receive from parents often includes that their other relationships become more satisfying as well.

Learning to communicate is at the core of effective parent/child relationships. Reflective dialogue supports the child in feeling understood and strengthens their core sense of selves. When we are able to listen with an open mind and open heart, our child feels understood even if they are not getting what they want. Respectful communication is very important to develop, because when we have children, one of the things that we’re doing is we’re essentially telling them who they are. We are giving them an image of themselves, and we want to give them an image of themselves as being confident, capable and lovable.”

Q: What are some simple exercises we can think about as parents to help us overcome our own negative patterns and not hurt our children?

A: “I think we have to start by being self-aware and honest with ourselves. It helps if we check in with ourselves to see how we are feeling to help us slow down our reaction. We are then less likely to act in a way that we might regret later. If we don’t take care of our own feelings, they will most likely come out in indirect ways, which disconnect us from our children and family.

When everyday routines aren’t working well, talk with your children about the problem and include them in a conversation about possible solutions. Ask them what they think would help solve the problem. When we include children in the process of making a plan they are more invested in its success because they have been given the respect of being part of a collaborative problem solving process. Here’s an example of how you might begin:

What do you think would help us get out of the house on time in the morning because we’ve been late the last three days. It’s just not working. It seems like every morning I’m getting mad and raising my voice and you probably don’t like that. Let’s make a plan so that we can have a pleasant morning and everyone can be ready to leave the house on time.

Inviting your child/children to offer some ideas of what they think could help, makes a significant difference. It helps to have an honest conversation with kids about what’s not working, rather than getting angry at the same thing over and over again every morning. Stop doing what isn’t working. Getting angry at our children in the morning is unlikely to have any positive results. When we’re angry at our children, they’ll often defend themselves by getting angry at us. Sometimes children get mad at us because they think we’re going to get angry at them. When both we and our children are defensive, communication breaks down.

I often advise parents who feel stuck in a negative pattern with their child, to stop doing what isn’t working, and observe and reflect on both their child’s behavior and their own before making any change.

This is a good time to journal. Journaling can be helpful as it gives witness to our thoughts and feelings. The very act of writing can begin movement towards calming and healing and we are able to become more compassionate to our children and ourselves. When we are angry at our child, we may also be angry at ourselves because our child’s behavior makes us feel like an incompetent parent.

Another good time to journal is when you become more aware of what triggers a negative, unsuccessful response. When you notice that your reactions are more intense and extreme than the situation might merit, this awareness gives you an opportunity to change. The disruptive issue may have more to do with leftover or unresolved issues from your own childhood than with your child’s behavior. Writing your thoughts and feelings can be very helpful and begin to give us a deeper understanding of our child and ourselves.”

Top 7 Ways to Respond When Your Child Shares Feelings | Kinship Center

“Top 7 Ways to Respond When Your Child Shares Feelings”

One of the most important skills for a child’s emotional healing is the ability to identify and express emotion.  When a child can communicate their internal experience, he or she creates the foundation to alleviate past loss, abandonment, or trauma.  When the child connects to caregivers through sensitive sharing, the parent simultaneously becomes better equipped to understand the child’s joy, sorrow, fear, and frustration.

Some children easily share thoughts and feelings while others quietly leave the room or become “invisible” when anyone asks about feelings.  Whatever example describes your child, your response can either keep the conversation going or shut it down.   

There are times when every parent thinks, “What do I say back to my child?” or “How do I encourage my child to talk to me?” Use the following strategies to guide you: 

  1. Praise your child’s feeling comments- When your child tells you his or her emotions, express your appreciation to reinforce their behavior.  Say, “Thanks for sharing,” “I’m glad you told me,” or “I like it when you tell me how you feel.”  
  2. Mirror your child’s remarks– As you listen, summarize your child’s statement to ensure you heard the words correctly and to show the importance of his or her comments. Be careful not to simply repeat your child’s exact words as most kids consider this practice to be irritating!
  3. Help your child feel heard and understood– When a child feels heard and understood they are more likely to share and to feel connected to their caregivers. Convey that you are listening and understand your child’s point of view through sentence starters: “It makes sense to me …,” “I understand …,” and “It sounds like you’re saying …”
  4. “Is there more?” When you are listening to your child’s communicate about the situation and how they feel use this question, “Is there more you want to tell me?” You have heard everything they need to say when their answer is, “No.” 
  5. Check on your child’s needs or wants- After your child has explained his or her feelings, they may need further help or reassurance from you.  At this time ask, “Is there anything you need or want from me?”  “What can I do to make this situation better for you?” Your child may need you to intervene on their behalf, give them a hug, or spend time alone with you. 
  6.  Differentiate between thoughts and feelings– Help your child to visually delineate between thoughts and feelings through their location in the body.  Explain feelings reside in their heart while thoughts are located in their head. For example, “Can you tell me about the feelings in your heart?” or “What are the thoughts in your head?” 
  7. Do not jump in to fix the problem- Understandably, most parents can not stand to see their child in pain, and we want to fix it as soon as possible. But, by overlooking your child’s emotions leaves your child feeling alone and misunderstood. Before you work on fixing the difficulty, listen carefully with open ears!

One of our Kinship Center social workers recommended this interesting blog post by Kentucky therapist Carol Lozier…to follow her blog,  click here.

     

    Ron Raves: A great company and great advice…yes, I am biased because I work here 🙂

    Anna Quindlen: Why parents should take a Picasso-like approach to raising kids

    Earlier today, I posted an excerpt from the new memoir by Anna Quindlen, “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake,” (April, Random House).

    When she shared that piece, I asked her about her thoughts on parenting. 

    Given her book’s attention to the generational shifts in child-rearing attitudes, I asked the expert at introspection, also a mother of three, which parenting trend from the past should be most embraced now and in the future.

    Her response: Teach manners.

    “When children are small, parents should run their lives and not the other way around,” she said.

    Choices are much too confusing for them: It’s not, ‘What do you want to drink?’ It’s ‘Apple juice or milk?’ ”

    “You want to have fun with your kids, and no one has fun with someone who runs roughshod. Raising a child is a little like Picasso’s work; in the beginning he did very conventional representational things. Cubism came after he had the rules down pat. Children should have enough freedom to be themselves — once they’ve learned the rules.”

    What is the single most important parenting lesson you learned from your own mother or father?

    Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-parenting/post/anna-quindlen-why-parents-should-take-a-picasso-like-approach-to-raising-kids/2012/04/30/gIQAgebLsT_blog.html#

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    The new normal in adoption: Birth parent no longer a secret

    A new survey shows that more than 55 percent of adoption cases are fully open – and 95 percent involve at least some relationships between birth parent and adoptive family.

    SHARE: If you were adopted, do you know of and have a relationship with your birth parent? Tell us on FaceBook and get a free membership to our Parenting “Innner Circle”. Click here!

    Based on a survey of 100 adoption agencies, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute reported today that the new norm is for birth parents considering adoption to meet with prospective adoptive parents and pick the new family for their baby.

    Of the roughly 14,000 to 18,000 infant adoptions each year, about 55 percent are fully open, with the parties agreeing to ongoing contact that includes the child, the report said. About 40 percent are “mediated" adoptions in which the adoption agency facilitates periodic exchanges of pictures and letters, but there is typically no direct contact among the parties.

    "The degree of openness should be tailored to the preferences of the individual participants,” said Chuck Johnson of the National Council for Adoption, which represents about 60 agencies. “It points to the huge importance of the right people being matched with each other.”

    The Donaldson institute, citing its own research and numerous other studies, said most participants find open adoptions a positive experience. In general, the report said, adoptive families are more satisfied with the adoption process, birth mothers experience less regret and worry, and the adopted children benefit by having access to their birth relatives, as well as to their family and medical histories.

    “The good news is that adoption in our country is traveling a road toward greater openness and honesty,” said Adam Pertman, the institute’s executive director. “But this new reality also brings challenges, and there are still widespread myths and misconceptions about open adoption.”

    The challenges, according to Mr. Pertman and other adoption experts, often involve mismatched expectations as to the degree of post-adoption contact. The Donaldson report recommends counseling and training for all the adults involved, as well as post-adoption services to help them and their children work through any problems that arise.

    The president of one of the largest US adoption agencies, Bill Blacquiere of Bethany Christian Services, said his staff encourages expectant birth mothers to meet with the prospective adoptive family to discuss the array of options for an open adoption.

    “As much as possible, we allow the parties to design that themselves,” Mr. Blacquiere said. “We mediate to make sure both parties are getting what they need.”

    The post-adoption relationship may start out warily, then become more comfortable as time passes, but Blacquiere said each party should keep the other’s expectations in mind even as circumstances change.

    “For adoptive families, they need to make sure they live up to their commitments, and not try to go back on their initial agreement,” he said. “On the birthparent side, they need to remember that this isn’t co-parenting – part of their role has to be blessing the new home that their child has.”

    One common pattern, according to adoption agency officials, is that the birth parent initially wants more frequent contact with the child than the adoptive family prefers, followed by a gradual shift.

    “When the children get older, it’s often the adoptive families wanting more contact, and the birthparents may have moved on in their lives and at that point are interested in less,” said David Nish, director of adoption programs for New York-based Spence-Chapin Adoption Services.

    Mr. Nish said Spence-Chapin espouses the principle of self-determination in working with birth mothers on their hopes for post-adoption arrangements. But he said the agency won’t work with adoptive parents who insist on having no contact with the birth mother.

    “We try to educate them,” he said. “If they’re really set on it being closed, we tell them we don’t do closed adoptions.”

    For Dawne Era, a psychotherapist from Warwick, R.I., the decision to embrace an open adoption evolved step by step 23 years ago when she and her husband decided to adopt after unsuccessful attempts to conceive on their own.

    They made contact with a pregnant 18-year-old from Nebraska who’d decided to place her baby up for adoption, then got to know her as the young woman spent her pregnancy in nearby Boston.

    After the birth and adoption of a baby boy named Grady, the birth mother and the adoptive parents agreed to remain in contact. It was an informal pact, yet it led to a mutually satisfying relationship that has continued throughout Grady’s life – occasional phone conversations, a handful of face-to-face visits and, more recently, ongoing contact via Facebook between Grady and his birth mother and his younger half-sister.

    For Ms. Era, there was a stressful moment when she and her husband got divorced while Grady was a toddler, and she had to inform the birth mother.

    “That was very difficult,” Era said. “We had promised to take Grady in and raise him in a two-parent family. I thought she would be very disappointed in me, but she took it well.”

    Overall, said Era, the open adoption "has been very positive for all of us.“

    Mr. Pertman of the Donaldson Institute has a daughter adopted 14 years ago. He said challenges can sometimes arise even after adoptive parents and birth parents grow comfortable with the rhythms of an open adoption.

    He recalled how many members of his daughter’s birth family – including her birth mother, grandparents, a brother and an uncle – came to her bat mitzvah.

    "For us and them it was normal, but not for everybody else in the room,” Pertman said. “They got some looks, like ‘What’s this all about?’ ”

     

    Source: Christian Science Monitor

    November is National Adoption Month

    Adoption Awareness Month: Can We Heal?

    Did you know that every November a Presidential Proclamation launches activities and celebrations nationwide to increase awareness around adoption?

    It’s true.

    Adoption is a huge deal in the U.S. with 125,000 children adopted annually according to the Evan B. Donaldson Institute.

    As a two time adoptee, I join this national conversation to offer a unique forum of conversation–the live teleseminar–to discuss HEALING & THE ADOPTEE. Adoptees are too often shoved into a corner, most often a place we put ourselves. We are the silent sufferers and we are the adaptors.

    Can we speak up?
    Can we share our stories?
    Can we transcend our adoptions?

    Each conversation this month will take on these questions and more!

    Schedule

    Wed, Nov. 2 & 9 @ 1:15 p.m. PST to 2:45 p.m. PST
    Featuring: Jeanette Yoffe, Trish Lay & Brian Stanton

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    Jeanette Yoffe, M.A., M.F.T., earned her Masters in Clinical Psychology, specializing in children, from Antioch University in June of 2002. She treats children with serious psychological problems secondary to histories of abuse, neglect, and /or multiple placements. She has specialized for the past 10 years in the treatment of children who manifest serious deficits in their emotional, cognitive, and behavioral development.


    Trish Adoption Awareness 2011:  Can We Heal?

    Trish Lay coaches & motivates people to make positive life change. As an adoptee, she has asked herself: “Who am I?” As she got older it turned to “What is life’s purpose for me?” Trish asks these questions of herself and poses them to others. She has been a force of motivation and inspiration for twenty years.


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    Brian Stanton wrote about his reunion and issues around identity in his original solo play BLANK, performed in L.A., NY, Kansas City, Dallas, and Orlando. BLANK has also been seen at national adoption conferences for the Concerned United Birth-parents & The American Adoption Congress. In March of 2012, Brian will bring BLANK to the Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture 4th International Conference in Claremont, CA.


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    Listen to the 1st & 2nd: Jeanette Yoffe, Brian Stanton and Trish Lay.


    Watch an except from BLANK:


    Sunday, Nov. 13 @ 11:00 AM & 12:30 PM PST
    Featuring: Nancy Verrier, Speaker, Author & Therapist

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    As a licensed MFT (marriage and family therapist) Nancy Verrier has been practicing psychotherapy and counseling in Lafayette, California, for over 20 years. Her specialty is working with people affected by relinquishment and adoption. Her books include the groundbreaking The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child Adoption Awareness 2011:  Can We Heal?  & Coming Home to Self: The Adopted Child Grows Up Adoption Awareness 2011:  Can We Heal?  . Nancy and Jennifer will talk about issues that impact adoptees that last a lifetime. Nancy will take your questions during this call.


    Sunday, Nov. 20 @ 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. PST
    Featuring: John Sobraske, MA, Adoption Attachment Counseling
    Linda Hoye, Writer, Editor & Adoptee

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    John Sobraske is an adopted person, a stepparent of adopted children and an adoption psychotherapist in private practice. His research interests include adoption-related history, anthropology, media and mythology; depth work with adult adoptees; and the use of natural medicine and psychoenergetics for healing.


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    Linda Hoye is a writer, an editor, and an adoptee. She has reunited with some members of her birth family but both of her birth parents had passed away prior to reunion. She is a member of the Forget Me Not Family Society, the Adoption Council of Canada, and the American Adoption Congress. She recently finished writing a memoir charting a course through a complex series of relationships stemming from her adoptive family and two birth families. Linda maintains a blog called A Slice of Life Writing


    Wed., Nov. 30 @ 1:00 p.m. PST
    Featuring: Marnie Tetz, President of the Forget Me Not Family Society (FMNFS) & Bernadette Rymer, Director & Newsletter Editor FMNFS

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    Marnie Tetz of the Forget Me Not Family Society, Vancouver BC In 2000, “The Post Adoption Registry in Alberta matched me with a brother who had also registered, the following year I paid for a search and my mother was found, the next year I was united with another brother and sister. I had started my search almost 20 years before. The Forget Me Not Family Society has been a life saver for me. I became a director, and then 2 years later Vice President. At the AGM in 2010, I took over the role of President.”


    bio Bernadette Adoption Awareness 2011:  Can We Heal?

    Bernadette Rymer: “My daughter and I have been in reunion for 18 years. Our first years were tough as we struggled with feelings and questions of how to develop a meaningful relationship. Things improved dramatically as we became involved in the Forget Me Not Family Society which was my first opportunity—after 38 years—to talk about the loss of my daughter and the trauma that had stunted my growth. Since becoming involved in the FMNFS a passion has stirred within me to reach out to others who have similar experiences, heartaches, struggles and successes in the reunion process.”

    International Number provided for this very special call with our Canadian friends.

    Do not miss these incredible conversations which will also be recorded and provided to those who sign up! Fill in the form below and I will send a confirmation of your registration for these events and details on how to join in the calls.


    Ron Huxley Recommends: November is National Adoption Month and healing is at the core of my work with families. I encourage you to check our Jennifer’s website and her teleconferences on “healing and the adoptee.”

    Creating an Adoption Lifebook: Instructions and Suggestions to Get You Started

    Creating a lifebook is a wonderful way to positively affect the life of a foster or adopted child. Getting started may be the hardest part, here’s how.

    Getting started on your child’s lifebook is the hardest part. Once you begin, you may find it hard to stop because it’s so much fun!

    Supplies Needed

    There are many websites online where you can purchase ready-made lifebooks with fill-in-the-blank pages, similar to a baby book. The problem with using these type of books for a lifebook is that they are one-size-fits-all. Since every adoption and foster care situation is unique, many parents find that they can make very nice lifebooks with a few inexpensive supplies.

    First you will need a 3-ring binder, approximately two or three inches thick to allow room to grow over the years. A binder with a clear pocket on the front will allow you to make a cover for the lifebook that is personalized. If you have an older child that you are creating a lifebook with, let him design the cover, making it even more special to him.

    Second, you will need a few more supplies:
    • Blank paper—typing paper will work; however, many find that cardstock works better and gives you a nice sturdy page.
    • Clear pages protectors- to keep the pages spot free and for easy loading into the binder.

    Next, here is where the fun begins! A lifebook is as individual as the person creating it. You can scrapbook, design and print pages from the computer, or use various mediums to create pages such as: markers, stickers, paint, colored pencils and so forth. Use your imagination and do what you enjoy doing.

     

    The other point to keep in mind is that there are no set rules for lifebooks. They can be as simple or as extravagant as you want to make them. The important thing is to put lots of love into it.

    Pages to Include

    Lifebooks begin at the beginning of the child’s life- birth. Start by creating pages to tell about his birth parents, such as: names, birth dates, and places of residence. Also, children love to read about the day they were born. Along with the traditional information, include fun details such as the weather on the day they were born, the name of the president and other political figures, titles of popular songs, names of celebrities, and so forth.

    More Page Ideas

    Once you get started you will find that page ideas come more easily. A few additional page ideas are:

    • Adoption Day
    • Pets
    • The story about why you decided to adopt
    • Where his name comes from and what it means
    • A list of other names you considered
    • Travel information and photos (if you traveled to get him)
    • A local newspaper from the day he was born/ adopted
    • Baby showers, adoption party, or ceremony photos and details
    • Political and Current Affairs
    • Pages for each year of his life

    How to Word Delicate Subjects

    Handling difficult subjects, such as why the child was placed for adoption or how he came into foster care can be tricky, but should not cause you to shy away from adding this type of information to his lifebook.

    The key to answering these types of questions on the pages of the lifebook is to keep it simple and keep it on the child’s level. For instance, if the child was the product of a rape, don’t state it as such. This sort of detail is best left for a one-on-one conversation when he is much older and can understand it, and adequately cope with it. Simply say that his birth mother and birth father were unable to take care of him and wanted him to have a family who could take care of him and love him.

    Similarly, a child who has suffered abuse and maltreatment does not need all the gory details. A matter-of-fact explanation that his birth parents were unable to take care of him will suffice until he is old enough to handle the information.

    Keep It Going

    Some choose to end the lifebook with the child’s arrival into the adoptive family; however, life doesn’t stop with the adoption. Consider adding to your child’s lifebook year after year and create a treasure that will be cherished forever.

    Ron Huxley’s Review: I am getting ready to teach a class on Adoption Clinical Skills and doing a little online research. Came across this excellent article on creating life books. If you and your adoptive children have NOT done this yet, I would encourage you to do so. It is healing for all members of the adoption constellation.