Wednesday, April 27, 2016

We need to be witnessed....

This morning I read an excellent post on a social media site. It was about our need to be seen, to have witness to our lives - whether that is pain, fear, joy...whatever...we need to know that we exist in the reality of others. 

I've long argued that abandonment is the major issues in older child adoption and for all trauma victims. Human beings are pack animals, and when the pack loses sight of us, we become vulnerable and we are harmed. That's what happens to our children - they have been left, they have been vulnerable, and they have been harmed. And after we adopt them, we are left, we become vulnerable, and so we are harmed. 

So, what does this have to do with the new realities of adoption and Hazardous Parenting? Well, I think that in Hazardous Families, the parents become invisible. We get lost in the child's trauma and the industries that are built up around it. Our reality is denied. We are told we have secondary trauma from witnessing the pain of our children's trauma - uh, I don't think so. I am well aware that I have primary trauma from fearing for my life, from social isolation, from living with chronic conflict etc. Okay, I've written about that enough in my old blog, but today, in linking it to the need to have witness to my reality, I was struck again by how we are silenced in our struggle and our pain. 

Don't worry, I'm not paranoid - I don't believe there is a conspiracy to silence us. I do, however, believe that the failure of the adoption and trauma industries to recognize the reality of mental health problems in children and youth has left parents in the lurch. We are led to believe that our children and youth will outgrow their behaviors - and many do. Yet, that doesn't mean that we aren't harmed during the years that they are presenting the symptoms. 

We are also silenced by our love for our kids. I'm sure none of you want to run around telling the world how hard it is to live your life because of your child - you love Junior and you naturally want to protect him or her from your pain. 

We are also silenced because the professionals focus almost solely on the children. Any parenting support provided to us is about how to parent, not about how to heal from parenting. And, of course, when the therapies provided for our kids don't work, the parents are blamed for not following through, or having too high expectations, or not accepting our child, or....whatever. 

When nothing works we often buy into that it was our fault and we accept that we just weren't good enough for our child. And, as any parent knows, if you feel you aren't good enough for your child that leads to feeling that you aren't good enough PERIOD. And that friends, is a clear path to severe depression, more social and emotional isolation, and more invisibility. 

This isn't going change until we stop being silent about what our lives are like. We need to make others see us. We need to stop just talking to each other on our blogs and in our support groups. We need to stand firm that we are not blaming our children for their behaviors but that we are not going to be silent about how those behaviors impact us. I don't know how you can do this but I know what I can do. It started for me with my book "Healing from Hazardous Parenting: How to Fix Yourself When You Can't Fix Your Kid". I also no longer accept speaking engagements about how to parent, I only agree to workshops that are about how to survive (and thrive) as a parent and about the other realities that are present in today's adoptive family life. I'm shortly going to start a blog talk radio program so that other parents can have a real voice and a place to speak. 

What are you going to do? You have talents, you have a voice. Your deserve witness to your pain. 
Animated Blooming
Hey friends, you are entitled to a better day. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Re-thinking disruption...

I hope you have some patience for me today because I am sorting out my thoughts on this as I write (I can't wait to blog till I have it figured out because I don't have time and once I figure something out, I move on). 

So, as I ponder the New Realities of today's adoptive family, I really think it's time to change how we perceive an interruption in the family life of an adoptive family aka a disruption. The first point of changing our perspective is, in my opinion, changing how we perceive adoptive families. As I've said before, we aren't living Shared Fates, we are living Parallel Fates - we are socially constructed families who are put together because children/youth need parents and parents want a family unit that includes children/youth and for some reason that is deeply unique to each family, they have chosen adoption as a means of creating that unit. How or why  we all go to these places are often irrelevant to the creation of the family. That is, a child's social worker looks through files and picks one that suits the social worker's view of what is best for the child. Sometimes the child has input ie "I want siblings" or "I want to be the only child" or "I want to live on a farm" or ......  Why on earth we think a traumatized child or even the 11th social worker in the file actually knows what is best is beyond me. Too often, the family is chosen because they are the only family who will accept the child or sib group and all other factors that may support or hinder the merging of this child into this family are then pushed aside. 

Okay, now we have this socially constructed family unit and somehow it is supposed to magically transform into something that resembles society's view of "family". Generally that includes everyone developing relationships that allow opportunities for the child to blossom cognitively and emotionally and for the parents to feel good about their parenting skills and for everyone to be eventually (sooner rather than later) sitting happily around the Christmas table so very thankful to be together. Well, if you are reading this, then you know that isn't how it works out. 

In some families, in fact, in many adoptive families, we don't get that happy Christmas scene. Instead, we get anger, resentment, mental health issues, lying, violence, drugs, stealing, chronic conflict, depression, anxiety, stress, isolation, mood dysregulation and more. Most families stumble through this and if we are all together at the age of majority it's considered a successful adoption. If we don't quite make the finish line, then it's considered a disruption or a dissolution. We are broken as a family and the relationships are legally and socially terminated. Good bye, toodle-oo, hosta la vista. One way exit. 

Well friends, as I've said before, I don't agree that arriving at the youth's age of majority with the parents' health wrecked, and the relationships barely present, and the young person leaving the home filled with anger and resentment toward the adoptive parents, hey, that isn't success. And I don't think that not making it to the finish line and having the youth or child re-placed in foster care is a failure. We aren't genetic families and we don't have neurotypical children and we can't live by the same rules or have the same expectations placed on us.  Success and failure are very different for us. But, too often, we don't get a choice. If we can't live with a child or youth anymore (for whatever reason), then we are pushed out his or her life. There is no alternative that allows us to change and adapt how we relate ie youth in kinship or foster care most of the time but continuing to see the adoptive family and to participate in whatever is possible of the adoptive family life. I don't agree that simply because we can't get along in the same house or sit together for Christmas dinner (or any dinner - or even sit in the same room) that the adoption has to be over. There needs to be time and space and support for those who want to continue the relationship to do so in an alternate form - to find their own way to be a family - and to have the time for the youth and parents to mature, to learn new skills, to let go of resentments, and to create a relationship that works for them rather than one that fits a pre-determined template. 

Or, rather than placing an older child or youth into a family with the expectation that these parents will become mommy and/or daddy in the traditional, genetic sense - they are allowed to live together in a way that doesn't force expectations of relationship and roles and allows them time and support to develop what will work in their unique situation. 

I know that's a huge challenge because we have a DNA drive to be parents and to be the mom or dad. But, DNA doesn't consider adoption - it doesn't consider taking a traumatized and neurologically harmed child from one setting, to another, to another and so on, until he or she finally ends up with some random people who now claim to be mom and/or dad. 

We need to acknowledge that we are different from genetic families, and that we have to have different rules and different expectations, and that neither our successes nor our failures can be defined by past or traditional models. We need something new that fits today's adoption realities. 

Well, back to work. Please have your best day possible and stay true to what you know is right for you and your family. Stylized, Rose, Flower, Floral, Red

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Aiming higher...

It seems that in the adoption industry, an adoption is considered successful when the family makes it to the finish line - that is, they are still together in some form when the youth reaches age 18 or so. It doesn't really matter that many of us have crawled to that finish line over the debris of broken relationships, stress related health conditions, fractured marriages, financial devastation, social isolation, a devastated sense of self- worth, and ptsd. 

Well friends, I'd like to aim a little higher than that - I'd like to aim for success to include parental health, strong marriage, stable finances, good relationships with our other children and extended family, high self-worth, well developed social networks etc. Is that unreasonable?

I don't know why it's okay for Hazardous Families to suffer. And we do suffer. For some reason, it seems like if we admit that, then we are betraying the industry or some adoption myth that must be upheld. I have never pretended that my family was all rosey - but I have also held back on much of it to protect Junior and because I'm Canadian and we tend to value privacy. 

Well, I don't see how that helped my family or anyone else. The fates still befell us in confusing and terrible ways, and continue to do so. Like you, I can't access the kind of help I need - good respite, effective professional services......... they just aren't there. 

I follow my own advice and strategies for surviving each day, but my family, like yours, needs and deserves more. Our Juniors are entitled  to a family that can maintain the energy to get to that finish line - and we have the right to get there with our relationships in reasonably good shape and with the energy to leap happily into whatever the next years will bring - you know, sort of like neurotypical parents do when they transition into their next life stage.  

So, from here on in I'm not accepting the industry's version of success --I'm aiming higher, and I damn well intend to get that finish line with Junior and myself and the rest of my family in good shape and feeling like it was worth it. 

What about you?Image result for free flower art