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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Parenting Children From Hard Places and Staying Connected

During my time at the Adoption Mom's retreat, I had the opportunity to attend several breakout sessions.  All of the sessions were very beneficial in many ways; however, the session I attended titled, "Parenting the Connected Child" was AMAZING!  I was challenged to look at my parenting in a different way.   The two speakers presented information that inspired me and left me wishing the session was a few more hours.  There was so much information presented that applied to parenting children who have come from trauma, kiddos with special needs, and kiddos that are adopted.

Here are 10 takeaways from the session "Parenting the Connected Child". 

  • As parents, we have to know our stuff. We need to know our baggage. We need to know where we came from, and what our triggers are.  Our kiddos know how to trigger us.  They don't wake up each morning and say, "I think I am going to push everyone of mom or dad's button's today."  However, they have a way of doing that!  We can't go to certain places (hard places) with our children, if we are not willing to go there ourselves.  KNOW OUR STUFF.
  • Flip Your Lid.  I am a visual learner, so any type of picture or visual cue is extremely helpful for me.  Think of your brain (and your child's brain) as your hand.  You have the upstairs brain and the downstairs brain and the part in the middle is the amygdala.  The amygdala is responsible for the our "animal brain" or the "Fight, flight, freeze" instinct.  For the whole brain to funcition optimially the entire brain needs to be connected (think of your hand as a fist).  When your child "Flips their lid" (think of your hand completely opened), your child's brain is not connected and they are operating out of their animal or primal brain.  If our kids brains are flipped, talking and reasoning will do nothing.  Also as parents, our brains need to be connected to parent.  It is impossible to parent out of the "fight, flight, freeze" part of the brain. 
  • We need to connect with our children through our parenting.  Connection disarms fear.  Disarming the fear leads to connection which leads to trust.  
  • Kids from hard places have brains that have been rewired due to trauma.  The brain has memories of trauma and the body has memories as well. 
  • Two Strategies that help you connect to your children are "Mindfulness" and "Engagement".
  • Mindfulness is being aware of you (the parent).  By asking yourself "What do I bring from my past?  Where did I come from? What kind of parenting did I have? We need to know our own "stuff" and then choose what we will and will not bring into our parenting.  What can you let go of?  How does your child perceives you?  What is your voice?  What is your tone?  Human brains are wired to take in 80% tone and 20% words.  Often when children from hard places hear a certain tone they have negative body memories and then they respond irrational.  Body Memory is how a body remembers in certain situations.  The body will remember negative memories but it will also remember positive safe ones too.  When the body has a positive memory it creates new neuro pathways.  When a child is safe it equals connection. 
  • Engagement is to give them a voice.  Much of what has happened in our kids' lives has been things that have been out of their control.  We can help give them a voice by giving them choices.  I find choices can be really difficult sometimes.  I know when I give choices I have to be ok with either choice.  But by giving a choice we give them control and share the power.  Sharing power is compromise and giving them a compromise is huge.  It isn't manipulation but negotiation.  Being present and being connected to our kids is more important than being right. 
  • When teaching or correcting my kids, calmly asking them, "I need you to say that again with respect," is a good strategy.  Even if they just dial it down a little, take it! 
  • Don't ask questions you already know the answer to.  I am so guilty of this one!!!  Instead of saying, "have you brushed your teeth yet?" (when you know they haven't), say, "I need you to go brush your teeth." 
  • Give support until they don't need it.  This was a big "ah-ha" for me.  How many times have I said, "you are _______  years old, you should be doing this on your own."  Mostly said out of frustration.  But if I had reframed and shifted my thinking to this little person needing more support instead of what they should be doing at a certain age I would be less frustrated.  It's my job to support them until they don't need it anymore regardless of their age. 
There is so much more I could share about Parenting kids from hard places, parenting kids that have experienced trauma, adopted kiddos and kiddos with special needs.  Here are a few resources I have found helpful including the book I am referencing from the break out session at the retreat.   
Our children are blessings!  I am so honored to be their mama, and will continue to strive to provide them a safe and connected environment. 

Psalm 127:3~"Children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord."

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