Understanding The Window Of Tolerance

Understanding The Window of Tolerance

You can call it what you want, to get a good picture in your mind.  Heather Forbe’s calls it “The Window of Tolerance”…..
For the child who lives in a constant state of past trauma, Picture a window barely open, and slamming shut very easily.  For the child who has moved in the direction of healing, the window is open much wider, and as time goes on, remains open and there is a lovely breeze blowing.

I would say, that for us, we are in that second category now.  However, there are times, where we take 3 steps back and I have to remember that the window is not open very far at that time.

A child who is living at a Fear Level, has a very VERY small opening for things going wrong for them.  It could be a bad math day, a bad hair day or difficulty making their bed.  It could be ANYTHING….. If that window is barely open, their stress level will be WAY UP very quickly.
This is why some children will be tantruming nearly as soon as they wake up.
If we add stress upon stress, the window never gets open and there is an endless cycle of trauma for both child and parent.
Those stresses may be as simple as getting dressed or not having time for a favorite thing before the school bus arrives.  It doesn’t matter. To the child, it is HUGE, because they are unable to be flexible at that point.
(Notice, I didn’t say unwilling, I said UNABLE.)

However, as ILLOGICAL as it sounds, if we work to understand our children and listen to their many times UNREASONABLE frustration, fears or hurt, (unreasonable to us) showing them empathy, the window gets opened a little further and a little further… And before you know it, it is WIDE open!

Some have wondered if their children will ever respond , especially if they have extreme behaviors.  The answer is YES, a RESOUNDING YES…. but they HAVE to get to a place where they can handle more stresses.
It is important in the early stages of  transition, to help our children all we can by not needlessly stressing them.  If  they are used to foreign foods like borscht or fish, we should be sure to have it in ample supply.
We need to make sure that our yesses are more than our nos.  Don’t automatically say no to everything. And don’t automatically become some sort of “Supreme Boss” or Queen of Control”.  There is plenty of time to introduce rules. Relationship is of utmost importance.
When Sweetie 4 first came home, we found that computer time calmed her in the morning.  Our NORMAL routine would be to get up, get dressed, brush hair, brush teeth and THEN, IF there was time after breakfast, computer time.  This did not work for her. It was too much and her window of tolerance would SLAM shut.
We could have FORCED it, but it wouldn’t have done anything to build a relationship with her. We were total strangers, and she was too traumatized and stressed at that time to have responded in a positive way..
Mike and I talked it over and decided it was best for her to go ahead and have the computer time, because it calmed her.
I believe this is what Heather calls “the dance”.  You work things out based upon the stresses your child can handle.  AND, when your child is CALM, that is the time you correct or give instruction.
After Sweetie’s computer time, I would sit with her in the rocker and say something like, “Tomorrow, before computer I would like for you to get dressed ok?  Don’t forget. ”  And she would be dressed.. We would give lots of praise like, “Wow, you got dressed! That is great!”  Sounds silly, but it was a BIG DEAL for her.

Then, when that became routine, we’d add something else.  It was a balancing act to understand if she was more stressed one day than another.  And we had to be very sensitive to that, and to her unknown anniversaries.  Loads of rocking and talking helped with all of this.

Over time, we added another requirement as we saw that window open a bit.  And today, she is in full compliance, (MOST OF THE TIME) 🙂 for what is required for computer time.
If she sits down and has not brushed her hair, I can simply say, “you forgot to brush your hair, go and do that first”, and she will typically say “Yes Ma’am.”. Usually with an “I’m sorry mama, I forgot.”

We have also implemented the10- 20- 10 plan with the girls especially when they are new.  That 10 in the a.m. can be a valuable assessment of how far their window is open.  And it give us a chance to adjust what we do according to emotional age and according to stress level.
There have been times where we missed it, and then look back and say, “Ugh, If only…..”  but overall, this works really well.
We are now at a place where we are not having to use the 10 20 10 plan every day.  Most of the time, things are very normal around here and we get enough snuggles throughout the day anyway.
(The 10 20 10 plan, is taking 10 minutes in the a.m. to snuggle somebody awake, maybe rubbing their back and whispering sweetness to them as they wake, and for us praying with them. 20 minutes in the afternoon of just snuggle time, or playing a game together, and then 10 minutes before bedtime. )

Parenting is not easy, but it is so full of joy and reward.  Parenting traumatized children is even harder, but the reward is great.  There is great toil when we properly plant into somebody else, the seeds of life.  Waiting for the harvest can cause us to feel anxious and impatient, but joy comes in the morning, when the fresh breeze of an open window blows over us, and we see the fruit of our labor.

Overcoming Food Issues

Many Internationally Adopted children  have issues with food when they come home. They are afraid of the different food textures, tastes and smells.   In some cases it can be more than just fear or dislike of the new tastes….. it can actually be an induced eating disorder CAUSED by actual starvation within the system from where they came.

A sweet friend who suffered from an eating disorder  described our sweetie’s pain exactly!  I remember Sweetie 3 waking at night crying hysterically that she was hungry, and then not being able to really eat more than one bite.

When she came home, she weighed 32 lbs and was nearly 6 years old. She was in a 3T.  The first time we sat down for a meal she said, “I only eat red soup!”  (borscht)

When we went to see the movie “Martian Child”. both Mike and I looked at each other and grinned when the little boy said, “I eat Lucky Charms.” 🙂img_22752

I realized very quickly, based upon what I had been told by her other family that she was going to have feeding issues.  In fact, feeding issues were a huge deal in her previous family.  They felt that she was being rebellious by not eating.  They thought she was throwing up on purpose.  Not only was she NOT, the lack of understanding towards her reinforced the food problems she was having.

I had to become a   a beet expert really fast!  I learned to make red soup!

I cannot tell you the joy she had on her face when she saw that comfort food sitting before her!  She happily ate her bowl of soup.

Why soup though?  Because It was easy on her stomach and she was very used to liquids and very simple foods. Everything else she would claim “hurt her stomach.”   I believed that it did, but I think the pain was something else.

She was suffering the pain of hunger. She had been starved for so long and gone hungry for so long that she couldn’t tell the difference between  hungry and full.  So, when she ate a pea, she’d say, “I’m full.”  She hated the feeling of being FULL. But she would cry because her tummy hurt, especially at night.

We were giving her lots of whole fats and familiar foods, letting her graze all day long to try and not have a setting that would cause her stress.  We found that she would eat a few bites, declare herself full and then 10 minutes later she would be able to come back and eat a little more.

It was a very slow process getting Sweetie to understand and recognize the difference between full and hungry. Before we could address it, she had to fully trust us with one of  her most vulnerable of feelings.


One day, after a couple of years being home, she declared that she was full after just eating a few bites.  I suggested to her, “Sweetie, maybe you are not full, but your tummy just needs to rest a minute and what you are actually feeling is still hunger.”  “Can you try to take 3 more bites and see if it goes away?”

She was very willing, and took those 3 more bites. This is something we could have never done 2 years before!   And, surprisingly to her, the feeling went away.  We worked with her  on  recognizing the difference between the feeling of full and hungry for a long time.

That was the beginning of the learning process which enabled her  to eat more, try more foods and heal.

In the last 4 years, as we have served her the comfort foods she loves and   have introduced slowly more and more foods. Today, I am very happy to say, we have a very healthy eater. She eats all of her food and has begun to ask for SECONDS!

She still eats something right before bedtime and drinks whole milk regularly.  She still grazes in between meals too, and her food intake is at a healthy balanced rate. She loves all sorts of foods and will even eat cookies! 🙂   She is ON the charts! (not that charts are that important)  But she is ON THEM! 🙂

(Since this post was originally written, Sweetie has continued to grow and is now at a normal size for a young lady!)


Beyond Consequences Logic and Control: Parenting According To Emotional Age

Beyond Consequences Logic and Control: Parenting According To Emotional Age

Over several years, I have been asked on and off what BCLC looks like in our home. I have blogged about it, in several posts, but today I wanted to address emotional age, because I think it is PARAMOUNT in understanding BCLC. (Beyond Consequences Logic and Control) Many times I get questions about children who will not obey, are diagnosed RAD or have been diagnosed ODD, PDD, ADHD, PTSD, etc. All those are labels given under an umbrella of behaviors that lead to diagnosis. But none of them really offer underlying CAUSE or deal with what is BENEATH the behavior. BCLC addresses CAUSES NOT symptoms. If you can get to the ROOT of a behavior, you can “weed it out”. If you just keep cutting the top, it will come back again and again. I prefer to deal with ROOTS and though it is HARD, I bet it is what all parents WANT! They want to help their children HEAL.

I decided to address a few broad issues that have happened in our own home and how we have dealt with them. I don't think we have handled them perfectly, or that we are perfect parents, but we ARE parents who want to do our best before the Lord and represent HIM to our children.  So here goes: Hang on for the ride. :) 
 If your child is 10 years old in body, yet 2 years old emotionally... how do you handle things like not staying at the table for dinner, or not cleaning his room?
You may need to have your child sit right by you at dinner and treat him/her much younger.  This is gonna sound weird, but a few times we actually fed one of our girls like a toddler.  If she didn't NEED it, she would have refused it. But she did.  We had one of our girls sit on our laps and fed her when she was about 7.  This seemed to help her stay calm. She had a lot of food issues when she was first home. The issue of not eating really stopped quickly.  Another way that helped during dinner was  giving her comfort foods from her country and allowing her to help prepare meals.
Each of our girls helps in kitchen once a month for a week. This includes all kitchen duties, and the privilege of helping mom cook. :)  
In light of that, when Miss Sweetie came home, she was 11 years old.  However, she was really about 18 months emotionally.
My expectations of her doing kitchen were greatly diminished. I had to teach her how, and guide her attitude so she didn't get overwhelmed.  Singing, playing games, pretending all helped her cope with the ultimate chore. We didn't REMOVE the chore, we just adjusted our expectations.
Here is an example of how things were 10 months ago!
 With our Sweetie, my gentle assistance made her angry.  I assisted her anyway.  I remember an instance in filling the dishwasher where she was slamming dishes and I let her know that it was not ok to take her frustration out on the pretty dishes.  She did it again and again, and as she loaded them in , I took them out until she FINALLY realized, this was not going to end until the dishes were put in the dishwasher with a kind attitude. It took a couple of trips to the rocking chair and a talk or two, some deep breaths, getting our tools out (MINE INCLUDED) and about an HOUR.... and FINALLY, she did it correctly. I felt like I was reliving a Helen Keller scene with BCLC overtones! LOL
BCLC does NOT mean allowing a child to lead everything. 
TODAY.... just 11 months later, Miss  Sweetie 4 handles the kitchen by herself! She does a GOOD JOB, including the floors!  I can trust she knows how to do each thing and she is really proud of herself.
This is another part of BCLC that some may not understand. When you parent a child towards their EMOTIONAL AGE, THIS DOES NOT MEAN THEY WILL REMAIN THERE. The idea is that once you recognize and fill in the holes of emotional neglect, the child is then able to move on.  
To me, it is like helping a child fill in the holes of a bad math education. If they are in Pre-Algebra, but do not yet understand fractions, decimals and times tables.
BEFORE they can master Pre Algebra, they have to go back and master the basics. 
If you keep them struggling through the Pre Alegbra, they will ALWAYS struggle. If you go BACK and master the easy stuff, they will QUICKLY move ahead and MASTER Pre-Algebra! Does that make sense?
 How have we handled hitting, disrespect or hurting our animals?
 We have handled this the same way we would with a baby or toddler. 
"You may not hit" or "We don't hurt the chicken!"...." We do not talk to each other that way!"  We NEVER EVER leave a child alone with an animal or another child unless we know they can be trusted. In the case of Miss Sweetie, we moved all 4 girls into the same room, so our older girls could keep an eye out for her behaviors. We also left our bedroom doors open which were right across from each other for the first 6 months.  That way we were doubly aware and nobody was singled out.
When Sweetie 2 was first home, she had so much underlying anger she would shake. I saw her with the chickens and she would hover over them and shake. If I had left her alone with a chicken, I have no doubt she would have tried to hurt it.  I had to manually teach her how to show the chickens proper affection.  Within a year, she was able to dress the ROOSTER and have him lay on his back in her doll carriage to everybody's disbelief! :)  She became Sweetie the Chicken Whisperer and is still known by that name by our neighbors. :)
I would reassure a child while correcting behaviors, "I love you too much to let you hit."
If this invokes a tantrum, that is ok. Our children need to learn to accept correction and understand they are NOT the only ones who need it.  After waiting for them to get calm, we can  then deal with the issue at hand.  If it takes an hour or four hours, it doesn't matter.  This is something EACH FAMILY has to go through, and because of that, I would get every family member on the same TEAM!
 During a time of calm instruction, always make sure your child knows they are NOT the only ones who have ever been snotty, hit a dog or hit a sibling.  This keeps them from feeling so overwhelmed with being "different", or from being overwhelmed with "shame".  
Preparing them for transitions:
Many of our little ones don't handle transitions well. When our kids are two or three , it is important to prepare them for leaving the park, or going to bed, so they aren't surprised with change. Some of our older children are about that age emotionally, so we have to do much the same thing for a while. :)
If they are 2 or 3 in emotion, they may need very, very simple commands for a chore.  Overwhelm is typically the reason a person will not do something!  Ask my husband; I'm supposed to be doing the data entry so we can complete taxes. LOL
Instead I would prepare them for what they are  supposed to do and make SURE they understand.  "In 15 minutes we are going to make your bed."  "In 5 minutes it will be time to put away your toys."  When the timer goes off, (timers are great because they do not involve you directly)  we are going to come to the table for dinner." 
MOST of the time, this solves transition problems. Many times, they are having trouble transitioning, not necessarily refusing a request.
  Refusing A Request
If a child flat our refuses to do a chore or follow an instruction,  I would never wait to intervene as in, wait for a mood to change. I may wait for a moment and take a deep breath. But waiting on a child's mood to change puts the child in the driver's seat, and that can make them feel very insecure and also reinforce their possible view that they do not need us or that we do not care.
 If cleaning their room, they many need simple instructions one at a time. "I need you to take this bag and fill it with the trash from your bedroom".  "Now, I need you to pick up your clothes and put them in the laundry."  "Can you please put your shoes in the closet?" "Can you help mommy make your bed?"  Simple, short and sweet, gets a job done.  (I need to remember this for my overwhelming office job) :)

 Making things right!
I would instantly intervene in any hitting or snottiness towards another person.  "WE DO NOT HIT!" "It is not ok to speak disrespectfully to another person". This was one of our girl's biggest struggle.  She was a little shocked when it was directly addressed the very first time it happened, and each time after that.  At first it was a tantrum invoking, tree climbing  thing, but she soon realized that life didn't move on until this was dealt with, in gentle kindness.  It is an extreme rarity now. I would say non existent, but the minute I hit the post button, that would be over. LOL

HOWEVER, we didn't deal with just the behavior, but inquired about the underlying cause.  (Usually fear of rejection and insecurity)  "What's going on sweetie? You seem really upset? You are speaking harshly!"  Sitting in the rocking chair, or near the tree, or by the bed, or wherever she would wind up was interesting. On the bed, blankets would be pulled over her head. So we talk through the blanket. After a few minutes, a gentle rub on the back, and then, permission to enter her world.... "May I see you?"  And then, a hand.... and a grip from her that signals, I want you to snuggle.  Then, a tender talk...about the underlying issue...and how to rectify the hurt feelings of another.   And if her feelings were hurt, rectifying that too.  THAT is what I mean by dealing with it.  Not harsh correction or punishment.  But ROOTING out the problem.
There is no punishment you can give for a child feeling hurt or insecure. You deal with the insecurity and the problem disappears.
I think sometimes BCLC can be confusing. Some think that a child's words to you can be snotty and harsh. I know in BCI live, some of those instances happen in the skits.  I do not believe Heather is saying that it is ok for kids to yell at parents because they don't have the right cereal.  
Her message is, the cereal isn't the issue. Obviously! Getting to the root of the issue; a child being scared about a test, or a child who was formerly starved, or past pain, gets the child calm, and THEN you can deal with the actual behaviors.  If all you addressed were the disrespect, that is the mowing over the weed and forgetting the root.  To root out, you need to dig deeper, address the pain first and THEN come up with new ways to express frustration or fear.
 What about Apologies?
This is the tricky part.
I have always insisted on an apology. Usually they come naturally, as we are all apologizers. :) We have had one of our girls say, "Well I'm not sorry!"  I have told her, it doesn't matter. It is the right thing to do. So we worded it, as, "It was wrong to hit you, or be snotty to you,  will you forgive me!"  
That takes the "lie" out of it. LOL  AND we ALWAYS deal with the Spiritual along with correction.  We pray. We talk faith, and what God's laws are and how we NEED a SAVIOR, mama and daddy too. None of us do what is right,all the time,  we ALL sin. We need to pray that God will HELP us to be sorry if we are not.
This usually causes our hypervigilant children to relax as they know they are not the only ones, even if they are the only ones at that moment. :)
 Parenting hurt children is a wild ride!  We parents..... get to go along for the ride; but it is much better if we take the driver's seat and slow the car down, making sure everybody stays safe. :)
Of course all circumstances are not the same.  If a child is significantly older, and you can easily be overpowered, it may be that some tweaking is needed.   A 12 year old may do best calming themselves with you near them, IN their room.   They may need 20 minutes and then you can sit next to each other and attempt to snuggle.  A calming understanding voice makes all the difference in the world.  I have seen my girls hearts melt when my voice gives them the understanding and reassurance they so need.  Just saying, “It’s gonna be ok!” has an amazing effect.
I am a rather tall person, so holding a 12 year old isn’t that hard.
But if you are 5’1″, it may be a lot harder.   If a child NEEDS to be rocked, or snuggled, do what you can to find that comfortable position, so it can happen.
A word about EYE CONTACT:
We do not force it.  Of course, many want to say if a child doesn’t make eye contact they are not attached or are unattached. I don’t think this is true. I think sometimes they are too ashamed.  To force it, is too harsh.  We do encourage eye contact, but not in the height of the moment.  When we are talking many times it is at the END of our conversation that eye contact is established.  And for one of our little girls, (Our Sweetie 2),  she just gets too nervous during a serious talk. Eye contact makes her have nervous laughter.  She HATES it when that happens, so we wait for her to be relaxed.  It works very well.
About Miss Sweetie:
I have truly been amazed how quickly she has grown. Our one year anniversary is coming up fast and she is really looking forward to it. I have much to share that will be reserved for our one year celebration post.  She is a brave, amazing little girl! 🙂 And HEALING TRULY HAPPENS! We are living it! 🙂
Don’t EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, give up! Never, EVER, EVER! EVER. 🙂

Adopting Older Children

There is much going on in the news about adoption, about older adopted children, about the possibilities of RAD, (Reactive Attachment Disorder) PTSD ,(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and FAS. (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) And if  those children can have successful adoptions.

I would like to explain what I  believe happens to children when they have abuse and neglect or alcohol exposure, and WHY I feel, “traditional” parenting, in these cases many times does not work, or why I believe it could cause delay in attachment and healing, and unnecessary hardship on all.

Because of trauma…. our children can be all over the age spectrum. They may be 11 in their body, but 3 emotionally.  When parenting them, you really have to understand if they are 3, that is where you parent them.  It is one of the hardest concepts to grasp, because you don’t WANT them to be 3. You want to reason with them like an 11 year old…
What we have found, is if you reach them where they are… those gaps will fill in and your child will no longer be fragmented.

In my own children’s cases, they all have vastly different backgrounds and experiences, the one thing that we have found that DOES work, is a consistent, unconditionally loving, stable, environment, where they were allowed to go through the grief process and heal.

Yes, our children grieved.  When they realized that their normal, all those years wasn’t really normal, they finally allowed themselves to grieve.  If we can see the different stages our kids go through clearly, we will recognize grief.

There is NO way to determine how a child will react to a new family. If that could be predicted, there would be a whole lot of “do it this way” books out there.
Instead, our children come home with a very heavy suitcase of emotional baggage…. (think piles of Christmas Lights all wadded up and needing untangling)  and no instruction manual.
I remember Alli saying, “Every family says I am in a forever family.”….. So we dropped that phrase from our vocabulary.

Our children come,  having lived, apart from us in a totally separate life. They have celebrated holidays, or not, in other countries and with different traditions. They have good memories and bad memories.  And we, before we got them, were used to how WE did things….
They cried themselves to sleep more times than not, and quivered with fear at the thought of being harmed in the middle of the night.
Sometimes they were tied down in their beds, and nobody came when they cried. So they stopped crying.
They learned very quickly that nobody will look out for them, and if they want food, they better get all they can, because it is scarce and nobody cares that you are hungry.
They learned that other kids are wanting the same things you do, and if you don’t get it first, you may never get it, because there isn’t any rule about fair.
They learned that it doesn’t matter what you wear, because it isn’t yours anyway.
They learned that there is something called a Mama and a Papa, and everybody wants one, but they don’t really know what they are, really.
They learned that caretakers can be indifferent, sometimes downright mean, and sometimes nice. You never know what your are going to get.
They learned that some children leave with Mama’s and Papa’s and they cry because they miss them.
The caretakers tell them that they are the lucky ones, because the one that left will be killed and sold for body parts, so don’t cry.
This is just a FRACTION of what they know when they come home.

Their world is very different from what most people experience  growing up. They don’t know baseball, football, restaurants, church services, zoos, parks, beaches, and birthday celebrations.
They don’t understand all the food. They don’t get that the bed will be there for them tomorrow too, and they don’t have to fight for a blanket anymore.
They don’t get that mom and dad will love them…. forever.  In fact, many times, they don’t understand what a mom and dad are for.
They get a little freaked out by all the attention and pull away. It is so foreign.  It takes a long time to unravel the world of the orphan.
SLOWLY…. layer by layer, emerges a new understanding, and a new dawning, that is both comforting to them, and painful at the same time.
It is comforting for a fleeting moment when they dare to trust, just a smidge… and painful when they realize just a taste of what they missed their whole life.

They hoard food. ( some call it stealing)  I don’t believe a child can STEAL food…. food is for the needs of the family members and if they need food…. they NEED it, so FEED them.
(Alli has gained 10 lbs and 2 1/2 inches in 7 months and eats non stop. 🙂 She is still very thin)

Sometimes they become collectors of the most interesting things….. when you find it… don’t accuse, take notice, “Oh, I was looking for those nail clippers,  or, the flashlight is best kept in the kitchen drawer so we can remember where it is.  Would you like your own flash light? Simply ask them to put the item away or remind them where it belongs… whatever it is. 🙂  This may be a process that takes awhile to recover from.
They may lash out at a sibling out of a lack of understanding that love is not scarce or limited but flows freely for all. LOVE THEM. And love the child lashed out upon. Encourage them to be part of the team.  We didn’t adopt the girls until the boys were older. With the girls, they are very close in age.  We didn’t adopt in birth order, but close enough. Alli is the youngest by 7 months.

When you need to instruct them, sometimes it won’t be received…. those are rocking chair times. 🙂
(What do you mean I need a bath? I only took one once a week in Russia!)
Sometimes you just have to repeat, repeat, repeat,repeat…. “Yes, we take a bath every night. Remember? We talked about this?”  If they have possible FAE, they won’t remember. We have to be patient until it becomes habit. 🙂 Try reading a story to them while they are in the bath… or sing to them… Make up all sorts of silly songs for all sorts of things including cleaning rooms, making beds, etc.

As they begin to come to an understanding, they start to test the waters abit….. “So you love me? PROVE IT!  Nobody else has ever loved me…”
And the testing begins.
Some see this as the “End of the Honeymoon Period”.

I choose to see it as the beginning of REAL healing.  When a child feels they are finally safe…. that is sometimes when they can really grieve.

This is also the period of time where  a parent can lose control IF they do not  understand what is going on. The child tries to bring the parent into THEIR norm of control and chaos, because THAT is where they are comfortable.  The PARENT MUST RESIST this, and carefully, like a surgeon of the heart, bring the child into the world of peace and a new reality of belonging, of being cherished, of being LOVED.
It is a very humbling experience to be the parent of a child who is so needy, but doesn’t believe they have a need. It is heartbreaking to  truly love a child who has never had the experience of being loved.
It is very challenging to try to guide a child  who thinks they don’t need guidance. 🙂

I think sometimes we try to rush things, or  we think they SHOULD KNOW THIS BY NOW, (whatever it is) and we get impatient just doing life… And when we do, it backfires.  The unconditional love, suddenly has a condition and the child picks up on that like a strong radar signal going off.   And the wall goes up, and that is when the negative cycle can begin…. and some, unfortunately never get out of it.
It turns into a button pushing fest for both parent and child…. and it will require that WE AS PARENTS stop it!   And I mean stop the cycle in a loving wave of acceptance and comfort. When they think they don’t need it, we are there anyway. When they reject us, we are there anyway. When they hurl insults out of deep pain, we  are there anyway…. and we wrap our loving arms around them and keep them safe. And if we have children already in our home, we include them in the process teaching them also, to put themselves aside , and love unconditionally.   You become a team, a wave if you will, of love.

And then….. out of the ashes… a little bud of hope appears.  It starts to grow, and as you tend to that little bud, sometimes it will try to retreat and hide…. the sun is just too bright…. and the new world is just too scary.  One of the reasons it is so scary is because of a fear they just might lose it. They might lose  what they are beginning to love.
And so, when that happens, sometimes they try to make the inevitable (in their minds) happen. They try to make the process of rejection get sped up, because the anticipation hurts too much.
Unfortunately, THIS is the time, when many people throw in the towel.  They have given all they feel they can give.  They do not understand why the things that work on most kids isn’t working on theirs.
They think, if I get a little harder, or punish a little more, that will make them understand…. when in reality, what they are dealing with is fear and  grief.  You cannot punish fear and  grief out of a person. You have to comfort and reassure and slowly guide them out to safety, in the process teaching them right from wrong, respect vs. disrespect, responsibility and how to love.  Loving instruction with unconditional acceptance…. goes a long way.
When you gain your child’s trust….  (trust cannot be forced) and they know they are in their home to stay…. that is when real learning takes place.

Is it a TALL order??  Ummm… Yes it is.  But it is so worth it. EVERY minute of it. Because in the process, not only your child grows, but you grow to in ways you never imagined. 🙂  The Lord leads and guides us along the way, and we find that our prayer life is MUCH improved! 🙂  We come to a deeper understanding of what GOD has done for us, through HIS sacrifice for us.
And we get to see our children turn into healthy, happy, productive kids that are no longer looking back, but looking forward to a newness of life that they never understood they could have.  And when we mess up…. an “I’m sorry can go a really long way!” 🙂

Tonight, Miss Sweetie spent a good amount of time in the shoppe with her dad. She was having so much fun out there she wanted to stay longer. 🙂   She also has kitchen duty this week.  Since she was having such a good time, I decided I’d go ahead and do the dishes.  I had just started when she came in. I was very pleased that she said, “Mom, that’s my job, I’ll take care of it!”….. So I was the helper and we did them  together. 🙂  7 months ago, this would not have happened.

Healing Begins At Home: Being a Therapeutic Home

I remember when I was little, I would feel rage inside, but I wasn’t allowed to express it in any way. It was perceived as rebellion. Much of it was hurt. Was there rebellion? Yes,  and much frustration.
I remember going into my closet one time and saying 3 curse words, 3 x’s each. I laugh about it now, a little, but I still remember that hurt child. I remember the incident, well and I remember not being allowed to “feel”.

So, in that closet, after I was finished with my secret tantrum…. I was consumed by horrible guilt and shame. How could I , a Christian girl at that, dare to do something so awful. And, I repented to my Lord. I was 8.
When I finished praying, I actually felt better, and left my closet to go back into my real world.
But that feeling of being pushed to the brink has stayed with me for my whole life.

Honestly, If the person who hurt me had just said they were sorry, or apologized, or if somebody ELSE had recognized that I needed a voice, I don’t think I would have needed to rage. That is important to remember. I think a listening ear, can be enough. Just to feel understood, can be enough.

God can use the terrible things in our lives to bring about Good! In me, he brought about repentance and dependence upon HIM, and in the long term, he later brought that recollection and understanding of what happened and how I could better understand children in my care.

As we took the parenting classes preparing for the worst with our first sweetie, I could identify so much with the hurt child. I cannot go into details, but I remember moving so much as a child that I stopped making real friends for a while. I figured, “Why bother, we will just move again and I’ll have to start over all over again.”

There were many other things I identified with. I also remember during a couple of years in my life having a dog. I remembered spending time with her and caring for her.
She was where I would go when I was upset, and she could help settle my heart when I was down.

So when the girlies came, one of the first things we did was get animals. Animals have a way of reaching the heart of a child. Even the hardest of hearts can be taught to be loving and compassionate.
When our sweetie came, she was so full of rage that she would put her hands in the air and stiffen her body and shake. Sometimes she did this several times a day for no reason at all. She nearly looked like she was having a seizure, but she wasn’t.
I remember giving her, her very first pet chicken. I watched her like a hawk (no pun intended) to make sure she didn’t hurt the chicken. I would sit and listen to her play, and realized she had no idea what to do with that chicken, just like she had no idea what to do with her first baby doll.
With her doll, she held it by the foot and asked me to baby sit it, because she had to go to “wook”…
I told her no, I couldn’t because mommy’s need to stay with their new babies and love them. She got so mad at me and said, “BUT I HAVE TO GO TO WOOK!” LOL
I said, “your baby is your work!” “She said, “Are you gonna watch my baby or not?”
I said, NO, I am not; to which she picked up a fake phone and called a fake friend to watch her baby! ” LOL

I didn’t intervene at that moment. I just cracked up and figured, we have much work to do!

So, I said,sweeite, how do you hold a baby? She didn’t know. So we wrapped that baby up and placed it in her arms. And she learned her first lesson in nurturing.
I also told her lots of stories in the rocking chair about bringing her brothers home and how we cared for them. We would just talk and converse and she learned during our rocking chair experiences.

With her chicken, she would stand over it and shake at first, but with learning how to care for her baby and speak kindly to it… (this was work too) she learned to talk to her chicken in the same way. She fed it, gave it water and made sure it was cared for.

We added sheep. Oh my goodness, you would not believe how she became Mrs. Boe peep!

One day she couldn’t get them to do what she wanted them to and she cam in all red faced just sobbing, “LET’s KILL THEM! KILL THEM ALL! Let’s just EAT THEM!!!!” LOL
I calmed her down and learned that they were not cooperating with her animal school.
So we washed her face and got herself cooled off, and we sat together in the rocker.

I asked her how she would feel if we got mad at her when she didn’t cooperate? She thought about it. I asked her also, “do you think maybe they don’t understand?” “It is your job to help them understand and teach them.” So we went over ways to help animals trust us. Repeat repeat repeat! And she also learned about animal behavior, what is normal etc.

After that incident, she became known as Sweetie the Animal Whisperer.

She can make those animals do ANYTHING and she is kind and gentle to them. She is always studying some sort of book on animal behavior. LOL

When this sweetie came,
we purchased a Play School Family Doll House for her and her sister for Christmas.

We bought lots of family members so they had enough to play with, and I would watch them interact. You can learn a whole lot about what is in your child’s heart, by watching them pretend “family”. There were some pretty interesting interactions that took place with that doll house. This was our “therapy” house. They just didn’t know it. 🙂

I would observe, and most of the time didn’t need to intervene too quickly. But when somebody would pretend to yell at a child, or get violent, I would intervene….
I’d say, “Oh dear, that is sad.” Do you remember that? The answer might be yes, or “No I was just playing.”
Either way, we would talk about how that kind of thing in real life isn’t ok because it hurts us. I would let them know, of course it is ok to feel hurt if that happened to you, and then I would guide them about what to do with that hurt.

“God does not want us to keep our hurts. He wants us to give our hurts to Him. Do you know that he holds our tears in a bottle? They are so precious to Him, He doesn’t forget even one!” And we would have a simple lesson in giving our hurts to God and forgiving those who hurt us.

These times took place in our home 24/7. There came a time when I didn’t have to worry about how the girlies would play with that doll house because they received what I shared with them readily, and learned new ways to be “mommies”.

I also read them lovely books on wonderful mommies. The Mennonites have wonderful family books that are read a louds. You can find many of their readers online.
The girl’s favorite was Annette and Samuel on the Farm and Kitten in the Well.
Another fabulous book was “Conduct for the Crayon Crowd” by Edna Gerstner.
They are little stories about family life and how it is related to God.

One of the things we have done a lot of is singing songs like “Stop and let me tell you!” and when you say “Stop”, we say something positive. It is a fun game that makes us think on the positive and not concentrate on the negative.

I also came up with our imaginary tool box. We put inside the things we need at the moment. This was a huge help to them. I told our sweetie, 6 years ago, “Daddy has tools to use to work on cars and he keeps them safe in his toolbox. You don’t seem to have any tools to help you”. So we went through the motions of opening our tool box and putting in, “Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness,Self Control, Faithfulness and many other things…. telling the truth tools, keeping our hands to ourselves tools. Etc.
If she were going to start a rage, I would say, “What tool can you use?” Many times this would stop her in her tracks and she would think about a tool to use, and use it.

The girls also keep journals. We started journaling about 2 years ago. They can write anything they want and it will not be erased or corrected. Many times they have written about their past experiences, and they bring it to me to read. I always ask, “Are you ok?” And I get a smile and a yes mom, I am fine! We have wept together, and laughed together. And of course, we always pray together.

I do not try to give them all the answers, like I understand everything, because I don’t.
Some of my deeper conversations with another sweetie have included us weeping together and me saying, I don’t understand why you had to go through so much. But I DO KNOW, from the bottom of my heart that God intends it for good. And I do believe that, I know that she does too.

We repeated much of the same things with each of our sweeties. When our third sweetie came home, at first  I thought I was going to be glued to the rocking chair for life. LOL It didn’t take too long to get everybody settled.

We have also added painting and art to our lives, and dancing. It is a great outlet.

Third sweetie’s adjustment has been amazing.
But honestly, she is one of the most steady, resilient, content people I have ever met. She is at peace. And it is apart of her natural makeup.

When I mentioned in my last post about our son being incredibly sensitive,
that is the same description I would give this sweetie.

She and our son , shared a lot of the same types of behaviors. So while trauma is a trigger for those, I think how a child heals, is greatly dependent upon what their natural makeup is like.

As someone once spoke about traumatized horses, I’m sure there are some horses that recover easier than others, yet have been through very similar circumstances.

I think the biggest thing I have learned is, “If it isn’t going to matter in 100 years, don’t sweat it now.” Sort of a take on “he won’t be going to college in diapers.” 🙂

We want to focus on healing yes, but we want to focus on future. I knew when my daughters were whole, when they stopped looking at the past and started planning for the future.
Before, there were no plans for a next birthday or a next holiday. That had never happened to them. But now, oh my, they plan way ahead, and we are in that plan!

I think emotional healing is like that onion I have talked about before. There are layers of understanding to it. You heal what you understand, but then, as you gain more knowledge, you may revisit and need to heal some more.

I like to see our home as a beacon of light to show the way out of a very dark place.
I try to make sure my arms are always open for hugs, endless hugs, even though sometimes I am tired. I want to be available in the middle of the night, or anytime, to just be there if they need me. Because that is what mothers do. I want them to remember my smile, to remember me warmly caressing their hair, and to remember that I always always love them, even though I am not perfect.
I also try to model what I want them to do. If I am wrong, I drop what I do and I apologize, sincerely and ask their forgiveness. In doing that, it opens the door for them to do the same.

  1. Healing starts at home.

The wounds this life causes are not to be forgotten totally, lest we repeat history.
They however can be used as a crutch for life, or, can be used as a spring board that can launch us into a wonderful life.


I have been wanting to do this for a very long time.  Welcome to “Parenting That Heals”.  I plan to transfer important posts from my old blog to this site, and continue to offer support and help for parents who have home grown children already, are going to adopt, have already adopted, are struggling in your family, or are sailing along!  There is something here for everybody. 🙂

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