(I've been working on this post for over a month now... Sigh... I'm just going to post it.)
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
One principle that is foundational to everything else we learned at Empowered to Connect is that love and compassion for our kids is key to success. We can follow any program, script, or technique and it will fail, unless we truly show our children that they are beautiful and precious. Our kids are more valuable than they know. It's our job to fill their hearts up with that truth.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8
When a parent is feeling empty, beat down, and hopeless, it can be very difficult to see our child as a precious kid who is scared to death and just doing his/her best to survive. It is necessary to step back now and then (or several times a day) to consider our child is not trying to get into trouble. They are just trying to get it right the way they know best. We need to remember that they are acting according to their worldview. The world is not a safe place for them. They must use all their skills to survive. To lose is to die. We want to bring them to a place where they know deep down that we are trustworthy and we're on their side.
If we don't know their history, we have trouble empathizing with it. Dr. Karyn Purvis did a great job in reminding us of just how traumatic trauma can be. I must have teared up or got the lump in my throat twenty times over the weekend (of the conference). Steve and I have more knowledge of Cupcake's history than most adoptive parents have, so having compassion on her has been easier for us than others. We felt really encouraged that we had done so much right in parenting Cupcake from the beginning. However, with Sugar, we often forget that she experienced intense trauma in the early days of Cupcake's arrival. Our young one brought her trauma into our home, and we were all traumatized as we witnessed and experienced just how deep and awful her pain was.
We've messed up a lot of things as we've adjusted to our new life, but our biggest mistake in parenting since bringing Cupcake home is that we have forgotten that all our kids were hurt by this. We have years and years of "traditional Christian parenting" techniques that have forged some very bad habits**. These old techniques seemed to work pretty well for our homegrown kiddos, but they absolutely backfired in our faces when used on Cupcake. And we're just starting to comprehend that they are backfiring when used on our big kids, too. (We're kind of slow that way.) We've been trying to parent three kids the old way, and one the new way. The inconsistencies are not lost on our daughters. It's time for a new start.
**Bad habits were formed when we learned (mistakenly) that obedience is everything. Obedience is definitely important in a parent/child relationship, but relationship is paramount. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." Notice: Love (relationship) comes first. Obedience flows out of love, not the other way around.
I'm going to have to have a separate post about this. If you want to pursue it a little further now, Stonefox over at Moms, Ministry, and More had a great post on this a while back.
What about babies from hard places?
A lot of parents that adopt infants believe that all this trauma parenting doesn't apply to them. They feel their child is/was too young to know. If they can't remember, it shouldn't affect them later in life.
How could a baby be from a "hard place"?
Dr. Tiffany Field did a study on the brains of children, both before and after birth. If the birthmother only experienced depression while carrying the child (no drugs, alcohol, abuse, etc.), the child's brain chemistry was different. The dopamine and serotonin levels were lower than normal. Three months later, they tested the urine of the babies. Their levels were still below normal.
So, what do these lower levels of chemicals do?
They cause babies to be anxious, afraid, fussy, or withdrawn.
If a child is adopted, he already has a gut feeling of rejection/abandonment. With no cognitive ability to understand or express that, a child carries a sense of impending danger. Early trauma affects the way a child feels, thinks, and acts, even if they have no recollection of the trauma.
Are you breathing?
Take a deep breath. I'm not done.
There is hope.
If you are aware of this, you can work to help your child succeed. Every kid can make progress towards forming healthy relationships. As the child connects with you, it opens up brain pathways that were closed. Social, relational, academic, and emotional growth can take place! I've seen it with my own kid. I saw it in the videos Dr. Purvis showed. These kids are dying to connect with us. They just don't feel safe. They don't feel that they have a voice. They feel their needs aren't important to anyone else. That's why they have to take care of themselves.
If you see your child through the eyes of compassion and you commit to the healing journey, you are on your way to witnessing a miracle.
It's going to take everything in you to bring out the real child beneath the survivor child.
Are you willing to go there? It will be worth it.
Blessings to you,