Thoughts from an Ordinary Guy

This journey through life is never boring......

Category: My Story (page 1 of 19)

A Step Forward – The Fog of Life

Today is an anniversary of sorts.

It’s been two years.

A chapter closed.

But the need remains

Questions abound.

Answers come slowly.

Answers that sometimes hurt.

Answers that raise questions.

Answers that change roles.

Answers that challenge perceptions.

Answers that bring healing.

Answers that bring more questions.

Answers that remain hidden in the fog.

The Fog of Life.

Trust in a God who shows the way.

Even if it’s only 6 inches at a time.

Even if the answers are shrouded in fog.

But the knowledge of what is right remains.

The knowledge of who is ultimately in charge remains.

And He has the answers

The ones that really matter.

TJV

If Only……

If only…….

 

If only we were kinder to each other.

 

If only we didn’t write things we weren’t willing to say face to face.

 

If only we cared about someone else more than we cared about ourselves.

 

If only we worked to make the world a better place, even for one person.

 

If only we, all of us, did that for one person.   Just one. Or two or three……

 

If only we realized that everyone else has struggles too – and were a little nicer to them as they carry their silent load.

 

If only church was more about Jesus and less about us.

 

If only white people would be more concerned about the way our black brothers and sisters are treated.

 

If only we would stop generalizations.  Of police.   Of black young men.

 

If only black teenage boys could wear hoodies with the hood up in winter.   Dang, it’s cold outside.

 

If only Jesus would be the center of our world.

 

If only Jesus would be the center of our churches.

 

If only Jesus would be the center of our families.

 

If only Jesus would be the center of it all.

 

Isn’t He?  Why not?

 

TJV

 

 

Control and Security

What is one thing that all adopted children have in common?

There are millions of different stories, millions of different challenges but what is one thing that they all have in common?

At some point in their life, there was a sudden and, for them, unexpected change in who was “in control” of their lives.

And for many of the adopted children, there was a time in life where they felt that no one was in control and it scared them.

It scared them deep. Deep down to the pit of their stomachs.

In most cases, it scarred their brains and caused physiological changes to the way their brains process information and emotions.

The lack of safety, lack of perceived safety, lack of feeling like someone is “adulting” and is in charge can continue to cause problems for them for a long time to come. How so?

I run into with my own kids but also with other people I talk to where their kids (or my own) are having behavioral issues and it’s not really what it seems.

What it seems is – “Teenager X has turned in to a bad attitude cocky little 8th grader.”

What it really is – “Teenager X is terrified about going to a new school and going to high school and is showing their fear and lack of control by having a bad attitude and mouthing off.”

What it seems is – “Mr. 10 year old refuses to listen to anything his mom tells him to do – even though he used to be a well behaved (relatively so) kid.”

What it really is – “Mr. 10 year old is used to going to school and listening to the teachers. Now he’s home with a “baby sitter” – and that baby sitter is very timid, not very imaginative and lets him do whatever he wants.” That “freedom” is scary and makes him feel like no one is in control.

What it seems is – “Miss 12 year old can’t handle riding the school bus – she’s always causing problems and mouthing off to the bus driver, bossing the other girls and the younger kids around and getting in trouble.”

What it really is – “Miss 12 year old can’t handle riding the school bus – because it’s an hour of her day where she feels like no one is in control and the insecurity of it causes her to make bad choices.”

It’s not a matter of actual safety, it’s a matter of what I call “perceived safety.” They don’t feel safe.

If your child suddenly changes behavior or suddenly escalates what they were doing (and I’m not talking major danger scenarios), look at what has been going on in life lately. Has something happened that threatened their feeling of safety? Has something changed in terms of daily structure in life? Have you relaxed your parenting style and given them too much control over what they are doing when and how?

Control and Perceived Safety. A lack of feeling like someone (parent, Grandparent, teacher, child care provider) is in control can lead to feelings of a lack of perceived safety. They might be able to acknowledge that they know in their head they are safe, but in their hearts, they can still feel the lack of safety.

Increase the control, increase the structure and you will probably see some improvement in the issues.

Because you will see your child feeling safer.

It doesn’t work with everything, it’s not a major problem solver but it can be a significant step in the right direction.

Try it – you might like it.

Tom

Questions – Is the Church Laying on a Guilt Trip?

So, yesterday we talked about the theology of adoption and discussed whether the way the church looks at adoption and it’s relationship with our adoption as sons and daughters of God creates problems. You can read it here.

The next question I believe that adoptive parents want the church to ask is “are you putting people on a guilt trip?”

Let me explain. James 1:27 says very clearly, “True religion is caring for orphans and widows in their distress.”

Plain and simple, it is part of God’s plan that we, as Christians, care for the orphans and widows when they are in distress.

The New Testament times were ones where if one was a widow or one was an orphan, you can pretty much guarantee that they were in distress. Without a male family member who was “out there” to earn a living, life was hard.

Look back at the Bible verse – does it say, “Thou shalt open your home up and adopt one or more orphaned children?”

Nope, doesn’t say that. God doesn’t want us all to adopt an orphan.

Did you hear that?

God doesn’t want us all to adopt. That’s not a call that He has laid on all of our hearts.

Yes, He has called some of us to adopt, but not everyone. Not everyone is able to handle the realities of adoption, not everyone is able to handle the realities of additional children and the struggles they have.

And that’s okay. Actually that’s good.

But that’s not what a lot of the “big names” in adoption and the church movements are saying. They are making a clear and obvious call that we need more families for the children who need homes.

And we do need them. From what I’ve heard, there are way more children who need homes and families than there are families for them.

But when you throw James 1:27 in front of the church and “strongly imply” that it means more people from your church should adopt, I believe you are putting a guilt trip on the church that is not productive and actually harms children.

God calls all of us to care for the orphans BUT He doesn’t call all of us to adopt.

And if “the church” is calling people to adopt – and laying a guilt trip on those who won’t adopt or can’t adopt, then the church is failing in its mission to care for the orphans.

It’s failing because people who aren’t supposed to be adopting feel guilty and end up making bad decisions.

It’s failing because people feel bad about not adopting and then don’t do anything.

God calls us to take care of the orphans.

Just because I adopted two doesn’t mean you should.

But God wants you

and you

and you

and that guy over there

and your backyard neighbor

and your uncle and aunt

and your grown children

to do something to help the children who are orphaned and in distress.

And that’s where the focus of the church needs to be. Everyone needs to do something.

Everyone needs to do something to help the orphans. And if everyone does, those who God calls to adopt or foster will rise up and take up that responsibility.

And it’s our job to support them when they do.

Because that’s what James 1:27 says.

TJV

P.S.  Want to read more about “My Church and The church?”

Questions Adoptive Parents Want You to Ask–If you are a Leader (Part 4)

Quick review of where we’ve been so far:

  • 5 Questions we don’t want you to ask – here.
  • Why it takes more than one post to identify 5 questions we want you to ask. – Here
  • Question #1 – “How’s it going?” – Here
  • Question #2 – “How can we help? – Here

Today’s question that adoptive parents want you to ask applies to people who are leaders.

Leaders of what?  

  • School leaders – principals, teachers, music teachers, PE teachers, coaches, librarians,  pre-school leaders
  • Group leaders – Boy Scouts, Youth Group, Dance Class, Little League, day care directors.

So, what question do we, as adoptive parents, want them to ask and what do we hope to accomplish by it?

First, let me tell you, this is not about getting an IEP at school.   This is not about navigating educational plans.   There are people who are infinitely more qualified for that than I am.   If you need help with those, let me know – I can point you in the right direction.

The question that we want you to ask is a three part question:

Part 1 – “When your child, my student, does something that is typically outside of the realm of acceptable behavior, what can we expect?”

In order for a leader, teacher etc. to ask that kind of question, it requires a couple of things:

  • An awareness by the teacher or leader that children who are have been through the trauma that is involved with adoption won’t always “act out” the same way that a child who has grown up in a trauma free environment.
  • A desire to understand the needs of all of the children in their class or in their group so they can help them achieve their full potential.

My experience has been that virtually every teacher has the desire to understand but very few of them have the awareness before hand.   It would be wonderful if schools would do more to educate their educators on trauma and what it means to kids in school.

Part 2 – “When your child, my student, does THAT (whatever that behavior might be), what does it mean?

One of the things that adoptive parents learn very early on is that not everything is as it seems.    Actually, for many adopted kids, parenting and managing social behaviors in school settings involve thinking and planning and reacting totally differently than what you would expect.

Want an example?   An adopted kid gets out on the playground at recess and suddenly they turn into a bossy, antagonistic bully who is ordering everyone around, yelling at kids who aren’t following his “rules” and attempting to be in charge of everything that’s happening. 

What’s going on there?   Is this child really being a typical bully?

I’d argue probably not.   The child who is doing this is probably scared out of his or her mind.   He’s probably experiencing a huge flashback to his “past life” where he lived in a life of total chaos (orphanage?  poorly managed foster care? absent parents?) and he didn’t feel like anyone was in control.   In those situations, situations where the child felt like no one was in control, they felt like they had to grab control for themselves.   “Someone has to be in charge, I don’t see anyone else being in charge, so I will.” 

So, in that particular case, you have a student acting  like a bully, not because they necessarily wanted to be a bully but because they are scared out of their minds because suddenly they are finding themselves back in a situation where they don’t feel like anyone is in control and anyone is keeping them safe.

So that brings us to part 3 of the question:

Now that we think we know why they are doing what they are doing, how do we deal with the behaviors to help the adopted student and not make things worse?

If you are dealing with a “typical” bully situation, how do you traditionally deal with it?   Detention, suspension, loss of privileges – those are just some of the ways to typically deal with the traditional bully.

If you’re dealing with a student who is behaving like a bully but evidence suggests that he or she is doing it, not because they are bullies and want to boss other kids around, but because they are scared out of their minds and want to feel like someone is keeping them safe, then you’ll approach it totally differently.

Rather than detention, you’ll work with the student to help them understand that there is someone of authority outside at recess.

Rather than restricting privileges, you’ll make sure that this student meets the adult who is on recess duty at the beginning of recess so they can see who is in charge.

Rather than yelling at them for bad behavior, you’ll remind them that behavior isn’t right and also that it isn’t their responsibility – because the teacher, the principal, the recess duty teacher – it’s their job to keep your student feeling safe.

Rather than making the student feel bad for not feeling “safe” and acting out because they don’t “feel safe,” you will acknowledge that perception is reality and if they don’t feel safe then they won’t act like they feel safe.

A three part question.

A long response.

But it’s a question that adoptive parents want you to ask.

And it’s a question that adopted children will benefit from you asking.   Especially if they don’t know you’ve asked it.

Tom

P.S. The next post in this series probably won’t be up until next Tuesday.  

P.S.S. The next post will be talking about church and the questions that adoptive families would like churches to ask.   

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