Giving Voice to Siblings Part 2

Final1

|Part 1 of Giving Voice to Siblings|

Two years into our journey, we began working with a gifted adoption therapist who helped us with our children from “hard places.”  We began to see some light shining down into the pit where we found ourselves.  Every other week we were able to process the events in our home with somebody who really understood and could help us.  Our children began to respond to therapy and we slowly began to recover.

But what about our other children?  Were they meeting with a professional every other week?  Were they having their concerns heard?  Were they gaining new strategies for coping with what their family and home had become?  Nearly 18 months into therapy we realized that our other children were not going to spontaneously recover.  We needed to intentionally help them find their voices again and make our home a safe place for them.

We began by creating a safer home environment for our youngest children.  As Dr. Purvis writes in The Connected Child: “You provide “felt safety” when you arrange the environment and adjust your behavior so your children can feel in a profound and basic way that they are truly safe in their home and with you.”

Staggering bedtimes and putting the more disruptive children to bed first, gave our other children the focused time they needed.  It also increased their feelings of safety knowing that when they were tucked into bed, their siblings were settled.  There would be no tantrums occurring and no unkind words or physical aggression would come their way. They could rest and let themselves sleep.

Initially all of our children were educated together, but we made the decision to separate them in order to give some children daily respite and others an environment where they also felt safer.  By removing competition among siblings, our children from “hard places” were able to relax and learn.

Once our little ones were more secure, we focused on the older children.  One evening we hired a babysitter for the five youngest and took our six oldest out for dinner where we talked, laughed, ate, and just enjoyed being with them.  When we returned home, we put the little ones to bed and gathered in our family room where the boys pulled the furniture into a tight circle. We told our children that we wanted to understand how they were feeling.

We recognized that our dream of loving and serving orphans through adoption was not playing out the way we had envisioned.  We acknowledged our family’s difficult situation and how each of our children had been impacted.  We then gave each of them an opportunity to talk about their feelings without interruption.  It was a very moving, sobering, and hopeful time – one that Russ and I will never forget.

As a result of that conversation, we worked harder to alleviate the stress and pressures of our older children.  We hired people to provide respite and other assistance, simplified our lives even more, and made choices to no longer leave a particular younger sibling in their care.  We also tried to free Russ up to spend time with our older children, even making it possible for him to take two ministry trips to Kenya with our older sons.

We had to dig deep to find our family foundation again.  We had to grieve the loss of the family we once were and learn to embrace the family we were becoming.  Giving all of our children “voice” and creating “felt safety” were integral to that process.

If you are experiencing significant challenges with your child from “hard places” and your other children are struggling, I urge you to look into the faces of your children and take a deep breath.  Get some help, take the time, and connect with your other children.  Their world has been shaken, like yours, and they are looking to you to hold the family together.  By the grace of God, you are able to do it.

Please share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment.

[Book #2 Giving Voice to Siblings, and How You Can Help]

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

10 Comments

  1. Pam
    September 8, 2015

    How I wish I had known of this wisdom 10-15 years ago. My only bio daughter and I were faced with taking in my grandchildren at a moment's notice and my bio daughter spent the next seven years of her home life hating me and the kids. I did everything I could think of to pull her out of her shell, but the youngest, then 14 months old, later diagnosed with Asperger's, was such a 24/7 handful. Our very close relationship exploded and we were never able to get it back. Now that she is a wife and mother, she somehow has gotten past her childhood, but still does not like the idea of me planning on fostering children. I've tried to talk to her about it, but she doesn't want to talk about it. I don't know what to do. She will not talk about her feelings on this. I'm so glad Lisa that you and your husband were able to work through and support your older children. Adding to a family is never easy no matter where those additions come from.

    Reply
  2. Heather
    September 8, 2015

    It took three years of praying and talking to make the decision to separate our bio daughter and adoptive daughter into separate rooms. Recently we had to temporarily combine them. ..I was so glad last night when we officially separated them again. We've also done counseling for our bio daughter.

    Reply
  3. Christa
    September 8, 2015

    Thank you. We share this struggle in our family and it feels good to see it addressed.

    Reply
  4. Laura M
    September 8, 2015

    We can definitely identify with a feeling of tension my 'child from a hard place' brings into the house. I've noticed that there is resentment and anger built up in my little children (and if I'm 100% honest, in my spouse and I) towards this 'hard places' child. Life is nothing like what we had envisioned. We have many many years left with all of our children in our home: How do you try to make your home a place of peace when there is a child who struggles so much with aggression, etc? It's hard not to let that child run your home, but when they take up so much of your time, attention and emotional energy, how do you still consistently create peace and happiness for your spouse and other children? I appreciate your blog, btw. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Wondering
    September 8, 2015

    We do the staggered bedtimes too…even with the older, harder kids turning in before some that are younger. How did you get the earlier-to-bed kids to accept that (and not feel punished) since "it's not fair"? Life isn't fair, but did you have a way of explaining it?

    Reply
    1. ahhodgman
      September 9, 2015

      "Fair doesn't mean equal" is a good all-purpose line that kids can't easily argue with.

      Reply
  6. Louise Brodecky Hudson
    September 8, 2015

    Thank you! We've been doing some similar things. Often we feel judged that we ought to be able to do this without all the adjustments. It only makes the hurt deeper. Your transparency is truly a blessing!

    Reply
  7. Julie Pitts
    September 12, 2015

    We have always had a safety plan for our youngest child. He wasadopted after his brother, who struggles severely with trauma. That said, both boys are adopted. Both from Guatemala. Both with very different stories. My younger one joined the family and the trauma/raging began soon afterwards. We could not have anticipated that. How do you manage that? ?

    Reply
  8. Melissa Dunn Corkum
    September 27, 2015

    These posts are so refreshing to read. To know that other families have struggled and messed it up to the depths that we have. We had a similar revelation this summer that we were losing some kids in our home in the name of "helping" our most disruptive kid from a hard place. We also brought multiple kids from hard places home at the same time (3 unrelated adolescents from Ethiopia). In some ways we were like the frog in the water and didn't really realize how bad it was because we had unknowingly adapted, in some way, to our new, albeit dysfunctional, normal. Kids have disappeared to their bedrooms or to friends houses for days to escape our chaos. The hardest part is to get everyone the respite we all so desperately need without unnecessarily triggering our hard child's abandonment issues. This is one part of post adoption life that I wish there were more training and resources for. Thanks for writing about it!

    Reply
  9. Julie Snow
    November 25, 2015

    We've talked things through with our children all the way through adding each child, and we've always been purposeful about giving them voice. Still, I did not realize the depth to which bringing in more children from hard places would affect them until I was deep down in it. We soon found ourselves all in a hard place needing healing! We are still working through this, and I think this topic is so important to discuss.

    Reply

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