We like to give hugs in our family. One of our little kids’ favorite things is making a “Sandwich Hug” with Mom and Dad. We wrap our arms around each other with a child suspended snugly between us. They love it!
I didn’t anticipate needing to teach some of my children that hugs are good and shouldn’t hurt. Kalkidan didn’t learn how to give or receive love and affection when she was little. When she came home to our family, most of her hugs were tight squeezes that hurt and generally left the recipient squirming to be released.
Years ago we were fortunate to work with one of the best attachment/trauma therapists in the country. In one of our earliest visits, it became clear that I’d gotten something backward. I had become so focused on correcting the offender that I’d neglected to comfort the wounded.
There was a lot of conflict between the children and Russ and I were doing our best to reign in the challenging behavior in an effort to protect the little ones. In doing so, we were focusing too much attention on the offender while the injured child was left to tend to himself with minimal comfort from us.
I’ll give you an example.
One evening Russ was working in the garden with the kids when he got a phone call. He told the children that they could play for a few minutes. One of our children was not happy about this and began to interrupt him saying, “Dad, stop talking, we need you in the garden. There is nothing to doooooooo….” He gestured to wait and be patient. Finally this little one had had enough, so she proceeded to walk over to her little brother and pinch him.
Eby has always preferred sleeping in small, confined spaces. When he was young, he often chose to sleep in a sleeping bag tucked between a chair and a cabinet rather than on his bed.
One day Russ dug out the kids’ old play tent and asked Ebenezer if he wanted to put his sleeping bag inside. Eby loved it and seemed to relax in the cozy enclosure where he also put his favorite fleece blanket, teddy bear, and favorite puppy.
In 2009, I launched My Learning Curve, a series of posts with practical tips for parenting children from early adversity. I’m reaching back into my archives to share some of these updated posts with you. We are many years into our adoption journey, while some of you are at the beginning. I remember how desperate we were for help. I hope these posts are useful to you.
Here is my quick tip of the day. As I watched the therapist work with Kalkidan, I noticed that when she gave an instruction, she looked in Kalkidan’s eyes and said, “Got it?”
In 2009, I launched My Learning Curve, a series of posts with practical tips for parenting children from “hard places.” I’m reaching back into my archives to share some of these newly updated posts with you. We are nine years into our adoption journey, while many of you are at the beginning; I hope these posts are useful to you.
So many of our children from “hard places” experienced extreme deprivation. They may have lived in an orphanage, neglectful home, or in a place where there simply was not enough to go around. These experiences wired their brains to believe that there would never be enough of anything: food, clothing, attention, love.
We spent years helping Kalkidan work through these fears. Back in 2009, she created the photo above during a therapy session. With help, she made a list of the things she feared she did not have enough of, and then drew the picture showing that there is enough to go around.
Parenting children with trauma histories requires a whole new level of research and thought about how to handle particular behaviors, wounds, and relationships. I’m pretty sure I should have an honorary doctorate by now.
Thankfully, we don’t have to figure it all out on our own. There are wonderful therapists, books, videos, and even blogs written by folks just like us who are giving this parenting-kids-from-hard-places gig all they’ve got.