Friday, June 29, 2012

What I Learned From Deborah Gray

Last Wednesday, I spent most of the day at a workshop called Nurturing Today's Adoptions with Deborah Gray.  Deborah is the author of Attaching in Adoption, which is the best book I have read for adoptive parents.

I learned some very valuable things to help my children heal and grow.  I also got to talk with some interesting people, both adoptive parents and adoption professionals.  It was a blessing of a day for me.

I came home and talked with Chris about the things I learned and the things that inspired me.

Most of what moved me had to do with things very specific to my children and their situations so I am having a hard time figuring out what to share with you because I try to keep much of their stories private.

That said, here are a few tidbits of what I learned:

Shame.  A sense of shame tends to be big in children from backgrounds of abandonment, abuse, multiple placements, neglect, etc.  That has been sticking with me this week as I discipline my children. I want to keep shame out of my discipline.  I want to correct their behavior and enforce consequences without shaming them; while still reinforcing that they are good, valuable, worthy of respect.

Brain Shift.  Oh, man, this has gotten us out of some doozies of tantrums this week!  Deborah talked about helping your child shift to a different part of his brain when he's on the way to a meltdown.  I've used this technique a couple times with J-Man (he's sort of a tantrum king!).  When he is headed toward a full blown meltdown, I suddenly start sniffing and ask, "Do you smell french fries?" or I've also used, "Do you smell dog poop?"  (he's a boy so dog poop holds a certain fascination.)  He immediately stopped his tantrum on both occasions and began sniffing.  Then we pretty seamlessly transitioned to something new.
This works because by asking about a smell, you are causing your child to shift from the emotional part of his brain to the sensory part.  It's magnificent!  Try it.

Sleep Troubles.  Deborah mentioned that when children have certain fears that keep them from sleeping, these fears often thematically tie back to something in their pasts.  This is sort of a "duh," I guess, but one of our children has a pretty specific something he imagines in his room at night, and I don't know why but it never really occurred to us that this might thematically tie to something in his past.  We sort of chocked it up to imagination (similar to "there's a monster under my bed").  This was an important realization for us to come to.

Honestly, the last couple of days have been really hard around here.  I feel like I'm barely hanging on.  And so I've failed at most of the things I learned this week.  We are hoping to get some respite this weekend by calling up grandparents to babysit, maybe even overnight.  Because the truth of the matter is that we need rest and energy to be able to implement these strategies that we read and learn in adoptive parenting.  This is hard work to help our kids heal and grow.  If we are depleted, we simply cannot do it well.  

Let's remember that, my friends.  Let's take care of ourselves so we can be better for our kids!

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