Friday, December 30, 2011

Five minutes peace

 In my work I have met many parents and I know that without self care, a parent can easily become tired  and irritable and depleted. When stressful situations and difficult behaviors of a child are added to the mix, then your child can start believing that they are to blame for all the suffering.  Self-care for a parent is not a luxury it is a necessity. It is a positive, healthy survival skill to pass on to your child. Self care is about knowing yourself and knowing your limits for your own sake and that of your children.

So, the holidays are winding down and the children are back in school. Maybe it is time to clean out the old and prepare for new beginnings! But wait! Before I do any of this I need to give myself a pause and rest even if it is for five minutes. Even if it is just for the time it takes to read the words on this page!  I need time and space for me to do absolutely nothing, but breath and feel myself fully! To be a human being with needs, as well as a parent! 

When my daughter was young, we both enjoyed reading a book called “five minutes peace” which was about a mother elephant who needed just five minutes to herself to pause and recharge her battery.  Of course it never happened as the baby elephant did not understand why her mother would need time alone! Sounds familiar? So making intentional time alone to be creative or just be each day is a number one goal for me in 2012.  It does not have to be a lot of time, but it does need to be consistent.  I am hoping that in achieving this spacious gift of self compassion each day I will also be giving to my daughter.

By watching and experiencing me give quiet time to myself, it will encourage my daughter to learn to be comfortable being by herself. She can begin to understand  her  own physiological and psychological need for quiet reflection, as well as outside stimulation. This is the work of a any parent, to help our children know how to be secure with their internal thoughts and feelings and creative energy and be able to respond positively  to  the barrage of external stimulation in the world.  

My hope is that I can teach my daughter to move more fluidly between times of quiet and stillness and times of activity and movement, and most importantly, recognize the value of both.  The hope is that the quiet moments alone come to feel as safe to her as those moments being rocked in my arms when she was a baby. The hope is that when she reaches that age when she can be left alone at home that she can feel confident and I can trust her to be alone. The hope is that she can delve into her own creative resources and not experience boredom with her own company! The hope is that my limit setting, although annoying at times, is internalized to make her feel safe. So, that  she will know when it is safe to take risks and safe to walk away.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Navigating the Holidays in rhythm with your child

Once Halloween has arrived and gone with the witches; super heroes and the cast of Glee carrying their stash of candy in trick or treat bags from door to door, I know that the holidays are upon us until the middle of January! Most parents these days have a mixture of dread and dreams of enjoyment in entering the holiday season! Ironically, this time of year which can be so meaningful for most families, can be filled with missed and failed opportunities to connect with each other in a meaningful way due to the hyper energy which reverberates all around us and can pick us up like a swirling tornado.  Add to this scenario a child who is highly sensitive to over stimulation and you end up with irritable family members at odds with each other.

 A simple goal I have set for our family this holiday season is to allow time and space to connect with each other.  Time for quiet reflection alone and together and times for unabashed enjoyment!  This will take some planning together so that unrealistic expectations and unpleasant surprises can be minimized.

If you have a foster/adopt child that tends to get over-excited and over-stimulated when there is a lot of sensory input going on in the environment, then one of the greatest gifts you can give that child is to stay home or to limit the number and type of functions you go to during the holidays.  Even going to Target to shop may be too much for your child. May be you can plan a celebration night with your child/children for just family, or you and your child.  There are many things you can do together and be together which takes some planning and not a lot of money.  You can create a dish or menu to shop, cook and eat together; play board games; cards; read together; draw together; play music together; make crafts or do a jig-saw. Each activity will have its own level of energy which you as the parent can orchestrate.  The human condition loves harmony and rhythm and variety, but not too much variety as we also experience emotional safety through structure and consistent repetition! It is good to plan quiet, slower paced moments/hours/days in between the active, loud, bright lighted ones. 

On the other hand you may have a lone wolf teenager in your household who prefers to not participate in anything, including the family holiday dinner!  Your child’s choice, whatever the age may be coming from a need to create emotional safety.  In a situation like this it is also useful to create a pro-active plan together.  Trying to find a rhythm that suits both of you can be challenging the older the child as energetically there is a push and a pull going on between you. However, your teen still looks to you the parent to help provide emotional safety as well as honor a degree of independence.   The parent can acknowledge the teenagers’ choice to be alone,(before it happens) while still requesting that she stay for the dinner part of the festivities.  A parent may even add ( if it is applicable) an understanding,  that you know that her choice to be alone is a preferred choice to avoid talking to a lot of family members asking questions about her life!  You can create a non-verbal cue together or a particular word that will indicate that “I have had enough and I am taking a break”

In these ways, you can help your child and you move through the holidays at a more harmonious, respectful, regulated pace, sometimes like a slow waltz,  at other times like a polka, together; rather than as a whirling dervish,  alone!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Single parent adoption internationally

When you adopt internationally, you will find that the rules of adoption in certain countries  can change during and  after adopting your child.  For an example, a year after I adopted my daughter, China closed down single parent adoption.  After 50 years of adopting internationally, Korea is now only processing  adoptions domestically.

As of  March  2011, China is again accepting applications from single women. Single women are able to adopt children from a 'special focus program'.  The children in this program are identified as special needs or are healthy children 8 years or older. The adoptions from this program are processed more quickly than the now  4 year wait period for finalizing adoption.  The age limit of a parent is now restricted to the ages between  30 - 50 years old (for both parents). In the Bay Area,  ' Heartsent' and 'BAAS' are agencies I would recommend if you are considering adopting from China.

The other  countries that now welcome single parent adoption are the following:
Ethiopia - This country accepts older women applicants and the time frame is shorter than most for finalizing adoption. The children are escorted to the US, rather than adopting parents going to Ethiopia. There are only 7 agencies in the US who process Adoptions from Ethiopia.
Russia - Adopting parents make 2 trips to Russia. The time in between trips and the wait time for finalizing  the adoption can vary.
Haiti - Although single parents to be, men and women are accepted, the regulations now say 'widowed or divorced'. The authorities are in the process of changing the wording to " single, widowed and divorced men and women.

You will find that there are some countries who are Hague convention compliant and others who are non-compliant. This can effect the ability to adopt from that country.
Guatemala used to be a country which welcomed single parent adoption.  At present due to non-compliance, all adoptions have been halted.  Adoptions from Kazakhstan have been put on hold.  Many of the countries that allow international adoption  are often third world countries which have high levels of poverty and/or have experienced war and natural disasters. When taking all of this into consideration it takes time to put into place a coherent and clear infastructure in that country for managing the adoption process.
Haiti and Kazakhstan are recent examples of how certain countries are still trying to get the infra-structure in place so that the many children who are in orphanages can find homes and parents to take care of them.  As I have mentioned before, the best situation when adopting internationally is to choose an established adoption agency this end in America that has a liason agency in the country from which you wish to adopt. This way you can be assured that everything is legitimate.

The political climate of a country, internally and in relationship to America is also something to keep an eye on when you are adopting internationally. Sometimes an adoption can be put on hold due to political unrest in the country or because certain standards in the adoption process have not been met to the satisfaction of America and sometimes to the satisfaction of the other country. 
Given all these variables, I have found that if you do your homework about the process of adoption for that particular country and find an agency you trust and get to know the liason agency that is being used, then you are well on the way to bringing your child home.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Considering single parent adoption?

If you are considering single parent adoption, then, I found that one of the first things to do after making the decision, is to find a group of people who have already adopted a child or are in the process of adopting a child; preferably single parents to be. When I first decided to adopt my daughter from China I joined a single parent group, specifically for women in the Bay Area who had adopted or were in the process of adopting their daughters from China.  I found this group through the organization called "Families of Children from China."  "Resolve" is another good resource for possibly finding an adoption group to join.

 Intitially, it was through the FCC group that I found different referrals for adoption agencies and eventually chose the adoption agency that I wanted to use to help me through the process of  adopting my daughter. The group provided encouragement for me when I was in that arduous waiting period for the adoption to be finalized and gave me hope when we celebrated together the arrival of each child when they came home to the U.S.
Later on, we provided childcare support for eachother, and we became very familiar with eachother's adoption story.  Now the children are nearly teenagers, some go to the same school or are doing the same after school sport.   Some of the parents are married, some are still single. We are even 'older' than the  'older parents to be' that we were! And I am thankful we have eachother.  
I believe that it is in part, because of this connection to these other families, that my daughter does not feel in any way weird or extraordinary being a daughter adopted from China and living with a single parent in California!

Come join us!     An Adoption support group for parents of children of all ages. Beginning  Thursday January 12th, 6-7.30pm for 10 weeks. Mill Valley, CA. 
Call  415 381 5889  for more information.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Important questions to consider in single parent adoption

As a single parent to be, adopting a child, have you  considered how family opinion and support or withdrawal of support may matter to the process of adoption?
Who in your family of origin will be supportive of you adopting a child?
Who in your family will have a negative reaction?
How will you begin  integrating your adopted child into your family?
Will she be accepted into your family of origin?  If not what are you going to say or do to help your child understand that it is not her or you that is at fault? How do you manage the rejection?

These were all questions I pondered before picking up the phone and making the call to my mother to tell her about my decision. It is not that I wanted her approval, but I did so want her blessing. Only then  would I know that my daughter would be accepted into the Jones family and I could breath more easily in the process of adopting. For single parents' to be, we are forced to review more fully our relationships in our family of origin and how those connections may impact the adoption process and our children in the future.

11 years ago I was in the position of being single and I knew that I wanted to adopt my daughter from China. I was at the beginning of this process and one of the difficult calls I made was to my mother to tell her about my decision. I was not sure how she would respond, even though her response would not effect my decision to adopt, it would certainly impact my daughter as she became part of our family together and part of the Jones family. 

When my mother responded with "I have always wanted a grand-daughter" I  was relieved.
I feel fortunate that even though my mother could not make the trip to China to bring my daughter home she did make the trip to America to meet my daughter 2 months after our return home. I am also grateful that they have grown to love eachother. And even though my mother has some fixed sterotypical ideas about how Chinese people should be, it does not get in the way of the love for her grand-daughter! 

Thankfully, my daughter has the support of our adoptive family together; our extended family of friends and community here in the US and then she has 'my' family which she considers 'her' family - a loving grandmother, uncle, aunt and cousins, whom we see as often as we can.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You are therefore I am

The power of being witnessed is a profound gift in a relationship. Recognition, Acknowledgement and Encouragement is like gold,( or a good fertilizer for growth!), compared to a lecture; advice or sympathy 'for what you must have gone through'. As an adult just take a moment and think about those most transformative times in your life where you have shared yourself - your depths -with another person or people who know you well, without judgement, just presence. It is often a still, silent experience for the listener, or a few reassuring sounds of acknowledgement, while you share your soul. What does that feel like to you? What does it feel like to be considered precious and contributing something important to the relationship and the world?

So, lets talk about a relationship between a parent and a child and in particular a foster/adopt child. A parent/child relationship that provides security and safety no matter what occurs with the energetic push/pull of attachment. There is an  immense transformative power in having a parent know you deep down and recognize your potential as a human being in the world even when you doubt yourself - even when you sometimes doubt your existence.

There is a beauty in showing up for a child and expressing care for that child even when the child may try to saboutage the intimacy and closeness of the relationship because she is petrified of what dependency on and closeness with an adult might mean.
Witnessing with understanding and without judgment is the beginning of
changing a world view that may have been shaped by hurt and pain.  Witnessing a child is the beginning of helping that child be known from the inside out. And being truly known in another person's eyes is a powerful gift.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Adoption: getting started

Are you considering adoption as a way to create a family? How did you come to chose adoption as an option to creating a family?
I have known many couples and individuals who have chosen adoption as a way to create a family. How to get started on this journey? The first step is to make the decision to adopt.  This is not always the easiest thing to do if you are still hoping to have your own biological child,  or you have a limited amount of money to pursue the goal of having children. So this is a good place to start and get clear within yourself first and then within the couple (if you have a partner with whom you are wanting to create family). I always say to couples that you are single,  until you have children!
The practical piece of becoming  a parent and  actually being a parent, providing for the emotional and physical  needs of a child,  becomes a very conscious intentional process when you choose to adopt. By clarifying your own needs and motivations to become a parent right at the beginning of the adoption process, by yourself, with your partner, or with the help of a professional therapist, can help clear the way for you to have a positive experience in adopting your child.  

So, here are a few things to consider right at the start, to clear the way for a successful process to adopt:

  • Be intentional in what you would like to happen. Plan and put action to your dreams.
  • Be practical about becoming a parent. Know in your heart and mind and bank account that this is what you want to do!
  • Delegate financial resources to the process of creating a family.
  • Put a time limit on IVF and infertility treatments. Try to follow one path at a time.
  • Don't wait to get the facts. Understand the rules and become informed.  ie. If you are older parents to be, then gain understanding on age restrictions that may impact your choices  ie. Research and plan for any age limit considerations in adoption process (International adoption / single parent adoption/domestic) Also, Some adoptions can take anywhere between 1-3 years, so allow for this time period in becoming parents.
  • Clear the way and clarify your own needs and motivations to be a parent.
  • Honestly evaluate your own emotional/ physical abilities; energy level; do you have the capacity  to be 'selfless' at times? Do you know your limits?
  • If you are in a partnership have a conversation about  parenting. What would it be like? Will parenting tasks be shared?  Are you both on the same page with adopting? What do you see as changing in your partnership? What do you want to preserve about the partnership? ie. date nights/adult time.
Becoming a parent through adoption is a unique and amazing journey and needs to be chosen consciously. The support of a  knowledgeable professional or group of parents to be, can be  useful in your information gathering and also in giving you encouragement in this journey in creating family.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sense of belonging in America (4)

I find that every day there are interactions that occur that present opportunities to educate people about adoption and there are also times when I am taken by surprise by how intrusive and plain offensive perfect strangers can be in their comments.  These times call for limit setting and sometimes they are so breath-taking that you just walk away and move on.  We can prepare our adopted children the best we can by modeling when to educate and when to ignore comments from strangers about adoption. Sometimes, our children show us that they are more prepared than their parents in dealing with such comments!

 Last week my daughter had an appointment at the local post office to renew her passport.  I realized that I was a little anxious, and reflected on the fact that my own experiences of becoming American and dealing with immigration and getting my own passport had not always been pleasant. I took some relaxing breaths.  

Everything seemed straight forward, This was my daughter's 3rd American passport! I had made sure that the correct forms had been filled out and signed; photo taken, yep everything was going well,  and then I heard this 'Official Gatekeeper to a new passport' who happened to be American/Chinese say:
"You chose her? You did not choose her? They just give you a baby"
Then she kept going on and on about how lucky my daughter was to be adopted, and how it would have been if she stayed in China,  not once, but three times!  I had stopped breathing! I was totally dumbfounded! I was thinking how dare you be so intrusive!  I then placated her and explained to her the process of adoption (which I had already told my daughter).  All the time I was thinking how grateful I was that my daughter was now old enough to integrate and understand the reality and meaning of her own adoption around 'being chosen' (which is at times a romanticized view we read in books) by her adopted parent. 

The telling of the story of your child's adoption is paced according to the developmental process and the questions your child asks you on the way to the library or in the car on the way to school. Over time the story is told differently with more detail and information.  It is YOUR story - you and your child create the meaning of the adoption together - it  is not meant to be  forced upon your child by a perfect stranger!

And Being adopted and being an adoptive parent can be messy at times. Your adoption story, is both deeply personal and at the same time factual and statistical. Often, the messiest times present themselves as a test to the parent and their readiness to tell the truth!  In so saying, it is amazing how adopted children, when they are young, can easily internalize the mis-perceptions and negative opinions and assumptions  about adoption from strangers, if the parent is not open to talking about their adoption story in a transparent way with all the necessary facts.  An example of this would be when a friend of my daughter whom had been adopted asked her "how much did your mother pay for you?" My daughter was very surprised by the question and then gently informed her friend of what she knew about the process. Unlike her friend, my daughter was aware that money is involved in the process of adoption and she also knows that she was not  a commodity to be bought.

We  finally got  out of the post office and my daughter  immediately started saying that " the woman  was weird and intrusive and  had no business talking about her adoption and our personal life". My sentiments exactly and I wish I had said that!  

As a parent was I ready to tell the truth? I would say yes and some of our adoption story is deeply personal and belongs only to me and my daughter.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sense of Belonging in America part 3

I believe, whole heartedly,  that part of my job of being a parent  is to pay close attention to my own learned  judgments and prejudices to do with race, ethnicity and any ‘isms’ that you can think of, so that my daughter can understand the power of prejudice. And the power of tolerance and acceptance.
This is even more important to me as my daughter is Chinese and she is adopted.  When I decided to adopt my daughter most of my friends were very supportive of the decision.  However, there was one ‘friend’ in particular who had very strong opinions, which caused her to emphatically not tolerate the idea let alone the decision to adopt a child from China.  Needless to say, we had to part ways.  We have all grown up with our learned inherited prejudices.  I am not immune to prejudice. However, I find it very liberating whenever I  see my learned familial and societal prejudices limiting my thinking  and I am able to broaden my mind’s eye from what I assume that person to be to who that person truly is in the moment.

The deep seated need to belong, I have come to realize, brings with it an implied element of exclusion and tribalism. So recently, I have been asking myself some deep questions. And as usual the questioning has been more productive than the correct answers!   If I belong to this particular group, then what does that mean to those people outside of the group? Ie. What does it mean to me to be American? What does it mean to be British? What does it mean to my daughter to be American or Chinese or adopted?  Once I have that ‘sense of belonging’, how does it influence my identity or  my relational experiences of competition or collaboration?

How can I help my daughter cultivate both a sense of belonging as well as a tolerance and acceptance of being different and unique?  How can I help her to grow up in an imperfect and at times intolerant world and still maintain feeling confident and good about who she was and who she is and who she will become?

Maintaining ground and balance in all I do and practice every day as a parent, is tiring and at times messy. As a single parent there is no one else to bounce off those important questions regarding raising my child.  Sometimes I can get exhausted and lost and I have to sit down quietly at the crossroads to be able to see what would be most helpful given the circumstances.  Life  is imperfect, and finding some kind of map that works for you is very important as a parent and particularly an adoptive parent. It does not really matter what map you use as long as it provides guidance, sustenance and a way to go forward and it works for you and your child.

My daughter is at that age, where she is most sensitive to wanting to be the same, and fitting in. and she is also aware of  ‘differences’ and the  judgmental opinions of others that threaten separation and can cause a life time of prejudice.  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sense of belonging in America (2)

I will be honest, I feel at my core, English, even though I have now done more of my growing up in America! My daughter, because of emigrating here when she was 16 months, does not have such a challenge in being American.  For her it is more of a challenge to keep alive her Chinese culture, or keep the desire alive to participate in her Chinese roots while living her American  life. 

Then there is the English part.  My daughter calls her grandmother's house in England 'home'.  She loves England and Ireland. When she first started speaking English, she pronounced words with a 'proper English' accent!  When she first started writing she used certain English words and English spelling. I will be honest, there was part of me that was happy that she was learning to speak  'proper English'. My daughter who was born in China and lives in America is speaking her adopted mother's English!. It was a validation to me that we were deeply connected.   I also love creating with words and I love the English language and no excuses, I recognize, I have a strong judgement and prejudice about how many ‘Americans’ bludgeon their way through the beauty of  putting words together to communicate! So, taking all this into consideration, when the teachers started to mark words as mis-spelled and my daughter  got comments from class mates  about how she had a wrong pronounciation and laughed,  I took it personally!
Fortunately,  it did not take me long to recognize my own part in this mix of judgement and prejudice and how my own attachment to ‘being English and proper’ was causing a potentially painful situation for my daughter.  
Now, my daughter writes and speaks American- English because that is how everyone else communicates in her environment at school.  At home and in England she takes on English words spontaneously while speaking American, and gets affectionately irate with me when I correct her grammar!.
To reciprocate, she is now teaching me the language of texting – abbreviated communication - and I have to admit part of me is enjoying it!
I still love my Birth place, England and I consider America my home, the place where I have spent a longer period of time in my adult life, growing up.  I have at times a love - hate relationship with both my Adopted country and my Birth country and the integration of both these cultural identities continues.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sense of Belonging in America (1)

I am an immigrant, just like my daughter. How do Internationally adopted children integrate their sense of cultural identity? How can their parents help with this integration?  As an immigrant myself, I have somewhat of a unique perspective as a parent of an internationally adopted child.  I can identify with being 'different' - being from somewhere else, and understand how that feels.  I see how my own sense of belonging in America and how I have integrated,( or not ),  my own cultural identities can  impact my daughter in both a negative and a positive way.

As I write this, I am also aware that I am still in process of integrating a sense of belonging in America, even after 30 years. My daughter is Chinese and I know she will encounter prejudice for being Chinese or adopted or.......?  I see my daughter has her own unique path.. For each of us, as human beings, Cultural identity  is at the core of learning to;  tolerate differences; being aware of  prejudices and strong judgements and being aware of the climate of hate, fear and exclusivity that can be created  inside ouselves and in our societies, if left unchecked or unexplored. How else can we experience compassion and be at peace with ourselves and recognize that ultimately we are all human beings, no matter how we  look or speak?

As a parent, all I can do is try to keep the door open to different parts of my daughter's cultural identity, even when she says she is not interested, so that at some point she can return to explore those parts of herself. For instance, when opportunities arise,  I may talk about her connection to her Chinese parents, and culture or listen for opportunties to discuss prejudice.  My own personal work as her parent, (which I hope will benefit both of us),  is to stay alert to  my own prejudices and judgements about the English, American and Chinese cultures and also recognize the power of fear and sense of separation that can arise out of  prejudice and judgement in myself. This is a life long venture of accountability and exploration and integration.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Parenting during stressful times (6)

Tip 6

Try to maintain a daily practice that involves bringing equilibrium to the mind and body, so that when you are dealing with stressful situations your set point of equilibrium is not so difficult to contact and maintain.  This practice may be for some having a meditation practice, for others it may be taking a walk, or singing.  Simply: it may be focusing on the breath:  5 breaths in /five breaths out of equal length/ hand on belly and breath into belly/ inhale deeply and long exhale making a noise as you do so……)  Whatever, you choose to do, there needs to be a palpable sensation of relaxation in the body in response to the practice. Notice the change in your energy. 
Have at least 4 different ways to calm yourself. You can practice regularly with your child also, particularly during the times when you and your child are both experiencing attunement.  (as it can be fun and the child is more receptive to you during these times) Laughter together is also stress relieving and collaborative. It is a fact that, Laughter and shame are unable to co-habit the brain at the same time! Enjoy!

Friday, August 26, 2011

parenting during stressful times (5)

Tip 5

THINK CONSEQUENCES RATHER THAN  PUNISHMENT. IT HELPS TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN ACTING OUT FEELINGS AND BEHAVIOR.  All of this is best said and done when you and your child are in an emotional equilibrium again and the problem-solving/reasoning part of the brain can be receptive to consequences and reasoning; compassion and forgiveness. (encourage a change in behavior by saying “today you had a difficult time …….. maybe tomorrow you will do better. If it is better tomorrow then maybe you can/we can……(positive incentive) but right now you will need to……. ) Also, if you do ‘lose your mind’ even though temporarily, it is very important to say sorry.  It can also be useful to say what you have learned about yourself from the situation and what steps you will take to change how you interact during those stressful times.  What positive incentives, which involve relational connection, can you identify? How do you talk about consequences with your child?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Parenting during stressful times (4)

TIP 4.
LOOK ,WATCH AND LISTEN – Our tendency as parents, during those times when our own children are acting out, is to respond quickly and to react and become active in trying to change their behavior. (as we may feel out of control and threatened ) Unless your child is doing unsafe and dangerous behavior which involves a quick in the moment  response then naming the feelings you see motivating the behavior or the body/facial expression you see expressing a feeling is a way to show attunement. Then take action.  (children,  even when pushing away and acting out , still want to have the parent stay connected in some way and at least attempting to understand why they are so unhappy and scared and emotionally distant and angry) . There will be an energetic push/pull; Go away/stay here during these times.  As parents we have to be OK with the fact that our children will lash out verbally and say hurtful and disrespectful things during times of extreme stress. (Remember it is situational and not personal. What are the circumstances that cause your child to go into stress? What do you know about your child’s history that may cause ‘sensitivities’ to certain situations?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Parenting during stressful times (3)

TIP 3.
The reptilian brain is not able  to be reasoned with  when  a stress reaction is in full activation.  Infact,  as you have probably noticed, if you do try to reason it is perceived by your child as trying ‘to control ‘ and aggravates more of a power struggle.  What to do?
Each time you ‘lose your mind’ in a stressful interaction with your child, is an opportunity to practice coming home to yourself, your body and regulating that emotional reaction in yourself, so that new wiring in your brain can occur. Bringing your awareness to the rhythm of your breath (autonomic nervous system) and to your body movements/sensations – walking around or just noticing the in and out flow of breath are simple examples of this.  What is the main trigger for you when your child is acting out? How to do you manage your emotions and stress reaction to your child’s behavior so that you can return to equilibrium quickly)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Parenting during stressful times (2)

The tips I am giving here are meant to stimulate questions, ideas and understanding to help you and your child have more resources readily available during those stressful times. What works for one family may not work for another so try to maintain kindness and creativity in your exploration.  Create a plan and expected consequences together if possible. (ie. If your behavior is …… the consequence/response will be)
It is best to avoid disciplining; setting limits and delivering consequences when you are angry or in an emotionally reactive mode. The emotional intensity will permeate the disciplining action and be experienced by your child as a punishment rather than a consequence. This will cause more stress and compromise the ability for the child to learn from the experience in a positive way.
The plan you create can be tailored to the age of the child and intensity of behavior (although it is important to remember also the difference between the emotional age and the actual age of your child) Most important of all is to avoid shaming.
Here are some examples of what could be put in the plan:
 I, (the parent) will not leave the room when you are upset.  I will not hold you unless you ask me to do so.  I will stay with you, until you are able to calm down.; We will  talk together once we are both  able to think and problem solve about what happened. We will respect eachother at all times and if you or I are disrespectful we will agree to apologize to that person when we are able to do so…………
TIP 2.  


Safety involves taking action in the moment. This could involve you the parent taking a ‘time in’ to maintain your emotional equilibrium or it may mean you holding your child until you have both calmed down (while letting your child know this) or it may involve sitting in a room with your child while they have a tantrum…….. For ‘out of control teens , who “do not want a parent” but desparately need  a consistently loving parent, the push/ pull (merging and distancing) in the relationship with you can be intense. If you can, Let the teen know that  no matter what, you are their parent/guardian and you  are responsible for keeping them safe and even though he/she does not like it or may  see you as the ‘bad guy’  you will do whatever it takes to keep them out of harm.  (which may mean calling the police on occasion) (what works for you and your child? )

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Parenting during stressful times

I went to my chiropractor with my daughter on Saturday and this wise healer adjusted my back and then advised my daughter to stop me watching or listening to any world news broadcasts!!! Of course, my daughter loved being in charge of this insight into the human condition!!! So my daughter has kindly been systematically reminding me of this wisdom, particularly when I slip up while travelling in the car together.
Stress, and that revved up feeling in the brain and body, is addictive, even though we may know it is harmful and depleting.  I have to say, listening to soothing music during the rush to work or school or just talking and laughing together has been way more satisfying and nurturing.  If only the prevention and relief of stress symptoms and reactions in our brain and body were always that simple and collaborative!! 
But, that collaboration and desire to be of help, is exactly what is needed when being a parent to a child who is experiencing stress and acting out behaviorally at home and school.  Stress reactions become accumulative, more deeply unconscious, and more intense, the longer they are left unattended. If you are a parent of a child who has unresolved trauma in their lives, such as foster/adopt children whom have been displaced due to traumatic circumstances, you will understand what it is like living daily with this unresolved traumatic stress. 
Stress is also contagious, so if you are already a parent tuned in emotionally to your child and care about their welfare, then you are also more likely to have a stress reaction to their stress and behavior. How to stop the vicious cycle of stress reactions and find an entry point to defuse the energy?  It is not always as easy as switching off the radio in the car, but it does take a determined effort, in the moment, on the part of the parent, to do something different and stop the escalation of intense feelings and the verbal or physical harm that can ensue.
Over the next few weeks I will be posting some tips that parents in my practice, including myself, have found helpful.
Tip one:
The best approach to helping your child with a stress/traumatic stress reaction is to be prepared ahead of time and practice!
Take a pro-active approach. Plan and practice. So that when the reaction occurs and the problem-solving part of the brain (neo-cortex) is not communicating with the reptilian part in the child’s brain, at least you have available a strategy together to address the fear and anger and unregulated behavior. Write it down, step by step. Have an agreement ahead of time. Use it like an ‘emergency exit’ out of emotional overwhelm.  (What would your ‘emotional emergency exit’ plan look like?)


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Graduation, Summer and Transition ( part two)

Past, present and future are experienced all at once in an emotional intensity during  momentous times of transition and change.  For all of us, transition, large and small, can be felt in the heart , mind and body like a a ripple or an  ocean wave. For foster/ adopt children who have already experienced many losses, these times of transition can be  even more intense and confusing.  Saddness, can often be masked by irritability and anger and can evolve into acting out behaviors. 

The past - traces of  implicit memory (which are formed prior to age three and in times of trauma)  - those vital, distinctive sensory moments of our lives distilled into the present  can come crashing in like a tsunami with intense feeling.  And because these implicit memories are pre-verbal and sensory (unconscious memories) and fully charged with a great deal of emotion it is important to stay connected to the energy in the body at these moments and allow it to move through. It is not time to ask why or give explainations  or make cognitive sense of the experience, that is not how the brain works during these times. Initially, the best support you can give your child is to just  allow the feelings;  be present; acknowledge their presence and provide your own loving support and presence to let  the energy move through your child. Labeling the feeling maybe useful but not always. Holding your child can be useful but not always. Your physical presence however is very important and if possible some physical connection (touching a foot or hand or a brief touch can be all it takes sometimes)

As a parent, it is our job to help our children understand and move through the many confusing and intense feelings that occur during these times of transition.  However, feeling  the feelings are more important in the moment than trying to understand why this particular transition is causing so much upset.  If the feelings  are not acknowledged then often annoying attention getting behaviors become the expression of  these under-cover feelings and they can take on a life of their own.

There is a fine line between not making a big deal about it, but also acknowledging the importance of  feeling life in all its healthy intensity and managing the task of growing up. It is also important for children with a history of trauma, to learn to have some mastery over the 'sometimes'   intensity of their internal world.  At times of change and transition  your child may watch those movies that he watched as a young child or look through school year books or photographs, or not want to talk but be close with you.  No big deal, it is just part of managing the process of matuirng and changing. It is human nature to revert back to something cozy and familiar before moving on to the next  new and unfamiliar milestone in our developing life. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Graduation, Summer and Transition ( part one)

I was reminded at my daughter's school graduation that summer and changing schools is a bitter-sweet experience for parents and children alike.  Leaving a school after six years is like leaving a family. There is a great joy and loss for both parent and child. Even more so, for a single parent, immigrant from England and an adopted daughter from China who have made their home in the United States in this community in Mill Valley California. I have been reflective since the 'send off'' of graduating 5th graders last week. My daughter and I,  are both displaced so to speak and have found home in a country other than our birth place- for me out of choice, for my daughter out of necessity.

At present, I am surprised  by a feeling of being  untethered from my moorings, as if in free fall.  It has made me reflect on how fortunate we are  in our home, as a family, to grow up in such a secure and caring community and  how entering a bigger school next year will be a whole new experience for both of us. By the Fall I know we will be ready for the excitement and adventure of being in a new school with a lot of our community walking along beside us towards the next developmental phase.  As a leaving parent, I want to express my gratitude to Edna Maguire Elementary school , that has been a home away from home for my daughter and myself,  for the last six years.  The  Principle and teachers and amazing community of parents have  helped 'grow up' my daughter and myself and infused my daughter with a sense of confidence and poise and 'worldly' knowledge. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mothers Day

It was Mothers Day 2001, a warm, sunny day in China, when I adopted my daughter. Now, for both of us, it is a  double day of celebration, when I became a mother and adopted  my daughter. On this day,  my daughter and I look at pictures of her adoption and laugh about our discoveries of eachother during those first days. We laugh about how she rapidly went from eating rice porridge to sampling most of the food on my dinner plate and loving every bite and how her whole body would wiggle with excitement when  she sat in the stroller to go somewhere new, even the grocery store! 

At the moment , this is what she remembers as the  beginnning of having a 'real' (her words)  mother.  As she grows up and maybe becomes a mother herself , her curiosity and love of life will probably propel her to want to discover something about her Chinese parents and family.( research says that over 50% of adopted children seek out their Birth parents when they become adults)  My daughter's beginnings, the circumstances of her birth and the reasons for being given up for adoption will probably always be mostly an unsolved mystery.  I could say, and I do say,  that it was due to poverty, cultural preferences, or the policies of the Chinese government, but this is only part of the story. As an adoptive parent, I  try to  make sense of what I do not know or understand,  for the sake of my daughter. But it does not make sense to me.  So as a mother to a mother I  practice compassion.   A  mother, a mother in China,  had a beautiful baby girl which she lost.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

To parent or not as we grow older?

The decision to be a  parent or not gets more complicated as we grow older.  There are many layers involved in the decision making, to do with physical and emotional ability and energy of the potential parent. The time factor is also a big challenge.

By your late 30s, a woman who has not had children, is considering whether to have a baby or not. For some women the answer is no, for others it is maybe or yes.
This is the moment to be deliberate about planning for the future and to be very clear whether parenting is really a first priority or your life.

This is the beginning of prioritizing losses so that space can be made for something new to come in. This is not so easy as it takes a lot of courage to grieve and let go of certain dreams, so that that other dreams can be realized. This does not mean that single parents will be single forever or that if you choose adoption you may not eventually conceive your own child, it just means that something needs to change and a course needs to be set.  Time is of the essence, as whatever course is set and reset, it can take 1 to 4 years to be united with your child.

The older we become, the more life is not turning out the way we dreamed and we are not where we thought we would be at this time in our lives. For single women,  this involves not being married or not being  part of a commited partnership, as well as being childless. I would suggest to just take ' the bull by the horns' and choose a path and stay on that path for a set time period, rather than taking the 'wait and see' perspective.  It is difficult to be seeking a partner and trying to get pregnant at the same time.  Stay focused.

Many single women and couples try to conceive  and often spend  large amounts of money and time on trying to get pregnant.  It is best to set a time limit and financial limit on this pursuit.  If after a certain period of time your child has not been conceived then the option of adoption is still possible.  Stay focused.  I have found that when people are trying to both get pregnant and adopt at the same time the energy becomes split between two paths. However,  it is useful to do some preliminary research about adoption just so you know ahead of time which door to go through if conceiving is not successful. ie. There are now age restrictions on parents to be, who wish to adopt internationally from different countries and also there are certian limits on single parent adoption both domestic and internationally.  It is important to know what your possibilities are before they are closed to you due to age restrictions, or waiting too long.

As you get older just the  process of bringing a child into your life involves  large quantities of  emotional and physical energy to maintain the course. The older we get the more losses we endure and hopefully the wiser we become!  As you get older it is also important to ask yourself if you have the emotional and physical energy to raise a child and share your life with a child. Some people just truthfully know that they are too 'Self focused' to be able to share their life with a child, as it will involve giving up too much 'me' time and 'adult enjoyment'.  It is so important to know: "Is there room for a child at this time in my life?"  These are important considerations for potential parents, whether possibly parenting alone or as a couple.  In couples there are individual needs and relationship needs to be respected, discussed and evaluated in the decision to be older parents.  Whatever the decision,  it will be the right one for you.

If , after all the planning and endurance of waiting to have a child you are able to maintain your focus and know that this is what you want most in your life, then you will become a parent.  At times the only light at the end of the tunnel  is knowing  that  your son or daughter is coming towards you in the opposite direction on the same path.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Practical tips for soothing baby's digestive discomfort

Most babies get gas or get constipated, especially as they are growing into their ability to digest breast milk or formula. Another time of adjustment is when your baby begins to eat solid foods. The belly massage for a baby is very similar to some of the techniques which are used in the Japanese 'Hara' massage for adults called 'Ampuku'. As a Shiatsu teacher, I found it was always a profound experience for students to give and receive 'Ampuku'. Babies like it as well and as a parent it is always reassuring that you have ways to relieve your child's pain!

There are 2 rules for giving your baby a belly massage:  a) Wait 1/2 hour after eating breast milk and 3/4 hour after formula   b) Always do strokes in a clockwise direction, the way the plumbing goes! If your baby is crying/fussy and your baby is not sick  then gas maybe the reason for the discomfort.  How do you know it is gas? There are usually 5 basic needs that are needing to be met  at any moment in time when a baby is crying:   Feeding; changing; tired; needing connection; and gas/digestive discomfort.( NB, Teething can also be another reason for discomfort.  Massaging the gums gently with your little finger can help ) Listen to the cry and respond. Is the cry a monotone 'grumble' or is it high pitched, which indicates a severe pain or need.? If at any point during the massage the crying goes to a high pitch then stop the massage.

Once you have established that your baby has gas pain (the time of  the last eating can also help establish that it is intestinal gas)  then gently and with full contact place the palm of your hand on your baby's belly (the other on the side of your baby). This is 'still touch' and is very effective if the parent is calm and relaxed as your baby can sense your energy. Tell your baby what you are doing and watch for and respond to any non-verbal request from your baby to stop.

Slowly move your palm in a clockwise circular motion and do this 6 times. Then, you are going to hold both legs under the knees and bend the babys knees towards the chest. Hold for 15 seconds. In this position gently rock the baby's body from side to side. Bring the legs back down and begin the sequence again. Doing this six times can usually relieve irritating gas/fecal congestion pain. Do not forget to keep a diaper on the baby as fecal matter and gas get moving with a belly massage!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Attachment focused family therapy with foster/adopt children

A good resource book that I recommend to the parents in my practice is "Parenting from the Inside out" written by Daniel Siegel, a Psychiatrist and Neuro-scientist and Mary Hartzell, a Nursery School Teacher. Although first published in 2003, I find the information extremely relevant and useful today, as a parent and a therapist. In the first few pages they mention that this is not a 'how-to' book, it is a 'how-we' book. The authors share examples from their own parenting experiences and experiences with families in their respective fields of learning.
There is also some basic, easily readable, useful information about neuro-science and brain research describing how we as human beings remember and learn; the relevance of implicit and explicit memory; how we attach; how we make sense and meaning of our internal experiences.
Each chapter of this  book is  followed by easy and useful exercises for a parent  to do to gain personal insight and learning. Personally, I find new learning is freeing! The chapter on child and adult, attachment includes in it a page with 'Questions for parental self-reflection'.
I encourage the parents in my practice to take the time to answer these questions to help them gain some self-understanding and gain some freedom from the bindings of old negative internal working models  (ie. the way we were parented often shows up in the way we parent and what we believe about parenting - both negative and positive. 'Children should be seen and not heard' is an obvious example of this ).  The hope in this approach is that a parent can gain some space to try new ways of relating with their child.  Gaining the information and space to try something new is extremely important for a parent, particularly when you find yourself entrenched in a power struggle with your child

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Attachment focused family therapy with foster/adopt families and assessment

When a family comes into my practice it is usually the uncomfortable; disruptive; destructive or just plain disquieting behaviors of the child that brings them into my office. The goal of the therapy is to diminish the negative behaviors and help the child have more meaningful and positive relationships. This also involves the parent becoming experienced by the child as a trusting 'safe base' at all times. Initial sessions involve a comprehensive assessment and getting to know eachother.
Firstly, it allows us (therapist and parent) to understand how your child's strengths and deficits have been formed during a time line of physiological and emotional development. Next, we can get a sense of the environment and circumstances of your child's past caretaking relationships and any past traumas influencing the present. We can learn about the ways your child survived and coped during transitions and during times of trauma (often alone) - their self-soothing/regulatory strategies - which will tell us about the ways your child  manages stress and distress now (with you, in your family)  I find that when parents begin to describe and understand more about their child's known past trauma and the strength of surviing,  it allows the parent to open to feelings of compassion for their child, rather than focusing so much on the negative attention getting behavior.

Attachment focused Therapy and Parent support

In attachment focused therapy with adoptive families, the parent can be a profound agent of healing and change by practicing being the 'secure base' for the child in session. From this perspective, it is the job of the therapist to help the parent identify the strengths and deficits of his/her own parenting/attachment style and compassionately recognize how these patterns are contributing (exacerbate or relieve) the child's need to do the behavior. Or how the behavior of the child intensely 'triggers' the parent. Parent coaching is a significant part of the treatment.

Most parents find the parent only sessions informative, supportive and useful. If as a parent, we can learn and practice using self-compassion and not judge ourselves so much,  so that we can be curious  about our own effectiveness and  obstructions which contribute to the  relationship with our child, then it will go a long way to finding solutions.  An example of this is when the  intense feelings such as anger and despair, are left unharnessed by the parent and they are having difficulty staying regulated when their child is acting out.

This is not uncommon in the parents that I see, and it soon becomes clear to me, the parent, and the child that the parent is ineffective in 'being in charge' to provide appropriate strong, nurturing limits when emotions determine the disciplining. Here is an example: If, when you (the parent) were an 8 year old child you 'disrespected' your father by talking back, or saying "I hate you" and as a result you were spanked and sent to your room, then this may be the only option you feel you have as a parent when your child says the same words to you in the same intense way. The anger and despair often experienced by parents is totally understandable and reasonable, however, if we discipline from the intensity of this 'feeling' place, without fully understanding it,  then the lesson for the child will be saturated in that negative feeling state of the parent. Consequences will be felt by the child as punishment and will increase the negative behavior of the child.

Support for the parent comes in the form of parent coaching and exploring options for you to manage your intense feelings so they do not stall effective disciplining and connecting well with your child.
ie. Time ins with the parent in the same room (not necessarily doing the same activity) are more  effective and get better results than time outs in another room.  Separation from the parent during these times of intense feeling, especially for the foster adopt child, can be experienced as punishment, and can exacerbate their pain and inability to regulate their own  feelings and impulsive behavior.  However, if a parent is so upset themselves it is preferable to take a brief time out away from the child to find your own equilibrium. And, there is not just one way of managing this situation.

It is so important as a parent to retain a sense of humour; develop an ability to play and have a willingness to try something new if the old patterns are not working. Together, therapist and parent can often find creative ways  to interrupt the  negative pattern of relating  with your child when her behaviors and feelings become difficult to regulate. 

There is an element of surprise and confusion often for the child when the parent reponds in a very different way than they are used to experiencing. It is important not to trick or make fun of your child at these times but it is also important to not take yourself so seriously.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Attachment focused family therapy with foster/adopt children

What is attachment focused family therapy and why is it particularly important for foster/adopt children? Firstly, as a therapist who works with foster/adopt families, I am always cognizant that the focus of the therapy is on the healing power of the family - the empowerment of the parents in their relationship with their child - not on the child's 'issues' and her relationship with the therapist (as in child therapy).

This is most important when working with adopted children who have experienced relational loss and trauma, as a dyadic weekly 'bonding' with a therapist can easily disempower the parent and the sometimes fragile parent/child attachment, especially when the parent is "at their wits end "in knowing what to do. Also, when a 'safe haven' of a secure relationship with the parent is established, then past trauma can be processed more easily.

When a family comes into my practice it is usually due to a child expressing distressing and disruptive behaviors, which have been increasing in intensity of expression and in frequency. The parents/caregivers are often experiencing a mixture of anger, saddness and confusion and are at their' wits end' in knowing how to stop; reign in or 'control' the behavior, which is escalating without any compliance to rules or reason. Often the request of the parents, out of exhaustion and frustration, is to just fix my child!

Attachment family therapy focuses on a continuum of interventions practiced in session and at home. The goal is to address the child's acting-out behaviors (literally, the externalizing of unmanageable and distressing feelings and thoughts) together. This way the parent learns to focus on and attune to the feelings that the child is experiencing , at the same time putting a limit on the behavior. It might be something like: "WHOW! you are REALLY , REALLY. angry and frustrated that the homework is hard. You want to do it yourself. (pause) Hitting your sister because you are angry is hurtful and not OK. Maybe you can find a better way to express your anger when it is boiling up inside"

The therapy usually involves parent support sessions where the therapist meets just with the parents and then dyadic sessions with the child and one parent at a time. In this way the parents learn how to decode the child's behavior and practice at home and in session how to set strong, nurturing limits. The entire family learns new skills and engages in experiences of attunement (one of the hall marks of a healthy attachment in relationship).
Attunement is the experience of "feeling felt" by another person (which is reciprocal and has its foundations in the healthy infant/parent relationship) and "forms the nonverbal basis of collaborative, contingent communication" (Siegel, 1999).
The best reward for a child, who has been neglected; abused; traumatized or experienced multiple early relationship losses, is settling into a positive, stable, secure and attuned relationship with a loving parent.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Choosing Single parent adoption

My daughter came home the other day and began telling me about the number of children she had noticed in her school with divorced parents. She was clearly processing what this experience would be like as she said "I am glad I do not have to go through that." In the same week a good friend (who is recently divorced) and I were taking a walk and she asked me with a great deal of curiosity why someone would actually choose single parenting. How had I come to that decision? Both these conversations made me think deeply about how I had come to the decision to adopt my daughter and be a single parent. All of us who are single parents of adopted children have our own specific reasons and circumstances that bring us to this decision and I also think that there are some common factors.

The path to becoming a single adoptive parent is more likely to be a very conscious aware process, and is not just about your need to have a baby or a pleasant surprise when you realise you are pregnant.
In other words the ability to parent alone and provide for a family by yourself is considered deeply by most single adoptive parents I know, and ultimately, the joy of parenting and sharing your life with a child, often out weighs the challenges of parenting alone.

Often, the decision to be a single parent comes out of a lot of thought and introspection and scrutiny by yourself and all sorts of professionals! The copy of your bank statements; The Home Study; the baby proofing of your house and the multiple finger printings that occur is all part of this. You also have to wait and prepare for a very long time. You have to prove you can be a 'good' parent on paper, even before you have become one!

Also, for many adoptive parents I know, being a parent has come out of experiencing and resolving losses related to the unsuccesful attempts of forming a family in the traditional way. Making peace with the losses allows you the freedom to make the right and informed decision for youself and your child to be. This way being a parent comes out of a well thought out decision making process rather than just an emotional one. It makes space for joy.

Yes, single parenting is exceptionally challenging, as you have to do it all. And, I have to say, there are so many delights which I had not predicted. As the sole parent, I do not have to consult or interact with another parent's busy schedule or make allowances for their deficits or contradictory (to mine) parenting practices! Our schedule is fairly predictable and dependable. My daughter and I get to practice regularly, talking out our disagreements as there is no one else to go to take our side! There is also not the time or the tolerance to bare grudges or hold on to uncomfortable feelings. We also spontaneously make time to discuss and share the daily events of our lives in a very rich and meaningful way. What it will be like when she becomes a teenager? We will have to wait and see!

My daughter does not miss out on having a close relationship with a trustworthy kind adult male. She gets to experience the caring and support of adult male friends who love spending time with her on a regular basis while I am taking adult time for me. Living with a single mother or father does not have to be seen, or known, as a detrimental deficit to a child when there is a large loving supportive community surrounding the family. For this I am grateful.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Foster/adopt parenting

If you feel the desire, or calling to be a foster/adopt parent, get the training to be certified and talk to other foster/adopt parents about the rewards and the difficulties entailed, before taking on this job. Know your limits. Be informed. Know ahead of time the age of the child that will fit for your specific family. It is also important to recognize that you have expectations - realistic and unrealistic. An example of an unrealistic expectation may be that a 5 year old (who has been displaced and experienced trauma) should act like a 5 year old , rather than a needy toddler sometimes or a detached out of control teenager at other times. A realistic expectation maybe that there are certain rules and traditions to pay attention to in our family and that being part of our family is participating in these rules and traditions. It is useful to sort through and identify these expectations ahead of time and as they arise in the moment. I know many seasoned foster/adopt parents who have found great joy, and satisfaction in knowing how to be a secure, stable, kind adult in the life of their foster/adopt children.

Foster/adopt parenting is one of the most important and most challenging jobs that I know of, along with the county workers and clinicians who provide services for these most vulnerable children in our community.

You can join a local chapter of foster/adopt parents to get support, that will provide different educational opportunites, discussion and support groups. The Marin Foster Parent Association near Mill Valley is one such organization that provides a wonderful community of support in so many ways for the member families.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Single parent adoption- third cornerstone

The third cornerstone, is to have a good dose of adult company which involves emotional and at some point again, yes, sexual intimacy in your life! I admit, the first year as a single parent does not allow a lot of time for yourself alone - finding time to shower is even a challenge! and there is no room for dating or beginning a close adult relationship, when you are in the process of establishing a close caring relationship with your child. At times, in the first year it seems that all your 'adultness' gets channeled into two identities- 'Mother' and 'Breadwinner'.

To strike a balance, it is important to get dressed up occassionally and go out dancing, or for dinner, so that the feeling of being desirable and attractive gets lit up in you in adult company. In the future, introducing dating or a prospective partner into your life and your child's life has its own set of considerations such as timing and appropriateness which I will discuss at another time. Right now I am talking about ways to enliven yourself and be appreciated as the wonderful multi-faceted adult that you are!

A good place to begin is with the emotional recharging of yourself, meaning, finding a regular time each week- 2-3 hours- to do something relaxing and enjoyable separate from your child, while one of your trusted community takes care of your child. Just an hour can seem like a vacation at first and is essential to maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself and your child.

Once in awhile, Take time to go out with close adult friends and talk about something other than parenting or work! Sit down, breath and eat, uninterrupted, a plate of delicious adult food which you did not prepare yourself and you do not have to share! Although, I have to say, on these occassions, I always end up taking something home to my child! - as well as a happy, relaxed mum.

single parent adoption- second cornerstone

The second cornerstone is creating and maintaining a community or local family support. My clear decision to adopt came out of community. A 10 day silent meditation New Year retreat . This was a community of people guided by a teacher Toni Packer, who gathered every year at this time to sit together in silence with the same spiritual intention. At the end of the retreat, I joyously declared to a friend that I was going to be a mother and that I am adopting my daughter from China. My friend replied “that is wonderful” as if this sought of event happened every day! My daughter was born on the other side of the world about the same time I made the decision.

Out of community has come an outpouring of support for my daughter and I over the years, for which we are both grateful. Opening up to community and support goes two ways and for some single adults this can mean getting out of your familiar comfort zone. It means opening up to giving and receiving generously. Once you decide to become a parent nothing can stay the same. (like your schedule. The uncertain time of adoption is really good practice for the real thing of parenting and living with a dependent little person). Finding your community is worth every moment of vulnerability and heart-felt connection. Our community has provided adult play-dates and sleep- overs; play-dates with friends for my daughter while I take time for myself and adult relationships; comraderie with other single parents with adopted Chinese daughters; gymnastic scholarships; meals when I am sick; emotional and spiritual support and laughter, definitely laughter.

Single parent adoption - three cornerstones of support

Single parent adoption is wonderful and challenging, when there is not an additional income or the emotional and physical back up from a partner to support you. There are 3 important cornerstones to ensure success when considering single parent adoption. The decision takes planning and consideration and can not just come out of a need to be a parent:
The first is financial sustainability - to have enough money to support you and your child in the adoption process and in the post months of settling in to being a family. Three months post adoption staying home with your child is considered an optimum amount of time before returning to work. I was fortunate to be able to do this with my daughter, however, once back to work it was very clear that I needed a balance between private practice and having a regular income and benefits provided by agency work. Each person's experience will be different, but having enough of a financial base is a first priority to support you and your child,

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

International Adoption

Every country from which you adopt has its own set of rules and regulations, and those rules and regulations are always changing. Politics and that country's relationship to America can also influence the flow of the adoption process at times. This can be some of the uncertainty of adopting from another country on occasion. I can certainly say from personal experience that if you do adopt from another country you will have a larger sense of what is happening in the rest of the world, not just America.

The piece that is so interesting is that along with the frustration and delay of waiting for some parents there is also the reality that your family is now not only American but international and that will never change.

For instance, in 2001 I was able to adopt my daughter from China as an older (early 40s) single mother. Now in 2011, this is no longer possible, and even the age restrictions for American couples are very specific. My daughter and I have been touched and impacted by a short time in history in China when there was a one child per family rule and when single parent adoption was allowed. I am grateful that my daughter has close friends that are similarly impacted by this history so that as they grow older together they can integrate this experience into their lives and sense of Self in the world.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

International Adoption

Once the decision to adopt has been made and you have chosen to adopt internationally, then it is best to interview adoption agencies in your area who have adoption programs for the country from which you wish to adopt. Getting a referral for an agency from other parents who have adopted is really useful. It is also a good idea to ask the adoption agency about the liason agency in the other country and how their program is run in that country. A reputable liason agency or liason agent is key to having a smooth and well organized experience in the process of adopting from another country.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Adoption: Creating a family

Once you have made the decision to adopt, then the next step is to sort through a maze of information about how to adopt and the process towards adoption. The choices are numerous and it is important to know what you can handle as an individual, as a couple (if you are in a partnership) and as a parent to be. ie. Are you comfortable as an individual and as a parent with a son or daughter of a different race or ethnicity? Is domestic adoption or international adoption the best for you? Do you want to adopt a baby or would an older child be preferable? Have you considered adopting a child out of the fostercare system? Maybe private adoption? Open or closed adoption?

It is useful to gather the information and then sort through it carefully to assess what the best route will be in forming your family. To help with this initial information gathering process and decision making process I find the organization Resolve to be extremely helpful. It may also be a good time to join a group of other parents in this process or get support from a professional therapist with experience in adoption, to help keep you on track while sorting through the emotional , cognitive and spiritual feedback of your own heart and mind ( and relatives!).

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Adoption: In the Beginning

To begin the process of adoption very often comes out of something that has ended and now a new cycle/chapter begins. The path towards Adoption takes a focused intention and attention to detail. Individuals who are considering adoption often wonder if they can try to get pregnant at the same time they are filing the paperwork for adoption. I am often asked this question by couples or individuals wishing to become parents and have experienced difficulties in conceiving their own child.

As it is possible to do both, I have found that the energy and money and focused attention involved in both these paths is all consuming. It is often best to treat both these experiences as two paths to achieve the same outcome. Setting a time limit on how long you will try to get pregnant is useful. If not successful, you can then, pause, grieve, and give all your full attention to the process of adopting your child. Both paths involve putting aside fear and a surrender to a larger sense of Life as we know it. Either way we do not know in what kind of physical body our child may arrive, but with full intention and attention he/she will arrive.