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.