Chapter 11 is entitled Handling Setbacks. I guess I have sort of been expecting some setbacks. The boys came to live with us six weeks ago. Most foster and adoptive parents know that there is a honeymoon period where behavior is not too bad. At six weeks, we are approaching the end of the honeymoon. The two boys are processing this whole move in different ways. D2 seems generally more flexible, grown-up, and able to roll with things. Before moving in with us, he had been asking his previous foster mom a lot about moms and dads. He seemed to realize that he didn’t have them and that it was something he wanted. I think A was a lot more content in his previous situation. Life was working just fine for him. He is generally happy here but yesterday he woke up from his nap pretty sad and stayed that way for a while. I am hoping the time that D2 is in preschool will be beneficially times for me to spend giving my attention to A. I think both of them are doing great behaviorally. We will see if that progress continues in the coming weeks.
The process of stumbling and getting back on track has therapeutic value. On a neurological level, self-correction and repetition help the brain cement pathways involved in learning new skills. And the process of a parent and child briefly disconnecting and then reconnecting again can actually contribute to a child’s emotional resilience.
Chapter 12 is called Healing Yourself to Heal Your Child. You can tell how cynical I am because when I read the title of the chapter it sounded like an episode of Oprah to me (and, well, I’m not a fan.) But I think Dr. Purvis makes a lot of great points in this chapter about how our own issues can interfere with how we parent.
It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes a child’s improved behavior makes a parent uncomfortable. As the child gets healthier – capable of making eye contact, giving genuine hugs, and wanting affection – the more these parents distance themselves. The child’s new capacity for closeness puts these parents’ own intimacy skills to test.
I think most people can relate to struggling with hurt and loss in their past in some form. Things that we don’t even know affect us may come up later in life, especially when parenting children. When D and I decided to officially start the process to become foster parents, I’ll admit, I freaked out just a bit. It was my heart’s desire to be a mom and to be a foster parent, but I was hit with an overwhelming sense of insecurity and inadequacy in the face of parenting children who may have difficult behaviors. I’m not ashamed to say that I sought help through therapy. After a few months of discussing some things with a great, Biblical counselor, I felt much better about becoming a parent.
A parent’s attachment style and emotional health both have significant implications for children. If you are preoccupied with old wounds or subconsciously coping with past traumas, you have less energy to give the full emotional support and nurturing that your at-risk child desperately needs.
I think Dr. Purvis gives some really excellent advice for finding a good therapist.
If you do seek a therapist, here are some signs that he or she can benefit your family:
- The therapist is kind and has a sense of humor about everyone’s foibles.
- The therapist points out the hurt in the child more than the misbehavior.
- You come away from counseling feeling more warm and compassionate about your child’s behaviors (and your own).
- You come away from therapy feeling as if you and your child are a team against the child’s harmful past (and it’s not you and your child against each other).
To this list I would add, that (if you are a Christian) to seek therapist who come from a Biblical perspective.
I love these last few sections from the book. I think this first one sums it all up really well:
The quality of being fully present is what we want to provide for our children. We want to be a safe audience and eager cheerleaders for them. We want to let children know that we truly hear their concerns, and that it’s okay for them to have their feelings. We want to encourage them to be the most that they can be. When we can achieve that, we lay the foundation for true healing and growth.
The book closes with encouragement and hope…
If you haven’t been reaching your child as quickly as you had hoped, go easy on yourself. As we’ve said before, mastering any new skill takes time. Both you and your child are learning together….
Be patient with yourself and your child as you learn the new steps. Applaud yourself for having the courage and heart to bring healing and love to a child who needs you so. Learn to celebrate small successes and recognize everyday miracles.
That is it. Overall, I am so thankful for the tools I am daily using and learning from this book. I am sure we will be referencing it often.
Happy New Year!