In recognition of adoption/foster awareness month we’ve asked Anna Braasch, our Executive Director and adoptive momma to two, to share practical ways to have safe, connected relationships with your kids – regardless of how they joined your family.
The foundational principles of Connected Families breathe life into families formed through adoption. I’ve seen it in my own family. But the thing is….creating an environment of safety is vital for any family who has experienced stress. Isn’t that all of us?
As we teach in the Connected Families Framework, the crucial concept “You are safe with me” is the starting place for our relationship with our kids. The other framework messages “You are loved no matter what”, “You are called and capable”, and “You are responsible” are all built on this foundation of safety.
Kids who were adopted must know “You are safe with me.” They must experience this safety in their families. Safety builds the confidence and security to trust and attach to their adoptive parents.
At some level, trauma is a part of the history of all kids who were adopted, whether those children joined their families at 14, 4, or even as an infant. (Sidenote: children adopted at birth – even with loving and thoughtful adoption plans – experience trauma when they no longer hear the familiar voices they heard while in the womb. This is very disruptive and can create a perception that the world is not safe).
Kids who have experienced trauma aren’t broken. They are not to be pitied. However, they might view the world differently from their securely-attached peers and need extra safety reinforcement and reminders in order to actually feel safe. Their developing, and sometimes tenuous attachment requires consistent reassurance to believe that their parents (and therefore their world) are safe.
Every parent benefits from the message so powerfully evident in adoption: before children are able to hear and accept they are loved, capable, and responsible – they must first believe they are SAFE.
True enough, but what does this look like when I’m trying to get my kids fed and out the door?
Recovering from one particularly difficult and tension-filled encounter with my then 9-year-old son, I collapsed into prayer asking God to reveal to me what my son needed. I scratched a list during prayer, laid next to him in bed, and read it aloud to him. This list remains. It is a reminder. A reference. A centering-point. A promise.
Like a marriage vow, it is my covenant with him to be safe.
- Child*, if my emotions escalate, your emotions will escalate and no one will “win.” Therefore, I will stay calm and peaceful for you.
- Child, I will daily seek the self-control to not discipline you with a knee-jerk emotional reaction.
- Child, I will not talk with you about your misbehavior until I have calmed my heart, prayed, and asked God for wisdom – “God, what do you want us to learn through this situation?” Only then will I gently broach tough subjects.
- Child, my relationship with Christ gives me the security to handle your anger, rejections, and proclamations of, “I hate you.”
- Child, it is not my job to “fix” you. You are not my “project.” My sense of worth is not determined on whether or not you “turn out okay.” It is my job to be safe and to help you find and nurture your gifts and talents to serve God and serve others.
- Child, I believe 1 John 4:18 that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” I know that my love will never be perfect enough. But God’s love is. So I rest in God’s love. And I pray that someday you will be able to fully grasp and accept God’s love for you.
- Child, when I mess up I will humbly apologize and ask forgiveness with complete sincerity. I will take ownership for my own messes.
- Child, I love you forever.
*replace Child with your child’s name
Our family wrestled through a season of high emotional conflict. The list was a tangible reminder of my commitment to strive to be a safe parent. My daughter received a personalized copy, too. The concepts have now become integrated into our family culture, and are the guiding principles behind how my husband and I choose to parent.
I get tired. And frustrated. And angry. I still lose my patience and react harshly. (And when I do, I’m quick to ask for forgiveness and to forgive myself.) But this covenant anchors me, my husband, and our children as we make safety a top priority in our family.
THINK ABOUT IT
- Whether you have children who joined your family through birth, adoption, foster care, or marriage, how can you communicate that you are committed to helping your kids feel safe in their relationship with you?
- How might you adapt the covenant above to your child’s unique needs, their age, or their love language?
Our coaches are experienced in working with many families who have adopted. If you’ve adopted and feel like you keep running into the same struggles over and over again, consider coaching. My husband and I have benefited from parent coaching through Connected Families and I know you will too.
If you’ve adopted and Connected Families has made an impact in your parenting journey, please share your story with us.