In recognition of Adoption Awareness month, we’ve asked Anna Braasch, our Executive Director and adoptive momma to two, to share practical ways to have safe and 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 the Connected Families Framework, the crucial message, “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 for your actions” are all built on this foundation of safety.
Kids who were adopted must receive the message from their parents, “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 understanding the truth 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 my personal prayer time. Later, as I lay next to him in bed, I 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 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 bring up 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 by whether or not you “turn out okay.” It is my job to be safe and help you find and nurture your gifts and talents to serve God and 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 for forgiveness with complete sincerity. I will take ownership of my own messes.
- Child, I love you forever.
*replace “Child” with your child’s name
Safety Covenant PDF
Download and print this FREE PDF of the Safety Covenant today!
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.
Questions to ask yourself:
- 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, age, or 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.