Tuesday, November 13, 2018

National Adoption Month: The 5 People You Need In Your Adoption Village

It's fair to say, we knew we needed a village long before we adopted.  The minute adopting a child popped into my head, I was planning.  (That's the type A, anxiety-ridden life.)  

I started talking to those I knew who were part of the adoption community.  And the more people I talked to, the more people came forward, revealing to me they were part of the adoption triad.  

Each encounter was epic.  Necessary.  Beautiful.  Stirring.  

Each encounter left an imprint on my heart, leading me to be the mom I am today.   

When I look back over the past twelve years, because that's how long we've been part of the adoption community, I can hardly believe how each encounter, whether planned or by chance, brought us to a new height in our journey.  I cannot imagine if even one of those moments was lost.  Where would we be?  

Though sometimes we meet people by chance, the people we brought into our adoption village were invited with the utmost intentionality on our part.  We knew who we needed and why.  

Purpose.  And then faith that the purpose would manifest into positive results for our family, especially the precious children we were chosen to parent.

Building your adoption village takes time.  In fact, it's a lifelong journey.  But you need to start, if you haven't already.  Because your child needs you to step it up and be the parent that he or she needs you to be, as my friend (an adoptee) Madeleine Melcher so often shares.

The village consists of REAL LIFE people you can meet with FACE TO FACE and be HAND IN HAND with.  Online groups are fantastic when encouraging and educational, for certain, but there is nothing like support from someone you can see and touch.  

1:  Adoptees.

I'm not proposing you walk around begging adoptees to be part of your village.  But when you encounter adoptees who are willing to share their experiences with you, offer you advice and encouragement, and respond to your family's needs, that's a good indication that that individual may be someone you invite in.  

Adoptees can offer their experiences, their thoughts on what you can do and what you should avoid doing (as an adoptive parent), and suggestions on ways you can best connect and guide your adoptee.  

In essence, they are people who have "been there, done that," and should be your go-to in many circumstances.  

2:  Experienced adoptive parents. 

Oftentimes, I know adoptive parents go to those who are also in their same stage, usually waiting-to-adopt or new to adoption.  Though it's great to have someone who gets your exact feelings at the exact same time you're having them, there is a lot to be said for experience.  

How do you find these individuals?  Join an adoption support group, ask your adoption professional to connect you with others, and put yourself "out there."  When someone says they know of another local adoptive family, ask to be connected with them.  Be bold.  Be optimistic.  Be open.  

Experienced parents can point you not only to their own experiences, but to other connections they've established over the years.  They can walk alongside you, guiding you.  

Plus, there's major perks to being friends with other families like yours.  Over half of my friends are parents-by-adoption, and my kids are growing up seeing that adoption is a way some people build there families.  When there are get-togethers, the diversity is beautiful.  Children from different countries, families of different races, and lots of different abilities:  with a commonality-adoption.

3:  Birth parents. 

You might have an open adoption (we have four!), but sometimes it's "too close for comfort."  Meaning, it's hard to gain a lot of insight from someone in such a meaningful position in your family.  That's why knowing other birth parents can help you better navigate your relationship with your child's birth parents:  they can offer you their experiences and advice.  

Again, ask your adoption professional to connect you.  Join and adoption support group.  The more people you connect with, the more future connections you will make.  

I'm friends with three birth mothers who are not part of our own family.  Their insight has been invaluable, helping me better understand this important side of the adoption triad and see situations in a different (and better) light.  

4:  Adoption professionals.

Long after you adopt, you should retain relationships with adoption professionals.  Not just your adoption social worker or lawyer, but also with adoption competent therapists, doctors experienced in working with adoptees and their families, and others.  

The actual adoption is a one-time event, but being a parent-by-adoption is forever, as is being an adoptee.  Therefore, having people in your village who get adoption (like REALLY get adoption) and subsequent challenges and joys, is critical.   

5:  Support for your kids.  

Depending on the type of adoption, having individuals who can support your children's needs is incredibly important.  For example, my oldest two children, both girls, have a hair braider and a mentor.  My son has a barber.  These individuals racially affirm our kids while also educating us, as the parents, about what is appropriate for Black children.  We can go to them for parenting advice. They don't judge us, and they readily tell us what we need to know. 

In essence,

You find the people your children need, and you invite them in.  Yes, this means being vulnerable.  Yes, it means being humble.  And yes, it's worth every ounce of energy!  

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

National Adoption Month, With Adoptee Michelle Madrid-Branch

She's BACK!  Adoptee, mom by birth and adoption, author, speaker, podcast hostess,and truth-teller Michelle Madrid-Branch is here!  

Ya'll remember Michelle, rightShe's my go-to for adoption authenticity.  She's honest, she's encouraging, and she's empathetic.   So in honor of National Adoption Month, I invited Michelle to write to you.  She chose the topic:  "Adoption means many things:  normal is not one of them."  Riveting, right?  

Here's what Michelle wants you to know about adoption:

“Mama, my friends laughed at me today during recess. We were playing house. Someone said that I had to be the adopted one in the family, and that I wouldnt be loved as much as the other kids who werent adopted.”

True words.

Elementary school.

Playground fun turned unpleasant.

I still cringe when I let myself go back in time to that afternoon. I clearly remember standing under the monkey bars with my head hung low. I felt just about as isolated and alone as a kid could feel.

Arriving home after school, I walked down the hallway and made a beeline for my mothers room. I climbed onto her bed and crawled into the fetal position.

I began to wail.

My body trembled.

My temples throbbed.

“Mama, is adoption bad? It feels really bad. Why did my first mommy stop loving me? What did I do?”

My mother went on to explain that I had grown inside of my birth mothers tummy and that she was not able to keep me with her once I was born. That she loved me so much that shed made a plan so that another family could raise me. 

My mother ended the conversation with these words: 

Adoption means love. Thats all you really need to know.

But, it wasnt.

It wasnt all that I needed to know.

My sweet mama, wholeheartedly, meant the words that she shared with me in her bedroom that day. As an adult adoptee, and mom-by-adoption, I understand and can conceptualize that adoption does, indeed, mean love. There is so much love found within this process of delivery called adoption.

Yet, what I didnt know as a girl in elementary school is this: there was so much more that I needed to discover, decode, and define for myself about being adopted. There was a language that needed to be learned and spoken. And, this language could not be adequately expressed with just one word: love.

No, the language of adoption needs to be fluently felt and vastly expanded upon. This language needs to be safely explored, sometimes angrily articulated, and openly shared without judgment. The language of adoption cannot be made antiseptic, or kept in a clean and tidy box. It needs to be messy.



You see, as a child, as much as I knew my mother meant these words—adoption means love—I also knew, for all of my growing up years, that it was far too risky to share with her my true feelings: I didnt want to be adopted.

I didnt!

I didnt want the title of adoptee.

I wanted to be normal.

I wanted to be like the other kids whose first mommies kept them.

As much as my mother painted a picture of adoption as normal—I felt deep within myself that it wasnt. Adoption wasnt normal.

Adoption isnt normal.

Its not normal for the ties that bind a mother and child to be severed. Its not normal to wonder who you are, where your brown eyes came from, and why you savor the sounds of gypsy music. 

Its not normal to wonder if the woman who gave you life ever thinks of you. Its not normal to question whether your birth father loves you. Its not normal to wonder if you have siblings out there, somewhere.

Its not normal to feel judged and discriminated against because you dont look like your adoptive family members. Its not normal to be rejected by the parents who gave you life—no matter their reasons. Its not normal when trust is an excruciatingly difficult concept to embrace, because trusting has proven to be a fragile exercise. Its not normal to miss a crucial part of yourself and still not know who that person is.

Adoption is many things.

It is committing to love a child beyond the borders of bloodline. Adoption is how we are called to love one another: unconditionally. Adoption is filled with sacrifice—on all sides.  Adoption is family.

Adoption is beautiful. Adoption is hard. Adoption is a life-long journey. Adoption is complicated. Adoption is interconnected.

Adoption is unpredictable: its filled with unexpected twists and turns, entries and exits.  Adoption is life and the decisions we make. Adoption is emotional. Adoption is mysterious and—all too often—consumed by unanswered questions. Adoption is traumatic. Adoption is triumphant. Adoption is loss. Adoption is gain.

What adoption is not, is normal. Adoption is not normal. As a community, we should come to grips with this truth. What we can no longer do is avoid this fact and thus continue to force adoptees into silence, afraid to share the complexities of how they really feel. 

Let adoptees find their own language. Let them express that language fully, fluently, and freely. We dont need to force-feed adoptees some synthetic version of reality in order to sugarcoat the adoption experience—even if our version is well intended.

We don’t need to numb down the emotions surrounding adoption—that has never been a fair approach. Adoptees have been through a profound loss. Theyve survived an abnormal occurrence. Let them express what that means to them.



This is how adoptees can move beyond trauma and on to triumph: by speaking their pain, by expressing their questions, and letting out what has been bottled up inside.

We, as their families, should understand that an adoptees longing for knowledge and for unvarnished truth is a natural and healthy yearning. We can no longer pretend that adoption is normal and ask of our children to play this game along with us. We should stop pretending.

We should acknowledge that adoption is not normal. And, as we do so, we free our children to express what they really feel. We give them space to share how being adopted is being experienced in their day-to-day lives. We need to encourage adoptees to share what is real. We need to hear them. We need to listen to them without judgment. We need to stand by them in this way. Let this be the new norm for adoption.




Love what you read?  Learn more from Michelle from her site, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and book.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

5 Things I Wish Others Understood About Our Adoptive, Multiracial Family

Here we are, on the eve of the month we'll celebrate ten years of being a multiracial-adoptive family.  And there are things I wish I could tell the society about our family, things they would readily receive and accept.  Perhaps you've felt the same?

1:  We're a normal family.

Despite appearances, our family love and life are both real.  We live normal, busy lives and do normal, busy things.  Nothing special, exotic, or phenomenal.   Yes, there are things we do differently (at times) than an all-biological, white family:  but in the day-to-day of our lives, we are just us.  Homework.  Chores.  Appointments.  Outings.  School.  Work.  You know, family life.  

2:  Colorblindness isn't real.  (And in fact, it's ridiculous.)

In this family, we acknowledge and celebrate race.  We don't ignore it or attempt to neutralize it.  Our kids know they're Black.  They know we are white.  They take pride in their skin color, the kink in their hair, the deepness of their eyes, and their history as people of color.   There is no need to whisper "Black" like it's a bad word or a secret.  We all literally see the melanin differences!  Colorblindness is a lie

3:  We are raising Black children: which means that just because we're white, our parenting isn't.

I guess you'd think, duh.  But there's an expectation among some white people, that because we are white parents, we are raising Black kids as if they were white children.  Granted, some multiracial families DO this, and it's an incredible disservice to their children.   Because "cute" Black babies grow up, and our white privilege umbrella doesn't extend once our kids are older and more independent, such as when they go to the store with a friend or drive a car (without us present).  We are preparing our kids for teenage-hood and adult-hood as BLACK people, because that is who they are.   We do this with our "village," such as mentors, braiders and barbers, friends, and other influential, trusted people of color whom we have chosen to surround our family with. 

4:  Open adoption is not "cool" or strange, rather, it is what's best for our family.

When people learn that my children have open adoptions, the responses are usually brimming with trepidation OR with awe.  Though the "wow, that's cool" comment is meant to be a compliment, what I'd love for others to understand is that adoptees have two families who, through open adoption, become one:  one who is FOR the child.  The open adoption isn't for the sole benefit of any parent involved; rather, a healthy open adoption is to benefit the child.   (And even if an adoptee doesn't have an open adoption, the adoptee has two families.)   Now, open adoptions aren't a "piece of cake":  they are complex, requiring a lot of grace, energy, time, and flexibility.  But, in our experience, are worth it.  And, in the case of a transracial adoption, birth family can provide necessary racial mirrors for their birth children.

5: We, the parents, are the lucky and chosen ones.

I cannot tell you how many times someone has told my children directly that they are "so lucky to have such great parents."  (We have thus far avoided anyone telling them they are "so lucky to be adopted," though I know many other families have experienced this.)  Variations of this include telling a family "God bless you for giving kids in need such a loving home."  We also do not tell our children that we "chose" them, rather, we believe that we, the parents, were chosen by our kids' birth families to be parents.  Adoptees, time and time again, express the burdens put upon them by people insisting they are "lucky" (thus, they should be grateful for being adopted), that they are "gifts" to their parents, and that they are special because they were "chosen."  We, as parents are mindful that this language is not only inappropriate, but it puts undue stress on our kids, AND, it's not true of our family.  In fact, we believe that we can be grateful for our children without referring to them as "gifts," as "lucky," or as "chosen."

Adoption is our normal.  Being a family by adoption, also our normal.  Parenting kids of color, also our normal.  We're cool with it.  Get to know us, and maybe you will be, too.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

5 Simple Hacks That Can Help a Child with Seeking Sensory Processing Disorder

I've written about our struggles with Sensory Processing Disorder, which seems to be more and more common among children, and even more common among adoptees.   

We've learned a thing or two (or a hundred) about some of the tools and techniques that you can use to help your kiddo who has SPD.  Here are my favorite five SIMPLE hacks:

1:  Gum.

Chewing gum is great for a seeker.  (It can also help those with anxiety.)  It satisfies some of the need to seek without being cumbersome or big.  I have found that the sensory chewie necklaces are great at meeting oral sensory needs, but I struggle with one, their cost, and two, the fact that they're so germy!  A kid's necklace touches surfaces, hands, etc. and then goes into our child's mouth.   Gum is inexpensive, it's easy to carry, and I've heard from some other moms that gum is even in their child's IEP!   My recommendation is to be selective in which brand you buy.  We avoid artificial food dyes (as they tend to cause mood changes in kids).  There's the debate of which-is-better:  artificial sweetened gum or real-sugar gum.  We choose to stick with this brand of gum.  We do require that gum stays IN the mouth.  If it's becoming a toy/distraction, it's gone.  Luckily, my kiddo doesn't know how to blow bubbles.  

2: Backpack with weights.  

We carry a small-ish backpack with us everywhere we go and use it as-needed.  The trick?  We put ankle weights at the bottom of the backpack!  These serve a dual-purpose.  First, they weigh-down the backpack, providing sensory input.  Two, they can also be taken out and worn to provide sensory input.  Voila!  Just make sure the weights aren't too heavy for your little one and the backpack has good strap-support, as well as straps correctly adjusted to fit the child.  My son uses this backpack, and we got ankle weights at Five Below (for yes, $5).   

Other items in the backpack can be gum (point #1), small sensory toys, or just favorite toys in general.  One day I realized that my kiddo with SPD already had the perfect fidget toy:  a small Transformer! (I stress the "small" part as smaller toys and pieces help with fine motor skills/strength).  So don't feel that you must spend a lot of money on designated sensory toys.  You can often find "sensory toys" in the dollar spot bins at Target, for example, or other items at your local dollar store.  

3: "Let me see those eyes."

Ok, you might be a little lost on this one.  Let me explain.  When an environment is too sensory-stimulating, you may notice your child's eyes darting about.  It's hard to focus with all the stimuli!  The voices, the lights, the temperature, etc.  We have a saying:  "Let me see your pretty brown eyes."  It might take a few reminders, but it works.  I get down on the child's level, I rest a hand somewhere on the child's body, and I ask for their eyes.   This isn't a new trick!  My mom required us to look in her eyes when we were kids.  It's a way of connecting BEFORE correcting/communicating (thank you Dr. Purvis!).   

4:  In-place exercise.

We cannot always stick to a routine.  For example, in the summer, I established a routine for my children that alternated gross motor time with other activities.  I worked hard to incorporate heavy lifting/pushing work for my child with SPD into almost all our routine.   

But there are times you just cannot.  So we established a few in-place exercises:  wall push-ups, squats, jumping in place, and "punching" (where I assign them to "punch the sky, punch the floor, etc.") where they air-punch the direction I give them.   My kids LOVE to take turns being the exercise leader.   You can do this in almost any space.  

We also like to do yoga.  I'll burst out, "Yoga!" when things are getting out-of-hand:  and they'll assume a quiet/calm yoga pose with their eyes closed and hands in front of them at heart-center.  Yes, this can get a little silly at times, but it does help!  (You can also put on a free Cosmic Kids Yoga video:  I swear they are magical!)

5:  "I'm feeling ______."

This is a simple tool I use with all my kids, SPD or not.  When they're upset or struggling, I say, "I'm feeling..." and they know to fill in the blank.  For example, they might say, "I'm feeling sad."  Then I say, "Why are you feeling sad?"  We walk through the feelings.  Now with a child with SPD, they're likely over-stimulated, under-stimulated, or simply overwhelmed.   Once they can name their feeling (remember, anger is a cover emotion!), we work through meeting their needs.   (In order to get them to the "I'm feeling..." place, you first need to perhaps follow #3 (establish eye contact).  

What are some of your SPD hacks?  

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Navigating Adoption When Your Baby is Suddenly a Tween

It was an ordinary day, doing ordinary things.  But what happened next was abrupt.  Perhaps you've been there, too.

I was looking at one of my daughters and realized she was a tween.  

It was like all the sudden, Doc McStuffins and My Little Ponies and ballies in two-strand twists were no longer acceptable.  It was all about Shopkins, K.C. Undercover, hip hop dancing, asking when she can have her own cell phone, and having sips of coffee with us on Saturday mornings.  

Where did my baby go?!? 

I've done loads and loads of research on what's tweens (considered children ages 9-13) and teens (13+) need, adoption-wise, but now I was living it, not just writing and talking about it.  My research was in books and blog posts, talking to parents of tween and teen adoptees, talking to adoptees themselves, and observation.  

And here's what I've learned:  five things you MUST do if you're parenting a tween adoptee.  

1:  Have the talk.

If you haven't already, now is the time to have "the talk" with your child.  (Now there are two talks in the case of transracial adoption.  The talk I'm referring to here is the body-birds-bees talk.)

The reason?  Well, one, information and education.  This is true of any tween.  But two, I have often said, it's hard to get the "big picture" of adoption if the child doesn't understand conception, pregnancy, birth, and bodies.  I mean, the whole "stork" business is ridiculous, for any child, but especially for an adoptee who has a first set of parents. 

How this should be done is controversial.  A lot depends on your faith, your own upbringing, your history:  but I want to urge you to use correct terminology, give your child factual information, and provide resources that the child can read if/when he or she wants to.  And if you struggle to have this talk with your child (no shame!  many parents do struggle), get some guidance and insight from professionals and other experienced parents of adoptees.  

You also need to talk to them about puberty, privacy, body positivity, stranger awareness, and all sorts of other things!  

I should note, we had this talk with our kids much earlier than the tween years.  I also believe this isn't a singular talk, but an ongoing conversation.

I'm a big fan of talking, but also of giving your child resources that he or she can refer to privately and on his or her own terms, processing the information at their own pace.  

2:  Read up on adoption during (before) these years, and begin sharing more information with your children.

There are some amazing books available to families.  Last year, I interviewed adoption therapist and transracial adoptee Katie Naftzger, on her book Parenting in the Eye of the Storm:  The Adoptive Parent's Guide to Navigating the Teen Years.  I encourage you to read the interview and buy her book.

I also have found these books helpful:  

See if there is a tween/teen adoption support group in your area.  Some of my friends take their children to culture camps every summer so their children can connect with other adoptees who share their same race.  Of course, it's never to late to get a mentor for your adoptee as well! 

And remember, empathy is ALWAYS the right answer when your child has feelings about adoption.  It's THEIR journey, and you are along for the ride:  not the other way around.  

3:  Remember that connective parenting doesn't end just because your child is another year older.

If anything, connective parenting is more important than ever before! Refresh your memory on The Connected Child, check out the free videos on the Empowered to Connect website (I cannot tell you how many times I've frantically looked up a video there!), and remember the core principles you used up until this point.   This is a good time for you and your partner to create a new parenting plan, adjusted to meet your child's needs and situation. 

Tween hormones:  they will be one of your greatest challenges.  Be sure to refer to point #1, and tell your child:  hormones can make you have mood swings, they can make you feel more emotions more intensely: and this is normal.  Talk to your child about how some methods and tools to deal with their feelings.  AND, recommit to connective parenting, because Lordy, you're going to need it!   

One thing we do, that I shared in a prior post, is take our kids on dates.  There is no reason for this to stop just because your child is a tween (or teen).  Though he or she may begin toddler wave #2, seeking independence and some isolation from parents, it doesn't mean this is what you have to accept as the family standard.  Take your child on dates that he or she enjoys, preferably ones that involve interacting, such as going to your tween's favorite restaurant together for dinner (vs. something like going to a movie, where you aren't speaking to each other).  

4:  Seek professional help.

If your family doesn't have an attachment-connective-adoption- competent mental health professional on stand-by, this is the time to find one.  Even if your child seems totally fine, there is no harm in having a go-to person if the need arises.  (My friend Madeleine Melcher, an adoptee and mom by adoption, advises in her book that parents shouldn't "borrow trouble"---meaning, don't put issues on your child that he/she doesn't have, but also realize you know your child best and need to do what he or she needs:  a sacred parenting balance.)  Also, my reading of adoptees has taught me that they often hide their true feelings for a number of reasons, one of which is because they are fearful to upset or hurt their parents.  Having a neutral, third party available is a safety net for parents and children.

I think it's important to share that some generations and some individuals still subscribe to mental health stigmas.  They might feel shame seeking professional help or feel that such services are only for "other people" who have big problems.  This simply isn't true.  Mental health services can be incredibly beneficial to anyone.  If you find yourself hesitant to seek professional help for your child and/or your family, because of your own beliefs, work to overcome those so that you do not avoid giving your family what they need to be successful!   One way to do this is to seek counseling as an individual, to "test out the waters."  

5:  That other (critical) talk.

If you've adopted transracially, this is also a good time to have a more in-depth conversation with your child about the realities of being a person of color and interactions with police, as well as the broader issues of racism.  Like the "birds and the bees" talk I referred to in point #1, the other talk is NOT a one-time talk, but an ongoing conversation.   There are resources available to families for these conversations, but first, you must yourself have an understanding of race in America.  You can check out this prior post on five books I recommend you read.  

I urge you to talk to your friends of color to assist you in talking to your child.  This is NOT the time to be prideful:  rather, you NEED trusted friends of color to help you parent your child.  As your child is increasingly independent, you'll need to have these conversations again and again, preparing them for facing police encounters without the umbrella of your white privilege.

Parenting our tweens is an honor, but it's also a major responsibility.  How have you navigated the tween years so far?  Or what are you doing to prepare to do so?  

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Yes, You Should Have an Adoption Baby Shower

Several weeks ago, I asked my Facebook followers this question:

The overwhelming response was consensual:  YES!  Have the shower!

I admit, I REALLY wanted as shower when we prepared to adopt twelve years ago.  As soon as we revealed that we were going to adopt, my sister and friend started planning our shower, which happened just a few weeks after we officially started waiting. 

It was everything I hoped for.  Sugary sheet cake and snacks.  Lots of conversation.  And of course, so many gifts.  The ducky theme was gender-neutral and adorable.  


I think what meant the most was how many people turned out to celebrate with us.  My guess is, many had never been to an "expecting a baby" shower before.  In fact, it was my first adoption baby shower.  

If you're going to go the route of having shower, here's my advice:

1:  Don't have the shower for a baby you are matched with (in a domestic infant adoption).  

The truth is, that baby isn't yours.  The love for the baby may be growing rapidly in your heart, but that baby is "the baby" and not "your baby" if and until TPR and revocation are over.   I am not saying to withhold excitement.  I'm not saying "guard your heart" to the point that all pending-motherhood joy is sucked out of your soul.  What I am saying is that you need to respect and honor the expectant parents and the unborn child by being ethical in all your choices:  big and small.  

2:  Keep it gender-neutral.

I read it almost weekly.  Hopeful adoptive parents post about a failed adoption after they already had the baby's nursery completely ready, complete with the baby's name on the wall, and lots of baby goods received at their baby shower, including monogrammed bibs.  I'm not a superstitious/knock-on-wood kind of person.  So I'm not saying "don't jinx the match."  What I am saying is this:  if the adoption doesn't happen, you're choosing so much more pain by walking past an empty nursery with a baby's name on the wall, a baby you will not bring home.   By all means, get a nursery ready, but leave some space for personalization after a placement.  

3:  Register.

So going off point #2, be sure to register.  There are so many benefits to this including avoiding duplicate gifts, getting discounts on future purchases, and more.  Target, for example, offers it's registrants a discount on anything not purchased off their registry.  Registering for gifts also allows you to ask for what you want and need.  Having a registry makes returns and exchanges easier as well.  Registering helps you "nest" for your baby, again, helping you feel that you are a REAL mama-to-be.  

4:  Celebrate the opportunity to educate others.

Expect lots of questions about adoption.  This is a fantastic opportunity to educate others.  We even put an adoption Q and A on the tables for our guests, which our older attendees especially appreciated.  You can use adoption children's picture books to help decorate, as well.  And don't forget to toast your guests for supporting you and loving on your future baby!  

5:  Enjoy.

Many hopeful adoptive moms struggle to feel like Real Expecting Moms (which I talk about extensively in my latest book).  There is so much guilt, confusion, uncertainty, and anxiety that come with waiting to adopt.  This often stems from a good place (ethics and empathy-which you can learn all about in the free e-book I send out).  But bad feelings feel, well, bad.  You have to make up your mind to enjoy your baby shower.  After all, you've attended your fair share of showers, supporting other mothers-to-be.  You need to decide that you ARE a REAL hopeful mom who IS expecting a baby via adoption.  Because of that, it is perfectly OK to enjoy preparing for the baby who will become yours and the motherhood that awaits you.  

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

3 Easy Ways to Connect With Your Kids Individually When You Have a Big Family

If you follow me on Insta, you'll see I have an affinity for the #BigFamilyProblems. Mostly because, well, that's my life.  

In all honesty, I often use the hashtag sarcastically.  Because I LOVE having a big family.  And I love having an even number of children.  My middle two tend to "buddy up" while my oldest and the baby do the same.  Or sometimes the oldest two girls gel while the younger two play together.   It can be pretty awesome!

But we need to remember that our kids need some one-on-one time with mom and dad.  Having "buddies" (aka, siblings) is great.  It really is.  But our kids are individuals with their own needs, personalities, and dreams.   

So here's how we make sure each of our kids gets some one-on-one time with mom and/or dad:

1:  Go on a date.

Yes, just like you might date a spouse or partner, you need to date your kids!   Our oldest three are on a rotating schedule.  They get to pick which parent takes them on the date and what the activity is.  It's usually about an hour of time.  Sometimes we manage two dates in one weekend, while other times it might take us an entire month to get to all three dates.

The date doesn't need to be expensive.  With a big family, I know it's not realistic to spend a ton of money.   My kids most commonly choose getting ice cream or lunch, because they get to pick the place and take their time.   

Other ideas include a solo trip to the park (free), a trip to the store to spend their allowance, or occasionally, a movie.  (Though this often ends up being a double-date where one parent takes two kids.)  

2:  Run an errand. 

I look at this as a win-win.  Your family needs groceries, and a child can accompany mom or dad.  This gives us time to chat and usually the chosen kiddo gets a special treat of some sort, such as a quick run through the drive-thru for a hot chocolate.   If we're at a store that has toys, we linger on that aisle for a bit and listen to our child's interests.  

One of our kids loves to go through the car wash, for example.  Another child loves going on a library run.  It might even be driving up to the drive-thru pharmacy to pick up the family prescriptions.  We roll the windows down and blast that child's favorite music.  Sometimes they request gum from my purse, which is also a big deal since we don't let our kids chew gum all the time. You can make every day errands special!  

3:  Linger at bedtime.

Sometimes we linger a little longer with one kiddo at bedtime, giving us the opportunity to chat, cuddle, or listen to them tell us about something that's pressing on their hearts.  Bedtime is a great time to unwind and talk, parent-to-child, while the other parent gets the other kids to bed.  I recommend this most on nights that is not a school night, mostly because school nights are stressful for all.   

I also like to give my kids a "good dream in their mind" by saying something aloud that they love and touching their forehead. The kids even ask for a "good dream" before bed sometimes.  This sets the tone for a good night's sleep.   

My kids also love when I ask them questions such as "The Favorites Game." I ask them three questions about their favorites, such as:  what is your favorite food, what is your favorite season, what is your favorite color?   It's super simple and fun.  

A few guidelines:

-Make your dates technology-free.  Except, of course, to snap a few pictures to commemorate the fun.  You keep your phone tucked away, and you don't let your child bring a device. 

-Set a budget.  This makes the date-choosing fair to all the kids and keeps your family's finances in mind. 

-Create a schedule.  As I mentioned, we rotate dates with our oldest three kids, but we don't do it every weekend.  However, putting dates on a calendar is helpful for kids to know what's happening, with whom, and when.  

-Give choices.  Older kids may know exactly what they want to do, but younger children are often more successful with choices.  "Do you want to go get ice cream, or do you want to go to the park?"  

-Make dates about time-spent-together (experiences) and not things.  I'd suggest not making dates a toy-buying-excursion, unless of course, it's something linked to an activity.  Like you purchase water guns and then have a water gun fight together when you get home.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

10 Ways Parents Can Support Their Transracial Adoptee

Choosing to adopt transracially means choosing a life of continual effort to make sure your child feels safe, loved, appreciated, respected, and affirmed.

Here are ten ways you can support your transracially adopted child:  

1:  Find a mentor for your child.

I've written and spoken about this SO many times because it's that important.  Finding a mentor can be challenging, because you want someone who is the right fit for your family and your child.  But once you find that person (or persons), the relationship can be incredibly beneficial for your child.  Read my comprehensive post on finding a mentor here

2:  And while you're at it, find a mentor for yourself.

Learning from someone who is a person of color (who racially matches your child) is one of the most important decisions you will make on your parenting journey.  Just like your child needs a mentor, you do too!  This person can help you navigate situations your child may face.  It could be anything from a teacher not pronouncing the child's name correctly to outright, blatant racism.  You also can utilize advice on hair care, for example. 

3:  Buy positive media that reflects your child's race.

This includes books, movies, art work, and music.  I think it's important to show your children people who look like them in as many careers as possible and avoid limiting to stereotypes (basketball and entertainment, for example).  Let's take music genres for example. There are some incredible contemporary Black country artists:  Darius Rucker, Kane Brown, and Mickey Guyton.  Do not limit the media to history, especially only materials focusing on slavery and civil rights, as explained in this fabulous article by Denene Millner, a woman of color and adoptee.  

4:  And while we're at it...toys, too.

There are so many fantastic toys that tell our kids that they matter!  Dolls, action figures, puzzle sets, etc.  Be sure that when you're selecting these, they are items that portray your child of color in a positive, leadership role:  one of strength and respect.  Too often, people of color are relegated to roles of the white person's sidekick or the villain.  The awesome thing?  I have found an increasing number of Black-owned companies creating toys for children of color, as well as a general change in the toy industry to be inclusive of children of color.   One example includes superhero items featuring children of color

5:  Carefully choose where you live-work-play-worship.

This is a big one, and certainly one that should be considered, if possible, BEFORE a transracial adoptive placement.  Where you live-work-play-worship sends your child a powerful message about his or her place in the world.   And of course, the more people who look like your children, the more they will feel less "othered" and more included and accepted.  If you are currently in a position in which you cannot possibly move, you need to "go the distance":  driving your family to places where there are opportunities for diversity (think YMCA for gymnastics class, as an example).  However, I want to emphasize that moving to a more diverse area should be in your soon-to-happen plans.  

6:  Expand your circle of friends.

This should be an always.  You should ALWAYS be expanding your circle of friends.  And I don't think you should limit this to racial diversity.  Any type of diversity helps broaden hearts and minds:  age, religion, orientation, etc.  However, race should be the most important.   Because without friends of color, who will you go to with the challenges you face as you raise your child?  Who will you trust with your child's struggles?  

7:  Maintain an open adoption if it's a healthy option.

Your child can receive racial affirmation from his or her biological family.  Now, I have written extensively on open adoption.  It is certainly not always healthy or possible.  But if it is healthy and possible, find ways to make it work:  Skype sessions, texting, even good-old-fashioned letter writing.  Visits are wonderful, again if it's healthy for the adoptee and possible.  I know.  Open adoption can be really intimidating, but it can be incredibly rewarding and beneficial to the adoptee.  

8:  Keep educating yourself.

You should NEVER stop educating yourself on issues that your child's racial community faces.  You can do this by, of course, having friends of color.   But also excellent reading materials, including books, magazines, blogs, news outlets, etc.  You can attend natural hair workshops, meet with your mentor (point #2) regularly, etc.  Don't forget that race and adoption are intricately woven together, so be sure to read materials and listen to information provided by transracial adoptees; I share many suggestions on my Facebook page.  Educating yourself is a never-ending class on how to best parent your child.  

9:  Hire same-race babysitters, hair braiders, barbers, etc.

These individuals will be part of your family's "village."  You want your child to see people who look like him or her in as many places and in as many positions as possible.  Because it shows your child that his or her race matters:  it's not an afterthought, or second-best, optional, or avoidable.  Ask around to find child care, or hop on a professional child care website and browse the profiles of those offering child care services.  Find a hair braider or barber by word of mouth, plus trial and error.   

10:  Continually tap in to opportunities. 

A cultural festival, a Black history exhibit, Juneteenth celebrations, etc.  There are options out there, especially if you live in a diverse area.  Also, when you travel as a family, select where you will go based on the opportunities available such as visiting important historical places.  Again, make sure your child knows that he or she matters!  

Remember, you were chosen to parent your child.  What an incredible responsibility and honor!  Work diligently to raise your child to be confident in his or her racial identity.