Adoption and the Expat Family – 6 Challenges Adoptive Families Face

Part 2 of a 3 Part Series

Many challenges and opportunities arise for families who desire to adopt – during the process and parenting through the years. Today we look at some of the greatest challenges. If you want to read part one of the series, it’s looking at reasons families adopt and why it’s important to understand and process the heart motivation for adopting.

A continuation of our adoption story… Our son was adopted 17 years ago next month. My worry was not knowing who to choose and I purposely stayed away from the orphanages because at that time there was much child trafficking. Friends living in Cambodia helped connect us to children who didn’t have parents. We didn’t go through an adoption agency because it was far less costly and we had connections. After meeting several children I felt I could love, I went to meet ‘Munchy Crunchy Bar’. The first time I saw him, my heart leapt. This is him. It was so clear. A deep knowing.

Becky and AaronWhen he and I arrived in Canada on December 20th, after 5 weeks away, I think he was terrified and curious, and I was exhausted and joyful! He met his 3 older siblings and dad for the first time.

The process getting to that day was challenging – one step forward, three steps back. Just when we thought we were close, Cambodia shut their borders for adoption. Discouragement had us wonder if it would ever happen. We read what we could on adoption – most on the process only. Where were others we could glean wisdom from for parenting? We were naive. Unrealistic. I wish we had been so much more prepared. Yet that week of Christmas 1997, I thought with delight “it’s over. We’re together.”

Little did we realize the journey had really just begun. [Read more…]

Adoption and the Expat Family – Motivations and Reasons for Adoption

Part 1 of a 3 Part Series

I had the honour of presenting a Kitchen Table Conversation at Families in Global Transition Conference March 2014 entitled: Adoption and the Expatriate Family and have waited until now to share some of it with you because November is National Adoption Awareness Month in many countries, including Britain, Canada, the US, Germany and Switzerland. I honour and celebrate all families who have sacrificially adopted.

A tender place is held in my heart for families that adopt. As a family resilience coach, I’ve had the privilege of working with parents as challenges arise with their adoptive child or teen. I’ve also coached families who are proactively putting into place a parenting plan, which I so admire. However, it hits closer to home even than that because we chose to adopt years ago…

The seed of awareness began to grow in my spirit when we lived in Cambodia. We saw many children on the streets, scrounging. Treated poorly they seemed without hope. Worse yet, driving through the ‘red light district’ and noticing the lifeless, hollow eyes of young girls and boys ripped a hole right through me. How could anyone treat a child or teen this way? These seeds of awareness were watered by the tears I cried for these children and the prayers I began to pray against injustice. They grew with the questions I asked and the times we helped out at orphanages. Our three children lovingly cared for those less fortunate than they. ThCambodiaey had an eye that noticed and a heart that cared. Our eldest took off his shirt and gave it to a homeless boy one day. Our daughters, after handing out oranges to families living at a hospital, saw the many children not in school, and later brought their toys to give away. We had always wanted four children. Though thankful and settled with three, might there be room in our family and hearts for another? [Read more…]

4 Strategies for Resilient Parenting in Transition

It is one thing to personally navigate the chaos in transition when living abroad, but adding parenting to the mix takes resilience to a whole different level! Sometimes downhill and backwards I’ve found! That’s where resilience resides –the DOWNHILL and BACKWARDS reverses to UPHILL and FORWARDS. There’s never resilience without first hardship and pain.

Here are some journal excerpts from a few of my dark days as a parent in cross cultural relocation transition:

“I’m in survival mode.
Living in family, yet very alone.
Can’t seem to do much right these days.
Trying to hold the pieces of me together.
But they keep falling apart.
Like the parenting piece.
I’m impatient. Angry.
Controlling or uninvolved and distant.
I want my pain to disappear. Their pain to vanish.
Instead I add pain through guilt and shame.
How am I not loving and kind, patient and understanding when we all need it the most?
How have I gotten to the place where I see my children as
a ‘problem to solve’ rather than a precious person that’s struggling, too?
God help me.”

You may feel overwhelmed with what’s happening with your kids or how you’re reacting to them in their distresses right now. Maybe they’re ok, but you’re not. You’re finding it hard to be the parent you want to be. Consider these strategies: [Read more…]

4 “R’s” For September Settling (aka Getting a Grip)

The carefree days of summer are gone – sipping iced tea on the deck, putzing around the garden, riding bikes to the farmers market and savouring late night conversations around the mesmerizing fire. I already miss summers’ sights and sounds – children’s laughter in back yards, birds chirping while flitting amongst the tree branches, and the feeling of sun-kissed warmth on my upturned face.

On my walk this morning, I breathed in crisp air, my cooled lungs reminding me that the season is changing. A squawk overhead called me to look up and marvel at the perfect “V” shape of Canadian geese, flying in formation to warmer climates.

[Read more…]

Spring Clean Your Family Relationships

This year my last-to-launch 17 yr. old son is taking charge of spring cleaning his own room. Being rather OCD on the whole spring clean thing, over the years I’ve had a list breaking down every aspect of room cleaning for my kids. We’ve made it fun and spread it out. They enjoyed it (or gave me that impression!) Not this year. My son doesn’t know where to start. He’s overwhelmed. It’s been a killer on me! How many times have I reached for the duct tape so as not to say what I’m thinking? After some coaching as to where to start and 3 weeks later, only the closet is done. Everything in me wants to march in there and just do it. It would take a 5th the emotional anguish and a 10th the physical time. But that’s not my goal.

I realized one day as I walked by his door, trying hard not to look in, yet catching a glimpse of already-messed-up closet and nothing done on the rest of the room: This is how it can be in family relationships – we want to “do it” (fix, get rid of, try to change) for the others. In reality, we’re responsible for ourselves and need to look at how we can parent from a place of calm rather than clutter.
What can be done in family relationships to add renewal and get rid of the dust bunnies? [Read more…]

8 Tips to Spring Clean Your Marriage

Are you a spring cleaner? You may be living in an area of the world that doesn’t have ‘spring’, yet find yourself going through the physical motions of cleaning closets (or wardrobes, depending on where you live), cupboards, dressers and drawers. Spring clean is synonymous with ‘deep clean’ and many of us grew up with this tradition. Whether joy or drudgery, it’s now a practise. Now that I’m almost through spring cleaning this year (I do it a little at a time), I feel energized.
Spring cleaning isn’t just for the house. As a time of renewal, growth and possibilities, it’s the perfect season to assess your marriage relationship and bring in some fresh energy. [Read more…]