If you’ve been in the adoption circle for any length of time, there’s a great chance you’ve heard of the widely popular book The Connected Child by Purvis & Cross. It was the first book on our required reading list our agency sent us. The first time I read it (last year during our home study) I was completely overwhelmed. Having only been in the adoption process for a few months, terms like sensory processing disorder terrified me and the thought of my child being neglected without touch or smiles or enough food made my stomach turn. I made it about 3/4 of the way through before I had to put it down. I needed time to process and to learn. In the year since that happened, I’ve learned a ton (I think adoptive parents should be handed a degree at the end of this process) but more than anything I’ve gained strength. A strength that knows that God will not give me more than I can handle (even if it seems like it at the time.) A strength that knows that God can and will redeem the time lost while our child is away from us in an orphanage.
I’m rereading The Connected Child again, this time with a completely different perspective. I’m not fearful anymore. I’m not hoping that somehow, someway our child will be spared any pain or harm from what he or she has gone through. Our child will, without a doubt, be affected. But that’s okay. For in our brokenness, God’s strength is revealed. I love, love, love to hear people’s stories, and the most beautiful stories begin with something lost, something crumbled, something cracked. Every crisis we face will be an opportunity for our hearts to be laced together. With fresh eyes, I take on The Connected Child once more, storing away ideas and methods to help my child heal.
Reading this book again, I’m encouraged because I realize that I absorbed more than I realized the first time around. While the book is focused on helping adopted children who have dealt with trauma, neglect, abandonment, etc. there are many practical ideas that have helped me interact with my biological children as well. Here are a few methods from The Connected Child that have impacted the way I interact with Lydia and Charlotte.
Everything that promotes a child’s attachment to the mother is delivered through the senses. Whenever possible, pick up, hold, and cuddle your infant or toddler. Make a conscious effort to mentally shift gears and put aside what you’re doing when your child is speaking. Look at your child directly and kindly when he or she is speaking.
In other words, Elissa, put down your iPhone and stop being in a hurry all the time. I have this little talk with myself about a half-dozen times a day. Half the time I find I’m talking to Lydia while staring at my phone or feeding the baby while checking Instagram. They need to see my eyes. It matters. It tells them they’re important.
Correcting means showing and coaching your child how to handle himself in a given situation and letting him practice safely, without shame, until he gets it right.
I fall into the trap of thinking discipline is about punishing bad behavior, but to discipline like God does it means coaching my child how to handle a situation better the next time. The moment I think to myself, “I’m tired of this! Why can’t you just obey me?!” a little voice that sounds an awful lot like the Holy Spirit whispers, “I’m asking you the same question.” And then suddenly, it’s a lot easier to find grace for my children.
Sometimes, we have to slow down our lives to put our child’s needs first.
I love it when I drag the girls to 18 different places and act put out when they become whiny, wild banshees three hours into it. Just typing it doesn’t sound fun. Is there something that just isn’t working for your family? We just decided Lydia isn’t going to go to MDO this summer or next year. A few weeks back I realized her MDO day was the most stressful, least productive and most disconnected day of the week. So, we decided to stop it. Honestly, it was a hard decision, but it just wasn’t working for our family and the other things we have going on.
Alert children to upcoming activities. Make their day predictable.
This one has worked wonders for us. At the beginning of the day, I give Lydia a general run-down of what we have going on that day. She is prepared and knows what comes next. It has helped with nap time and bed time because she isn’t surprised by those. She knows they are coming and that helps her not fight it as much.
Give appropriate choices to share control.
I have an opinionated, stubborn, independent first-born (I still have no idea where she gets that from) and this one little sentence has helped tremendously. Here’s how it works. “Lydia, it’s time to go get your bath. Would you like to have bubbles or bathtime markers?” Sounds simple, huh? But the deal is she doesn’t get to choose whether to have a bath or not and before this we would sometimes have the “I don’t want a bath right now!” argument. But this little idea moves right past that argument and lets her choose (aka feel like she shares some control) which bathtime activity she wants. Mom & Dad are happy because she’s getting clean. Lydia is happy because she got to make a choice about what she wanted to do. If you haven’t already, try this one. It’s easy and it works!
If you’re interested in reading The Connected Child, I would recommend it for any parents, not just adoptive parents. There’s a ton of great stuff in it.
*Italicized information comes from The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis & Dr. David Cross.