Category Archives: Adoptive parenting

3 Buttons Your Child Will Push

For such small beings, children are incredibly adept at pushing their parents’ buttons.  Many of us come to adoptive parenting with extra buttons exposed, practically begging small and grimy fingers to give them a fresh press. Or two or three.

Why do children push buttons? Because they feel powerless against giants. And when children can’t get what they want through non-manipulative means, they will resort to whatever tools they have available.

Enter our buttons. Here are three I’ve observed in myself and in talking with other adoptive parents:

parenting buttons your child will push

The “Real” Button.

This button becomes obvious to your child around age 7 and gets triggered  in parents by the likes of:

These exclamations are usually said when a child is angry or frustrated, when reason is out the window. And when these words are received, your reason goes out the window. Your child senses that these sentiments are inflammatory, and she hopes to escalate a situation and gain power.

So what should you do when your child plays the “real” card? Want to know the secret response that will reduce the odds that your “real” button keeps getting pushed?

You do nothing to your child. You work on yourself. You deactivate this button through your own reasoning.

Thinking it through: What does it mean to be a ”real mom” anyway? Are you fake? Did you really get up all those nights? Change all those diapers? Arrange all those play dates? Then you are real. You did real things. You were there, you have always been there. Nothing fake about you. You are legit. This button clearly can be neutralized in your own mind. Just because you’re not the only doesn’t mean you’re not real.

The Wondering Button.

This one is more of a trigger — a button your child doesn’t intend to push but may impact you just the same.

When you notice your child is wondering about his “what ifs,” his roads not taken, it can hurt. You may feel as if he thinks you’re not doing a good job, that you’re not enough, that you’ve failed to establish your legitimacy. Sometimes your child will wonder about his birth parents privately and, if you’re lucky, he may sometimes allow you into his innermost thoughts and wonder aloud with you. He may wonder who his first parents are or what it would be like to live with them. If there is a lack of information available, the wondering may turn to fantasy. Who can compare with fantasy? Give the information you have, age appropriately, to help ground the wondering.

If you have a child who is prone to wondering, such wondering will happen whether you are privy to it or not. Again, neutralize this button using your own reason so that you can be there for your child as he wonders, supporting him and giving space to integrate his two identities — that of biology and that of biography.

Thinking it through: Your child wondering about his genetic roots doesn’t take away anything from you. We fully expect that a parent can love more than one child. Can you also embrace the notion that your child may have feelings for more than one set of parents? Can you understand that such wondering about his biological parents do not cancel out his love and devotion to you? In fact, such thoughts probably have nothing at all to do with you.

Adoptive parenting at its best is about addition, not subtraction.

The Running Away Button.

This button is not unique to adoptive families, but it can sting when there is another parent (or two) “out there” who also has a claim on your child. After all, your child may actually have another parent-type to run away to! My daughter, then 9, once set out with her pink hat, trailing her pink suitcase stuffed with her pink bear, to somehow plead her case with Crystal, her birth mom, who would surely allow her to watch The Wizards of Waverly Place before doing homework. (Wrong!).

Thinking it through: Again, we remove the button’s charge within us by realizing that our child is feeling stuck and has no other options at her disposal. If we remember to breathe and also remind our child to breathe, we are in position to re-engage our reasoning faculties and make space for other, more appropriate responses.

Redeeming Qualities of Having Your Buttons Pushed

While maddening, having your buttons pushed by pint-sized tyrants isn’t completely without merit. If you’ve spent any time at all in this space, you know that two of my most frequent topics are (1) adoptive parenting, and (2) how to live mindfully. Over the years I have been manifesting a connection between these two seemingly separate subjects.

Adoptive parenting — if I choose to do it in a way that doesn’t sap my sanity — requires that I become more mindful within myself, that I not parent on auto-pilot. In stressful moments when I want to contract and breathe quickly and shallowly (such as when one of my darlings has brought me to my knees by laying on one my triggers), I am instead cultivating the habit of becoming expansive and breathing deeply. In addition to scanning my environment for what/who out there needs to change, I also scan within to see what I may need to address.  I wonder if I would be so drawn to mindfulness if I didn’t frequently need to center and ground myself due to having my buttons pushed.

I can think of one more way that button drama has a silver lining.  Some of the best conversations I’ve had with my kids have begun with their attempts to push my buttons. From a place of rawness we find genuine connection devoid of artifice. We get real and we grow together.

What are you own parenting hot buttons? What have you done to deal with them?

Image courtesy Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This article is adapted from one that appeared on EmpoweringParents.com.

How to Set Boundaries in Open Adoption

Want to know more about how to set healthy boundaries in an open adoption? Haven’t read my book yet but are curious about it? Check out this book excerpt in Carrie Goldman’s Portrait of an Adoption Column on Chicago Now.

Here’s an excerpt of the excerpt Carrie is sharing on Portrait of an Adoption’s Facebook page:

If you find yourself thinking in terms of what you will “grant” birth parents, what you will “give up” to them, then it’s possible that, instead of seeing your relationship as mutually beneficial and having a valid place in your child’s life, you view them as an imposition. At times like this, it would be helpful to ascertain what fears lurk behind those thoughts. Of course, if you have real fears for your family’s safety, then your relationship may end up being somewhat adversarial. But if your fears are your personal demons—like a fear of not being the “real” parent—then the work to be done is is on yourself.

I have two more elsewheres to report this week:

  • Adoptimist quotes this blog in a graphic it has created, which you can see here. This is the second in a series of quotes.
  • AllParenting asks adoptive moms to share their adoption love stories. Read several of them here.

Denver family portraitThe Lavender Luz family a few years back.

That’s my flurry of news. How is your summer going?

CLOSURE Film: Review & Special Denver Screening Information

Angela Tucker is a transracial adoptee who joined a family in the Pacific Northwest after being born in the South and placed into the foster care system. Closure is a film that documents Angela’s two-year search for her birth family and its efect on her, her adoptive family, her husband, and, of course, members of her birth family.

Denver Showing Offers Q&A with Angela Tucker & Filmmaker Bryan Tucker

A special Denver screening of this film will take place on May 7 and May 8, sponsored by the Colorado Department of Human Services and Adoption Options in celebration of Foster Care Month. These events begin at 7 pm and are held at the Sie Film Center at 2510 E Colfax. Due to limited space, advance tickets are highly recommended.

What makes this screening so special? Angela Tucker and filmmaker Bryan Tucker will appear after the film’s showing to answer audience questions.

And I’ll be joining their panel the evening of May 8. I’d love to see you there.

Angela Tucker film ClosureClosure is a gripping story full of emotional highs and lows, and it gives adoptive parents like me a peek into the hidden wonderings adoptees can have about their origins and the pressures they may feel to act on their curiosity — or not to.

From Either/Or to Both/And

As Angela’s story unfolds, I witnessed how some members of her adoptive family began in an Either/Or mindset — either WE’re her family or THEY are. But out of their love for Angela, these same people were eventually able to cultivate a Both/And heartset. For example, Angela’s adoptive sister asks, “Aren’t our parents enough?” And Angela’s mom says early on, “I did worry about being replaced as a mom because I wasn’t sure I could handle that because they were MY kids.”

But later, Angela’s mom says, “As Angela got older I really felt deeply like I was her mom. In her 20s I realized it wasn’t going to change my status as being her mom if she found her birth mother. And I became as curious as her. Who was her birth mother? What’s her story?”

The power of family member’s love for Angela and their security in her love for them help make the crucial shift that supports Angela in her pursuits. I adore this depiction, and wish all adopting and adoptive parents could see how easily such a shift can be made.

I’ll leave you in suspense about how birth family relationships develop. Who is found? How meandering is the search? Who embraces Angela and who denies her? What happens at first meetings? What happens after that?

I urge you to watch this film (if you’re not able to attend the screening, you may also rent or buy the film, starting at $4.99)

The theater is small and the event is expected to sell out, so get your tickets now.

“For the rest of my life I’ll be connected”

I’ll share two more quotes from Angela’s birth family members that stood out for me.

  • What you do in the dark will come to the light. She thought this secret would never come to light. She needs to get over it…She needs to forgive herself. Once she forgives herself, then the lines of communication will be open.
  • Through a child one day, we all got connected whether we knew it or not. We were connected. For the rest of my life I’ll be connected.

Angela Tucker blogs at The Adopted Life and will return to Colorado this summer to mentor young adoptees at the African Caribbean Heritage Camp.