Contrary to POPculture belief, Adoption has Evolved.

For those of you who love watching Downton Abbey these days, you will immediately understand why Edith’s story seems to hit home with us at AdoptionWorks.

If you have not had a chance to catch up on this season’s drama, Edith has found herself pregnant by a man who leaves for Germany to procure a divorce from his wife. Yeah. Try and wrap your head around a time when “no-fault divorce” did not exist. Harboring this secret and facing pressure from her aunt who she confided in, Edith feels her only choice is to place the child with an adoptive couple. To ensure that no one finds out about the child, her aunt whisks her away to a foreign country for a few months so that Edith could give birth and find her baby a home. Now all Edith has to do is go back to Downton Abbey and pretend that nothing has happened.

 Unfortunately, that is the way many birth mothers have been treated historically. Fortunately, the adoption world has evolved! Open adoption, when done the right way, can be a very healthy and loving option. Open adoption is a relationship where adoptive and birth parents put their desires and comfort on the back burner and work together to maintain a positive and healthy relationship for the sake of the child. It is not co-parenting; it is a way for birth parents and adoptees to stay connected. Open adoption is backed by research with entire books being written about it.

A great article, that includes extensive research, can be found here (if you cannot bring yourself to read the whole thing, at least read the executive summary!)

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Common Barriers to Seeking Counseling

Many people who are experiencing tremendous pain in their lives, have difficulty seeking the services of a professional counselor. CounselingWorks has been fortunate to help so many hearts over the years overcome the pain they are facing from life’s hardships. Daniel L. Weiss has given hopeful advice to those struggling to seek help through his article, “Common Barriers to Seeking Counseling”.  Examining barriers that keep people from receiving counseling services is the first step toward a healthy new beginning.

Denial

One of the most common barriers to counseling is the denial of the existence of a problem, or at least a problem bad enough to seek professional help. There is something stoic and resilient about humans; we want to prove ourselves, we want to overcome. We can admire people for this hardy approach to life, but we must also mourn for them at times. Refusing to come to terms with an obvious problem in our life is not laudable, it is foolhardy. One of the most common misconceptions among all people regarding mental health is that everybody else has it together. They all look fine, right? So we adopt the same approach. We make sure our outside persona gives the appearance that we are fine.

The greater probability is that almost everyone you see is undergoing some sort of internal or external struggle. Some are weighed down by physical illness, others struggle with circumstances they cannot control, such as joblessness or the death of a close friend; many walk around filled with shame, fear, doubt, guilt, anger, hopelessness, or a host of other emotional and mental issues. As Christian educator Christopher West said, it’s like we are all driving around town with flat tires. Since everyone else is also driving around on flat tires, we think it is normal.

The real first step in getting healthy, whether from physical, mental, or emotional wounds, is to admit that something isn’t right. A visit to a professional therapist is like a diagnostic exam. They are trained to help you discover what has gone wrong; together you decide what kind of treatment you may or may not need.

Social stigma

Although this is decreasing, a stigma is still attached to seeing a counselor. There is an impression—especially among those who have never tried counseling—that only people who are really sick or mentally ill would need to see a therapist.

The good news is that our society is beginning to see the value of professional counseling. More and more people are using the services of licensed therapists for a variety of reasons, many of them involving life experiences common to all of us. A counselor can help a college student learn to manage stress, or to determine if the stress is being caused by something deeper than a heavy course load. Some benefit from counseling as they work through the grieving process due to divorce or the death of a loved one. Others seek counseling for depression and are able to alleviate it before chemical imbalances occur in the brain.

For others, however, counseling may be the very thing that pulls them away from serious mental illness or addiction. The first step in most 12-step programs is to admit that one is powerless over the addiction. This means that on their own power, they are unable to stop their errant behavior. One of the primary assistants in the addict’s community of caregivers is a trained professional who can help unlock the deeper reasons why the individual is seeking solace in his addiction.

Getting healthy is the most important goal for a person, whether the problem is major or minor. We cannot be concerned about the unhealthy viewpoint of individuals in society who still maintain that counseling is only for a certain category of people. As one counselor said, “Get over it and get help.”

Religious stigma

Just as common as social stigma, there is a strain of thought among Christians that counseling is somehow contrary to God’s Word, and therefore should be avoided. They hold the Bible up and insist that everything we need for life is contained within. Although this is a proper spiritual approach, it can definitely be misapplied.

God designed us as embodied persons. He endowed us with a body, mind, and spirit. The Bible doesn’t contain up-to-date medical manuals, but few Christians would refuse a doctor’s treatment because they couldn’t locate the proper chapter and verse authorizing them to do so. As psychologist Dr. James Dobson has said, the task of a Christian psychologist is not fundamentally different than that of any Christian. He needs to exercise discernment by filtering everything through the screen of God’s Word. In this way, a Christian approach to psychotherapy would reject methods and theories that contradicted God’s revealed truth.

Mental and physical health are similar in this regard. As our medical knowledge progresses, we understand more clearly just how intricate and wondrous God’s design is. Unlocking the mysteries of the mind does not replace our faith in Christ, it illuminates it.

Secular counseling can miss the vital spiritual link to our mental and emotional health, but trained Christian counselors can offer an integrated approach that includes body (behaviors), mind (thoughts and emotions), and spirit (our relationship with God).

Fear

Of all the reasons to avoid counseling, this is the most understandable. Many of the problems that lead to counseling are caused by painful experiences that a person often has no interest in reliving. Some of these include:

  • Death
  • Divorce
  • Sexual abuse (childhood, rape, etc.)
  • Physical abuse
  • Addiction (for the addict or spouse)
  • Major trauma or calamity

Just the thought of diving into those painful memories is enough to keep many people from seeking help throughout their lives. Even as we acknowledge the reality of this pain, we can also offer encouragement to move forward.

Our fear is based on the pain of reopening the entrance wound, but this focus keeps us from seeing how destructive and dangerous the internal wound is. Reopening the wound will be painful for some as they begin counseling, as will finding and extracting the bullet that caused the wound. Yet, without getting to the source of our pain, we will never fully heal. We will always carry the weight of our original wound with us, and we will notice the bleeding from time to time as the wound tells us that it still isn’t healed, that it is still harming our lives.

Cost

Cost is a common barrier for the practically minded. For those with limited incomes, it is not unreasonable to consider the price tag for something that seems less important than rent, food, or clothing. Yet, for those who can afford counseling, there is an all-too-common practice of bargain hunting for professional therapy. Would we bargain hunt for heart surgeons or parachute manufacturers? Why, then, would we cut corners when it comes to our mental and emotional well-being?

Bad experiences

While less common than the other barriers, having a previous bad experience with a therapist can be one of the hardest to overcome. A person with a prior experience that has not helped, not been focused, or has led to counseling abuse (a rare, but real occurrence), is unlikely to ever return. This negative experience compounds the initial trauma or situation that led the person to seek help, and may actually serve as a prison door locking the individual into his internal pain for the rest of his life.

CounselingWorks offers solutions to barriers of: denial, social stigma, religious stigma, fear, cost, and prior bad experiences. If you or a loved one is currently battling a tragedy, we would love to help you find guidance by understanding the common barriers ensuring you find the love and counsel your hearts deserve.

 

Phone: 972.960.9981

tblaisdell@christian-works.org

5440 Harvest Hill Road
Suite 140
Dallas TX 75230

 

 

Love Makes A Family

By: Katti Henderson

Love Makes a Family. This has been our mantra throughout the last few years as my husband, Adam, and I traveled the road on our adoption journey.  Although often tumultuous, the journey to becoming a family in this way is full of beauty; beauty from ashes. (Isaiah 61:3)

The struggle of a couple longing for children year after year, collides with the difficult decision a young mother must make to provide the life she desires for her child. This relationship creates a kindred connection that personifies bittersweet.

Adam is my high school sweet heart, and a two-time childhood leukemia survivor. Due to side effects from the chemotherapy and radiation from treatment, we always knew that our route to becoming a family would be non-traditional.

We connected with AdoptionWorks through a dear friend and began the process of becoming a family of three. We were educated on how to best parent an adopted child, how to help our child deal with grief and loss, and many other adoption related topics that would prepare us when the time came.

We are proud and overwhelmingly blessed to say that the time has come. As I held my son, Isaac, in my arms this morning I gazed at his perfect face and praised the Lord for beauty from ashes.

We’ve felt a lot of things on this journey, but thanks to AdoptionWorks, alone was never one of them.

Why Grieving Children Don’t Get The Help They Need

Children are often the overlooked mourners.  These young grievers unfortunately may never get their greatest emotional and spiritual needs met in dealing with their devastating loss. Why does this happen?

In the family, adults are dealing with their own grief.  They don’t know what to do for themselves, much less what to do for hurting, grieving children.  To complicate the situation further, grieving children in a family or community are often pushed aside, chastised, punished and suddenly marked as “problem children” because they act out in protest to their loss.  The adults around them don’t understand that the child in grief is angry, upset, and scared….and the only coping skill they know to employ is protest, acting out and seeking attention in any way possible.  These are not problem children, but children with a problem.  They need the adults around them to provide comfort, encouragement and most importantly security.  Grieving children who are acting out and having trouble in school are often misdiagnosed as ADD or ADHD.  These troubled children will often display the symptoms of these two diagnoses.

In many communities, there are no grief support groups, agencies or professionals who reach out to grieving children.  Our culture fosters two myths about children in grief. One myth is that children are too young to understand loss and therefore, they don’t grieve.  Another myth is that children grieve like little adults and can have their needs met exactly the way mourning adults do.  The truth is that children who are old enough to love are old enough to grieve (from Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD, Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition http://centerforloss.com). Children do grieve.  They grieve at the level of understanding they have at their developmental stage in life.  And children need support, encouragement, and instruction in order to develop healthy coping skills to deal with their loss.  Often when they fail to receive the needed support during grief, children will develop unhealthy coping skills which they will carry into their adult lives.  The result is unhealthy, unhappy adults dealing with emotional and spiritual life problems.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

You can reach out to grieving children at the time that they need you most.  Start a program or services in your community especially for grieving children and teens.  One resource for helping you to do this is the Kids In Grief Curriculum (copyright, 2013, ChristianWorks for Children).  For more information about the Kids In Grief Curriculum, go to http://grief-works.org or call 972-960-9981

Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise” available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and http://grief-works.org/book.php . Also available for Kindle and Nook.

Children’s Grief from a Mother’s Point of View

I had no idea what I was supposed to do when my husband passed away and how to help my 2-year-old daughter with the loss of her dad.  I looked for children’s books to help her understand.  I went through counseling on my own for guidance.  Through personal trial and error, I learned what top three things it was that my child needed the most.

(1)   Routine was essential!  Creating an atmosphere of balance and predictability helped my daughter find a new norm and sense of security.
(2)   Consistently being available and open to discussing our tragedy when she wanted to talk, allowed her to release her emotions to heal.
(3)   Telling my daughter how much I loved her every day gave her the reassurance of how much I supported her.

Parental guidance and input is crucial to your child’s recovery.  Concentrating on these key points will help. Your children certainly need you and want your support.

-Rebecca Crownover
Author of Children’s Book, My Daddy Is In Heaven With Jesus…a book to help comfort children in a time of grief.
Learn more at:  www.rebeccacrownover.com

What Mourning Children Need Returning to School

This school year thousands of children and teens will be returning to the classroom in North Texas and around the U.S. after the death of a close family member.  According to statistics 4% of single parents in the U.S. are widowed, and 13.9% of those widowed parent households have children 12 and under.  Additional children headed back to school have lost a sibling, grand parent or significant loved one.

These mourning children and teens will not only be facing the stresses of a new school year; they will have the additional stress of dealing with all the changes in their lives caused by the death of their loved ones.  Unfortunately many of these children will not receive adequate support and comfort to meet their special needs.

What do mourning children returning to school need? First of all they need to feel safe, secure and cared for.  After a death, the world becomes a scary, unpredictable place for any age mourner, but especially for a child.  They need a good support system of adults and authority figures.

Second, children in grief need to feel a sense of normalcy.  When a death occurs, the mourning child often feels that they are no longer like all the other children in their school.  In addition children in grief need to have a predictable schedule and to be involved in normal activities for children of their age.

In order to get these two primary needs met, grieving children must not only have a good support system in their home and community, but they need a good support system in their school as well.  Here are some practical suggestions for parents or caregivers for grieving children to help create that good support system at the school.

  • Educate yourself on the grief process and the special needs of mourning children before talking with your child or anyone at the school.  This will help you to formulate an effective plan to meet the special needs of your child as they return to school.
  • Inform the school staff of the child’s loss.  Include at least the principal, teacher, school counselor and school nurse on the list of people you inform.
  • Schedule a private session with your child’s teacher to discuss any concerns that you have about his or her return to school and the classroom.
  • Discuss with the teacher and other staff what information can be shared with the child’s friends and fellow classmates concerning the loss.  Prior to this discussion assure your child that you will share only information that is necessary for others to know.  Ask the staff to prepare the other students by explaining that your child has had a loss and needs understanding and support from them.
  • Encourage your child to talk with his or her teacher (and the school counselor if possible) to share the loss and their experience in their own words.
  • Assure your child that they don’t have to answer every question if they feel uncomfortable doing so.  Tell her or him that they have a right to privacy when questioned by anyone at the school.
  • Assure your child that the teacher, counselor and other staff will be available to approach when he or she feels that need to talk.
  • Set up a plan for when your child may be overwhelmed by his or her grief at school.  One suggestion is to arrange between the child and school staff for special permission for the child to leave the classroom and go to a designated safe place to receive support and comfort.  The child should understand that this permission is not an excuse to get out of everyday school work or responsibilities.
  • Make sure the school has your phone numbers and contact information in case of emergencies.

For additional information on helping children or teens in grief, go to the Resources section of the website http://grief-works.org  or call ChristianWorks for Children at 972-960-9981.

When Life Gets Messy: Parenting After Divorce

Laura Petherbridge will be presenting parenting help for single parents on Saturday morning, September 21st, sponsored by our KidWorks’ ministry.  We are pleased to have her as a guest blogger.  For further information, or to register for this special morning, please visitwww.kidsindivorce.org or www.christian-works.org

 

Life as a single parent can be exhausting, frustrating, and fearful. However, it is possible to survive and even thrive when parenting alone. It takes work, a willingness to change destructive patterns, and a teachable spirit.

After a divorce a child typically becomes as emotionally stable as the parent. This is true even if only one parent is working on the process. Therefore, the first step towards creating an established, productive and peaceful single parent home is for at least one parent to obtain information on how to successfully move forward. This will require a willingness to recognize and heal from anger, vengeance, grief, and past wounds.

Attending an event where he or she can obtain tools, resources, and the support of other single parents is one of the wisest and most beneficial ways to succeed.

Q: My 11-year-old son came home from soccer practice the other night and cried all evening. After much prodding he finally told me that he was sad and angry that his dad doesn’t come to his games or participate like the other dads. I’ve begged my ex-husband to attend but he won’t make the effort.

A: Unfortunately you can’t control the poor choices of your ex-husband. What you can do is validate your son’s feelings of rejection using words such as, “I’m so sorry you are hurting, I know this is hard for you. I feel very badly that your dad didn’t show up.” Don’t minimize the painful loss he is experiencing.

In addition you should avoid the strong temptation to criticize his father. It might temporarily make you feel better, but it won’t help your son. Address the behavior not the person, “I know it hurts when your dad isn’t there.”

Ask the pastor or leaders at your church if they know of someone who might be interested in mentoring your son. Many men would be willing to give their time if they knew of the need. If the man is married make certain his wife agrees with the situation.  It would be wise to remain distant from the relationship between your son and his mentor; it’s enticing to become attracted to someone who is treating your son with kindness.

Q: To discredit me, my ex wife tells our son terrible lies. She says I was physically abusive to her, I don’t pay child support and that I don’t really love him. I see my son weekly, as my visitation allows, but I’m distraught that my child may believe her deception.  

Kids see truth. They aren’t as gullible, dense or naïve as we often think. And although they will protect a parent, even in bad circumstances, they have radar that tells them “something isn’t right”.  They tuck all these inconsistencies in their brain for future reference.

You cannot change or control your ex wife, but you can show him by example your true character. Resist the temptation to criticize her, instead focus on your son’s pain. Depending on his age you could look at him and say,  “ I’m so sorry your mom told you that I don’t love you. That must really hurt to hear those words. I truly do love you____ (name). You are more precious to me than anything. And ___(name) you need to know that I never hit your mommy, and I do pay child support to help her raise you. If it would make you feel better to see the check, always know that you can ask me at any time and I’ll show them to you.”

Use the child’s name often. People love to be called by their name. Then reminisce about a special time such as his birth and how you felt when you first saw him or held him; or when he first started to walk or talk and how proud you were of him. Make it real to him.

The absolute proof of your affection is revealed in making time for your son. Children spell love in one word…T-I-M-E. Even when you don’t see results continue to remain the godly, stable parent and don’t give up.

My stepson Todd, now an adult, shared how he remembers when his dad would drive hours to attend his middle school basketball games, even though Todd spent the majority of the time on the bench! The fact that his dad cared enough to give his most precious possession — time —communicated love to his son.

I know of a dad whose daughter shunned him for many years because of the mother’s lies. It wasn’t easy, and it took time for the child to see who was telling the truth, but they have a great relationship now. Eventually truth will win over the lies.

“So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.”  Galatians 6:9(NLT)

Q: My ex-wife wastes the child support payments that I send on frivolous stuff for herself while my kids are eating macaroni and cheese every night for dinner, and wearing worn out clothes to school. I’m considering stopping the payments and using that money to buy my children the things they need.  Doesn’t this seem like the wise thing to do?

This might seem like a logical solution, however unless it’s written that way in your divorce agreement, it’s not a legal option. Let me ask you these questions: Is she paying for their housing? Is she providing the utilities like electricity, and water for their home? Does she supply the basic toiletries such as toothpaste, band-aids, cough medicine, etc? A possible solution is for you to add up the things she does provide, and view your support going towards those items.

This doesn’t imply she shouldn’t be serving nutritious food, or meeting the children’s basic needs. The reality is you must review what things you can control and what you can’t. Letting go of the things over which you have no control, even those that are hurting your children, is one of the challenging issues in divorce.

I know many men who have paid for things that were not addressed in the divorce agreement (dental braces, piano lessons, baseball camp, speech therapy) because they felt it was an essential benefit to their kids. Whenever possible paying those things directly to the provider can help avoid conflict.

Q: I’ve been out of the work force for 15 years as a stay-at-home mom. Since my husband left I’ve begun looking for work. I’m shocked at how low the wages are and I sense my skills are outdated. What am I to do? 

A: First, don’t panic there are solutions. If your technology or computer skills are void or limited research a local community college for courses that will give you the basics. Today almost any job will require some computer knowledge. This will help you to feel more equipped for the new endeavor, and assist you with the computer “lingo” that can be intimidating.

Second, be prepared to take a lower paying job to get your “foot in the door”. An excellent work ethic, showing up on time, character and honesty, and being a team player often mean more to a supervisor than experience. Once they see your positive outlook and your willingness to learn new skills, you will become a valuable employee.

When I was an office manager the biggest problems I dealt with were employees who constantly called in sick, stirred up trouble and had a miserable attitude.

 

Laura will also be speaking at The Stepmom Retreat, September 27-29, 2013, in Dallas, where women will find help, healing and hope.  Any woman dating, engaged or married to a man with children, is encouraged to attend.  For further information, please visit http://blendedandbonded.com/events/

Do Texans Care About Kids? God Does!

By Rob Pine, Executive Director of ChristianWorks for Children

ChristianWorks for Children is about the mental, emotional, and behavioral health of children and families that God directs our way for help, hope, and healing right here in the Dallas/Fort-Worth metroplex.  ChristianWorks cares about kids!

Each month in the financial magazines, newspapers, radio and TV news reports, Texas is held up as a model for job creation and economic growth; even ranked #2 as a state, as well as many of our counties (5 of the top 10), and cities (6 of the top 20).  What doesn’t receive much media hype is Texas poor results in caring for the children of our state.

We rank ahead of Mississippi and New Mexico.  The overall ranking improves to 42nd out of all 50 states when the categories of economic, education, and health are included. Texas ranks number 1 in the United States in the number of children living in poverty! Children in poverty represent 27% of children in Texas. There are five states with higher percentages.  You can review other findings on Texas kids’ comparisons at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data#USA/2/0 .

ChristianWorks’ staff embrace the ministry the Lord has given us to serve children and families in distress, most of the time for children because of circumstances they have no control over. Jesus tells His followers to “let the children come to me, do not hinder them.” Despite the obstacles they face we show them God’s goodness even in times of sorrow, trouble and pain.

As Texas citizens we can and should take comfort and be thankful, that our state is an economic growth engine benefiting all its residents in some manner.  However, there is something fundamentally wrong when such a prosperous state also produces the following data on the children that live here:

  1. Ranks 49th in the country in per capita spending on mental health treatment for children (Texas Care for Children).
  2. Ranks 48th in the country in spending per student in the education system (National Education Association).
  3. Ranks 47th in lowest teen pregnancy rate. (National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy)
  4. Ranks 42nd in overall child well-being (Kids Count 2013 Data Book).

Can Texas sustain the economic prosperity if it fails to invest in its children’s future?  I suspect the answer is a resounding but little heard no!

I know that if we turn to God for answers to problems and difficulties, solutions follow.


How to Talk to Your Kids After a Tragedy

By Kimberly J. Daily, MA, LPC

From shootings and bombings to fires, tornados and other natural disasters, our nation has faced so many tragedies lately.  Technology helps us to stay informed and with the television’s non-stop coverage of these events, we sometimes witness hours of stories, videos and pictures of devastation.  We know our kids are seeing all of this along with us and so the big question we hear from parents and teachers is, “How do we talk to kids about what is happening or what might happen?”

Kids can tell when something tragic is happening and so it is best to talk about it and not just try to ignore it or brush it off with “it’ll be okay, don’t worry about it”.  Often times they will see right through this and come up with answers to their own questions and fears that are worse than reality.  Therefore, it is best to answer questions as they ask. You don’t have to answer them in detail. Many times a little bit of information goes a long way with a child.

It is also important when talking to children about tragedies to reflect back to them their feelings and thoughts. For example, if a young boy asks, “Can a shooter come in my school?” you might respond by saying, “It sounds like you are scared or worried a shooter might come into your school”.  Or, if a young girl says, “Will there be more tornados?”  You might respond, “You are frightened of another tornado.”  From there the child may express other fears or specific concerns. It is not wise to tell the child something will not happen if there is a possibility that it could happen.  Instead, talk about what is being done to prevent it from happening again or what can be done to help keep the child safe. Talk about the safety drills they practice and how the adults are there to help protect them.

Lastly, realize that children will feed off of your emotions. So, if you are freaking out about something, your child will most likely do the same. It is best to admit how you feel and figure out how to best be safe or call for help if you need it.  Do not talk to your kids about all your fears and “what ifs”. Give them reassurance that you will do whatever you need to do to protect them.

Our kids will naturally have questions because they want to know that they are safe. We can help them by acknowledging their feelings, answering their questions, staying calm, offering them a safety plan, and reassuring them that we and other adults are there to protect them. And for you, know that it is okay to not have all the answers.