Don’t Create a Vacuum

There is a great parenting strategy I think we should all subscribe to; don’t remove a coping mechanism or survival strategy from a child unless you have something better to replace it with. Don’t create a vacuum if you are not prepared to fill it. Vacuums by definition cannot remain unfilled. If you’re not equipped to replace your child’s survival strategy with something that helps them, don’t take the strategy away. Let them keep it until you can help them because if you don’t they will develop another coping strategy.

Establishing Healthy Boundaries

I recently presented at a conference for adoptive and foster parents. My assigned topic; Building Healthy Relationships and Boundaries with Your Biological Relatives. I was excited when the topic was first assigned to me. There are many books on the subject of boundaries, so preparation should have been easy, except that I couldn’t find many on the subject on healthy boundaries with biological relatives for adoptive and foster families. And so I encountered a challenge immediately; I’d have to confront my own issues and experiences to do the topic justice.

Boundaries are interesting and most people are reluctant to establish them, but Brene Brown reminds us that “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” So much wisdom and beauty in her words, but to get to the place she suggests requires effort and intentionality.

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk… Click To Tweet

Remember The Alamo

What images come to mind when you think of Texas? Most of us think of cowboy hats, horses, longhorn steer, the Dallas Cowboys, JR Ewing, oil fields, and of course The Alamo. So much of Texas is tied to the events that took place there in 1836. Colonel William Barett Travis was the commander at the mission during the Battle of The Alamo (February 23 – March 6, 1836). He wrote a letter on the second day of the battle (February 24) To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World asking for reinforcements during the siege which he famously signed “Victory or death”.

One the penultimate day of the battle (March 5) he drew a line in the sand between him and his men and said, “I now want every man who is determined to stay here and die with me to come across this line.” All but one of his men stepped across the line.

How many times have you drawn a line in the sand when something far less drastic would have been sufficient?

We all too often embrace our inner William B. Travis when it comes to boundaries in our relationships. We need to remember that a boundary and a line in the sand are not the same things. Victory or death is rarely a healthy posture in relationships. It’s important to remember that boundaries and ultimatums are not the same things. If we don’t, our recognition that most relationships don’t require ultimatums will manifest itself as an unwillingness to establish healthy boundaries. Once you draw a line in the sand you remove most of your ability to be flexible. That’s a problem because flexibility is more than a friend, it’s your ally.

Once you draw a line in the sand you remove most of your ability to be flexible. Click To Tweet

Just another brick in the wall

Let’s face it, none of us had the unconditional support of our “people” when we decided to grow our families the way we did. I can’t remember many (if any) stories of extended family and friends rejoicing at the news that there were plans to adopt or foster. This was an issue for us for a long time until we realized that no one dreams of becoming a grandparent through adoption, and no one hoped to become a foster grandparent. So we have to give them the grace we want for ourselves.

But we also have to recognize that there are some hurts associated with our decision to adopt or foster, many which stem from the (real or perceived) lack of support we received from those close to us. And those hurts manifest themselves when it comes to establishing healthy boundaries. We need to make sure that we don’t build walls in the name of healthy boundaries. Yes, a wall is a boundary, but it is rarely the best relational boundary.

Healthy boundaries are necessary for healthy relationships

One of the hallmarks of a healthy relationship is the presence of healthy boundaries. They can be difficult but are necessary for relationships to grow and develop. We all agree that people should not be able to say what they want, do what they want, have unrestricted access, etc. in a healthy relationship. The problem is that most of us can easily see that for others and not for ourselves. Adoption and foster care requires us to see the need for healthy relationships not only for ourselves but for our kids too.

So, why am I so convinced that boundaries are healthy? Because God is the one who established boundaries. Creation is an ordered environment because of the boundaries that He established. I won’t get into details about the life of Job in this post (you can read a summary of the book of Job HERE) but God speaks to him starting in Chapter 38. And the first thing He addresses with Job is boundaries, specifically those in the physical world.

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Who kept the sea inside its boundaries as it burst from the womb, and as I clothed it with clouds and wrapped it in thick darkness? For I locked it behind barred gates, limiting its shores. I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!’ – Job 38:4-11

We learn from that text that boundaries are created to keep order and for our protection. Imagine a world where the ocean has no limit; a world where He didn’t say “Here your proud waves must stop!” I don’t think we want to imagine that world because I’m yet to hear of the person who looks forward to a flood.

So Why Can’t We Establish Healthy Boundaries?

The past affects the future but does not have to determine it is something I firmly believe. Stated another way, your history brought you to where you are but does not have to decide where you go. Coming to terms with why we do what we do is a crucial part of being a connected parent.

Your history brought you to where you are but does not have to decide where you go. Click To Tweet

Most of us learn two lessons from our parents; how to do things and how to not do things. This reality will inform our ability and desire to set healthy boundaries…or not. If you had emotionally unavailable parents growing up (I won’t get into attachment styles here) one of two things happened, you set out on a quest to gain their approval, or you lost interest in trying to get their approval and stopped trying. Neither of those positions will allow you to set healthy boundaries. If you are still seeking approval you won’t risk upsetting your family so you won’t establish. If you gave up on gaining approval you’ll build a wall every time a boundary needs to be established.

Here’s an example, your kids don’t do well with unannounced guests, but you have family close by. You have three options. One, say nothing and let them come over unannounced whenever they please. That’s not good because you placed their feelings above your kids. Two, you can tell them that they may only come over when invited. That’s unnecessarily harsh. Or three, tell them that they need to let you know if they are coming over before they head over. For those who don’t respect boundaries, only option one will work for them, but that doesn’t mean that you need to take that option.

Do It for the Kids

So why should we work to establish healthy boundaries? Why should we do the hard work necessary to come to terms with who we are? Simple really, we have children. The day we welcomed our kids home we promised them that we would protect their story. Some of the most difficult boundaries we had to draw were related to our kid’s stories. There are details that we know but are their privilege to share. There are times when that simple truth wasn’t so simple to communicate because people feel like you are shutting them out if you don’t share everything. That is simply not true, our kids need us to stand our ground for them.

That does not mean that we can shut people out. We have to explain why the boundary needs to be established. Those we are in relationship with deserve to know why we have established a boundary. Explaining the need behind your decision will go a long way to building a healthy relationship even when boundaries are necessary.

One of the promises we made to our kids the day they came home is that we would serve as the guardians of their story until they were at a place where they could do it for themselves. That’s our responsibility

That Sounds Good, But What Now?

Establishing healthy boundaries gives you an opportunity to practice you connected parenting skills. This is an opportunity to practice outside of the moment if you need to. This is an opportunity to find your voice. This is an opportunity to give choices. This is an opportunity to compromise. This is an opportunity to grow.

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Climbing into the Car

An essential component of being a connected parent is coming to terms with our histories and doing the hard work necessary to make sense of the past. Our stuff can’t get in the way of us being the people our kids need us to be. We can’t be fully present if there are things from back then that keep us from being here now. Our histories cannot be chains that bind us.

This is a clip of me sharing how I worked through something from my childhood that I wasn’t aware of for 35 years, and how it allowed me to be fully present when my daughter needed me.

Common Logical Fallacies

My 14-year-old son is studying formal logic and I am loving watching him learn and discussing it with him. The following are descriptions and examples of 10 common logical fallacies. Understanding them can be very helpful.

  1. Ad Hominem: This occurs when an author attacks his opponent instead of his opponent’s argument.
    Example: Trina thinks guns should be outlawed but Trina doesn’t go to church, so we shouldn’t listen to her
  2. Ad Populum: Ad Populum attempts to prove an argument as correct simply because many people believe it to be so.
    Example: 80% of people are for the death penalty, therefore, the death penalty is moral.
  3. Appeal to Authority:  In this fallacious argument, the author claims his argument is right because someone famous or powerful supports it.
    Example: We should change the drinking age because Einstein believed that 18 was the proper drinking age
  4. Begging the Question: This happens when the author’s premise and conclusion say the same thing.
    Example: Fashion magazines don’t hurt women’s self-esteem because women’s confidence is intact after reading the magazine.
  5. False Dichotomy: This fallacy rests on the assumption that there are only two possible solutions, so disproving one solution means that other solution should be utilized. It ignores other alternative solutions.Example: The teacher gives too many A’s and therefore must be fired because grade inflation is unfair to other students
  6. Hasty Generalization: Hasty Generalization occurs when the proponent uses too small of a sample size to support a sweeping generalization.Example: Sally couldn’t find any cute clothes at the boutique and neither could Maura, so the boutique doesn’t have any cute clothes.
  7. Post Hoc/ False Cause: This fallacy assumes that correlation equals causation or, in other words, if one event predicts another event it must have also caused the event.Example: The football team gets better grades than the baseball team, therefore playing football makes you smarter than playing baseball.
  8. Missing the Point: In Missing the Point, the premise of the argument supports a specific conclusion but not the one the author draws. Example: Antidepressants are overly prescribed which is dangerous, so they should clearly be made illegal.
  9. Spotlight Fallacy: This occurs when the author assumes that the cases that receive the most publicity are the most common cases.Example: 90% of news reports talk about negative events. Therefore, it follows that 90% of events that occur in the real world are negative.
  10. Straw Man: In this fallacy, the author puts forth one of his opponent’s weaker, less central arguments forward and destroys it, while acting like this argument is the crux of the issue.Example: My opponent wants to increase teachers’ pay but studies have shown that professors with tenure don’t work as hard at their job to improve themselves.

This list is taken from Improving Academic Performance: 10 Common Logical Fallacies. The original post can be found on MyGuru.com

Empowered to Connect Parent Training

One of the most important things we’ve learned as parents is the difference between being safe and feeling safe. For many years we thought that they were the same thing, but we have come to understand and live the difference. Our kids need us to create an environment of felt safety for them. It is an essential part of their healing.

In order to create an environment of felt safety we need to:

  • Be active in our own healing
  • Examine our lives and start to process our hurts and hang-ups
  • Realize what our triggers are
  • Own our stuff

But that is not enough. We need to practice mindfulness in the following areas:

  • How we speak to our kids
  • Our non-verbal communication
  • Our emotional health

As participants in the Empowered to Connect Parent Training, you will be equipped with a holistic understanding of your child’s needs and development while empowering you with the tools and strategies to effectively meet those needs, build trust, and help your child heal and grow.

The training is taught from a Christian perspective and focuses on a wide range of topics and relevant issues, including helping you understand the impact of your child’s history, what you bring to the parent-child relationship, the fundamentals of attachment, the impact of fear, and the importance of meeting your child’s sensory processing, nutritional and other physiological needs.

If would like to participate in our Spring semester training, you can get more information as well as a registration link HERE. Visit www.empoweredtoconnect.org for helpful resources that you can use starting today.

ETCParentTraining

#GivingTuesday is TODAY

Today is Giving Tuesday, a day dedicated to giving back. There are two ways that you can give today; your time and your treasure. Please email us at tapestry@irvingbible.org if you would like to bless adoptive and foster families by volunteering your time. We have many opportunities for you to volunteer from support groups to our annual conference.
The other way to give today is with your treasure. You can donate online or you can mail a check to:

Irving Bible Church
Attention: Tapestry
2435 Kinwest Parkway
Irving, Texas 75063

Your giving will allow us to continue to be a place of loving, supportive, and authentic community where we encourage and equip families along their adoption and foster care journey.

So would you consider making a gift to Tapestry today on Giving Tuesday?

Thank you and God bless you,

Ryan


Tapestry is a ministry of Irving Bible Church. All contributions to Tapestry are tax-deductible to the maximum extent permitted by law.

When Two Worlds Collide

When I was a child, I wanted to be an airline pilot. I thought it would be the most romantic way to spend my days floating amongst the clouds. My dad traveled for work when I was a kid and when he came home, he would go down on one knee expecting a hug and I would run up to him expecting the in-flight magazine. I couldn’t yet read, but I would find the page with the pictures of the aircraft and memorize their seating charts. I was probably the only 5-year-old who could tell you the best place to sit on an airplane.

Romantic notions of flight aside, I didn’t become a pilot because I don’t like to fly; it terrifies me. I just can’t get past the fact that I’m strapped, with a lap belt no less, to a chair in an aluminum cylinder with wings and engines 35,000 feet in the air.

I love going new places and always look forward to traveling, but my excitement usually turns into anxiety seconds after I park my car. Two things confront my senses the moment I get out of my car; the smell of jet fuel and the sound of jet engines and as I process those two things I can feel my anxiety spike. It increases again as I enter the terminal and I see the security check line. I’m probably the only person who is actually happy when they see a long, slow moving TSA security check line because that gives me a little break from my now constantly increasing anxiety.

But my freedom from anxiety doesn’t last long because the inevitable always happens and I make my way through the security checkpoint. Clearing security is significant because it’s at that point that I realize that I am going to have to board the aircraft. Arriving at the gate, boarding the plane, and sitting in my seat all cause my anxiety to increase and by the time we push back from the gate my breathing is shallow and fast. I am hot and I can feel perspiration running down my face. I’m bordering on a panic attack.

My wife gives me peace and calming essential oils and I rub it on my wrists and on the back of my neck. And then they turn at the bottom of the runway and that plane accelerates and now I’m holding on for dear life. I’ve got headphones on with loud  music and I’m reading at the same time because I just want to overwhelm my senses. As the plane takes off I can feel all of the gravity that that aircraft is fighting against, I can feel it in my chest and I can’t breathe. That’s how I fly. Some of you can relate.

A few years ago, a man about four rows in front of me choked on a flight. The person next to him quickly hit the flight attendant call button, she came and performed the Heimlich, clearing his airway. We continued on to Nashville without further incident.

When we arrived home, we picked up our kids from my parent’s house and my dad asked me about our trip. I told him about the choking incident. He immediately looked at my mom and asked her if she remembered when I choked on a plane as a small child. She recalled the time when I was two or three years old.

I asked a therapist friend of mine if my fear of flying could be related to the childhood choking incident. She immediately said yes. She explained that even though I didn’t have any explicit memories of the event, I had implicit ones. In other words, my body remembered what my mind couldn’t recall. My body had associated flying with choking, and over the years formed a narrative that bad things happen to me on airplanes. My anxiety was because my body was getting ready for something bad to happen. My body was in survival mode and trying to alert me to the coming danger.

I am happy to report that I can now actually make it onto the plane without any panic attacks. The essential oils don’t need to travel with me anymore, and I can actually take off without having to overwhelm my senses. Take-off, landing, and flying through turbulence doesn’t bother me now because I learned about a trauma from my past and with help was able to process it.

So why does that matter? We can so easily overlook our histories and focus on our kid’s stuff, but if we don’t do the work to come to terms with our own stuff, we will never fully be able to help our kids process their hurts and fears.

We recently flew to Orlando with our six children. My eight-year-old daughter sat next to me on the flight. She was very excited about going on vacation and on her first flight right until the moment she sat down. She grabbed my arm and she started sobbing when I buckled her seatbelt. I asked her why she was crying and she told me that she was scared and that she wasn’t sure if she wanted to go with us. So what did I do? I employed the only coping skills I knew; I got the oils from my wife, I put her headphones on her, cranked the music, and I told her to play Minecraft.

It startled her when we pushed back from the gate. As did the safety briefing, taxiing, and accelerating. As we took off she asked me if we were flying, and I smiled and told her to look out of the window. She did and with a smile on her face declared that we were flying. I responded with a smile on my face.

The flight was very smooth until about forty-five minutes before we landed. The pilot announced that the weather was clear at our destination, but that there was a storm between us and Orlando. He said that everybody needed to sit down and to buckle their seat belts and that the flight crew needed to do the same. My anxiety level spiked…for my daughter. Then we didn’t level off, we actually went nose down and accelerated and my little girl went “whee, it’s just like a roller coaster.”

I once sat across from a flight attendant who told me that she used to be afraid of flying. She said that she realized when she was 17-years-old that she wasn’t afraid of flying; her mother was and she thought that she was supposed to be afraid too. If I had not been able to work through my issue on airplanes, think about how my daughter would view flying. If when she was stressed and she looked at her dad, I was freaking out the same way, she would hate flying.

Always be willing to do the work necessary to process your past because if you’re not willing to do the work, sometimes the hard work of coming to terms with your story, you will never be able to help your kids the way they need.

“You cannot lead a child to a place of healing if you do not know the way yourself.” – Dr. Karyn Purvis

Rest

week35-rest

There are many things about our American lifestyle that people from other nations find peculiar. They look at our habits and rituals and don’t understand why we do some of the things we do. One of those things that others are puzzled by is our culture of busyness. We are always going and doing. Being busy is some kind of badge of honor for most of us.

Our culture of busyness has reached epidemic proportions. We consume energy drinks and caffeinated drinks to get us going, some people even take pills (over the counter and others) to help them go, go, go. And then at the end of the day, they take other over the counter pills, prescription drugs, or natural supplements to help them sleep, just to run another cycle after too little sleep. We are tired and we are stressed and we are not able to give our best to our spouses and our kids.

The problem with constantly being busy is that we can’t be present with our families if our attention and best is constantly given elsewhere.

Something has got to change. We all need to take a break. There is a lie we are too quick to believe, if not me then who? If I don’t do it, it won’t get done. We need to follow God’s example of resting from his work.

The bible says that rested from all of his work on the seventh day of creation. It’s interesting that most people don’t see rest as part of the created order, yet the bible says that God rested from his work on the seventh day of creation. May we follow the Lord’s example and rest, really rest, from our labors and enjoy some time with family and friends.

Prayer
Lord, help me to be like you and rest. I want to be less busy and be more present with my family. Let me push the distractions aside and help me be the husband and father they need me to be. In Jesus name, Amen

“On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.” – Genesis 2:2 (NLT)

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.