Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care

Maintaining Your Marriage & Relationships When Adopting or Fostering

January 15, 2021 Creating a Family Season 15 Episode 3
Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care
Maintaining Your Marriage & Relationships When Adopting or Fostering
Chapters
Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care
Maintaining Your Marriage & Relationships When Adopting or Fostering
Jan 15, 2021 Season 15 Episode 3
Creating a Family

We don’t just bring kids into our homes; we bring them into our marriage and relationships. And marriages or relationships are particularly challenged when we are parenting kids who have been exposed to trauma. We talk with Amy Garber, MSW and LICSW, the Manager of the Post Adoption Program with Wide Horizons for Children, a child welfare organization. We also talk with Anne Meijers, a licensed clinical social worker, specializing in adult and couples therapy.

In this episode, we cover:

  • Our goal should be for our marriage or relationships to be around long after the kids leave home. This takes being proactive because if we’re not careful our relationship becomes all about parenting or fostering.
  • How can kids enhance a marriage or relationship? 
  • We know that kids who’ve experience trauma can be challenging to parent and can test a marriage or a relationship.
  • Why are children adopted or fostered past infancy, children with prenatal exposure, and kids who have experienced trauma often harder to parent? 
  • CreatingaFamily.org has many courses on Trauma Informed Parenting.
  • What are some of the stresses that relationships may face when fostering or adopting kids who’ve been exposed to trauma? 
  • Feeling isolated
  • One parent wanting to adopt or foster more than the other 
  • Blame from the outside or between the parents
  • Grief- that parenting is harder or less fun than you anticipated, etc.
  • What are some situations that children who’ve experienced trauma can bring to the family and be particularly difficult for the marriage?
  • Disagreement on how to handle behaviors
  • Triangulation
  • What are some signs that you are neglecting your marriage?
  • How can trauma or neglect in the parent’s background impact the marriage once children arrive?
  • How to handle extended family members (grandparents, etc.) that are negatively impacting your relationship?
  • Tips for strengthening your relationship while parenting kids who’ve been exposed to trauma, including prenatal exposure.
  • Special issues for single parents.
    • We encourage single parents to establish a support network. How can challenging kids test this network?
    •  How can single parents find support?
    • Tips for singles to strengthen their support network and relationships.

 This podcast is produced  by www.CreatingaFamily.org. We are a national non-profit with the mission to strengthen and inspire adoptive, foster & kinship parents and the professionals who support them. Creating a Family brings you the following trauma-informed, expert-based content:
·         Weekly podcasts
·         Weekly articles/blog posts
·        Resource pages on all aspects of family building

Creating a Family also has an active presence on many social media platforms. Please like or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram

Support the show (https://creatingafamily.org/donation/)

Show Notes Transcript

We don’t just bring kids into our homes; we bring them into our marriage and relationships. And marriages or relationships are particularly challenged when we are parenting kids who have been exposed to trauma. We talk with Amy Garber, MSW and LICSW, the Manager of the Post Adoption Program with Wide Horizons for Children, a child welfare organization. We also talk with Anne Meijers, a licensed clinical social worker, specializing in adult and couples therapy.

In this episode, we cover:

  • Our goal should be for our marriage or relationships to be around long after the kids leave home. This takes being proactive because if we’re not careful our relationship becomes all about parenting or fostering.
  • How can kids enhance a marriage or relationship? 
  • We know that kids who’ve experience trauma can be challenging to parent and can test a marriage or a relationship.
  • Why are children adopted or fostered past infancy, children with prenatal exposure, and kids who have experienced trauma often harder to parent? 
  • CreatingaFamily.org has many courses on Trauma Informed Parenting.
  • What are some of the stresses that relationships may face when fostering or adopting kids who’ve been exposed to trauma? 
  • Feeling isolated
  • One parent wanting to adopt or foster more than the other 
  • Blame from the outside or between the parents
  • Grief- that parenting is harder or less fun than you anticipated, etc.
  • What are some situations that children who’ve experienced trauma can bring to the family and be particularly difficult for the marriage?
  • Disagreement on how to handle behaviors
  • Triangulation
  • What are some signs that you are neglecting your marriage?
  • How can trauma or neglect in the parent’s background impact the marriage once children arrive?
  • How to handle extended family members (grandparents, etc.) that are negatively impacting your relationship?
  • Tips for strengthening your relationship while parenting kids who’ve been exposed to trauma, including prenatal exposure.
  • Special issues for single parents.
    • We encourage single parents to establish a support network. How can challenging kids test this network?
    •  How can single parents find support?
    • Tips for singles to strengthen their support network and relationships.

 This podcast is produced  by www.CreatingaFamily.org. We are a national non-profit with the mission to strengthen and inspire adoptive, foster & kinship parents and the professionals who support them. Creating a Family brings you the following trauma-informed, expert-based content:
·         Weekly podcasts
·         Weekly articles/blog posts
·        Resource pages on all aspects of family building

Creating a Family also has an active presence on many social media platforms. Please like or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram

Support the show (https://creatingafamily.org/donation/)

0:01  
Welcome everyone to Creating a Family talk about Adoption and Foster Care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am the host, as well as the director of creating a family. And we have lots and lots of resources that are at your disposal at our website, which is creating a family.org. Today we're going to be talking about a subject I feel really passionate about. And that is maintaining your marriage and your relationships with adopting, fostering. It's something that I don't think we talk about enough in the fields of adoption and foster care. So I'm really excited to be talking today with Amy Garber. She is has her master's in social work. She's also a licensed clinical social worker. She graduated from Boston College School of Social Work in 2005. And since 2008, she has worked for wide horizons for children a child welfare organization, and her position is as an adoption social worker and manager of the post adoption program. And they serve over 14,000 children placed in adoptive families since the 1970s. We'll also be talking with Ana mayor's, she is a licensed clinical social worker, she obtained her master's in social work from Smith College School of Social Work, and her undergraduate studies in psychology were at Mount Holyoke College. She's been in private practice since 2002. And she sees both adult individuals as well as couples. Welcome, Ana and Amy to creating a family. And thank you so much for joining us today to talk about marriages and how we can maintain our marriages.

1:39  
Thanks. Thanks for hopping on. Thank

1:40  
you. Yeah, thanks,

1:42  
Tom for having us. Okay,

1:44  
our goal should be for our marriage or relationships to be around long after our kids leave home. And this takes being proactive, because if we're not careful, our relationships become all about parenting and fostering. We don't just bring kids into our home, we bring them into our marriage and into our relationships. And in many ways kids can bring great enjoyment to our marriage and relationships. So how can kids enhance a relationship or a marriage?

2:15  
Oh,

2:15  
well,

2:17  
let you count the ways.

2:19  
Let me count the ways and deeds that so that shared experience of loving children and playing with children and teaching children? I think in so many ways it is. It's the heart of what keeps people so happy to gaze lovingly, right?

2:41  
Yeah, and the shared the shared memories, the shared life, all of that is so is very enhancing. So, yeah. And, Amy, any thoughts on the of the joys of children? Yeah, I

2:55  
mean, I think it also gives us a different identity. And, and we're, we're parents to children, we're in a team, we're part of a team. And we're engaging together, and we're utilizing each other's strengths. So I think it's, you know, people can find great joy in watching their partner, act as a parent, and, and also supporting wanting one another. I think it changes your priorities and your focus. And it's really busy and fun. And you can feel a lot of pride and joy in watching your kids grow. And teaching them your values

3:39  
gives you a connection to the future. And both, you know, both as you're currently parenting, but also as grandparents and all of that and makes you look forward to the what you're doing for the future generations as well. Yeah. So we know that kids who've experienced trauma can be challenging to parent and can test a marriage or relationship. So any wire children adopted past infancy, children who've experienced prenatal exposure, and kids who've experienced trauma often harder to parent and

4:12  
that's a really good question. They are, they're there. And we could spend days on this really. But they're there. They're typically harder to parent because of the challenges the unique challenges that come along with adoption. So there's toxic stress, there's trauma history, there is difficulty with attachment. There is grief and loss involved. And I think when we typically think of a child having a trauma history, we think of older kids that have been maybe in an abusive relationship, or abused by their parents or neglected. But the important thing to know is that any child that's adopted experts say that separation from birth family, it's considered a trauma, and that the stress hormones can impact brain development. So I think we have to really assume that any child that's adopted, can be impacted by by trauma. And and then, you know, the trauma response can be really frustrating and hard to parent, right? Or the, the trauma behaviors, I should say, can be really frustrating, hard to understand. And kids, kids are acting this way because of their experiences and the way that their brain was developed based on their earlier time

5:47  
on what are some of the behaviors that we see that that either the trauma that it can be so that trauma causes, it could be so challenging for parents?

5:56  
Well, I was gonna agree with everything Amy said. And I'll add that, regardless, we never know who's coming into our lives, right? Whether we birth that child, or we bring that child home from a different household or a different human, children, difficult children are just difficult period. And even parenting is hard under the best of circumstances. So I think everyone needs to remember that that it's a hard job everyone signed up for when when you parent and so sorry, Don, you said specifically, you were asking of what are some of the things we see?

6:37  
Yeah, and kids have been exposed. But But your points well taken, that regardless of how our kids come to us, we can't predict what they're going to bring to us and what challenges they're going to bring to us. We know that trauma complicates it, but you're exactly right. Even more, does some of that. But if you could list off some of the challenging behaviors that we may see, as parents,

7:00  
Well, sure acting out being disruptive, really needing a lot, I think, especially if you have multiple children, and maybe one is more difficult than another than you see that that person takes a lot of energy, which might leave a much less amount of energy for the other children or other child. So those are the those are daily energy drains for everyone in the household, including the child who we might label as traumatized or difficult. Mm hmm.

7:36  
Yeah. So children can indeed bring both immense joy to our relationships, but they can also bring challenges. So what are some of the unique stresses that relationships might face when fostering or adopting kids who've been exposed to trauma, and I will start with one, and that is a feeling of isolation. Oftentimes, people don't get why our kids behave the way they do. And there's always somebody around to give us advice on what we're doing wrong, or how if we did things just a little differently, or a lot differently, you know, they that we wouldn't be experiencing this and they would do it differently. And by golly, you know, you know, and it's a very isolating feeling to be because you don't often have people in your direct environment, or your people that you normally turn to your parents or your friends. They often haven't experienced parenting a child exposed to trauma, and they're not much, not much help to you oftentimes, when you're the one experiencing it. So I will, I'll jump in there and begin by saying, feeling of isolation on any other one to throw out any other unique stresses that that parents may face when they're parenting kiddos who are exposed to trauma.

8:56  
Well, they might feel their own traumas coming up in, in life. And oftentimes, you know, in therapy, whether it's individual family or couples, we, we can notice that adults who are parenting children of any age might be, let's say, brought back in time to their own trauma, whether that's small t trauma or large t trauma. Those experiences of watching your six year old or your 14 year old might awaken feelings in you that you thought were resolved and perhaps they're not. And perhaps those are going to impact how everyone gets along.

9:42  
Amy, not infrequently, when people and couples go into an adult adoption or go into foster care. They're not always equal in their desires. To to enter this adventure, shall we say to Become an adoptive parent or a foster parent. So how does it affect a marriage or relationship when one of the parents is more eager to adopt or foster than the other? And then when they get into the adopting or fostering, it becomes more challenging than they had anticipated?

10:19  
Absolutely,

10:19  
that's another great question. I think that that's something we try to assess during home study process with families. A great deal, one of the most important questions is, you know, are you both have you both come to the to the same place and same decision in moving forward with an adoption because it can be really impactful on the relationship in the family, if both people, both partners in the relationship, don't feel like they're fully committed, and on board to this. But of course, there is oftentimes one parent that is kind of leading the, you know, leading the cause towards adoption. And the other parent is more hesitant or has more concerns. And I've certainly seen that happen. And what often comes with that is, when there are difficulties when the child comes home, there is guilt, there is resentment towards the parent that pushed too hard to make this happen. And there are a lot of disagreement about now what what do we do now or in this certain circumstance, and we have to, we have to get on the same page about how to move forward. But I think those feelings of guilt and resentment can really impact a marriage and a relationship. And so I think it's really important that that partners are talking together, and really clear about what this parenting journey is going to look like ahead of time to try to decrease the chances that that can happen. I also think, can I answer the the stress question to bet? Yeah, I think one that I see a lot is is the judgment of outsiders. Oh, Lord, and yes, and, yeah. And that is so hard, because parenting a child with trauma, it's like one of those invisible special needs, right? That families outside of your family don't understand what's going on inside your house and don't understand what's going on to your child. And I think parents feel judged, especially when they're trying to utilize some of the brilliant parenting tools and strategies that are available in the world of adoption. But other parents don't understand that they think parents are being too lenient door to coddling their child too much or, you know, not not disciplining the the way that they should. And so I think adoptive parents often face judgment, and that feels really bad.

13:13  
Yeah, it really does. And that comes from friends that comes from extended family. And as you pointed out, it can also come from within the marriage as well.

13:26  
Absolutely.

13:27  
So Anna, let's talk for a moment about how grief can impact a relationship. Because there's a lot of when you're parenting a child that is challenging, and it's it's if you don't feel that you are succeeding, or This isn't how you anticipated parenting to be. Or I wanted this and I have ruined my family. And so grief over the life you have had before. Had this grief play out in a relationship? or How can it play out in a relationship?

14:02  
I think if it could play out just more simply as grief, we would all be better off. I think what ends up happening so much of the time. And I'm interested in your thoughts, both of you, because I think so many people are willing to just take that into resentment and disappointment and without really reflecting on what's going on for them and in what they did expect and what they did hoped for and how things are harder than they thought they were going to be. Or Yes, once again, you get what you get right you might have one at a tennis player and you got a hockey player and and there are so many levels of that kind of expectation and without self knowledge, it it really can balloon into something that this ends up projecting on To your spouse or partner you onto your children onto your other children onto your every aspect of your life. Mm hmm.

15:10  
And, and, and nothing other than unidentified grief can really just eat at the very core of a marriage. Sure. Yeah. Big news everyone, the jockey being Family Foundation has provided us with scholarships for free access to five of our most popular courses. You can find these courses and the coupon code at the website Bitly slash j, b f support that is Bitly bi T dot L y slash all cap, j, b, f, then cap s for support. So j BF s, that's all capitalized, then you PP o RT. Again, the coupon code to get you these courses free is going to be on that page as well. And the courses are raising resilient kids with Dr. Ken Ginsberg raising a child with ADHD to a successful and healthy adulthood with Dr. Ned Halliwell. Unexpected stresses for newly adoptive parents practical solutions to typical food issues with Dr. Katya Rao and parenting children who have experienced trauma with Karen Buckwalter. Make sure you go to the Bitly slash j. b, f support to get information on these courses. All right now I want to talk about some of the after not sure, they're really unique, but I'll say unique situations that that, that children who have experienced trauma can bring to a family and be particularly difficult for the marriage. One is, their behaviors that children are often exhibiting are not the papers that we've anticipated. And in one parent, often the mother has read and studied and and has a specific idea of how these behaviors should be handled. And and often the both parents are not on the same page, you may have a spare the rod spoil the child on one side versus a attachment parenting on the other side. And it could not be that extreme. It could also be just this everyday disagreements on on how much one person being too lenient, or one person not understanding the child or expecting too much or one person not buying into the whole fsd or brain damage aspect of prenatal exposure. So disagreeing on on how to handle these behaviors. Amy, are some ways that parents can deal with that situation. And, and and do you see that happening very often?

17:59  
I do I see that happen all the time. And not, not because people don't want to agree on methods of discipline. But I think typically it's that they disagree on understanding the behaviors that are happening. And I think that when you don't understand the behaviors, it's hard to agree on a plan to help either resolve them or manage the behaviors. And so many of the responses to trauma are impulse control, difficulty concentrating, difficulty thinking, low self esteem, you know, what we call defiance or aggression. So, parents, parents will often say we have to have consequences. kids can't get away with this, this behavior is very manipulative. And what what we try to do in working with families is really kind of break it down for them. because like you said, then you have the other parent that really wants to understand and is doing all the reading and the research on all of the new strategies to manage these behaviors. So we try to, I always try to get both parents together, when I'm working with them so that they can both be present because it's not, it's not helpful when you just have one parent getting the support. And then it's typically the parent that lacks the understanding of the behaviors that is not engaging in that consultation or coaching. So it's important to get them together and really talk about why why is the child acting this way? What is the underlying reason for the behavior? What is the need? Is this trauma related Is this a coping skill that they developed to keep them alive, you know, is their aggression and impulse control because of the abuse that they experienced. And we have to teach them new coping skills. But in order to do that parents need a really clear plan. And they need to be consistent, and they need to set clear expectations. And I think sometimes it's helpful for a third party to really step in and help them outline that plan and what that can look like. And really talking about the benefits of using these supportive methods, as opposed to physical discipline, yelling and screaming, always being reactive to a child. And really helping parents understand. If we change our response to the child's behavior, we can really help them change these behaviors. And it's also about regulating emotions.

21:03  
So many parents were perfect parents, weren't we before we had children,

21:11  
or difficult children.

21:14  
And suddenly, we're faced with not just the theoretical, but that the actual and the practical. And then we don't really understand maybe ourselves or our partner or spouse, or we're single parents, understanding how we would have approached these things and how our own experience shaped us and informed so much of what is going on. I'm glad that you mentioned that Amy about the the yelling, oh, I will often say to people and and I got this from somewhere, and I don't remember where but I wish I knew. So maybe you'll know. Parents who talked to me about how much they yell at their children, I will say okay, so that's fine. You may yell at your child all you want. But the first thing you have to do is you sit the child down and you say, Susie, what mommy is about to do is going to cause irreparable damage and harm in your life and in your psyche. But mommy's need to do that outweighs those concerns right now. And then you are perfectly Welcome to yell at your child. Right? Like to really put it in perspective to show parents that, yes, we're all human, and we all make mistakes, but it's really not okay. And we really need to understand what our own parenting was like. And we need to be reading those books together. And we need to be taking those resources those, those therapists or those support teams, and helping us be on that same page, because that conflict is only going to escalate,

22:53  
it doesn't get easier. There was something that Amy, you said that I think was I am harkening back to it. Because it's oftentimes it's not that the parents are disagreeing fundamentally on how to discipline or how to handle the behavior. It's like they don't really agree on the cause of the behavior, like one buys into the idea that that this behavior is, is the result of, of trauma, or it's a result of the child. Simply it was a it was a survival, this worked in the child's previous life. And they're continuing because it makes sense, because this is what they have grew up learning. And this was an effective strategy, or at least one that may have kept him alive. And the other one seeing it to the other parents seeing it as manipulative or disobedient, or disrespectful. It's almost how we label things sometimes that I think gets us in trouble inside the relationship because we both see the same behavior. But one of us sees it as a symptom. And the other one sees it as just an annoyance, or, or a or a character flaw. It which is kind of an interesting thing. I want to talk now about triangulation, because that is another thing that often children who've experienced trauma, do when they come into a family that is destructive, or can't be I should say can be destructive, to the to the marriage or to the partnership or the relationship. So it helps to start with saying what is triangulation on?

24:25  
So we go to mom and say, Can we go to the sleepover? And she says no. And we go to dad and we say, I really have to go to sleep over and it's not a problem, right? It's setting up people in opposition. Right? And we can do that with as a child with parents. We can do that. As a parent with everyone else in the household.

24:50  
We used to call it opinion shopping in our household. If we were smart we would as a parent if we were smart, we would say are you opinion shopping and Yeah, all right, so pitting, but it pitting it with requests, but also pitting it by sharing, mom did this mom did this to me and and saying that ratting the mom out or telling that the mom did something, saying it to the dad or vice versa that the dad did something. So actually not even opinion shopping but accusing the other parent of something that is that is wrong. So, Amy, why is triangulation? Seems This seems like a really obvious question. Is triangulation destructive to a marriage? Or why can it?

25:36  
Yeah, because I mean, you you parents have to be consistent. And they have to be on the same page at all times and sending the same message to the child. Because if they realize that they can split parents in that way, they're going to take control of every situation, and they're going to cause rifts in the marriage and the relationship. People feel undermined. If you know, if Joey goes to dad and says he wants candy. And dad says no. And then he goes to mom and ask the same question. And she says yes, then it's going to continue to create this feeling of conflict. And the other thing, though, that I think is really important to mention is the issues of attachment in adoption, and how that can impact splitting and triangulation. Because oftentimes, when children come home, they are, they will more strongly attached to one parent, and they will seek out one parent for all of their needs. And then that leaves the other parent feeling rejected and upset, that they can't meet their child's needs. So you have to think about all of those different pieces. But that's so splitting, I just think and triangulation is dangerous in general, I think that's kind of one of the number one parenting rules is be on the same page. Don't let kids see that that can happen. But But when one child is more strongly attached to the other, you also have to be really careful of saying to the child, if you're the parent that they seek at all times, you know, it's really important that you go to mom or dad, the other parent for that need to be met. So that the child can see that both parents can meet all of their needs,

27:33  
we often tell in that situation, where a child especially in the initial time the transition time coming home is is preferring strongly preferring one parent, we often suggest that you allow the non favored parent, the role of getting of giving the dessert of giving the bedtime story or if bats are enjoyed, you know, giving the bath or playing the games, let that parent become the the parent that is, is associated with good things as a way to encourage the child to move to that child or to that to that other parent. But it occurs to me that one of the things that happens is it can happen and triangulation. Is that one parent, the one who is saying yes, or the one who is it becomes the favored parent gets to play the role of the of the good parent, you know, yes, you can have cookies are sure you can go to the sleepover. And and that seems destructive to to me. That just I wouldn't want to be in I would hate to be the one who then gets thrust into the one always having to say no, that would just that just would seem so unfair. So it seems like that's another fundamental problem with triangulation is that one parent gets to play the good parent. And the other parent then by necessity is always stuck in the the the main parent role. And and nobody wants that.

29:00  
So sure what what is setups? Yeah,

29:02  
what a setup. Yeah.

29:05  
Yeah. Me within the marriage to feel like, I have to be the good guy, or I'm always the Santa Claus. Either roll is quite miserable. Really?

29:16  
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So on, what are some signs that you are neglecting your marriage? It seems like it would be obvious, but I talked to people who say, you know, I didn't really recognize it when it was happening. And then all of a sudden, you know, I realized that we weren't we have nothing as as a couple. And and so what are some of the signs that you are now that that you're focusing all your focus is on your children in your role as a parent, and not enough if your focus is on your role as a partner?

29:48  
Sure, and I think it's well said that it is it might seem so obvious, but it's so many of these things that we talk about and being support people for people are the various obvious it's not as if someone doesn't know, they shouldn't eat ice cream all day long or never get any exercise or not take care of themselves. But sometimes we need support and remembering that it's important. So in terms of marriage, how are you feeling? Right? Is there a check in time for the two of you? Are you having sex? When was the last time you had sex? Was it satisfying? Is everyone too exhausted to get together and do anything? Is there time that? Is it just tag team and who made what bank deposit and you were supposed to be here an hour ago, so I could start my zoom meeting and take over childcare that can be really maddening, more maddening now than ever, and COVID, especially for people with young children. The those things are worth noting. And, and whereas self care, how are you taking care of what's going on in your own body and your own mind?

31:04  
Mm hmm. Amy, any other signs that you can think of a neglected marriage or relationship partnership? Yeah, I

31:13  
think that I'm blaming each other and kind of withdrawing, and saying kind of, I give up, you know, you handle this, it's just become too overwhelming and too hard. And then feeling really isolated and alone. And forgetting that you went into this as a partnership, and that you are a team and that you need to continue to maintain your roles and responsibilities together. Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it I say that with kids and attachment. But it's also in relationships, like you have to know you have to maintain hope, and continue to work together as a team and not blame each other. I think fighting is is not necessarily a healthy thing in a relationship. But when there's no communication and no fighting, I worry that there's there's nothing anymore, either. So even when when couples say that they're not even fighting anymore, I worry that they're that they're not communicating in any way, shape, or form. And so I think it's it's really important that that parents continue to get support from other people, to give them the strength to work together.

32:35  
I'll throw out one other sign that it's a subtle one. But but I think it is a real harbinger of a neglected marriage. And that is, when your primary source of relationship comfort, support, interest is outside with somebody outside your marriage. And I don't mean it could be an affair, but it could be even your girlfriend, it could be where the person that you want to go to to share your good news, your bad news are to seek advice is always somebody outside your marriage, which is not to say that that we are partner in a marriage is got to be the only one we go to. I'm not saying that. But if it's if you unique, if you consistently are seeking your source of enjoyment, and community and support with somebody else, that's a sign that your marriage needs more work than that. Because you're your partner, should it be at least one of the top people you're going to doesn't have to be the only person.

33:36  
Absolutely, that can even happen with with kids. You know, you want to make sure you're not talking poorly to your child about your partner. Oh, well, you know, dad just really mess this up. I can't believe he made that decision, you know, and so really making sure that that that's not happening either.

33:53  
Once again, your dad's an hour late used to this. This is how it always is. Yeah. Yeah. Yes, that's Yeah, that's another really important one. I think that we've mentioned this once a little bit before, but it's talking about the trauma and neglect in the parents background. How can that impact the marriage once kids arrived? It's easy for us to especially when we're adopting kids who have come from traumatic backgrounds, to be focusing on the kids trauma, and not to realize that we as parents bring our own. I like how you said it before trauma, maybe with a little tea. Not that you were necessarily abused, but our own issues who we are we're bringing into the marriage and into our parenting relationship. So how does that impact our marriage once kids get involved?

34:43  
Well, it's a huge surprise. It is someone saying Whoa, I didn't know this was in your past because it's either been forgotten. It's been hidden. It's never been discussed. And, and maybe it's really it's it's already it's Rather still unconscious in terms of, I keep behaving like this, when I'm around our eight year old, and yet, I'm still repressing the fact that extra y was going on in my own eight year old self. My partner is watching this and saying what's going on? Why do you keep acting like this around our eight year old? Right? So again, I'll bring it back to, for the fifth time self awareness, right? How many couples have done any couples work? How many have done any learning about histories? And what kind of parenting experiences they've had? And? And how open to communicating? Are they at this point, regardless of what their past is? Mm

35:47  
hmm. And being aware of it,

35:50  
having communication skills that we can all work on those right? It's a lifelong development of how do we really dialogue? How do we listen to someone else? and reflect back what we're hearing? And are we doing that for each other? And if we don't know how to do that, are we getting some support, which is easier than ever just through YouTube videos, or books or any type of learning skills on dialogue,

36:22  
have a dialogue how to communicate within a marriage.

36:26  
The other thing is the aces, which I think you've done a show about the adverse childhood experiences study, for parents to at least get an overview of that and understand what their own aces score is, and what their child's is it I think, probably well, Amy could speak to this better in terms of you probably do a lot of that before children are placed in the home. Right. Right. Yeah, I

36:52  
was gonna mention that that part of the home study process, again, is really talking with parents about unresolved trauma history and trying to assess that and help help parents become aware of what they may need to work on prior to bringing a child into their home. Because I think sometimes parents don't even recognize or realize that their adverse childhood experiences can impact their parenting. And, and when a parent has an unresolved trauma history, it can be very challenging for attachment to that child, it can be really difficult for them to navigate day to day parenting, sometimes we see, you know, that they might be disassociative, they might not be able to engage and connect with their child and be present and available to them in a way that's necessary to develop attachment, then they also may be overly reactive, hyper vigilant, because of their trauma history. And these are all things that are going to certainly impact your day to day, parenting and your your ability to provide your child with a safe, loving home. Because your child is going to be be fearful, right or or concerned about you and and how you're doing. People also have a developmental arrest when they have a trauma history. So sometimes, you know, they kind of haven't even been able to proceed in their own development emotionally, in ways that they need to in order to parent effectively. And then of course, there's also trauma triggers, just like our kids have trauma triggers. We see parents with trauma triggers all the time when siblings are fighting and screaming at each other. And like how that can really impact a parent that has trauma, unresolved trauma. So it's hard. It doesn't mean you can't bear it, but it means you need support

39:06  
and self awareness.

39:08  
Yeah, right. People might end up blindsided by that again, because they just didn't realize what it was gonna look like to have that in front of them in their home. And so any partner might say, Wow, where did that come from? I didn't know you would respond like that.

39:27  
Or sometimes you don't know. Exactly, you're gonna respond. So yeah, you surprise yourself a lot as a parent on

39:39  
this show, as well as all the resources provided by creating a family could not happen without the generous support from our partners who believe in our mission of providing unbiased education and support to those struggling to create a family. Some of our wonderful partners include children's connection, they are an adoption agency providing services for domestic infant adoption, as well as embryo donation and adoption throughout the US. They also provide home studies and post adoption support to families in Texas. I want to move to talking about extended family members. It seems so often that and we have an online support group and Facebook creating a family join us. It's so often we hear of extended family members, grandparents, in laws that negatively are impacting the relationship, and in particular, after children come now part of that's what I think Amy was saying at the beginning about the blame game, you know, well, she was the one who wanted all these kids, I told her, you're just getting somebody else's trouble. And now now, you know, you made your bed now lie in it. So there's some of that. But there's also just some general, non supportive behavior, I want to say toxic with that feels a little negative, but that, that extended family members can bring into a into a marriage. And in particular, they can do it in general, regardless of whether children are involved, I realized that but since we're talking about marriages with children, so what are some of the specific things that you can think of that how to handle extended family members, who are not supportive of your parenting decisions are not supportive of your marriage, and how you are parenting through your marriage? Well,

41:30  
if those people have your year, and they write often, and they do, then it's gonna have an impact, right? Lots of people look at it, as you know, it's not just the couple in the bedroom, it's it's the family of origin, right? That comes along with them, or certainly the parents at the very least. So I think for couples, it is important to remember that if they are, if they're in this together to, to be in this together, and and I'm not saying don't get support from people, but really do probably have to, to close the door on impact, that is going to be toxic. I don't think that's too strong a word really, to the relationship. Because if, if you're spending all day with your, your mother and she doesn't like your spouse, then that's probably not going to serve your marriage very well. It's not the kind of question you mean, exactly.

42:33  
Yeah, exactly that you've got to choose, you shouldn't have to. But if, if the extended family member is not supportive, and is not healthy for your marriage, then you've got to set limits. And it has to be the person who has that relationship, who sets the limits. The one who is being bad mouth is not in the position to step up to your parents. So that's, that's hard. Now I want to move to the tips section of four. And then we're going to move to for you single parents out there, we're going to talk about you just in a minute, exclusively. But I want to talk about some practical tips that we can suggest for parents who are parenting challenging kids, children who have experienced trauma or our prenatal exposure, or abuse or neglect or whatever. So what are some tips for strengthening your relationship when you're parenting these kiddos who have been exposed to trauma? So let's start with you, Amy.

43:32  
I think there's a lot of ways that you can really focus on your relationship when you're when you're parenting, these tough kids. I think that one, like I said before, it's important to join together and gain a clear understanding of the behavior so that you can so that you can move forward in a way that you feel connected and on the same page, I think it's important that you continue to find joy and things that you enjoy doing together as a couple. I think that it's really important to carve out that time to spend together as a couple to promote your relationship and remind you of what brought you together. I think that communication, having an opportunity to talk together honestly and openly. It's really important. I think celebrating small victories is also really important and and making sure that you talk about the joys as much as you talk about the challenges after each day. I mean, I think that I've talked with a lot of families that that have a hard time at the end of the day thinking of one positive thing that happened in their day or with their child or in their relationship and really like trying to think about There's got to be one good thing that happened today. And, and trying to focus on that, because so often we get overwhelmed with the with the negatives. And you know, one parent will come home from work and the parent that has been home just kind of unravels and tells them all of the negative terrible things that happened that day. Yeah, so I think it is important, important that you come together and, and try to work really hard to find joys and victories in each day. I think you need to avoid power struggles with your partner and with your children, that that can be really challenging and difficult.

45:46  
Let me see if I'm on. Have you got something you want to add?

45:50  
Sure.

45:50  
Yeah. All our parenting.

45:52  
Yeah, all of those things. Absolutely. And that parents might do well to give themselves a break, right? Raising children, regardless of how easy they are. And especially difficult children is really hard and exhausting. And don't overwhelm yourself, you know, we might throw out all these great ideas, which are all great ideas. But if you don't get to that date, or don't make that perfect dinner, or didn't get to run as much as you wanted to that day, so be it right let let yourself be okay with that. Idea mentioned earlier sex and making dates, especially when we have children in the house who might be running in and out of the bedrooms, that's it's important to not always just say, Well, I can't help it. I just fell asleep when I was reading the stories tonight, right? Make it a Priority if you can, not to the detriment of your sleep. But it is very connective to remember that part of why you probably came together is to be sexual partners. And when you're exhausted, it's hard to work that in letting each other have space to take care of self and growth, really important. The communication that I mentioned, I really like the work of Marshall Rosenberg and nonviolent communication, which is probably something you've featured and something that is true both for the partners, the dyad of the marriage or parent child of any humans, right from a geopolitical standpoint, to the down to the two people in a marriage. So there are so many resources available. I like a calendar and putting things on a calendar because again, not to the point where we're so attached to it, that we're frustrated with one another if it can't happen, but set intention, if you can't set intention, it is unlikely to happen, whether it's in the run the the pizza night, the SATs, anything,

48:04  
right. And people think that when you schedule things, particularly sex, that that's taking the romance out of it. But in fact, once you have kids, sometimes, that's the only way it's going to happen if it's not on the calendar,

48:16  
right, I think people need to let go of that idea of that if it's not spontaneous and doesn't count. Because like being parents like being partners, it takes work. And that can be part of that work is communicating those needs and making time for them.

48:35  
I would also throw out that getting on the same page about how to handle the challenging behaviors. And I just want to say that we have at creating a family, a lot of courses on trauma informed parenting. So take a few of those courses, and take them together as a couple and come up to help you get on the same page to agree on how to parent through some of the challenges. Go ahead, Amy, you were to suggest another tip for strengthen your relationship.

49:04  
Yeah, I was just gonna say like we we tell our parents in working with their kids listen to kids hold their feelings don't always feel like you have to solve their problems. And I think that's also important in partner parenting relationships, you know, listen to your partner, they're not always looking for you to solve the problem. Sometimes there's no way that they can solve it, but sometimes you just they need to listen to each other. They need to not blame each other and they need to just kind of hold the difficult feelings that they're that one another is experiencing and normalizing that for each other and saying it's okay, it's okay that you feel really guilty. It's okay that you feel really upset about what happened today with so and so you know that you've got to listen and how Hold that tough stuff for one another.

50:02  
Mm hmm. validating them exactly.

50:08  
I think it's also important to have time together, where you're not solving talking about a problem or solving a problem. Are that just scheduled times? And I'm a huge believer in date nights. And almost every time when I mentioned it, somebody will say, Oh, yeah, like, how am I going to get it, you know, sitter for these kids or our you know, that's too expensive. And so it may take some creativity, it may be an evening walk, if your kids are old enough for you to walk around the block with them. And you know, in bed, or it could be Saturday morning coffee with two of you, while they watch Saturday morning cartoons. It's it where you're not scheduling it, the time is not meant to be working on problems, it might just be meant to be playing a game together are talking about the news or are something that you're doing. That's not, it's not focused on the issues that you're dealing with.

51:00  
Absolutely, I think it's also important to mention those fun, enjoyable times with your partner, but also creating that as a family. And creating successful positive experiences as a family is really important. So that you can all every once in a while feel really good. And you have to be really careful about what that fun family time is going to be so that you can set your child up for success. You know, if they have a trauma history, it might not be an amusement park, with too much sensory stuff going on. And so really thinking about what what kind of family fun can we do together, that's going to be everyone's going to be able to be successful. Because as much as you need that, for your marriage and your partner, you also need to find those opportunities for your family,

51:51  
I could not agree with you more, I think that families need to have fun together. And I always say once a week, you should have something scheduled that every person in the family can look forward to, maybe it's a frozen pizza on Friday night and watching TV together, maybe it is going for a bike ride on Sunday afternoons, it's it's but you need to find something that you can do, it can't be too expensive, because then you won't do it very often. So it's got to be something that's reasonable. And it's something that as parents have to give more parents can't just do what they but it has to be something that at least they don't really act of the parent doesn't actively dislike. So and it doesn't have to be something where it requires a lot of talking and in my opinion, so if if movies are your thing, then, you know, renting a movie or you know, watching a movie on on streaming service or something, as long as everybody's looking forward to it and in what's to do it. So I'm really glad you brought that up. I think that we don't like we cannot say that enough that it's important to have fun as a family, because it's got to be here. Otherwise, why have these kids? You know, we need to have be having some fun with them? Absolutely. Yeah. All right. Now I want to talk about single parents. It's there, they they obviously are not in a marriage. And they may or may not be in partnership, but let's assume that they aren't necessarily in partnership. One of the things we always say before a single parent becomes a parent through adoption or fostering is that they need to establish a support network for them to help them but but I'm gonna be honest, challenging, kids can often test their support network, somebody says, Sure, I'll be there for you until they find out that this child does not behave the way it is not a rewarding child for your support network to be around. So that's a problem that a lot of singles find is that, yeah, they may have set up their support network ahead of time, because, you know, we've harped on it, and they say, okay, I've had friends, and they're all going to say that they're going to be there. But in fact, once the child arrives, you know, they really aren't not necessarily there. Amy, have you seen that as well, and with the single parents you work with?

54:05  
I have I have and it and it is it is so hard because people say at the beginning of the process to single parents where, you know, you've got your village, we're here for you, you know, we're gonna do X, Y, and Z. And then, you know, when reality strikes and and the child has really difficult behaviors and it's hard to manage, then then people do walk away and aren't there as reliably as as single parents need them to be. And that parents feel ashamed and embarrassed by their child's behavior. And they feel bad asking for help because they know that that it's a burden. You know, they know that their child who has a significant trauma history, you know, or attachment difficulties is going to be Really hard kit to babysit for four hours? And so I think it's important, it's kind of similar to the question about how do you manage family, that extended family that's not as supportive. I think it's also about like teaching and educating your support network, and providing them the tools that they need. Just like you gathered that information and education for yourself to manage this, I think we need to share that with our support networks. And if a single parent can say to their friends, hey, I've got a, you know, great webinar that you could watch that might really be helpful while you're taking care of my child, would you? Would you mind just watching and i think it might be really helpful to you, or can I talk with you for 10 minutes and share some tips or strategies, and this is how I manage this behavior. Because I think that their support network wants to help. But sometimes it feels too hard to manage it, and they don't have the same skills that you learned earlier in your process. And so we need to provide them that support the same way that we need it. And we need to equip them with the, the tools to be successful as a support network. It's not just It doesn't just come naturally.

56:24  
And I will say something that I've also seen happen. And it's, it's, it's understandable, but people volunteer to support you at the beginning. But in many ways, your life is diverging from their life, if assuming they don't have children, you know, as a parent, you're not able to necessarily do the thing. So let's go see a movie or the things that your your single friends who were going to be and truly, genuinely minute, when they say they're going to support, your lives are diverging and your interests are diverging, and so that that complicates even, even though they had the best of intentions. So on a how any suggestions on how singles might be able to find support. So their support network with their support network is maybe not as supportive as they want. So a post posted option or post parenting, what are some suggestions for how they might find support?

57:20  
Well, having their individual therapy, if that's interesting to them, is probably going to be a huge support to remember that it's okay that those relationships evolve. And the people that we're going to be the village really might not be showing up. You're right that everything has diverge. And just instead of spending energy feeling like there's something wrong with them or their child, or it's it's the circumstances. So one door closes, another opens. Right. So what are their interests? Obviously, lots of parents meet new people through their schools or their other community activities, where there are young children. And those people very organically become their supports, right? They shares, childcare, they share rides to school, they share maybe potluck dinners on the weekend, right? I think being open to the excitement of that possibility, rather than what was right, someone who was driven enough to have gone through, I'm sure immense hoops to take on a child or children on their own. Wow, it's a courageous person, right? This is a person with vision. This is a person who there are a lot of possibilities in front of her or him.

58:47  
Yeah, I would say they are a courageous person. I totally agree. There is somebody who others would want to, to get to know because that's it takes some gumption. Amy, any thoughts on tips for singles to strengthen their support network or their relationships?

59:05  
I think trying to find people that you can be open and honest with so like Ana just said, you know, really seeking other people in your community through your child's school activities. But also, when you find those people try to kind of vet them a little bit and see if they're going to be a good fit for you. Talk to them about your challenges, say, you know, I would love to see us building a relationship and supporting one another. This is our challenge right now. It's hard. And I think that most people will find that other people are experiencing very similar challenges. And then you're able to come together and support one another. So I think sometimes support groups, parent support groups can be great. We try to do those In our agency and really kind of provide opportunities for parents to connect to each other, it normalizes their experiences, but it also gives them the opportunity to meet new people. And we, you know, we think that's really valuable and important. Also, I think parents need to go out and do things that they think are fun, and enjoyable, too. So, you know, go sign up for a tennis, you know, tennis clinic or a exercise thing or a hiking thing, or you know, something that you're interested in, go go do it. I know, it's hard, easier said than done sometimes. But you've got to find joy outside of parenting, as much as you have to try to find that in parenting. Hmm.

1:00:56  
Yeah, don't forget that you are still an adult with interest outside of your child. And you still deserve to be able to do, as you say, find joy on an occasion with even though you're a parent and you find joy with parenting, but you also need to maintain your adult and your adult interest as well. Well, thank you so much, Amy Garber and Ana mayor's for talking with us today about maintaining your marriage and relationships when adopting our fostering. Let me remind everyone that the views expressed in this show are those of the guests and do not necessarily reflect the decision of creating a family, our partners, our underwriters. Also, keep in mind that the information given in this interview is general advice to understand how it applies to your specific situation, you need to work with your adoption or foster care professional. Thanks for joining us today. And I will see you next week. Hey, everyone, I hope you are liking and getting a lot out of this podcast. We pride ourselves on being the only podcast on adoption and foster care that is unbiased and fully expert base. We also pride ourselves on being the top ranked podcasts in these areas. And the only way I could brag on being number one, if we have

1:02:10  
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