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Do I really need to parent my adopted children differently?

Good question.

And while it would be convenient and nice to not dig deeper, learn how to parent special needs differently and be willing make changes–the truth of parenting adopted children actually is that most every adopted child will have unique and special needs quite different than children who have NOT been through transition, trauma or other situations that can cause a child to be at risk emotionally, cognitively, neurologically…their sweet soul, bodies and spirits have just been through things a bit differently which will require us to parent a bit differently also.

After spending three days in Colorodo absorbing the results of 6 million dollars in research on at risk children for connecting–I am ever more passionate and even excited to constantly be willing to learn more–how I can help not only my adopted child heal, but how these strategies can also encourage, motivate and empower my other sweeties (because the other truth of the matter…is I’ve also had difficult pregnancies so my adopted child isn’t the only one at risk.)

If you have an at risk child, learning how to meet their specific and unique sensory needs will not only change their lives–but also the dynamics of your family. Factors of at risk sweeties include: difficult/stressful pregnancies (depression during or after–this is very typical for moms who know they are unable to keep their children–and even many moms who can still go through depression during their pregnancies), difficult births, early hospitalization, abuse, neglect and trauma are considered at risk. AND honestly–the behaviors of a sweetie who spent a few weeks in the NICU really don’t look that much different than a child who experienced deep loss as they grow.

Research shows that a child who was separated from his mom at birth (for whatever reason) actually has a different neurochemical makeup in his brain because of the stress, seperation, absence of nuturement. While some children are at risk–some are at different levels…so the child who got to come home and bond with his mom after a week in the NICU is at risk–but the child who spent a year in a orphanage is high risk. One of my biological sweeties fits that category–and it’s no surprise this same child has some sensory sensitivities also which we have received wonderful help for. You might have brought a baby home that doesn’t fit these high risks situations–but the amazing thing is…is that you can do certain things with ALL of your children right away when you do bring them home and they will not be high risk! (And what I really love…although I cannot parent the at risk child the same as the no risk child–I can absolutely parent ALL of my children the same as my high risk child…a little extra love never hurts that is for sure, right?!)

It is SO important that, we as parents who are called to bring home children from the hard places–study, research and learn about how to care for these special kids. Dr. Purvis does NOT classify adopted children with RAD–instead she helps them heal. Their institute is helping thousands of adoption, foster and at-risk/sensory disorder children all over the world.

One thing I was especially excited to learn and begin to understand is how our at-risk children have off unhealthy neurotransmittor levels. There will be times when their excitatory neurotransmitors are triggered–and if uneducated on this I might think it was a trantrum and use inappropriate discipline making the situation even worse. BUT when I know what is actually happening, I know my child has a different need to regulate. It has been proven that these at risk children actually have different body chemistry and for awhile these children need extra hydration, protein before bed time (many at risk children have sleep problems), sensory activities more often (there are different ones appropriate for different situations) and extra healthy touching, snuggling, laughing, giggling and connecting.

Different sensory activities for different situations? You may have heard that some adopted sweeties can some times be indescriminately friendly. While some would say this is a risk for RAD, Dr.Purvis explains scientifically WHY these children are acting this way and HOW to help them. They actually have an unmet SENSORY need–and parents CAN do simple and very easy things to help these kids that have extra needs to touch. (Dr.Purvis recommends having a special “crash and bump” room for kids like this with different sensory and activity stations set up. They may need to do this 2 or 3 times before going to school or to the park–but they will have their sensory need met in a fun way with their family rather than reaching out to strangers and not understanding their need themselves). THEN, there’s the sweetie who doesn’t let ANYONE hold him other than his mom and he is afraid of strangers and most everyone. Yet again–another unmet sensory need–but this one needs a different strategy. Some children will have very mild behaviors that will look quite differently in a few years if they don’t find ways in the early years to heal–and some will appear crazy and wild–yet they are really just precious children who are full of sadness and fear. BUT THEIR IS SO MUCH HOPE…and it is so amazing, encouraging and even exciting when you are equipped with the information on how to help them.

There is just so much to learn–and while it may overwhelm you at first–DON’T LET IT!!! When you say YES to helping a child HEAL–you get to be a part of a miraculous healing process! The Lord doesn’t promise it will be easy–BUT we get to be used as the agents for CHANGE for our children…their body, spirit and souls. OH WHAT A JOY! WHAT A CALLING! While you may have come in thinking “love is enough”…if you are home–you are probably in the process of learning that it will require more education and training on your part–but THANKFULLY the Lord has used many wise leaders and scientists and professors like Dr.Purvis who are after His own heart and passionate about helping us!

A great place to start is on the Empowered to Connect site. Here is just a snipet of Dr.Purvis answering the question about parenting differently…

Learning & Un-Learning to Parent Your Child from a Hard Place from Tapestry on Vimeo.

And if you were reading this entry thinking “neurotrans what?”…she does a much more beautiful joy than me explaining…

Understanding the Importance of Neurotransmitters from Tapestry on Vimeo.

I’m also excited to share this AMAING ministry will be coming to serve and teach us at the next Created for Care event in 2012. You can visit their site at I know not everyone can pack up and fly to Denver and such to attend these training sessions–and you do not have to! I’m committed to going to things like this and would love nothing more to share what I’m learning and empower you to make deeper connections with your child and help your little one heal. ETC has video in depth video training (you Atlanta local friends–come on over and grab some coffee!) and they will be available on their site soon too. You can watch smaller training clips of theirs HERE and grow bit by bit also.

I’m so thankful to be home–to feel more equipped for the mommying role I have set before me–and I’m SUPER thankful I’m not alone and I have others to walk this road with! Here are my dear friends Jennifer and Christy with me at the Empowerd to Connect Conference in Denver this weekend…

Both of these mommas are crazy mommas! Jennifer (on the left) has 5 adopted sweeties with her oldest being 3 years old. AND Christy–has two biological kids—and while she doesn’t feel the calling to adopt…she DOES feel called to support our calling and is crazy enough to fly all the way to Denver with me to learn more. She is also VERY excited to have new parenting strategies, and she is confident these will even empower and encourage her biological kiddos to be all God created them to be! Don’t you love good friends?! Can I get an AMEN?!

Christy - April 11, 2011 - 1:06 am

Thank you so much for this and in the morning I am going to watch the videos. We brought home our son (kiddo #4) from ET 10 months ago and he was about 2 1/2 then. We are struggling!! Things were rough, then good, and now rough again. My good friend Eryn was there this weekend and I can’t wait to read your blog posts and pick my friend Eryn’s brain about this weekend. I am hoping to come to the retreat next year!! Thanks for the encouragement!!

Esty - April 11, 2011 - 8:51 am

Andrea, thank you! I hope alot of this will be part of the CFC retreat next year. Love that you 3 got to go! xoxox Esty

JonesEthiopia - April 11, 2011 - 9:48 am

Wow, I see a lot of my R in the paragraph in which you talk about tantrums. I’ve wondered for a while if R has some sensory integration issues— I would definitely say she does at this point after reading this post. Thank you.

eryn kesler - April 11, 2011 - 11:53 am

AMEN! What a great recap post. I too, feel incredibly empowered to help my baby girl, and truthfully, some great tools for our WHOLE family. I am so excited about these tools and want EVERY adoptive/foster parent I know to have the opportunity to learn from it! GREAT post!

It was nice to catch a glimpse of you in person 🙂 Eryn

Amy - April 11, 2011 - 1:22 pm

This post is so good! While I knew that I needed to parent Malachi taking into account his early separation from his birth mother It never crossed my mind that Eli may have similar needs due to his week separation from me in the nicu.

Gretchen - April 12, 2011 - 8:25 pm

I just have to say – I LOVE your blog!! I am mom to two precious cuties through domestic open adoption (and am a friend of Kimberly Chalk…I think that is how I found your blog!). I would love to hear more about the group you mentioned. I will definitely check out the links. Blessings,

Sandi - April 12, 2011 - 9:05 pm

Sounds like she has had contact with the STAR Center Sensory Therapies and Research. They are doing ground breaking Sensory Integration Therapy which reprograms the brain. All adoptive mommas should read the Out of Sync Child because it tells about Sensory Processing & how to change the brain through meeting their sensory needs. They are awesome!!!

rachel - April 12, 2011 - 10:04 pm

thank you for this post. i’m going to link to it!

Tiffany - April 18, 2011 - 10:34 pm

Finally have some time to sit down and catch up on your blog…my, I’ve missed a lot! I love this post and I wish I had known much of this before going to get Caleb rather than months after. This is so right though…even at just 9 months when we got him, Caleb is definitely a child in need of much sensory stimulation! I wish everyone knew all of this going in!