When Adopted Kids Need Therapy by Ellen Stumbo

“Just pray for her, and God will restore her heart.”

I have a confession. When we adopted our daughter from Ukraine, we believed her cerebral palsy would be our biggest challenge. Sure, we knew she would have some emotional difficulties due to spending the first four years of her life in an orphanage, but we believed in a fairy tale. You know, where God wipes away the bad memories and a loving home is all she needed to heal from those deep emotional and psychological scars. I believed in a Christian cliché.

Christian clichés bother me. Life is messy. We all carry scars from our past, every single one of us. Whether it is a message from our childhood, a broken relationship, or someone who hurt us deeply. None of us get through life untouched in this fallen world.

Yes, God is in the business of restoring hearts, offering peace, and extending comfort. But in this life there is no delete button. A reminder of why we so desperately need God to do life with us. Sometimes we only get through because of His grace.

The details of my daughter’s past will never change, neither will the pain and loss surrounding them, but I do pray and hope that as she grows up, she will see that God was with her in the midst of the pain, and He is the one that led us to her.

So every week my daughter and I go to therapy to address not her obvious physical disability but the emotional disability created as a result of trauma, abandonment, rejection, pain, and the abuse she experienced as an orphan. A disability far more debilitating and impactful than her cerebral palsy ever will be.

And I am so thankful for how God uses her therapist — how she teaches my daughter more about how to control her emotions, to regulate her big feelings, and even to trust us, her parents.

Adoption is not a fairy tale. It is heartbreaking. It is messy. And it is absolutely worth it, because watching your child grow and make sense of their life is far greater than an imagined happily ever after.

Ellen Stumbo Head ShotEllen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor. Visit her at ellenstumbo.com.

Family Devotions

 

I always thought having a family devotion time sounded kind of intimidating. But knowing that we want God to be the center of our family, we decided about a year ago to start a very simple one as part of our bedtime routine. At the time, our kids were 4 1/2, 2 1/2, and an infant.

Our time consists of reading a story from a Bible storybook, going around and having each person tell what he or she is thankful for, and singing a song or hymn together. This is about as long as my little ones can sit still. (And really, it’s pushing it for my middle child, who ALWAYS seems to be thirsty when it’s Bible story time.) While they don’t always listen intently, it is consistent. They are hearing the Bible. And we are meeting together as a family every night and praising God. Even our baby, Joshua, who is now 15 months, joins in and makes a joyful noise some nights.

So far, we’ve used these Bible story books:

Some other sources you might find helpful as you begin or continue a family devotion time:

Do you have a family devotion or family worship time? What does it look like?

Princess Gabby Girl and the Sparkly Dress

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Like pretty much all 5-year-old girls, my daughter, Libbie, LOVES princesses. Our home echoes with Frozen songs, is coated in glitter and sequins, and Libbie’s bedroom radiates pink. She is a girly-girl all the way.

So when Camilla Battaglia’s team sent us this new book, Princess Gabby Girl and the Sparkly Dress, my daughter had it open and was looking through it before I could even touch it myself. It doesn’t hurt that one of my daughter’s best friends is named Gabby, so Libbie recognized that word.

Princess Gabby Girl is a moral tale about a young princess who finds a gorgeous sparkly gown in a secret wardrobe. She’s told by Miss Marvelous, an only semi-creepy woman in a mirror, that to keep her dress sparkling, she must be kind and do good deeds. Based on Matthew 5:14-16 (You are the light of the world), this very pink tale is a nice alternative to traditional princess paperbacks.

If your child is as obsessed with pink and princesses as mine is, you should grab up a copy of Princess Gabby Girl and the Sparkly Dress. It will incite some good conversations about being the light of the world and shining brightly with kindness.

Help! My Kids Won’t Stop Fighting!

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I’m afraid those words have been part of my life too much the last several weeks. With my daughter out of preschool for the summer (and going to kindergarten!), she and my 3-year-old son have fought and Fought and FOUGHT!!!

So, since I’m a child of this generation, I asked for help on social media. Here are some of the answers I got. What would you say?

Me: PLEASE share me with your creative corrections for siblings who are hitting? Mine are 5 and 3 and it is out of control.

  • I gleaned a load of perspective from Janet Lansbury, an Respectful Parent Educator who studied with Magda Gerber. This post may be a good place to start. Her posts are often timely to me and have helped greatly. I hope they are a blessing to you as well. It can be sincerely trying at times. So sorry for your stress at this time.
  • This is not earth-shattering advice, so I apologize in advance, and, admittedly, my kids aren’t particularly prone to hitting-type behavior. They’re more the argue/bicker sort of children. Anywho, the most effective way I’ve ever dealt with it is to simply separate them and refuse to allow them to play/interact together. “If you can’t be kind and respectful to one another, you just can’t be together. Go read/color/play by yourself, quietly. I don’t want to hear you say one word to each other right now.” They wind up so stinkin’ lonely, they pull it together and behave. (JessieLeigh)
  • This is one reason we came to RIP (Regional Intervention Program) with a five and three year old fighting constantly. There is a program in Cleveland if you are interested! It brought the joy back to parenting for me. To start, they teach you how to give instructions “keep hands to self” instead of “don’t hit” and then you reward with specific positive attention every time you catch them interacting appropriately. “Libbie, you are keeping your hands to yourself! I am so proud of you!” Other than getting to church, learning this approach has been the single best thing I’ve ever done for our family.
  • Mine are 7 and 5 and it’s still out of control.
  • A friend suggested I try the “Get-Along Shirt.”
  • We seem to do *ok* with time outs. Same # of minutes as their age. It doesn’t solve it all but it helps. Mine are 9 & 6. It didn’t start as early as yours are, but I’m not quite out of it yet.

So, tell me … what do you do about fighting siblings?

Raising a P.R.I.N.C.E.S.S.

RaisingAPrincess_CVRWith the success of the movie “Frozen” princesses are back in the spotlight, and much is made about raising daughters to be a princesses, but what does that really mean? Former Alabama defensive back John Croyle, and founder of child safe-haven Big Oak Ranch, believes the answer lies in Proverbs 31: “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in her gates” (vv. 28-31).

In his new book, Raising a Princess (B&H Books, May 2014), Croyle walks through the importance of raising young women in a biblical, strong, and compassionate manner. Touching on themes of unconditional love, failure, and trust, Croyle offers nearly four decades of wisdom in raising a godly woman from a dad’s perspective.

“A hundred years from now it will not matter what kind of house we lived in, the kind of car we drove, or how much money we had in the bank,” says Croyle, author of The Two Minute Drill to Manhood, which looks at what it means to raise godly young men. “But the world may be different because you and I were important in the life of a child.”

In The Two Minute Drill to Manhood, he tackles the necessities of equipping young men in the most pivotal moments of their adolescence. However, in Raising a Princess Croyle writes with a different end in mind: womanhood. The end is a Proverbs 31 woman and Croyle provides parenting techniques to help the reader raise their princess to someday be a queen. Croyle’s specific approach to raising young women is spelled out through the acronym P.R.I.N.C.E.S.S:

Praiseworthiness – A princess understands she is worthy of praise simply because she is made in the image of God.

Righteousness – She lives according to God’s normal, not the world’s normal.

Initiative – A princess makes good things happen.

Nurture – God built into girls and women an instinct to nurture that boys and men simply don’t have in the same way.

Character – A girl of character knows what her deepest desires are and chooses accordingly.

Empowerment – Your princess needs to understand life isn’t just something that happens to her. She has the power to choose.

Servant-Heartedness – A princess finds purpose not in being served, but in serving others.

Stability – As stability is provided for daughters, they will grow into the kind of people who help create stability for others.

John Croyle was an All-American defensive end at the University of Alabama during apic_administration4 renowned title run under Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Croyle declined a career in the National Football League and instead went on to found and develop the Big Oak Ranch for Boys. Over the next few decades they worked to start the Girls’ Ranch as well as the Westbrook Christian School. He and his wife, Tee, together have raised hundreds of young men and women, including their daughter and Big Oak child care director, Reagan Croyle Phillips, as well as their son and former NFL quarterback Brodie Croyle. For more information, please visit www.bigoak.org.

Are You Ready for Summer?

Believe it or not, summer is right around the corner. Have you planned your summer adventures yet? Check out these helpful products to help you and your family stay safe (and have fun) this summer!

  • BabyBanzBaby Banz Sunscreen Lotion Spray — Baby Banz has made it easier than ever to protect your little one’s skin from the harmful rays of the sun. They have created an amazing sunscreen perfect for young ones ranging from crawling toddlers to growing teens! The sunscreen is formulated with SPF 50 UVA/UVB protection and is PABA free for peace of mind! Simply point and press and the convenient spray emits a continuous, angled spray for maximum coverage. It’s never too early to establish good skin care habits!
  • Baby B’Air — The FAA-approved Baby B’Air Flight Vest is a safe solution for lap-held children while traveling in an airplane. The Baby B’Air is the perfect solution for all babies, securing them safely to their parent so that both the baby and parent are comfortable and there is no squirming or potential for baby falling. The Baby B’Air is worn by the infant like a vest. Constructed of 100% cotton and comfortable to wear for baby, the Baby B’Air is used by simply connecting it to the seat belt of the adult. The baby can then be held, fed, and even changed while both parent and child remain securely fastened in their seat. For more information, visit babybair.com.
  • PuddleJumperPuddle Jumper Life Jackets — The fun lasts longer for kids in the water with a Stearns® Puddle Jumper® Life Jacket. The comfortable design allows children 30 to 50 lbs. to move and swim freely in pools and lakes and at the beach, without the life jacket riding up around their necks. Each PFD is Coast Guard-approved and can be used as a learn-to-swim aid. They come in lots of different colors and styles.

What are your family’s must-have summer products?

Acceptance Defies Stereotypes by Ellen Stumbo

I love the energy that kids have after school: running, smiling, hugs to parents, stories of the great adventures that took place at recess. They squeeze in every minute of fun with friends before going home.

One afternoon, two little boys from my daughter’s class posed for a photo as they hugged side by side. When my daughter noticed the camera, she wanted to join in. I was about to tell her that the photo was only for the boys, but one of the little boys noticed her and said, “Come on, Nichole!” He waved at her to join in and then put his arm around her too. Soon, a few more kids joined in the photo.

It might seem like a regular happening, just a group of kindergarteners getting their picture taken with their friends … and it was! But it was also more than that. My daughter has Down syndrome, and this everyday happening reminded me that disability is inconsequential to friendship. Some people say that little kids don’t notice differences, which is why they accept everyone. I don’t think that is true. I do believe that little kids do a much better job at accepting everyone, but I also know they notice differences, they just don’t care about those differences the way adults do. They have not been touched by cultural expectations or norms. The beauty in that moment was the fact that she was one of the kids. She was included, invited to join in. She was one of the kids, and nobody cared if her speech is hard to understand or if she is delayed in some other ways. They just knew she was part of the group.

Those kids in that little group of friends were defying a stereotype, all of them. And I was so proud of them!

Ellen Stumbo Head ShotEllen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor. Visit her at ellenstumbo.com.

What to Do with Leftover Plastic Eggs?

Using Leftover Plastic Eggs

Have your kids already emptied all their eggs, scarfing down jelly beans and sweet tarts left and right? We try to dole out candy gradually, but with a potty-training three-year-old I’ve been going through it quicker than usual.

I keep finding empty plastic eggs laying on the floor. While I hate not to just save them for next year, we don’t actually fill our own baskets – all the eggs we have came from church and preschool hunts. But tossing them – even in recycling – seems wasteful.

So I scoured the web and found all kinds of fantastic ideas for using up those empty egg shells! Here you go!

It seems like there are a ZILLION ideas out there! Now I’m excited to go play with our empty eggs.

Have you ever done anything fun with your leftover plastic eggs?

Real Life Solutions with Dr. Linda Mintle

Q: My husband is very anxious about the birth of our second child. He is feeling the economic pressure of our expanding family and worries about everything. He is making me anxious because of his state of distress. What can I tell him to calm him down? I know God will provide if we are faithful.

A: You are so right. God is faithful and promises to provide for our needs. Maybe this study published in Pediatrics will help him realize he needs to trust and let go of worry. The study included 32,000 children and found that the psychological distress of Dad during pregnancy did impact child development. Specifically, fathers were given a screening questionnaire regarding their mental health status during their partner’s pregnancy. Later, mothers were asked to also fill out questionnaires regarding their child’s development. Controlling for a number of variables, a link was found between the fathers’ mental health and their children’s later developmental problems. Dads who scored high on anxiety and distress when the mom was 17 to 18 weeks pregnant had children who were more disruptive and anxious at age 3! We don’t know exactly why this is, but maybe the mental health of the father later impacts his parenting, or maybe his mental health impacts the mother’s mental health, or maybe there is a genetic link. The point here is that the mental health of the dad, not just the mother, impacts the developing child. So let your husband know that his anxiety and distress could be affecting your child. It is time to trust God to meet your needs and let go of worry. Your new baby is too important and you want to give him or her the best start possible.

Dr. Linda Mintle is a licensed therapist and an Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics. She is a national speaker and bestselling author with 18 book titles currently published. Visit her website at drlindahelps.com.

When Your Kid Won’t Go Outside

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In the car yesterday afternoon, my 5-year-old daughter made a big deal out of the fact that there were yellowjackets on the playground and she just left them alone. Granted, this is the preschooler view of how things happened. But she named off several of her classmates who apparently insisted on hovering around the insects. I praised her for being brave and thought maybe – MAYBE – she was turning over a new leaf.

Libbie’s always been wary of bugs, but a few years ago she was stung badly when she picked up a watering can that was filled with wasps. She can’t even confront a ladybug without vast amounts of tears. Her 3-year-old brother is her hero when he deposits dead ladybugs into his heating vent.

But Libbie’s playground tale gave me some hope. And then we got home. I shooed the kids outside as it was over 80 degrees and gorgeous. They were outside approximately 4.87 seconds before I heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Libbie ran back inside, crying that there was a bee right “near the front of the porch” and thus she couldn’t possibly be outside.

I’m sure you know that little ones need outside time like a fish needs water. It makes a huge difference in their behavior. And while I know my highly sensitive little girl isn’t making up her fear of bugs, it’s hard to be understanding about something that seems so trivial! My solution of “ignore it and go somewhere else” doesn’t seem to resonate with her.

Many online searches suggest a trip to the library, studying bugs and teaching her that they are harmless. But what about bees, which she knows are not actually harmless?

Do you have any great tips that will help us get her outside this summer?

photo source: Mike Baird via Flickr