The #1 thing worn-out foster + adoptive parents need most.

I’ve been there before. So bone weary as a foster and adoptive mom, I could hardly get up off the couch, let alone parent effectively. It got to the point where I considered finding a new adoptive home for two of my children. I couldn’t see past the dark cloud of trauma and chronic stress I was living under.

I made two massive changes. The first was getting respite care, which meant sending all five of my previously homeschooled kids to public school. The second was to get myself into post adoption therapy with a counselor who got it.

She taught me a lot and made space for me to process my grief. I learned a lot of tools, but the #1 thing she taught me was the power of my thinking. It sounds too simple, but journaling and gratitude changed everything for me.

What we think about, is what we create. Our brains will rely on habits to conserve energy, and the more we think something, the better we become at that thought, and the emotions and actions that flow from it. 

An eddy is a circular movement of water, counter to the main current, causing a small whirlpool. This is exactly what the circular motion of our events > thoughts > feelings > actions create in our lives, a disorienting whirlpool that keeps us stuck.

If my child has a meltdown and my thought is, “I’m not a good enough parent”, I feel incompetent, then I respond to the meltdown with anger. My action will end up creating more meltdowns in my child, and it becomes a vicious cycle.

I have thought and responded this way in my parenting journey to the point of believing my children would be better off in a different adoptive home.  

Our brains can sift through billions of pieces of information at one time, it’s truly miraculous. The RAS or Reticular Activating System is a bundle of nerves at the brain stem. It filters out this information and relays to the brain only what is important. Our brains know we must conserve energy to survive, so it helps us out by being very efficient.  

It’s the reason you think about buying a new car and start seeing it everywhere. It enables you to filter out the noise of a crowd full of people but instantly focus if someone calls your name.

The RAS takes what you think about, creates a filter for it, then sifts through the data and only presents the pieces that are important to you. All of this happens without us noticing, it’s pretty amazing. 

This incredible process can also get us into a lot of trouble if we don’t monitor our brains daily. I have a belief that my teenager can’t stand his adopted sister. Because my brain needs to be efficient and expend as little energy as possible, it will sort through millions of pieces of data each second, and only present to me those pieces that confirm my belief. 

Eventually it will be all I see in their relationship and I’ll feel like a failure as a mom. I will act towards them based on this very limited information and the emotion it produces in me. This will cement the negative relational patterns further, offering up even more evidence to prove my belief. We can hack this process by downloading our thoughts daily in a journal and pay attention to them.

The brain just does its job, it creates thoughts, nearly 60,000 of them per day. Negative thoughts will always be a part of that whether we acknowledge them or not.

I’ve created a weekly journal called Faith Forward Adoption, it will give you all the tools you need right now to begin taking your thoughts captive. You can find it on Amazon. Remember, you can’t control your circumstance to make yourself feel better. Happiness is an inside job.