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March 23, 2011 / MrsH

Ch- Ch- Changes!

We’re implementing some changes in our family and I thought I’d share them here to both keep me accountable and because I’m so excited about them.  I’m also completely open to any additional ideas or feedback!  What instigated all of this is MrH and my realization that for the past 2.5+ years we’ve been operating with a short-term view.  We never set out to adopt, it just became the next most reasonable step.  It’s what we want to do, it’s definitely best for the kids, and frankly I’d be utterly heart-broken if they left our family.  And… well… the way we’re living now is not sustainable.  It’s too stressful, too emotional, too much in every sense of the word.  Now that we know the forever plan, and we’re also learning more and more about trauma  and how it’s affecting our kids, we realize we need an overhaul in so many ways.

We have a decent sense of how we want our family to be and this is NOT it.  I don’t want to detail all that’s wrong because it saps my energy, but we do have some plans and ideas for changing things around. I’m looking back a lot on last summer and how much fun we had, and wonder what elements of that we can recreate. I don’t think I blogged enough about the fun (hm… point taken).  So here are our ideas:

  • I’m back to being able to use a bit of the 1-2-3 method at moments that all else fails.  For a while I was being too soft on it, resulting in Buddy absolutely ignoring me.  Now that we’re back to actually just counting and otherwise he has a time-out, it really helps me to stay calm to know that if I really need a kid to do something without arguing, I can count and they will do it.  We frequently talk about it afterwards, about why it was so important, why I chose to count, etc.  It’s especially helpful with Buddy as it keeps him out of the stress zone.
  • We’re having more family meetings. Our family uses a special “speaking stone” that’s flat and smooth and about the size of my palm.  It feels nice to hold.  Whoever has it is the one who gets to speak.  Even Sweetpea wants in on the action, and Buddy has been a surprising contributor, regularly listing all the things he loves (“I love my school.  I loooovvvvveee having playdates.  And eating dinner together”).
  • Last night we had a family meeting during which we chatted about speaking kindly and respectfully with each other.  Most of Missy’s conversations these days involve lots of eye-rolling, rude tone of voice, and acting like others are incredibly dumb.  Then I feel upset and act emotionally and it gets ugly.  From now on, anytime she speaks in that way we’ll ask her to “watch your tone” (more neutral than “cut the attitude!”).  I’m hoping that by not expending all that emotional energy on her when she acts rudely will free up some energy to spend with her in a positive way.
  • We also talked with the kids about some ways to reduce the toy clutter. We rotate our toys so some are out and some are in storage in the basement.  But lately most have been out and they no longer fit on the shelves.  They’re hard to clean up and I feel resentful about it.  I also resent that MrH and I don’t have our share of storage space (we moved a lot of it for babyproofing, but Sweetpea is done with that phase now).  The kids totally understood what I plan to change and were happy about it.  I told them that if they notice any toys are gone to let me know and we’ll go get it together from the basement and find a spot for it.  I think this is really mostly a change for me, they actually don’t care as long as they can play.
  • Last summer we had a great predictability and rhythm to our days.  They’re so much simpler when we’re not running between school, activities, and homework.  We might homeschool our eldest in order to recapture some of that peace next year, but in the meantime, I took one idea from last summer to help instill greater predictability and thus safety for the kids.  It’ll be its own post I think, so keep your eyes peeled tomorrow!
  • MrH and I have gotten away from praying together. Clearly something to rectify.

Those are just things we’ve already begun implementing.  Next up is to help them start making amends or repairs to one another when they hurt each other. There’s been a lot of hitting and kicking between the older two lately, and our family therapist suggested that this could be a good way to help them actually restore their relationship a little bit instead of just saying “sorry” and then having all those negative feelings still there.

All that to say, we’re working on things over here.  MrH and I are struggling to create any amount of peace and calm in our home.  This isn’t just us having some fun new ideas, this is us being absolutely down at the bottom (we hope we’ve reached it, anyway!) and having gone through our hopeless and desperate feelings.  Rather than approaching specific behaviors, we’re taking a more global view to try and create the family space that we want: a safe place.

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