Everyday TBRI: Giving Thanks in a Brand New Family

Posted November 18, 2016

Everyday TBRI: Giving Thanks in a Brand New Family


Everyday TBRI®

What is TBRI®?
TBRI® is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children. TBRI® uses Empowering Principles to address physical needs, Connecting Principles for attachment needs, and Correcting Principles to disarm fear-based behaviors. While the intervention is based on years of attachment, sensory processing, and neuroscience research, the heartbeat of TBRI® is connection.
TBRI® is designed for children from “hard places” such as abuse, neglect, and/or trauma. Because of their histories, it is often difficult for these children to trust the loving adults in their lives, which often results in perplexing behaviors. TBRI® offers practical tools for parents, caregivers, teachers, or anyone who works with children, to see the “whole child” in their care and help that child reach his highest potential.
Want to know more? Visit TCU’s Institute of Child Development http://child.tcu.edu/.

Giving Thanks in a Brand New Family

As parents, most of us have pleasant memories of Thanksgivings past.  This may include memories of a special dish made by a grandparent (my favorite was my Nana’s carrots…legit!), a delicious pie, or football.  Many of the children we serve, despite coming from hard places, also have positive memories of their families at the holidays.  All families have strengths, and most families work hard to provide positive holidays for their children.  For this reason, we encourage our families to use the holidays to show their children that foster care and adoption is genuinely about blending families.  Here are some suggestions to try this holiday season:

  • Don’t do too much.  Limit the number of extra family members at the table and limit the amount of activities you schedule.  Too much can be overstimulating and lead to meltdowns.  Your children might also have a hard time 😉
  • Ask your kiddos ahead of time what special foods they have enjoyed at past holidays and what activities that they remembered doing with their family.  Regardless of what you have on your menu or what you have been planning, make room to incorporate things that were special for your children. 
  • Plan activities during the break that connect you as a family.  Choose a community service activity.  Play a sporting event, like a family kickball or flag football game.  Make a photo album together.  Have a board game afternoon.  Carve out time for laughter, like the type laughter that comes from deep in the belly.  Do more of that.  Also, make time to rest.  You’ll need it after all of that football, pie and laughter.
  • Keep schedules consistent and not too far from everyday life. Wake-ups, bedtimes, meal times, and snack times. Plan for physical activity with them every day!
  • Keep your expectations realistic.  If it helps, stay away from Pinterest and the Mommy/Daddy blogs for a bit.  We’re human, not a Norman Rockwell painting, so mark the task for yourself by celebrating small victories. 

Maybe this is like your turkey.  It might seem like a failure, but look around the table at all the healthy people.  There’s a roof over your heads, wine in your glasses, love in your hearts and a lime Jell-O mold to make that turkey less dry.  Let’s call that a success!

Last year after Thanksgiving, one of our families shared a letter with us about their first holiday as foster parents.  We’ll share it here again as a great reminder to families that we all struggle and we all find healing.  We’re proud to report that the Bares will be adopting their three children to become a family of seven next Tuesday! 

If you had asked me: are you prepared for your first real holiday with your new kids? I would have replied: yes, of course! I know that holidays are hard. I’ve read about this, learned in our classes to expect kids from hard places to clam up or act out… Logic tells us that holidays will be hard. We know in our heads but… As with every other aspect of parenting, we do not truly ‘know’ until we do… experience… endure… make it through. 

I’ve lowered my expectations in so many areas in the past 3 months… My ‘clean house’ with 5 kids looks very different than my ‘clean house’ with 2 kids did. The noise level in our home is quite different now than 3 months ago. Bedtime takes hours instead of minutes. Errands take hours instead of minutes. 

So I thought I’d adjusted my holiday expectations accordingly. 

We went to our inner city church for lunch with the community and the kids were amazing! It was great! Until we left to continue the rest of our day.. Cooking. Hanging out with family. Eating. Sharing what we were thankful for. For all of my ‘lowered expectations’, I really didn’t lower them. I lied to myself and, in reality, I really did picture it like every other thanksgiving but just with three more kids. 

What it turned into was 5 poopy accidents from the 6 year old. A complete meltdown from her – where she called Ricardo by his name instead of ‘daddy’ (for the first time since they arrived) and asked for visits with bio-mom (which hasn’t happened in weeks). 4 accidents from her 4 year old brother. Their older sister disappearing to watch a movie alone. And our oldest bio daughter sat at the table with my parents eating quietly and wondering what in the world was going on. It ended with Ricardo and I outside trying to get a grip on ourselves while I cried. 

This wasn’t what I pictured in my mind. We never went around the table and said what we were thankful for. We didn’t even actually have thanksgiving dinner together. But, you know what? We made it through. And you know what else? I am thankful. I’m thankful that they are here. I’m thankful that they have made tremendous progress in 3 short months. I’m thankful for their daily hugs and ‘I love yous’. I’m thankful that our bio kids adore them, even when the littles are out of control. I’m thankful that ‘thanksgiving’ isn’t a meal. It’s a state of mind. I was reminded of this. 

I was also reminded where these kids have been. And it’s not here. The fact that they can’t be with their biological parents yet really long to be ‘home’, that it’s not safe or ok, is utterly messed up and breaks my heart. But it’s the reality. And each day we are building trust. And learning more and more how to love these little people. How to help them heal. How to help them trust. 

And we spent the next two days with zero expectations. We didn’t spend Friday in Christmas tree chaos like we usually do. We brought home a tree and stood it in the living room. We enjoyed it – just there, all tall and pretty. We gave the littles small colored trees for their rooms, which they decorated and we’re thrilled with. Little guy was even up in the middle of the night just to say ‘thank you for my own Christmas tree!’ We got lights on the big tree – no decorations yet and it didn’t even matter. And then ordered pizza and watched Christmas movies. And had scheduled potty times to avoid accidents. And it was a sweet day. 

We are building memories. But they don’t change the past. And I have to remember that.