Our goal as parents is to raise children who become free and autonomous adults. Free thinkers, able to regulate, capable of higher level thought processes and decision making. We want happy kids who turn into happy adults. When you have a kid from a hard place getting to that point feels as daunting as summiting Everest, and the path to the summit involves a crap ton of work. That work comes in the form of conscious choices in connection, correction and empowerment for our kids.
How do you empower a kid who comes from absolutely nothing? The very basis of empowerment is felt safety. You have to get your child to feel safe with you so that you can move forward together. This involves taking them back to basics. When I say this people look at me and wonder “Are you one of those fruit cups who fed your 8 year old a bottle?” No, pretty sure Ally would have thought that was really weird. But, I did other things that I might not have done for an 8 year old who had been with me from the beginning of time.
For example, I established rituals with Ally. Her hair and nails were a HUGE deal to her. When you’re 8 you’re usually old enough to paint your own nails. I made sure Ally didn’t. Nail painting on the weekends became a mom and daughter ritual. Ally viewed it as my giving care. She was learning to receive care from me. Her hair braiding was the same deal. She could have done her own hair. Instead, I did it for her. Or we did it together. Eventually, she learned to give care by helping me braid Juliana’s care. This is an example of a move towards autonomy. She could now give care too.
Rituals are a huge part of building trust. Our kids need things repeated to them hundreds of times before they make connections and internalize what we’re saying and doing. I do little things like songs and rhythms too. Tess has one that involves me saying “Hey! I love you! Hey, hey I love you!” in a rhythm. I would smile, make eye contact with her, and even when she was pre-verbal, it lit her up. She LOVED it. When she came home I did this hundreds of times, during diaper changes, while we played, during therapy, and in the hospital quietly in her ear. Three years later, I say “Hey! I love you!” and she replies back, in rhythm, “Hey, hey, I love you!” Cate has the same type of ritual, but she says “Hey mama, one night” and I reply “I love you!” I have no idea how these started, but they’re a ritual, and they’re needed. Mindfulness, yoga and massage have also become rituals.
Mindfulness, yoga and massage take it to the next level too. Coupled with massive amounts of physical activity for our kids, these help them learn to self-regulate. This is something kids from a hard place miss. They never had a mama to rock them to help them calm when they were hurt or upset. Instead, they cried, no one came, they felt angry and desperate and they internalized that feeling. That becomes their response to everything, rage. Self-regulation, and giving our kids that tool is so empowering.
Nutrition is always going to play a huge role in empowering in our house. The feeling of hunger never goes away when your body was starved. We eat every two hours. This drives Joe and I slightly nuts. We’re feeding our kids like newborns, but it’s just small amounts, a protein/carb combo to keep that feeling at bay.
Three ways to empower your kids.
–FullPlateMom, who is headed home from training today and can’t wait to get back to her rituals at home.