Lisa Gunderson is a Registered Clinical Counsellor who focuses on multicultural issues. She is an award winning educator and inclusivity consultant for educational and organizational institutions. During her PhD in clinical psychology, she specialized in issues for minoritized youth, including ethnic identity. We asked Dr Gunderson your questions about identity.
When my kids struggle or act out, my antennae are always up for what might be below the surface of an issue. All parents do this, right? But wow, do adoptive parents ever have to bring their whole brain to it, using use their x-ray vision to see right down to the bone.
Here are two stories that illustrate the “below the surface” concept that amazes some of my friends who have little experience with adoption.
What is parent coaching?
Parent coaching is a process wherein parents or caregivers can learn, make changes, and get resources and support within a non-judgmental, safe, and professional relationship. Parent coaching can be helpful for a family who wishes for a more peaceful home with clearer communication, who are struggling with a major change, who feel overwhelmed, frustrated, helpless, or who are learning how to parent children with a variety of diagnoses.
Back in the early 1970’s, there wasn’t much support for adoptive parents. My adopted brother and I were raised just like my sister, my parent’s only biological child.
It didn’t matter that we all had different birth parents. We were three peas in a single pod. That was the story, and I believed it, because I believed in my mother. She did the best she could with the resources that were available to her. I didn’t think I was different because I was adopted. Yet, my mom was sometimes confused by my behaviour and I was confused by her reactions.
Over the past 18 months, I have been given the gift of time with my family. In that time, I have become increasingly conscious of the impact I have on the lives of the people around me.
We’ve been doing lots of talking lately about how everything matters–everything leaves an impression.
If we show up with empathy and kindness, it matters. If we show up with judgment and harsh words, it matters. If we don’t bring our attention to something, it matters. If you bring too much attention to something, it matters. If you eat a chocolate bar in your closet, it matters.
Most folks who work with kids and food begin with a question: “What to feed?”
There are countless articles and books about how to disguise veggies or sneak in more protein. But without steps one and two in place (the “how” of feeding, or the “feeding relationship”–see “Love Me, Feed Me” part one), step three is even more of a struggle. The key to improving what kids eat boils down to how they are being fed.
Attachment-based strategic parenting works with parents to develop a parent-child relationship based on empathy, understanding, acceptance, genuineness, and playfulness.
It helps parents increase their self-confidence and feelings of warmth towards their child, and reduces parenting stress. It improves the family’s coping skills and psychosocial adjustment, and increases their ability to have fun and enjoy each other.
Claire's 10-year-old son was adopted from a Russian orphanage when he was 19 months old. Her other son, Ethan, joined their family just over a year ago, when he was seven. Ethan was born in Canada and entered government care at age two. In this 12-part series, Claire shares the "fast and furious learning" that she and her family experienced when they adopted an older child.
The ugly truth is that I thought I was going to lose my mind in the first six months after Ethan joined our family.
It's not about "good" or "bad"
Children are vulnerable. In an optimal environment, they experience this vulnerability later in life when their minds and nervous systems are equipped to handle elevated levels of fear, stress, and feeling overwhelmed. The key phrase here is “optimal environment.” Unfortunately, we live in the “real” world, so children will often find themselves in situations that are far from the optimal; the result can be childhood trauma.
Britta West is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Clinical Traumatologist located in Burnaby, BC. She completed her Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology from Yorkville University in 2009. In 2012, Britta completed the Clinical Traumatologist specialization from the Traumatology Institute. Her areas of expertize include attachment, trauma, mental health and behavioural health diagnoses and parenting. Britta provides therapeutic interventions to address these issues in the context of the family system.