More Than One at a Time

March 9, 2019 32 Comments

I have lived with children who have spent time in the foster care system and they have taught me a lot about feelings. I mean, A LOT! Gavin (9 years old at the time) and I had an argument one day and he said some really mean things. We separated and he came back to me about an hour later with a note of apology and a piece of artwork. It was a rainbow with black overlay and a heart in the middle…. half the heart was a rainbow and half was the black. I asked him to explain it to me. He told me that the heart was his feelings and he is always trying to be happy and to love, but a lot of times, anger and being afraid gets bigger than the love. Sometimes they both happen at the same time and he gets really scared, because he doesn’t know what to do.

That little conversation stuck with me. I think I have innately understood that we can hold two feelings at once, but it never formalized in my brain until that moment.

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I have always worked with the kids (and myself) about how our feelings are messages to us about what is going on around us. Feeling angry should make us notice that something feels not fair or wrong. Feeling scared should alert us to danger. Feeling happy should help us stop and notice what is good. BUT…. we also have smart brains and our brains should help us decide what to do with the feelings. What do we do with the anger? Do we lash out and hurt people? Do we kick and scream? Do we hold it in and let it build up? Or do we take a deep breath and let our brains think about how to handle it? Take a break, then come back and talk it out? Offer a compromise or suggestions to resolve the situation?

Many of us let our feelings be in charge. It’s hard to not get carried away. For children who have been through trauma, anger especially is the go to feeling (and acting out on it is the common behavior). While comfortable isn’t exactly the word to describe being angry, responding with fury and noise is what is known to them. Their neurobiological system is built around it, their feelings are not developed enough to see the alternatives. Their brains have not consciously been taught how to think through it. It is what they’ve experienced all their lives. It is a slow, very long, often painful process to help these kids relearn feeling responses.

Telling Grandma stories.

Since Gavin gave me that powerful drawing to describe his feelings, I’ve grown. It’s added a layer of conversation with any kids who come to me with strong feelings. My mother died about 4 and a half years ago. Grief upon grief. I was gifted with the task of creating picture boards for her memorial service. It brought so much healing as I sorted through decades of photos. Dad has kept the boards and my kids ask to see them sometimes when we go for a visit. The older kids look through everything and share memories, ask questions, and tell the younger kids stories about Grandma. We have had several significant conversations about the feelings we have when we pull out the boards. The kids seem to have a solid understanding that the memories make them feel happy. The memories make them miss Grandma a lot and they feel sad. The pictures make all the memories good. The boards give them a sense of the continuity of life (a phrase from one of the teenagers), in that the childhood pictures of Grandma are obviously not memories that the kids have, but that those are times that HER mom and HER grandma were alive and loving. Those are times that shaped Grandma into the loving, fun, giving person that she was. And that helped them (the kids), learning loving, kind, crafty things from Grandma and will be things that will help THEM pass that on to their own friends and family. I love that!

Hearing Grandma stories

More than one at a time….. feelings. Yes!

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32 Comments

  1. Reply

    Pauline

    April 11, 2019

    What great insite from a child. We can learn so much from our children, if we just listen.

    • Reply

      Karla

      April 11, 2019

      I have been foster/adopt parenting for 28 years. The emotional journey and the things I have learned from them are a blessing! Thanks for joining me here today. Happy Spring! Karla

  2. Reply

    Katie

    April 10, 2019

    People don’t give children enough credit. How profound that he was able to draw that perfect to help convey how he felt.

    • Reply

      Karla

      April 11, 2019

      I agree, Katie! All of my kids have come out of trauma and it’s such a joy when they each find their way and their words to name and own what they went through, what they feel about it and what they want to do with it. Holden is quite artistic with his feelings! It’s good! Thanks for coming over to visit us here. Happy Spring! Karla

  3. Reply

    Cindy

    April 9, 2019

    I love Holden’s wisdom! And how you were so open to listen and receive his words and then shift your perspective. Being allowed to feel and sort through feelings is so much better than pretending they aren’t there or stuffing them.

    • Reply

      Karla

      April 10, 2019

      Thank you, Cindy. Holden continues to grow with some incredible self-awareness. I have another post about Holden .. A Boy and His Sport. I was taught to stuff things. These kids are such a gift!
      Thanks for joining me here! Be well, Karla

  4. Reply

    Rosemary

    April 8, 2019

    I love when kids teach us deep things! “Continuity of life” from a teenager! Beautiful!!

    Side note: there are a couple of typos in your post. Email me if you want to know.

    • Reply

      Karla

      April 9, 2019

      I do, too! Thanks for the heads up about typos. I review several times, but sometimes it takes another set of eyes. I’ll scrutinize more closely today. I’m so glad you came over to check me out. Thanks! Be well, Karla

  5. Reply

    jen

    April 8, 2019

    That picture is perfect and you should consider turning it into stickers and magnets as a fundraiser. It’s perfect

    • Reply

      Karla

      April 8, 2019

      What a great idea! Holden actually is a go-getter and is eager to make a difference in the world. I’ll talk with him about this. Thanks!!!!
      Be well. Karla

  6. Reply

    T.M. Brown

    April 8, 2019

    It was soooo good that he was able to explain the picture so eloquently. I also love how you have explained feelings to the kids – very illustrative and effective.

    • Reply

      Karla

      April 8, 2019

      Thank you! I’ve been doing this foster/adopt parenting for a long time and the kids have taught me so much about feelings! I’m blessed! Thanks for checking in. Be well, Karla

  7. Reply

    Monica

    April 6, 2019

    Talk about deep. That feels so relevant to me right now. This week I have felt angry, sad, and a little happy. My emotions have been a little crazy. Talking has made it better 🙂

    • Reply

      Karla

      April 7, 2019

      Monica, I’m glad it touched you. It DOES feel crazy to have so many feelings. Talking! Or as you saw, art or music. My journey with kids of trauma has been very powerful! Thanks for joining me here. Be well, Karla

  8. Reply

    Jennifer Morrison

    April 6, 2019

    What a beautiful post. I have fos-adopted all of my children. It is so important to have a safe place to share your feelings. Love the picture and that it led to a conversation.

    • Reply

      Karla

      April 6, 2019

      Thank you, Jennifer! I’m always SO happy to meet another foster/adopt parent. They just “get it” and understand how amazing this interlude is. Thanks for joining me here! Be well, Karla

  9. Reply

    Tiffany

    April 6, 2019

    What amazing words Holden spoke. Amazing he was only nine at the time – and his picture really does capture the conflict he described. It’s the little things sometimes that make the biggest impact to a person.

    • Reply

      Karla

      April 6, 2019

      Yes, Tiffany! Holden is amazing in many ways. I was blessed the day he came into our family. And he teaches me new things all the time. It’s one of the great things about foster parenting.

  10. Reply

    Michele

    April 5, 2019

    How amazing that one that young found a way to verbalize those feelings. You are definitely doing something right!

    • Reply

      Karla

      April 6, 2019

      Thank you, Michele! I think all kids have the ability to share in their own way… they just need a safe place to find themselves. Thanks for joining me here. Be well, Karla

  11. Reply

    Ramae Hamrin

    April 4, 2019

    That is a really good idea to save the memory boards for the kids. I love what you wrote about responses to feelings. Many kids and adults still struggle with healthy responses, and yes, it is possible to have many feelings at once. It’s what makes life so interesting and wonderful. You are doing such a wonderful job with those kids. Happy for you. 😊

    • Reply

      Karla

      April 4, 2019

      Thank you Ramae. We have a wonderful journey together and much of the time, I am learning as much from the kids as they do from me. I’m blessed!!!!
      Thank you for joining me today. Be well, Karla

  12. Reply

    Leigh Ann

    April 4, 2019

    The rainbow heart story is so poignant. Thank you for sharing.

    • Reply

      Karla

      April 4, 2019

      Thank you Leighann. And thank you for joining me today. Be well, Karla

  13. Reply

    Tricia Snow

    April 4, 2019

    I think it is really impressive that a 9-year-old could verbalize that his anger overtakes the lobe he wants to feel. I remember feeling as a child and there was no way I could tell an adult about it.

    • Reply

      Karla

      April 4, 2019

      Thank you, Tricia! All of my kids have come to me out of the foster care system, so we work a lot on emotional health. Each of the kids have their own way of expressing things. Some are quite articulate and we have deep conversations. Some use music; one of my teens keeps asking me to listen to her rap music. I hate rap, but when she asks, there is usually a message in the song that she is trying to share with me, so I listen. Holden is artistic and he almost always uses art to introduce conversations about his feelings. I learn so much from my kids.
      Thank you for joining me today. Be well, Karla

  14. Reply

    Anonymous

    April 4, 2019

    Great post – out of the mouths of babes!

    • Reply

      Karla

      April 4, 2019

      Yes. My children teach ME a lot!!! Thanks for joining me here. Karla

  15. Reply

    Lisa

    April 4, 2019

    Such a good reminder. Helps me understand my interactions with others, especially my toddler.

    • Reply

      Karla

      April 4, 2019

      Thank you, Lisa. All of my kids have come to me out of the foster care system, and emotional health is a huge focus in our family. It’s our journey together and one that I am so happy to be able to share here. Have fun with your toddler! Special AND challenging age. Be well, Karla

  16. Reply

    Carolina

    April 4, 2019

    I love this post so much. It is very hard for kids to control their feelings and not let their feeling control them, it is even hard for us as adults to do it. But the earlier we learn the better I think. I’m sorry about your mom passing and hopefully one day you guys can be together again.

    • Reply

      Karla

      April 4, 2019

      Thank you, Carolina. I know I will see Mom again. The love she gave us all is still evident and powerful. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts with me! Karla

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