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Episode 46

Bio Kids and Adoption—How to Prepare or Start the Healing Journey

Gail Heaton, Founder of Suddenly Siblings

You’re listening to together by AGCI. I’m Melissa Rush.

Today, we’re chatting with Gail Heaton, founder of Suddenly Siblings. Suddenly Siblings is on a mission to help foster and adoptive parents build a stronger blended family as a mother to seven kids, including two internationally adopted siblings. Gail’s work was born out of her family’s experiences as TBRI® practitioner and circle of security parenting facilitator. Gail is uniquely equipped to help families navigate the complexities of parenting biological children and adopted or foster children from traumatic backgrounds. Let’s get into our conversation.

How are you? I’m good. I’m excited about this opportunity. So thank you very much for welcoming me here on this. Thank you so much for taking the time. I’m so excited to learn more about you and your work. And, um, we, I just think this could be a really great resource for our families. And so, yeah, just thank you for being open to it and making the time to have a conversation. It’s been fun to kind of poke around and learn a little bit more about suddenly siblings, which sounds like, uh, a much needed resource. Um, I know for, uh, our families that are kind of going through the adoption process, I think like the first thing that, um, like a question that they ask is like, how will this affect my, you know, biological children. I love how you call them resident children. Right?

Cause it’s not always, uh, that, you know, sometimes as a default where like biological kids, but however kids came into your home, the ones that are there and then as you’re making a transition, um, I just, I like that you called them that I think that’s like a perfect term. Um, so can you, can you kind of start just by it for people who might not be familiar, um, telling us a bit about, about your work and suddenly siblings? Yeah, so I, um, I feel like I have to make a little bit of a disclaimer at first by saying that, um, so I have seven children. Um, five are biological and two, we adopted from Russia when they were seven and that was back in 2015 and now 23. So I always want to start out by saying, um, before I get into all the good stuff of, this is what, this is what I’ve learned. I made every mistake in the book when it comes to, um, understanding how difficult that, um, this transition of bringing in a new child is to those kids already in the home.

And, uh, yeah, I worked really hard on, on trying to come up with the term because when, when you’re talking about the needs of your children, you know, we, we need to kind of space out, um, and look at it in two different categories, the needs of the children coming into the home and then the needs of the children already in your home. So resident siblings is, is an easier way of saying that. And you’re absolutely right. It could be, uh, children who were, uh, previously fostered or previously adopted. So, um, what started this whole idea of suddenly siblings was when one of my resident children, um, my second oldest daughter, um, began she’s, she’s always been one of those that will kind of let you know what’s going on with her. Um, and she kind of informed me that there were some big stresses that were put on her because, um, of the, the trauma that our adopted sons were experiencing, and this was, this was much later in, in our, uh, she was still living at home, most of the children. So I have all my children are adults. Um, and, and she was instrumental in helping me to understand and to put into words, some of her experiences. Um, and then I started to talk to my other, uh, resident children and asking them, you know, tell me about some of your experiences, um, in this process.

And, and keep in mind, we had been, uh, you know, the adoption process started in 2015 and this was like 10 years later or so. Right. And, um, from that, I got this real sense that I, um, and I’m not beating myself up and I don’t want any parents to feel that way. Um, but I got the real sense that I had kind of missed the mark on a lot of, um, uh, structure and support that I should have been giving to my biological children, to my residents. Yeah. But didn’t because gosh, when you have two children that come into your home and they come from traumatic backgrounds and you’re putting out these huge fires all day, you don’t maybe have the bandwidth to look around and see if there’s little, little smoke. Right? Yeah. So when my, when my youngest, I, when I homeschooled all my children, so when my youngest was in high school homeschool, I realized that I’m going to need to sort of reinvent myself. Like, what am I going to do with my time right after my children, my last child is no longer homeschool. So I went back to graduate school. Oh, wow. And, um, I, uh, got a degree in family life science because I was interested in the impact and the dynamics of the family unit as a and the particular program that I had was very flexible.

And that it let me, um, kind of focus in on a research area. So I focused in, on resident siblings that that was going to be my area of focus, um, all my studies and all of my certificates and things that I had received prior to that was in how to help, um, our adopted sons or our children who came from trauma backgrounds, how to help them, um, heal. Right. Yeah. So suddenly, you know, Hanse suddenly sibling, we, this issue came to the forefront and, um, this daughter, her name’s Molly, and she’s, she’s the, co-author on one of our, uh, younger children’s workbooks. She and I brainstormed and we developed, uh, suddenly siblings, uh, so that we could have kind of a clearing house for information that, um, specifically targets the resident children because there wasn’t in my research. So I had, I had two years of like, um, the ability to, to research, you know, uh, using the data bases at, at, uh, at the university. And there’s no research that was available on how to help prepare the resident children. Wow. I was stunned. Wow. Um, it did make me feel a little bit better. Yeah. I, as a parent, miss some of these issues because the professionals had missed it too.

Um, so I conducted some research on my own and I interviewed, um, adult resident children and asked them some pointed questions, uh, because I was interested, this is back in my, in my, um, um, throughout my graduate studies, I was interested in knowing if the experiences that my resident kids faced was just our family dynamic. Or if this was like universal, because I was looking for some universal principles that I could pull from and say, okay, this is what was missing. This is what the resident children needed. So we can target this and then we can offer them that support. And in my studies, and in my research, I did find that there was definitely, um, a huge need for more support for the resident children, um, said by the very voices of those adults, you know, they’re now adults, but they’re looking back on their experience. And so that’s kind of how, um, suddenly siblings came about. Um, and, and back into my graduate program, my thesis was creating a weekend camp, like a day camp just for resident children and the COVID happened. And so we never got the pilot program off the ground. And so we turned that material. Yeah. So we turned that material into some of our workbooks. Um, but the, the response by everybody was just phenomenal. And then it was like people would come out of the woodwork and say, yeah, I’m struggling with this too.

And I had been, I had been a, a, um, an adoption sort of resource person all throughout my, my, um, earlier years with the children and nobody was bringing this up. And so, um, when I would start talking about it, then I would have people say, yeah, you know, I think, I think this is really, um, I w I F I wished that I could have done it a little bit differently with my children. And then it became this big, huge, and it seems like it’s, I mean, not to scare anybody when I use the word epidemic, but, um, it’s especially in our day and age. Right, right. But, but it’s, it’s been this, this big issue with our resident children, and they haven’t told us, and it’s not really their job to have to tell us. Right. So, um, so suddenly siblings exist to help equip families to look at not only what’s in the best interest of their children coming into their home, which is so important, but also to look at what’s in the best interest of their resident children. Yeah. And then, because this whole it’s, it’s overwhelming as a parent. Right. Um, so our resources are designed to help the parents not have to dig this information out themselves.

Like they don’t have to cobble together some kind of a, a program or support, um, our, our goal and our hope is that we have these things and we keep adding new resources that we can give to the parents and kind of scaffold the parents and say, you’re doing a great job. You know, you’re, you’re doing the best that you can. Here’s something that you can do. That’s not going to overwhelm you. That can help you kind of boost up, um, your resident children. Yeah. Oh, that’s so wonderful because, and I think you’re so right. That, uh, when you’re in the, in the midst of it, um, you kind of, it’s like, what’s the greatest ni you know, what’s the biggest fire, right? Like, what do I need to deal with right. In this moment? And at times it feels like when you’re bringing a new child into your home, who’s had, you know, comes from a hard place and has had some really, really, um, traumatic experiences that can be, I don’t know, I guess it feels like the more pressing concern that you, you kind of deal with that, and your kids have been in your home. You’re like, okay, well, you’re, well, you’re fine.

But then you might not be thinking about like the secondary trauma that they’re being exposed to just by having this big transition and having suddenly having a sibling who has lived through some really hard stuff and watching those behaviors are kind of things that can be hard to understand as a child. Um, yeah. So was this when your daughter, you know, kind of confided in you that like, Hey, these were some things that I, that I felt that, you know, that I had to deal with that were hard, like, was that, did it kind of make sense when she said it, or were you, were you kind of taken aback by that? And then kind of in retrospect, went through and were like, okay, I could see how that happened. Yeah. Yeah. Full disclosure. It devastated me. Yeah. Um, I, I would, would travel to different, uh, parts of the country to listen to two seminars on, on how to help, you know, our heart kids. Right. Um, I put in so much, you know, effort and time and, and whatnot to get that help, to get them settled. And then to hear one of my more outspoken children, um, say I felt neglected during this time. It was devastating. Yeah. And I was, I was honestly clueless because I thought, and, and especially for our particular family, I homeschool my children. I’m with them all the time.

I thought that the, um, the level of communication in our family was, um, and trust and, and everything in our family, what an, and there are the resident children’s love tanks. I thought that was filled up enough that it would withstand, um, because you know, even, even good, um, even good things that are new can, can cause some concern for some children. Right. Um, any kind of change, even if it’s good, can be, can be problematic for some children. And I thought that I had covered all of those bases. I thought that we had a well-oiled machine of a family. Right. And that they would come to me when at, with any one of their issues. And I think that, um, the more that I’ve studied this issue, the more I realized that’s pretty common. Um, what, one of the things that that happens is that our children are resident children. They’re used to a certain level of closeness with us in time and attention. Right. And that has, um, that has built into their sense of security and safety. And then with the changes, and again, even positive things, if they’re changes that can be disrupting, but then couple that with some, um, some issues in those fires, right. With, with our, um, foster children or, or adopted children that just pulls the rug out from under our children, because we’re not there for them, the way that we used to be. Right.

And they’re not thinking in terms of, well, mom, for all these years has filled my love tank and she’s always been there and I can talk to her about everything. And so that’s going to naturally, they don’t think that way, they think in the here and now, and, and for younger children, very concretely and suddenly mom who has been attentive is distracted. Right. And we parents, we don’t, we don’t know this. We, we don’t realize this. Unless somebody comes along and says, Hey, this is what’s happening. And then says, it’s okay, because you can fix it. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So I, again, I mean, I think it’s important. Like you said, you try not to be hard on yourself because you don’t know what you don’t know. Right. And we all, I mean, I think those parents, everyone is doing the best that they can and never wants to, you know, and so definitely to anyone listening to this, if you, if this is, if you’re realizing this now or do not beat yourself up, you’ve done the best that you can. And all we can do is look ahead. Right. So, um, and that’s why it’s so great that you’ve taken something that was difficult for your family and then turned it into something that helps heal. I’m sure. It’s.

I would imagine it’s, even though your children are adults, I think still like wrestling with some of these issues would bring healing to your family. Even if your kids are out of the home at this point, is that your experience? Yes. And, and that’s, um, that’s the message of hope that I just kind of want to insert here right now, because what happens when I do speak on this issue is I have, I, I basically cause, um, sweet families, sweet moms and dads to have the same kind of meltdown that I had when I learned there can be a better way. And I hate that I caused that to, to anybody, but, um, it’s never too late, like, um, the, the techniques and the principles and things that, um, I try to teach families. Um, you can repair what quote, unquote damage you think you have done. And it’s in that repairing that, um, greater trust builds. It doesn’t sound like it works that way. Nobody wants to think that, that I make a mistake. And then in the repairing of that mistake, my, my relationship, my children get stronger, but I’m here to tell you that’s true. Um, uh, our children and, and we started this process of healing, uh, while, uh, three we’re still in our home. Um, but, uh, it’s yeah, it’s never too light the opening. See, here’s the key to all of this, right?

Open communication, being able to openly talk about some of these harder things with your children, being able to listen to them, talk about how the hard things and we not judge them. Right. That in a nutshell is the key, right? That’s the key to building, to building trust in and to continuing to build like a strong attachment with your children that can happen even after the children are out of the home. And I’ve had many parents come to me who have adult children and they say, you know, I was afraid to, okay. So I did the, I did the chicken way and I wrote an email to my adult son and said, I’ve learned some things. Yeah. Next time at the next family gathering, if you want to talk, I’m here and there’s healing, that’s taking place because we’re opening up the subject and we’re saying, um, I did not meet your needs because just, I did not meet your needs. What can I do now? And there’s healing in that. There really, there really is. Yeah. Oh, that’s so encouraging. And I mean, I just think like that’s how we find all healing, right. Is like in relationship and connection and honesty. And, um, it can be difficult to start those kinds of conversations because no one likes to, it’s hard to, it’s hard to like, look at things. Maybe you’ve done and to think, oh, I should’ve done this differently.

Like that, that’s a difficult, I think, realization to, to come to, but it’s so worth it. Um, so if someone is listening to this and they’re like, okay, I’m, you know, they’ve just decided they’re going to adopt or they’re, or they’re in the midst of the adoption process, but their child hasn’t come home yet. And they have resonant children in their home. What are steps that they can be taking to start, you know, laying the groundwork for a positive transition for their resident children. Yeah. So the ideal, that’s the ideal situation right now. My, my heart is always going to be for families who have their children, their, their adopted, or foster children already in their home kind of been struggling. That’s my heart’s always going to be there, but these, these, the resources that I have, um, you know, like I said, they can be used at any stage in the game, but it’s really wonderful. And I really love to talk with families who are just starting out because you can just like hit the gate running. Right. So, um, you know, there’s, there’s a question of, when do you, when do you start the, and then how do you start the conversation? And so, um, with, with when, um, the earlier the better, and again, I have to speak to my parents who don’t have the luxury of starting to it’s okay. Because your, your, when is today, yes. Right.

Wherever you are in the wherever you are in the process. Um, but you know, so experts say that when, um, when you’re pregnant and you’re introducing the idea to your already children, um, your resident, they’re still called resident children. You, they, they suggest that you do that, uh, when you, um, no later than when you first start showing. Um, so those of us who have, um, fostered or adopted, we understand that it’s like a paper pregnancy, right? So there’s a certain amount of paperwork that has to be done. Um, when you get to the point where, um, it’s kind of obvious what’s going on, that’s when you, um, would want to have these discussions, at least at that point, right. Um, because there will be a number of changes that will occur in the family dynamics and the sooner that your resident, child or children, um, can start adjusting to these things, the better that their adjustments, um, is gonna be. So also, um, you can begin to start, um, creating some rituals in your family that will help them through those times when you have less time for your resident children. Um, I’ve had, I’ve had some families, um, with a resident child create like a secret handshake like this. And so you would say, this is, and you can, at any age, I mean, even teenagers, you can do like a high five kind of a fun handshake, right? Yeah.

And you can say, okay, um, this is something that we’re going to learn to do. This is my secret way of telling you, I’m here for you. My heart is with you, but my hands might have to be with the new child. So let’s learn this secret handshake or this, whatever, right. High five, whatever. And when I want to let you know that I’m still thinking of you, I still love you, but I have to kind of, uh, attend to something over here. This is a way for the child to know, okay, she has to, she has to put out this fire, right. She has to change or change a diaper or whatever it is, but she’s still thinking about me. That’s a very connecting kind of a thing. Um, I recommend, and that’s all part of like, how do you, how do you prepare them? How do you start those conversations? Um, you start the conversations by making sure that, that as you talk about this process, you also have something that you can give to your resident child that says, I’m not gonna forget you. Right. Um, family meetings, if you haven’t done some families are like champions with this and they have like a weekly meeting or monthly meeting. Um, we didn’t do that, but I think it’s a good idea.

Um, if you can, if you can begin to have, um, if you, haven’t already some kind of a special something that you do with your resident child. Now, one thing I have to caution, though, don’t set your sights too high on what it is that you’re going to do, or too often, like every, every day we’re going to, because that’s not realistic. Right? So you, you set your goal pretty, pretty small, but be as consistent. And then you do everything in your power when your new child comes in, that you still maintain that one ritual so that you, so you know what, it may be a five minute thing. It may be, it may be five minutes of uninterrupted. Okay. This is, this is your time. You can choose the game. You can choose the topic. You’re the boss for five minutes. Right. And we’ll do this once a week. Um, that goes a really long way in helping your resonant child feel secure. That even though you’re not going to be able to, um, maybe spend as much time with them as you have, your heart is still knitted to them. Yeah. Um, and then, you know, how, how you, um, how you talk, right. How you talk about the whole process.

Um, I think that a really, really good thing to do if you have not done before is kind of have some deep conversations with yourself or your spouse or whoever your, your partner in parenting is about, about why you want to adopt or why you want to foster. Yeah. Um, and then when you have that, um, you know, some people call it like the elevator statement, like one, one or two quick sentences about right. Um, you share that with your children, you share that with your children. Let, let them know. What’s, what’s your heart behind this. Yeah. Um, that’s another really good way to kind of start this, this conversation. Um, if, if it’s foster care, you’d want to talk to them about just in general, what foster care is and why some children need foster care. Yeah. Um, same with adoption. Just, just bring up the subject. Um, don’t expect that children, um, you know, a lot of times we’ll want us, as parents want to say, so do you have any questions? And they do, oh, they do. They have so many that they can’t even verbalize. So it’s, it’s helpful for us to know what some typical, uh, concerns might be so that we can proactively just begin those conversations with them. Right. Um, and then that other thing, you know, okay. Fostering the adoption are very positive.

And I need to say that several times, because I don’t want to get, I don’t want to ever get, give the impression that, um, it’s not a positive experience. Sure. Um, it can be challenged, you know, there’s, there’s some challenges that can be overcome, but understandably, when we, as parents start this, this process of fostering or adoption, we’re on a high, right. We’re at the pinnacle of our motivation and we all we can see are the positives. Yeah. And that’s helpful and important and necessary for us to go through the whole awful paperwork. Right. But we also need to remember to, to balance that with some realistic about how it’s going to, um, affect our children. Yeah. Not that it, and again, just because it’s going to affect them doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a problem or an issue. So, but we do need to be mindful of looking at it from our children’s perspective and how it might affect them and understand their developmental ages. Right. So younger children, well really, even up to adolescence, I mean, children are kind of self-centered right. They, they look at, I mean, and that’s, that’s part of that’s developmentally appropriate. So they’re not maybe going to look if, if your reason for fostering, um, you know, your reason might be your reasoning and really good, um, empathetic, selfless reasons.

Your children, can’t probably be expected to have that same, um, feeling of wanting to help someone else not necessarily. Right. So we, we have to kind of take that into account that it can feel scary. I mean, it can feel scary, um, in, in a pregnancy bring, bringing a new child, a baby into the home, um, through pregnancy that can be scary for some children. Yeah. Well, it kind of threatens your place and the family. Um, I mean, obviously it, you know, kids adjust and, and, and it works out. But, um, yeah. I mean, I think when you think about it, like if you’re bringing a new child into your home, through yeah. Pregnancy, um, you know, I feel like you, it’s pretty normal to be like, concerned about, oh, so-and-so might feel jealous of the new baby and like, how do we balance to make sure they still know how special they are, like in our family and that they’re not being their places and taken or something like that. And I think it can, for some reason, I don’t, I think we tend not to look at it the same way with adoption and foster care, because first of all, for at least the families that we work with, it’s generally not newborns that are coming into families. It’s a, you know, child two or older, it might be sibling group. They could be a teenager.

And I think parents tend to be like, okay, I’m going to have to give this, you know, your new brother or sister, a lot of attention. They’ve had a hard beginning. We need to make them feel welcome. And part of our family and, you know, and so it’s like the balance almost gets the, the resident children, I think in some instances feel like they have to give, you know, quote, unquote, give something up, like for that child to co you know, if there isn’t that there doesn’t seem to be the same conversation as when you’re bringing it. Like when you’re bringing a child in, through a pregnancy versus adoption or foster care, it is different. And it can cure. If we don’t know this, it can create some, um, some feelings in the resident, children that they’re the worst sibling in the world, even, even before, even before the new child comes into the home. It can. Um, and, and I’m getting this from the interviews that I’ve had with adult resident children. That’s one of the things that, um, was in CA I was able to pick out six things that kind of coalesced the research into six major things. And that was one of them. Um, they, they want to share the room, but the practical, they know they want to want to, they want to write, they want to want to, but the daily battle of this was my stuff.

And I don’t some days that can be overcome some days that can not. And so resident children are gonna feel like monsters, and they’re not going to tell you, I mean, unless you have like a super, super open, communicative environment with them, um, I still would not assume that a quiet resident child doesn’t have an issue. Um, just some things they’re not gonna want to tell you about, they’re not going to want to confess that, um, little side note here. That’s one of the reasons that I think finding support groups for resident children is so valuable because when they can talk to one another and find out who my deep dark secret is that sometimes I can’t stand my new sibling and their friend says, oh my gosh, me too. Yeah. And then they both realize that they’re not monsters. And then that makes it so much easier for them to go back in, especially in a family, that’s a little bit kind of chaotic going on. It makes it easier for the resonant kids to go back in and say, okay, I’m going to do it again. I’m going to try again. They, they need, they need to find others whose voices are similar to theirs. And that was a piece that I didn’t know. I didn’t know how important that that was. I mean, when you think about it, of course, because as parents love support groups, we need support groups.

And I hope all of you parents out there are in some kind of a, of a support group because you need that too. We all need to know that our deepest, darkest fears and thoughts, um, are common. Yeah. Yeah. That’s so true. I mean, I think we talk about that when, I mean, when I talk to adoptive families, that’s like the number one thing they say that got them through was having a community of people who understood what they were going through, that they could, you know, be open and honest about the, you know, there’s joyful moments. And there’s very, very challenging moments that is just part of the journey. But I hadn’t ever thought that’s such a, I mean, kids are, kids are going through that too. Like they need, they need someone else who’s going through it too, that they can talk about because yeah. Can feel lonely. And they feel ashamed to say how they feel, but you can’t, obviously, as we know when you bottle things up inside that doesn’t usually work out very well and go, well. Yeah. I mean, it seems looking back on it, it seems like such a duh moment.

First, they need support, but we, we don’t think of, we, we don’t think about, we don’t think of, you know, children are naturally resilient and, um, they’re, they’re just little troopers, you know, and they want to do the right thing and they, they also don’t want to rock the boat. And they also, um, when, when they understand even a little bit about what brings a child to foster care or causes them to be available for adoption, they’re always, well, I shouldn’t say always, but most of the time they’re going to compare their bummer experiences to what they imagined might have happened to their foster or adopted sibling. And guess who’s always going to win that contest and it shouldn’t be a contest, but that’s how our children think. And so when they’re struggling in an area, even if it has to, whether it has to do with, with, um, fostering adoption or just some other area, they’re going to compare it to what they think is the most, which it is losing a family. You can’t, you know, and so they’re, they’re not going to want to talk about what their struggles are because they’re not going to think that they matter as much, and that comes from love. And that comes from empathy that they have for their new sibling. Um, or even before the sibling comes into the home, just the thought of the new sibling that comes from a place of love.

Um, but we as parents, I feel like can, um, make those, have those conversations. Um, you don’t need to ask, are you feeling this way? You can just go in with a conversation as if this is very normal and, and natural and, and let them know that you are here to listen to them too, that their story matters to that their concerns and their challenges, because deep down, that’s what, that’s what our resident children want. They may not think that their problems are worthy of our attention, but deep down, they, they need our attention. Yeah. Yeah. So you think like a big thing for families is to kind of, like you said, not, not necessarily ask, oh, do you feel this way, but to normalize, Hey, like you might feel this way and that’s okay. And I’m here to talk about it, to kind of make it, remove the guilt and shame from any feelings they might have about, about their family. Um, yeah. So we have, we have two workbooks for children that are what I like to call little mini trainings. So, you know, parents get, get training on how to, um, especially with children who come from trauma backgrounds, we, whether you’re fostering or adopting, you get wonderful training on how to, um, kind of navigate that situation, right? Yeah. Resident kids. Didn’t right.

So my, my hope and my goal with these workbooks, one of them is for ages five to nine, and one is for, um, 10 to 14. And the goal with these they’re designed to be done with either a parent or a trusted adult, depending on the ages of the children. Um, and the goal is to have this little workbook that talks about some common issues. So you’re not like coming at your child and saying, uh, do you feel this way and putting them on, you know, on a Mart? Like, I don’t know what the right. Yeah. Well, I don’t know what the right answer is. Yeah. So it just goes through and says, these are some common things that some children who are bringing in a new sibling might feel, so let’s talk about these things, right. Um, so that’s the purpose of the workbooks is to have to get those conversations going so that us parents can know ahead of time what these common challenges are. And then we can bring it up to our children in a way that’s not pointing fingers at them or alarming them, putting them on the spot. If they’re not ready to kind of talk about it.

Um, so, you know, using the workbooks is a great way, having a list of common sort of stressors, and you as a parent, just proactively at dinnertime, or as you’re driving to soccer practice or whatever, just, Hey, I was, you know, something that’s really, really good as is, as you parents are learning, um, these things in your training, you can bring them up to your children. Hey, today we learned about, um, different trauma responses in, in, uh, foster children. It was really interesting. Let’s talk about this, right? Well, that’s meeting a need for your resident child to understand, and to not be fearful of the new child coming in, going to be doing something that can harm them. Yeah. So you’re kind of getting at it in a, in a, not a backhand way, backdoor way. Yeah. But I mean, it sounds like the most important thing is, um, that you’re, that you’re talking and that like, there’s nothing that they can’t try and do establish as best you can, that there’s nothing they can’t come to you with. And I love that the workbooks, you have like different ones for, you know, two different age groups. So it kind of like gets to issues that might, they might be facing as an older child that, you know, maybe younger kids have different concerns.

So you, you mentioned that your, uh, your heart is for families who are in the middle of this, who maybe already have resident and, you know, adopted or foster kids in their home. Um, and they’re here and they’re struggling right now and they’re not really sure who to turn to or what to do. What’s kind of the first thing, you know, you would recommend them to do, obviously you have, um, more detailed resources and courses, but like, if somebody is like, I am at the end of my rope, like what’s something people could do today. Yeah. So this is for families who have, so their child has already been in their home. Um, the foster adopted child. And then you’re either noticing that your resident children are struggling or we’ve scared you enough today. And now you’re panicked about it. Oh, sorry. And now you’re, you’re, you’re understandably panicked about it. Um, first thing, I mean, honestly, honestly, the first thing to take a deep breath, um, you are not the, you are not the first to, um, have this new understanding and you won’t be the last and, you know, just going back to what we said earlier, that it’s, it’s never too late to start now.

One of the best things that I have found in both my personal life and in my practice coaching with other families is, um, if you’re familiar with, and I mentioned this before the connected child, if you’re familiar with TBR, I trust-based relational intervention. And most of you all will be because you would have implemented these things, these strategies for your children who have come from, um, early adverse experiences. And this is another, okay. I don’t mean for this to sound like, uh, again, we should have known this. I can’t tell you, I can’t tell you how long it was before I realized I can use those same principles with my resident children. Yeah, yeah. Right. Like, boom drop Mike, that’s it? Yeah. They’re applicable to everyone. They really are applicable because, because they’re apple app, click that word. I can’t say that right now applicable to a child who feels unsafe. Okay. Now we got to get it out of our heads that we cause that we got to get it out of our heads, that we didn’t meet their needs because when we, and that’s why the deep breath. Yeah. Because when we get stuck in that, then we ourselves are in fear mode. And as we know, if we’ve learned about brain science, right. When anybody, including ourselves are in fear mode, we are paralyzed and we can’t move forward. Yeah. So we have to take care of ourselves.

We have to, um, for me, that was a ton of prayer, um, repenting, you know, to God, to my children, um, for me to get to that place where I can say, okay, let’s move forward. Right? And then, um, the same principles apply. So we may, as parents, we may have inadvertently caused our resident children. And I used to, couldn’t say this without crying. Cause our resident children to be in hard places, but we can meet them today. We can start repairing today. And that could be something as simple as a conversation with them. I listened to this podcast. Maybe let them, depending on their age, certainly older teens, maybe let them listen to this podcast. Um, admitting that if I had known better, I would have done better. Right. Look, moms, dads in the end. One of the things we want to model for all of our children is that when, when you don’t do it perfectly, the first time you can start again and you can try again. Right. So don’t be afraid to model that for your children. Don’t be afraid to say I am. So, um, I’m sorry I missed this. I didn’t, I didn’t know the researchers did this. This is, it’s like, it’s a new thing. Yeah. Praise God that now we know. Right.

Um, I don’t know that maybe it was more theoretical and not like practical if you want to like practical steps, but I would pull out that book. I pull out the connected child and just say, okay, how can I show, how can I show my resident, child who maybe has a chip on their shoulder right now that I’m really there for them. Right. Um, and, and look at some of those principles because that’s, it’s, it’s human relationship. One-on-one building connections. Yeah. No, I think that’s great advice. And it’s so true. I mean, I think people, yeah, look at that. Look at Karen Purvis work and, and the connected child and they want to apply it only to, you know, adopted and foster kids or kids, you know, quote unquote kids from hard places. And, um, I think there’s something in that for, for everyone. And not even just kids, I mean, for adults, like we all fundamentally need all of those things. Right. We need, we need connection to like then do the work. Right. Like that’s where it starts. You have to, you have to have that foundation. Um, can you just leave us with something? Like, what do you think is the most important thing for families to know or kind of, uh, maybe, hopefully there’s a message of hope tied to that. Yeah. You know, I’m open to boil it down. It’s, it’s open communication with your family.

Um, for, for some of you, if you’re like me, um, that was not how I was raised. Like we had secrets, we didn’t talk about the hard things. And so I’ve had to learn to do that through this process of parenting children. Right. So, and there’s a lot to this thing of, okay, what is open, you know, Oakland communication. Um, I do have a online course on, on the website on suddenly siblings. That’s, um, it’s eight steps to empowered voices. And so that kind of goes in, breaks down this whole idea of what does open communication mean? How do you do that if it’s not your family’s culture? Right. So that’s the key to all of this is, is to learn, to be vulnerable with yourself, with your children to some, some degree. Um, but the, the thing I want to leave you with is, um, because, you know, look, whether you’ve been, your children are already in the home, you know, your, your adopted foster children, they’ve been in there for a while, or you’re just starting out, you’re going to make mistakes, sorry, it’s a given, but you are right. It is a given. And, um, it’s shocking for some of us to, to admit that and to realize that, but it, it, it will happen. Um, rupture and repair is something that I learned. Um, I’m also a Bri practitioner and that’s something that I learned through TPRI.

Um, what that means is that, okay. So when you, when you go, I don’t work out. I don’t, I don’t lift weights, but I have in the past. So if, if you, you can imagine if you don’t, but if you’re, if you want to, you know, you gotta, you gotta imagine it when you, when you lift weights, what you’re doing is you’re making little tiny tears in that muscle. Right. And that’s why they say you wanna, you wanna work out like every other day because you have to have time for that to repair. Yeah. So it’s in the repairing of a tear, little mind, my Newt tears that builds strong muscles. Yeah. When, when we look at connecting and relationship with our children, with our spouses, with our significant others, with our family members, with our community, right. Just human relationships. Guess what the growth is in the repair after a rupture. Yeah. Okay. So if we, if we parented perfectly what our children maybe trust us in, in the way that they do, when they see that we weren’t able to meet a need, but we’ve repaired that breach in the relationship, right. It’s, it’s in that repair of a breach that the thing gets stronger, whether it’s your muscle or whether it’s your relationship and your connection with your children. Now, I’m not saying go out and blow it.

We don’t need, we don’t need to put that as our priority, but it’s a given, like you said, it’s a given and just know that don’t be stuck, don’t get stuck in the rupture, move toward the repair, because that’s where they’re going to say, okay, he’s there for me. She’s there for me. She’s not perfect, but she’s there for me. Yeah. So that would be what I would want to say. Yeah. Wow. I’ve never heard that described in that way, but I love the, the lifting weights metaphor and how those little tears, but it’s like, it’s like kind of like a little bit of, yeah. The little tears and then in the repair, that’s where the strength comes from. Um, that’s really beautiful. Well, Gail, it has been an absolute pleasure to talk to you. And I just feel like I’ve learned so much, so thank you. Good. I hope it wasn’t like a fire. There’s so much more I wanted to say no. No. So I want it to be a fire hydrant. You know, if people want to learn more, can, can you tell us where they can find you? Yeah. So the website, um, you have to put the three W’s ahead of it. So you have to do www dot, um, suddenly sibs, S I B Okay. And that takes you to the websites. Um, you can join our, uh, newsletter list. We have a newsletter that goes out every month.

We have a Facebook, um, it’s a private group. So when you join it, you have to answer some questions. Cause we don’t want just anybody in there listening to our business. Um, we have the, the resources that I mentioned, the two, the two children’s books, and then there’s a parent book. Um, there’s, there’s two, um, online courses, tons of free material, videos, articles, that kind of thing. Um, so that would be, I guess, the best. And then there’s a contact me sheet in there too. So the best way to get ahold of me. And I love, I love hearing from you all. I love hearing your success stories. I love hearing, um, your ideas of things that you have come up with, you know? Um, I love that. Well, awesome. Well thank you so much. And um, I know this will be so helpful for families and maybe open their eyes to things they hadn’t thought about before, but, uh, again, it’s, there’s always so much hope. And even if you’re in a really hard season, it’s not too late. Start the conversation today, ask for help, find your community things can get better. Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you seriously. So much. This was so fun for me. And um, I just appreciate you taking the time and uh, I, I just, I learned a lot. I just, I love getting to do this. Thank you. Same. That was Gail Heaton, founder of suddenly siblings.

Thanks for listening to Together by AGCI. As always, if you liked what you heard, please rate or review us wherever you listen to podcasts. If you’d like to read or watch even more stories, check out our website,, reach out to us and let us know what you think on Instagram at @allgodschildreninternational or email us at We look forward to sharing another story of hope. The next time we’re together. We’ll talk to you soon.