Saturday, May 4, 2013

Developing Flexibility

One of our goals in raising our kids is to develop flexibility. Planning is awesome, but life has a way of throwing a few curve balls. Things don't always go as planned. This can be a challenge for kids who have come from places of abuse or neglect. I don't know if it is because there is a lower level of trust that their needs will be met by us parents, or if they just expect bad things to happen to them, but they are easily derailed when circumstances change. Small changes in their schedule can seem much bigger in their eyes, and a tiny setback can result in a child having a meltdown.

Our trip to Arizona was a chance for us to develop more flexibility in Ms. D and Mr. I. We tried to make a balance of exposing them to new situations, yet let them know they were cared for. We gave them some choices, like whether to visit Birth Dad or not, or what to eat for dinner. We tried to keep them comfortable by meeting their needs. But we didn't let them control the trip. We gave them general plans, like going to the Grand Canyon, but we didn't tell them everything. Although they would have loved for us to turn around and go back home after the first day, we didn't give into their pleas. Hubby and I tried to gently stretch the kids beyond their comfort zone. It was a lesson in flexibility and a lesson in trust.

We also tried to frame unexpected changes into a better light. On our last evening, we had planned to camp near Las Vegas at Valley of Fire State Park.

It took a bit longer to arrive than we expected and we just missed the last camping spot. A woman walked to the site while we were driving around the circle. Instead of getting upset in front of the kids, we expressed our disappointment in missing the last campsite by seconds, yet voiced the good things we could see. The park was beautiful! We will have to visit it again, just not late on a Friday afternoon.

We were able to drive through Las Vegas right at sundown, so Ms. D could see the lights of the city. After nearly a week in the desert, she was longing for some sparkle. She got it!

Hubby wasn't too thrilled by Las Vegas, but he did it for his daughter. She knew it was a sacrifice for him even to drive through the city, but she was happy that we did something just for her.

And finally, we asked the kids if we should try to find a campground nearby or go to the first campground of the trip at Rainbow Basin. They chose Rainbow Basin because it was familiar. Even though we pulled into our campsite after ten, it took less than twenty minutes for us to settle in, because everyone knew what to expect. It also helped us to camp closer to home, within a seven or eight hour drive.

So what did Hubby and I purposely do to develop flexibility in our kids on this trip?
1. We gave them general plans of what to expect, but we let them know that our plans could change.
2. We met their needs. We made sure they had plenty of snacks and drinks, and weren't too hot or cold.
3. We gave them some choices within certain parameters.
4. We did some things just for them, like visiting Birth Dad and driving through Las Vegas.
5. We changed some of our plans on purpose, like staying an extra day in Sedona because it was just so    pretty!
6. When plans were changed beyond our control, we verbalized the good things that came out of the change. We made sure the kids knew that even though a change might seem bad, there are usually good things that are there, if only we look for them.
7. We tried to model the joy of discovery and an appreciation for unfamiliar places.

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