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Finding Hope: Parenting Children With Trauma

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Finding Hope: Parenting Children With Trauma

Ok, so apart from realizing that I stand with my legs too far apart and that my outfit was put together by a blind elephant from the 1990's -- I mean, once we get past all that, some of you may enjoy hearing my break-out session from the Imagine Conference in Pittsburgh. I was blessed to be given the opportunity to speak on raising children with trauma and how that effects our day to day lives as parents.

If anything, I hope you can relate, have a good laugh, cry, and remember that you are not weak because you can't "fix" your kiddos. You are strong because you have survived another day and still get up again to start the day all over. It's conferences like these that remind me how many of us there are and that together, we can move mountains.

God bless and enjoy!

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A Guide to "The Children Who Raised Me"

I am humbled, excited, overwhelmed, and just plain giddy – my first book is finally complete and has been released for purchase through Austin Brothers Publishing! This journey has been freakishly long with its fair share of mountains and valleys… but in the end, I think the timing has been perfectly God-ordained.

Just in the past few days, I’ve had numerous questions asked of me that I thought would be good to address here, in a blog post. It feels almost like an online interview where I get to answer your own questions for everyone else to benefit from – except that I get time to think about each answer without getting nervous, which is my personal favorite way to do things! So, without further ado, let’s get to it!

Q: Is your book going to be available in stores or just online?

A: My book is currently released on my new publisher’s website (Austin Brothers Publishing) based out of Texas. In just a short time, the book will also be loaded onto Amazon.com, and it will be added to the Ingram Catalog, which is the largest book catalog in the country. This will allow my book to be ordered at churches, bookstores, schools, coffee shops, etc. Depending on which stores pick up my book will depend on if it will be available locally or just remain online or in catalogs.

Q: Will there be an e-book and a hardcover edition available?

A: There WILL be an e-book available by next week, actually! The price for the e-book should be around $7 and will appear on my publisher’s website. Additionally, it will be available for purchase on ITunes, Amazon, Smashwords, and all the other major electronic reading applications. As far as a hardcover addition, this will depend on how well the book sells. There is quite a hefty expense that comes along with formatting the book into a hardcover, so if a need appears to be great enough for it, I will consider that down the road!

Q: Why did you choose to use your children’s real names in the book?

A: This was a topic that I thought long and hard about. In the end, it came down to the fact that my children’s names are on my Facebook page and on my website – all of which is public domain. To change their names in the book would basically be moot and probably confusing to those who have followed along with the blog. I don’t want anyone assuming that I went out and got an entirely new slew of children running around! That would get me committed for sure!

Q: How did you choose to develop your book into the format you did with each kid having their own section instead of the traditional chapters we normally see in books?

A: Well, when I first started the book, I figured I’d go chronologically and with normal chapters that would generally appear in a memoir. However, it read very heavy – the events that occurred in our lives had great periods of time in which there was an awful lot of darkness with not a whole lot of light. So when I decided to break the book up by child, all of a sudden the reader was able to start over in the story and take a break from the gloom, see certain incidents that were specific to each child, and get more breaks with humor and joy in the midst of the heaviness. All in all, I wanted the book to feel like a meal, filled with light courses, entrees, pallet cleansers, and dessert! In the end, I wanted the reader to feel full and complete, which is what I hope I accomplished!

Q: How did you decide what personal information to keep in versus edit out?

A: This was another very tricky element in writing a memoir. There are so many factors that go into telling a story with as much accuracy as possible without over-sharing someone else’s tale. I approached each section through my eyes only, because that would be the only way to keep it accurate to what I had experienced. I am not capable of making assumptions of anyone else’s feelings or thoughts, just my own perceptions of things. And as with all personal information, I tried to tell the readers as much as I could about my own perplexing feelings and struggles. In that, I wanted to be as open and as free as my heart would allow. But when it came to the rest of my family and others involved in our story, I tried to edit out just the facts – things that I was given from CYS, agency workers, doctors, and my family members themselves.

Even so, I took the time to have my family read the book. I wanted as many editing eyes on the emotional stuff as possible. This included my older two children. Whereas I didn’t let them read the entire book (simply because it’s far too heavy for their young minds), I did read them many of the details of their own sections in the book. I allowed them the opportunity to say yes or no to certain events. If they felt even slightly uncomfortable with parts, I edited them or removed them altogether. My oldest, Cameron, asked why I talked about their behaviors so much. I explained that this was so other parents could have a better understanding of the struggles their own children face. With that simple answer, my kids gave me their blessing to tell all the goofy things they do, just so that it will help you all!

Q: How did you come up with the title, I really like it!

A: Why, thank you! I like it, too! But I cannot take credit for the title. That was all God! I was sleeping one night after a ridiculously long day of editing, and I sat straight up in bed as if I’d been awakened by a fire alarm. The only thing running through my head was the title God wanted me to use: The Children Who Raised Me. From that moment on, my editing became smooth and the book began to flow in a new direction, pointing to a main aspect that I wanted to come from this - that in a family, we are ALL a part of shaping one another. Each of us has a purpose and a place, and the adults are learning right along with the Littles. As we bring all of our broken parts to the table, we are able to use them to create a whole unit, one that looks and functions differently than any other. Again, I cannot speak to how my children feel or think, but I can attest to the fact that my children, all four of them, (and my husband) have had a significant role in raising me to become the woman God needs me to be.

Q: Who is your target audience for this book?

A: Well, the book has a great deal of content in it, so it can be used to reach a great deal of people. When I first started out, I wanted the book to be used for other parents raising children with Reactive Attachment Disorder. Then, I realized that parents raising any special needs child may find what we’ve gone through as beneficial. And then I thought that families looking to foster or adopt may really want to see what often doesn’t get shared by caseworkers as they try to get children placed in homes – the dirty, raw parts of parenting someone else’s children. And THEN I found out that schools and mental health agencies were interested in the book to use as a training tool for their employees, helping them understand the complexities of attachment disorders and how to manage them differently than other disorders.

Overall, this book is for any parent, guardian, or adult that is working with children – it’s for the person who's lost a child and feels like they’ve been told that “it’s time to move on”, even though they’re not ready yet. It's for the parents struggling with infertility and weighing all the options through the emotional lenses they are wearing. It’s for the marriage that is hanging on by a thread under the weight of all that family entails. It’s for the professionals who want to do more but are bound by the legalities and insufficiencies of a broken child welfare and judicial system. This book, The Children Who Raised Me, is for anyone who is looking for Hope and needs to know that they’re not alone in their search.

Q: Are you available for speaking engagements? If so, what are the topics that you cover and your fee?

A: I AM available for speaking engagements! Despite having a tummy that HATES public speaking, the rest of me actually quite enjoys it. I have spoken at churches, schools, mental health agencies, and adoption groups so far – depending on where I speak and what they’re interested in learning, I can share about trauma issues and how it effects children and attachment, RAD, parenting, adoption and foster care issues that need to be changed in our child welfare agency, how churches and organizations can best rise up to help adoptive and foster parents… and I can even lead worship if you’re interested 😊.

But as far as a fee, I do not have a set amount. Because so many churches or groups are small, I would ask for a love offering of whatever is doable for that particular group. If I speak at an agency, I would just ask for a comparable guest speaker amount, that’s all. My goal is to bless, encourage, educate, and love on those who need it. That’s not something I am able to put a price on, and I never want to be out of anyone’s reach… trust me, I don’t think of myself highly enough for such things! But I do ask that my expenses be covered so that I can continue on in what I feel God’s leading me to do!

If you’re interested in booking me for a speaking engagement, you can email me through my Contact’s Page on the website.

Q: Are you planning on writing a second book?

A: YES! I absolutely love writing and will do it until my dying day – when a book will be coming out is still up in the air, especially since this one has taken up so much of my efforts! But definitely look for one in the future.

Q: How can I get my book signed by you?

A: This question is cracking me up! You guys, my handwriting is not really all that exciting, but apparently this is a big deal because this is the question I was asked the most! So, for those of you who really want to see my name on the inside of your book cover, then watch my MommyhoodSFS Facebook page and my website for upcoming book signings. If I’m not going to be in your area and you want to set up an engagement for me, you feel free!! Otherwise, we can find a way for you to mail me your book to be signed. Again… cracking me up right now!

 

Okay, I hope this has been helpful for everyone! In addition to the book, don’t forget that I have an online membership program that is helpful to professionals and guardians in dealing with children with special needs, attachment issues, and mental health diagnoses. Check it out on the site for further info!

Love to you all and thank you, once again, for all the support you’ve shown. I am so blessed to meet so many beautiful people through such a painful topic – God really does know how to make beauty from ashes.

Hugs and Hope,

Shivonne

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"The Children Who Raised Me" ~ Now Available!

In case you missed the memo (which, how could you because I've basically been blowing up my social media feeds with the news because I'm SOOOO excited), my first book is now available online at tatepublishing.com!  If you've followed my family's story, you may already know some of what falls in the pages of this particular memoir. However, have no fear, there is plenty of NEW content that helps put our lives into some perspective. 

From foster care to adoption, mental health behaviors to Reactive Attachment Disorder, grief and loss to new life, Christian parenting to just plain survival - this book has a little bit of something for everyone and I'm so blessed that God gave me the words that needed to be said... words that are hard to say. Although I floundered my way through much of it, my deepest aim was to shed light on the hard parts of raising someone else's children... to say the things that we're told not to say, and to take away the facade that all things related to adoption, fostering, and just plain parenting is nothing but happiness and love.

Because let's be honest. It's oftentimes not. In fact, sometimes it sucks so badly that you can't find breath and you make parenting mistakes and you cry ugly tears that no one should ever feel they need to hide out of shame. We are ALL together in this parenting thing. Whether it's messed or blessed, we are together. Even when you've felt you couldn't go on another moment; Even when you gave up and came back and gave up again and came back again all within the same 10 minutes; Even if you feel like you're failing...

There is always Hope.

And you are never alone.

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Acceptance and Forgiveness

My daughter is always writing me letters.  Both of my kids do, actually.  Taylor’s letters, however, often carry one common theme – The need for acceptance.  Because I get these kinds of letters from her on a weekly basis, I usually give them a quick read, answer whatever questions she asked on the paper, and move on with our day.

However, this note stood out to me as a bit different.  Here is a copy of the letter, which she agreed to let me post.

 In case you have a hard time reading 2nd grade writing (as anyone without a 2nd grader would), here is the translation:

 “Taylor Costa – I love you, Mom, so much.  The red stands for love.  I want to be good from now on, and I am sorry for all my sins I have done, and I will never do them again ever, ever, ever again.  I’ve been trying to fix my behavior up.  I hope it works good.  I just want you to forgive my sins.  Do you believe that I will fix my behavior up?  Yes or No”

This letter really struck me.  First of all, I had no idea what inspired the letter, leaving me to wonder if there’s a confession coming in the near future!  It surprised me because, if anyone should’ve been remorseful this weekend, it should have been my son.  After all, he’s the one that caused us to leave his school’s Mother-Son Dance early, due to discriminatory language towards a child in front of the child’s mother!  The woman was rightfully upset that her son was in tears on the dance floor, and she addressed me with the amount of emotion that one would expect, given the situation. 

It never ceases to amaze me that I can still feel embarrassed by my children’s behaviors.  Just when I think we’ve rounded a corner or that I couldn’t possibly be mortified any more in public than I already have been, that’s when another round of humiliation tends to occur.

I let the woman give my son a verbal lashing – partly because I was so angry that I didn’t trust my own words, and partly because she needed that outlet.  She recognized during our conversation that I am a mother of action – I won’t sit idly by and allow my child to disparage another.  So, I allowed her the words she needed to say to him, and then we left the dance.

And trust me, there were many more words to be had that night.

But back to Taylor’s letter.  What had she done that required my forgiveness?  And why was she asking me to forgive her sins, knowing full well that Jesus is the one that cleanses hearts, not I.

I decided we’d chat about her letter so I could have a better understanding of where she was coming from.  Taylor assured me there was no new confession coming (Phew!) but that Sunday’s church service had made her start thinking about her actions.  And that day, she had been praying (at school, nonetheless… let’s hear it for prayer in a public school by an 8-year-old!) and she felt that she wanted to change her life.  She wanted me to forgive her for all her past behaviors and she wanted that acceptance from me – she wanted to know that I didn’t hold a grudge, and that I believed in her and that she was capable of changing.

I don’t know about you, but as a parent, I’ve held grudges.  I know it’s wrong.  I know it’s childish.  I also know it’s human.  And I’ve fallen prey to my humanity many times with these children of mine!  They came to us with issues that were far beyond what we ever could have imagined, yet when we chose to adopt them, we chose to take them as they were – sins and all.  Because isn’t that how God took us when we were adopted into His family?

Yet God doesn’t hold grudges, and I had.  Worst of all, my daughter was aware of that fact.  Her letter was a peace offering.  It wasn’t the normal overly-decorated card she’d hand me each week, donned with new vocabulary words she’d learned that day in school.  This was different. 

My daughter had prayed.  She found conviction.  And she wanted forgiveness.  She wanted to mend our relationship, and she needed to know that I was all in… that I believed in her.

It was a very emotional letter from a little girl to her Mom.  And in that moment, I felt convicted of my own sins – the grudges I’d held onto, knowing that the previous apologies always led back to the same behaviors time and time again.  But this time, this time she was asking for me to have faith in her.  More so, she was asking me to have faith that God was altering her heart and that she was honestly trying to change.

Without another word, I took my pen and circled the word ‘Yes’ that she had written at the bottom of her letter.  The smile that came across her face was beautiful.  Grudges were dismissed and “sins were forgiven”… not because I could cleanse her heart, but because I realized that God had already done so.

Even in those days that are difficult and we find ourselves being chewed out by angry parents, God always seems to provide a loophole in the defeat.  Through the simple letter of my daughter, God renewed my faith that He was indeed doing a work in our family – each and every one of us.

If you find that you're in a similar position, and that you would love some more support with parenting children that may be difficult, consider joining the MommyhoodSFS Membership program.

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It Is Well - Vlog

When life gets hard and your heart is in a vice, be assured that it is STILL well with your soul. #HOPE

If you find yourself in need of extra parenting support, check out the MommyhoodSFS Membership program to see if it's for you.


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