Excitement or Fear: Braving the Dark and Unknown

dark-dark-cave-61ax5z8evol-_sx405_bo1204203200_The cover of A Dark, Dark Cave by Eric Hoffman and illustrated by Corey R. Tabor features two smiling children aiming flashlight beams into the shadows.  The title page illustration shifts the mood slightly. It shows the gaping mouth of a tunnel entrance shrouded in darkness. Readers will wonder what will happen next. Will the children face danger? The next page-turn reveals the children and their trusty dog aiming a flashlight into the abyss. Will they respond with excitement or fear when braving the darkness? Will they choose to enter the cave? 

Yes! An adventure of sight, sound and emotion begins as they explore. They cautiously, bravely continue and encounter a variety of surprises–bats, lizards, sparkling crystals. Until …

Until a brilliant shaft of light pierces the dark and reveals their father looming overhead, admonishing them to pipe down because the baby is sleeping. Readers discover that the children’s adventure  was imaginary play.

Tabor’s illustrations serve the story well as he deftly captures the children’s emotions in each vignette–wonder, hesitation, excitement, fear-a gamut of feelings hint at the children’s experience. This book offers a great way of talking about the mixture of courage and caution that kids need as they explore their world, stretch their skills and dare to try something new. The line between excitement is narrow. Kids need both emotions in  healthy measure.

Imaginative play serves children well as it allows them to try on behavior and skills, to imagine themselves as brave and daring, as defeating fears and feeling powerful.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned Lens Use this story to discuss the need for courage in facing the scary moments of life. This is an especially important message for adoptees who must confront the reality of some big grief and loss issues which resulted from their adoptions. Parents can start the conversation by asking kids to tell them a story of the kinds of things they imagine might occur on a”cave” exploration of their. Children may volunteer some adopted-connected elements. Gently, follow their lead if they do. If they avoid the adoption connection, pose a question like, “What if you discovered your birth mom there?”

Always let your child’s response guide you. If they open up, great; if they resist, do not push it. Ask a second, neutral question and let the conversation flow from there.

Fear of Attachment: When Trust Is an Unaffordable Luxury

Scattered Links.Weidenbenner.51EFfra9u4L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Scattered Links by M. Weidenbenner connected with me in many ways. First, the story is exceptionally written. Second, As an adoptive mother and a coach to adoptive families, the story had authenticity. Page after page, I ached for Oksana, the twelve-year-old heroine, for the sad reality that was/is her life and that of many other orphanage-raised, severely traumatized children who fear to trust and open themselves to attachment.

The emotional struggles portrayed ring true for both Oksana and her adoptive parents. Self-doubt, grief, loss is experienced by the entire family, not just the child. It affects the way they relate to one another. It factors into their thoughts, beliefs and expectations.

History has taught them trust is a luxury they cannot afford. Click To TweetEach is shaped by both their history and their dream of becoming a family. Successfully bridging the gap between their painful reality and their idealized fantasies demands a leap of faith that does not come easily for any of them. Oksana’s struggle to build attachments, to trust and heal is well depicted. Children like her who have experienced such significant trauma cannot magically release their fears, their self-limiting coping behaviors and their isolating belief that they must rely only on themselves. History has taught them trust is a luxury they cannot afford. They’ve learned that lesson well. In some cases, their wariness and resistance to connect was the only thing that kept them alive. (No wonder they are so reluctant to change their strategy.)

This unwillingness/inability to open oneself to emotional connection is often referred to as “RAD” (Reactive Attachment Disorder.) Many prefer to call it something less judgmental, like Reactive Attachment Syndrome. This acknowledges that the child’s response to the emotional trauma of her history is less a “disorder” and more an imperfect, self-isolating, and inefficient strategy. But they are terrified to relinquish it because they mistakenly believe it is their only way of preventing further hurt.

Adoptees are not the only ones with emotional baggage. Adoptive parents also bring their own… Click To Tweet This complicates the attachment building process, especially when they haven’t been taught how to identify their own “stuff” and it from that of their adopted children.

When Oksana rebuffed her parents, resisted their affection and their rules, she wasn’t being ungrateful or bratty. She was in survival mode. All walls up. Heart on lock down. Mind on Red Alert. She’s as adversely affected by her ill-designed strategy as her parents are.

There is no quick fix for this family and others with similar trauma histories. Healing takes time, patience, commitment. The process is difficult. Success is possible just not quick or easy.

Scattered Links features horse therapy. It is one therapeutic method finding. When human relationships have been contaminated by abuse, neglect and significant violations in trust, sometimes it is easier to trust an animal. This is because they bring a clean slate to the relationship.

This book succeeds in depicting both the struggles, the good intentions and the long road to breaking down walls and weaving family attachments.

As an adoption professional, I do have one criticism of this wonderful book. The celebration of Oksana’s joining her adoptive family is called “Gotcha Day.” This is a term many adoptees find offensive. It is seen as depersonalizing and parent-centric because it casts the child as acquired by the parents.

Some preferable terms for celebrating the anniversary of a child’s adoption would be, Homecoming Day, Adoption Day, Oksana* Day (*use your own child’s name.) Adoptive families must be sensitive to the co-existing grief that celebration days may highlight: Adoption day cannot exist without the prior loss of the birth family. Even if that family was utterly dysfunctional, the separation from one’s ancestral roots is still a loss. Some children enjoy celebrating their adoption; others do not. Let your child determine if he likes it or not.

Bottom line of this review: Adoptees are not the only ones with emotional baggage. Adoptive parents also bring their own… Click To Tweet

M. Weidenbenner.B46C2E57-D41D-4E59-905D-13B68C1D85D8[6]Michelle Weidenbenner

Award-Winning and Bestselling Author

Award-Winning Speaker

John Maxwell Team Speaker, Coach and Trainer

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Blog: Teaching Kids To Lead By Equipping Moms and Dads                         Twitter:  @MWeidenbenner1