Legacy Living Today podcast
Season 4, Episode 3
New Lenses! For Complex Families
By Dawn T. Baggett, JD
Need new glasses?
Have you ever been to the eye doctor and found out that your vision prescription has changed?
Similarly, there are factors that can limit our relational vision, and it can change over time as well. It can be helpful to our vision of our relationships to look through different lenses. Below I share some thoughts on different types of lenses for you to consider - especially if there are any hints or clues that your current lens might be causing you to miss something.
Near-sighted vs. Far-sighted
In close family relationships it’s easy to become near-sighted. We can live as if through a magnifying glass, and hyper-focus on specific issues. Then we can have virtual blinders on with regard to other things and other views.
We can also be far-sighted and lose sight of the daily disciplines and routines that are the building blocks of life.
Cloudy vs. Clear
When our vision is cloudy it can cause extra strain to be able to see what’s right in front of us. Using the eyeglasses metaphor, it can be super annoying to wipe and re-wipe my glasses only for them to remain cloudy and difficult to see clearly with.
I wonder what types of things might cloud your vision with regard to your family relationships? I think of the little word, “should”. It seems innocent enough. But when applied to others (he should….; she should…; they shouldn’t…”) or even ourselves the word “should” can cloud our vision and we start putting our own demands on others and even ourselves, adding burdens and adding to pressures that can strain and stress our family relationships (I know from experience how my “should-ing” has distanced and damaged relationships in my own family).
There may be other causes of cloudy vision, too. But when our vision is clear it’s easier. We might not like everything we see, but we can see it clearly with ease; without the added strain of squinting and guessing, trying to make out just what it is that we’re facing.
How can you get this clear vision?
- One is to avoid things that risk clouding our lenses; protect them.
- Second is to clean them off regularly. Our relationships with our children, even our spouses grow and change over time. We can clean our relational lenses with things like:
- Taking reality checks or temperature checks from time to time on our relationships;
- Looking ahead at the coming phase to get a sense of what’s up ahead;
- Clarifying the boundaries of our relationships and our roles in each of them.
Switching gears now from talking about our own lenses to those of our family members, it’s important to recognize when someone’s vision is not correctable. There is only so much new glasses can do. Living in Talladega where not only does my son attend the deaf school, but it's also home to the state blind school, I've become more closely aware of the needs of the blind. In our family relationships, others in the family might be blinded to some things that are obvious to you or I. Our children may be temporarily blinded due to their young ages, and not “see” things as an older child or adult would generally see or comprehend.
A child with attachment trauma might not see their self-reliance and control as out of place, nor may they comprehend the long-term commitment you have made to love and care for them. Yet as an adoptive parent you or I may look through clouds of experience with older biological children and not “see” that typical expectations have clouded our vision as to the adopted child or children and their needs for what I call “special accommodations” much like a blind person would need special accommodations to be able to function well in the family dynamics. What kind of special accommodations might be needed?
Just as a blind person might need additional safety precautions, so might your adopted child, and even the adoptive family as a whole. We start by assessing the safety risks. Be aware that the risk may change over time and require adjusting accommodations for different phases. I go into different phases of the family life cycle within an adoptive family or step-family within my signature program, Success for Second Moms. It can help to learn about certain periods of increased risk of challenges, including safety challenges throughout the family life cycle phases.
Reduction in Relational Pressures
Wouldn’t you agree that some relationships can withstand significant pressures while others may crumble under less? In our complex family relationships there is often an undercurrent of pressure already. Varying degrees of attachment and trust. Trauma triggers. And a host of other complexities can cause individual and relational pressures to become like a pressure cooker at times inside our families. That pressure needs a way to escape safely. Plus turning down the heat - even if that looks and feels very different - can serve to reduce the pressures and accommodate the relational special needs in your family.
Personally, I was slow to recognize the incredible pressures that close and family relationships put on my children. But I’m glad to help my coaching clients speed up the process and brainstorm ways to release the pressure valve in their own family relationships to avoid the inevitable explosions that built up pressure will lead to if it continues unchecked.
Changing our Lenses
How we view our family and our place in it is colored by a variety of different “lenses” or filters through which we perceive and try to make sense of things. There are lots of different lenses we could refer to and incorporate into how we look at things. Keeping it simple, it’s important to have a functional and realistic view that doesn’t distort whatever it is you’re observing. My (real) eyeglasses may work well for normal viewing in my day to day activities. But compared to my oldest son’s telescope made for viewing the stars and galaxies millions of miles away, they are worlds apart. A magnifying glass might be good for seeing a splinter in your finger, but we don’t want to constantly use a magnifying glass to only focus on the difficult behaviors and challenges in our family relationships. Nor do we want to be stuck with a telescope trying to see the big picture of our child’s disorder and catastrophizing what may be out there in the future, and yet not be able to see the close-up, everyday needs and blessings right around us.
God’s Word tells us there is nothing new under the sun.
What has been will be again,
What has been done will be done again;
There is nothing new under the sun.
We may feel like no one understands our situation but I assure you, you aren’t the first and likely won’t be the last in similar situations. God understands and there are other moms like you who are in similar complex families.
I’ve found that the more I stay grounded in God’s Word the better able I am at adjusting my lenses as needed. Even then, a fresh perspective, a new angle, other people’s take…these can help me see God’s Word without blinders and cloudy lenses that I may be wearing, too.
Join our free Facebook group designed especially for Second Moms in complex families with the link below.