Friday, October 21, 2016

Hungry and Hoarding

Surprisingly food “issues” are one of the most common and easily solvable challenges that we see, as APAC Counselors working with adopted children.  To understand how to treat hoarding behavior it is important to first understand the primary cause behind it. Children that have experienced early neglect will often fixate on food because their brain is constantly reminding them of when they were hungry. They could have just eaten a large, delicious, well balanced meal and 10 minutes later you could “catch” this same child stealing/hoarding/eating more food when they could not possibly be hungry. Please know that it is not a result of a conscious decision to hoard/steal/hide/the food, nor are they choosing to disobey/defy you - this is purely the survival portion of their brain dictating their actions. In fact, when they are in this mindset, there is little to no engagement from the frontal cortex which is the executive/decision making portion of the brain. This is purely a survival tactic.

The solution: Access, access, access. The last thing we want to do is limit food, which further perpetuates feelings of shame, fear, and insecurity which drives the resulting maladaptive behaviors such as stealing and hoarding to ever increasing levels.

What we recommend: Provide two “YES” baskets of food. One that sits on the dining room table/kitchen counter, the other placed in their bedroom along with a bottle of water. These baskets should be filled with healthy, appropriate snacks: apples, oranges, bananas, trail mix, dried bananas, dried apples, peanuts, etc. The child/children are able to access this food at any time. They do not have to ask permission to have some, nor are they ever told “no” that they cannot have a snack. If mom/dad is literally five seconds from serving dinner and that child grabs a baggy of peanuts, parents need to be ok with that. No comments, no correction, no sighing….no reaction. For this behavior to dissipate, the message has to be clearly communicated to the child that they will always have access to food. This may require quite a bit of deep breathing from the parent in the beginning, but remind yourself each time you see them taking food from the basket that they are in fact healing their brain and also that everything they are eating is healthy….so no harm done.

What you may see: The first day the child may eat every scrap of food in those baskets. The second day the child may eat every scrap of food in those baskets. The third day they child may eat every scrap of food in those baskets. But I assure you, if this intervention is done correctly you will quite quickly see that food is no longer an issue for your kiddo. Once the signal to the brain is sufficiently received, this behavior can (and usually does) disappear for good. However, in order for this to work there are two critical elements to remember:
  1. The baskets have to remain full at all times. Make Costco your new best friend. You need to always have a stash of backup in your home so that you can keep it filled. The minute you allow the basket to be empty the effect is severely diminished.
  2. It has to always be a YES. You cannot say no, at any time, for any reason. It can never be punitive, or taken away or discouraged. When this strategy is first implemented into your home it is important to have a short conversation with the child regarding the new policy in your home. “Hey sweet girl, dad and I have been talking and we decided something new! You may have anything you want from these two baskets at any time and you don’t even have to ask permission! Even if you wake up in the night and you are hungry you may have anything you want from your baskets.” Etc.…
Also, here is a wonderful book, “Love me, Feed me” by Rowell Katja, MD, that is available in the APAC Resource Library for free! Or find it on Amazon.

As always, the APAC Counseling staff is here for you! We are more than happy to help out by answering questions and are a great resource as you navigate the complexities of raising a child from a hard place.

-Sonia Martin, MSW, LGSW
APAC Family Counselor
Sonia Martin is our APAC Family Counselor in Montgomery. She is also a seasoned adoptive mom, with seven boys! If you would like to get connected to our free APAC Counseling service, call 866.803.2722.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Parenting Outside of the Box

I’ve heard many people say the life they have now is not at all what they thought it would be when they were younger, you know, the time when they used to dream big dreams. When my husband, Jeremy, and I married 13 years ago, we were ready to take on the world, we envisioned many things for our lives, one being that we both desired to grow our family through adopting older children.

~The Sauder Family~

Life rolled along with careers and unexpected fertility issues. We endured the loss of a baby through miscarriage and learned what it meant to grieve something you never had the opportunity to fully know. God heard my cries in the night for children and often I begged him for twins. Almost a decade of infertility guided us back gently to our original desire- adopt older children. I would learn later how God used our sorrow in the infertility, waiting and uncertainty to soften our hearts towards children we could adopt who would know more than a thing or two about grieving loss. He would show us how we could use all of these things to better know our family and identify what we were prepared to offer children who came from hurt places. We would need this perspective in order to become loss and attachment experts…meaning as you go through your own pain you realize you can build on your strengths, ask for help with your needs and have the compassion to open your eyes to someone else’s pain.

We discovered we could work together in partnership through the wonderful services of APAC and were drawn to the children available for adoption. Learning all we could from the GPS (adoption preparation classes) offered, we were excited, nervous, overwhelmed, terrified. We took things to heart, every good and bad story and all the what-ifs, truly ensuring we got to know the children waiting for us. The ponderings were endless as we assessed the impact this would mean for our family… What would our child/children be like? We knew we could provide the crucial necessities like help them build self-esteem and assure their health and safety…But could we also effectively communicate God’s love to them? Could we be patient, offer a listening ear and not be defensive as the child grieved his/her past?

I remember the night we found the boys’ profile on the computer. It was a gentle whisper in our hearts that led us to inquire about them. Armed with all the information we had learned and leaning on the prayers of friends and family, we felt assured we were making the best informed decision for our family. And deep in our hearts, we just knew this was “it.” We were thankful beyond words to be matched to twin fraternal boys, 7 years old, full of life. As we all adjusted to being a family of four, there were many times I marveled at how we had been perfectly matched to our children.

Becoming instant parents to 7 year olds has its unique set of challenges and more days than not I ask for their forgiveness when I screw up in parenting and we grow, learn, try to communicate effectively and work at this thing called life together. Parenting also opened my eyes to see when you talk of managing behaviors that definitely includes starting with your own.

Following the adoption of our boys, a few years later we attempted fertility treatments. Since God is in the business of doing more that we imagine, I gave birth this past October to our second set of fraternal twins. I believe the sweetest part of this is that both of my big boys prayed unceasingly for more siblings. One boy prayed for sisters, another prayed for brothers. So God gave them a boy and a girl.

My oldest children are my heroes. They have taught me how to both embrace, remember and honor the past and still enjoy the present and future. That you can love and belong to many people, and that connections to those we have loved never die and they never should.

And so to those who think big dreams are only for the young, I would say that it is less about age and more about follow through. That life isn’t what you expect but cherish the ride. That somebody somewhere needs your story. For when God places a desire deep in your soul, He intends for it to be nurtured, sought out and explored. And maybe when you embrace your own story, you can open your heart to others who do not yet have a voice and are just waiting to be heard.
- Tonya Sauder, Adoptive Parent

Tonya is the parent moderator for our APAC Adoptive Parent Facebook group! If you are an adoptive parent living in Alabama, and would like to join in the conversation, receive encouragement and gain support from other adoptive parents, join our group! For more information on how to get connected, email Tonya at or visit our site,

If you or someone you know is interested in adoption, contact our APAC Adoption Support Team, 1-866-4-AL-KIDS or visit our website,

Friday, October 7, 2016

Nine Hundred and Forty Saturdays

For families with busy schedules including work, school and extra-curricular activities, time together is often hard to come by. Parents finding quality time to spend with their children can be quite a challenge. Although it is difficult to make time to spend with our children, it is critical to do so! Children long to spend meaningful time with their parents. There is a famous quote by Dr. Anthony P. Witham that we all know rings true, “children spell love…T-I-M-E.” Simply put, children equate time spent with them as being loved. I read an article recently which stated there are only 940 Saturdays between a child’s birth and his/her departure for college or the work force. While 940 sounds like plenty, the article went on to say that if the child is 5 years old, 260 Saturdays are already gone! Time can slip by quickly and we need to realize it is not unlimited. We need to make the most of what we have. Below are a few things to keep in mind as we do life with our precious children:

Don’t mistake care taking tasks as quality time. Sometimes we can be so busy doing things for our kids cooking, cleaning, laundry-that we stop doing things with our kids. Find one-on-one time with each of your children, even if it is only a few minutes each day. Making that connection is essential and can be an important investment in the relationship. If you find yourself buried in laundry, involve your child in helping you complete the chore as you engage with them about their interests and their day.

Avoid distractions. Spending time together quickly loses its value if the parent is distracted. Avoiding distractions can be difficult with phone calls and texts vying for our attention. Remember, we are teaching our children how to be in a relationship. What message are we sending our children about their value if they are always losing out to a cell phone? Some families have implemented device-free times so that family members can focus on each other without distractions.

Be intentional—teach lessons along the way. Look for little moments throughout the day to teach lessons and instill values in your child. In everyday situations, make sure they understand what really matters to you. It is often in small moments that big lessons can be taught. Who better to teach them than you?

Make it fun—be in the moment. Let’s face it—sometimes as adults, we take things too seriously. It is important that we enjoy the moment and simply be present with our children. Look at the world with childlike wonder. It’s fun to play games, create, and pretend along with our children. A little silliness can go a long way! As the parent, we set the emotional tone in the household. Children most definitely take their cues from us.

As a parent, finding time to spend with your children will be difficult. Yet we are compelled to make it happen when we realize that spending time with our child communicates that we love them and that they matter to us. This is vital to raising happy, healthy children. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

- Robbie Shockey, M.S.
APAC Family Support Worker

If you or someone you know is interested in adoption, contact our APAC Adoption Support Team,
1-866-4-AL-KIDS or visit our website,