Healing with Pigtails with Author Kristy Burnham
Kristy is an adoptive Mother to her 8 year old daughter. Kristy and her Husband Adopted their Daughter 3.5 years ago. It’s been a long and difficult journey for their family but things are finally turning around! Kristy published a book on therapeutic parenting to talk about the psycho social aspects of our journey. We talk more with her about her journey to motherhood.
What inspired you two to become Foster Parents?
Adoption had always been on the table for us for a variety of reasons. When we looked into it we knew adopting from foster care was the correct choice for us. When we looked through all of the choices for adoption, we searched our hearts at what we thought we could provide. As we thought about our past life challenges and what we had already been through, we knew our strengths included: grieving creatively through rituals; constantly adapting to losses and as they presented themselves; strategic ability to navigate complex systems; unconditional love and kindness; providing safe spaces to explore grief; using humor to face tough times; ability to celebrate the ordinary moments in life rather than having to wait for ‘someday’ in the future; and an incredibly stubborn commitment to never giving up! We felt that these strengths would fit well with bringing a child who had experienced trauma into our home and our journey with foster care/adoption began!
Tell us more about your book and who will benefit from reading it?
It is called Healing with Pigtails: Finding Hope in the Hard of Therapeutic Parenting. My hope was to cut down on the isolation and stigma to raise awareness of the psycho-social/emotional experience of adoptive parents who raise children with developmental trauma. My hope was also to show the beautiful little moments of hope that emerge on this journey. This book is for anyone touched by adoption. My hope is that for those in the trenches of foster care/adoption that it will bring comfort that they are not alone. For those supporting them it is my hope it will allow a greater understanding of this experience.
Info from the back of my book about it is as follows: “Adoption requires parents to enter a world of trauma to support tiny human beings through some of the most soul-breaking of circumstances. Therapeutic parenting is needed to support the healing of adoptive children through a high structure, high nurture approach. However, therapeutic parenting is not for the faint of heart. It is physically and mentally exhausting. It is emotionally draining. It is spiritually challenging. It is isolating. It requires connections with endless systems that lack trauma-informed approaches. It requires consistent, unique parenting in a world that does not yet understand the lived experience of therapeutic parents and traumatized children. Healing with Pigtails digs deep into the emotional experience of an adoptive parent to explore the very nature of the therapeutic parenting, wrought with grief, loss, and an endless world of trauma. Above all else, Healing with Pigtails, serves to provide hope to those in the trenches to keep going as it is possible to find healing for all in a family surrounded by trauma.”
Information on Mrs. Burnham’s book and other therapeutic parenting resources can be found here: https://kristybroszauthor.weebly.com/
What was the most difficult part of your journey?
The most difficult part of our journey was the isolation and having to deal with so many multiple systems. When beginning this process I naively thought our already great personal support networks would support us in this and that there would be systems in place that understood children and families with developmental trauma! Through I journey I quickly learned that both were not the case! The hardest part was trying to build up these networks while at the same time lean into the fluidity of hope that there would be better days. Feeling alone and isolated while doing this lead to may difficult days in those early years that required our entire skill sets to be mobilized along with some very strong stubborn tendencies to hold on to belief in the impossible!
What are your plans for the future?
Our family is now thriving after building new support networks, both personal and professional. We certainly have our difficult days; days where behaviours from our daughter’s past traumas can bring us to our knees. However, there are far more days where we are so grateful for this journey and all that is has taught us as our hearts explode with gratitude. As for what is next for us, we hope to continue to learn from this journey and find ways to raise awareness for this experience, educate professional and personal networks, and find ways to support those currently going through the deep valleys of ups and downs on this journey!
What advice would you give to hopeful adoptive parents?
1) Spent time while you’re waiting/doing the paperwork with other adoptive parents. Go on playdates. Go for coffee away from the kids and talk about what it is really like. Just do whatever fits to be in this world to prepare yourself for living a life surrounded by trauma.
2) Educate those in your support networks about what you are doing. Be honest how you need them to help/support you. You can’t reduce isolation on this path if you don’t first ask directly for what you need.
3) Read/learn all you can on developmental trauma, attachment, grief and loss, trauma, and adoption in general. Then know when you enter into this world that all of this will only be the tip of the iceberg and you will be learning as you go!
4) Find a space where you can be in a mindset of never giving up. Your child will need you be here ALWAYS!
5) Believe in the fluidity of hope. Find what leads your heart to hope and keep finding it!
For security reasons I can’t send you family pictures with my daughter’s face. But I can send a copy of my book cover that has a picture of the 3 of us with our backs on it!