No matter how much we desire a peaceful holiday season, some of us just can’t seem to get past the chaos. Children in foster care are especially vulnerable to chaos at Christmas – family troubles, extra activities and expectations, even small worries like, “will Santa be able to find me?”
At a recent staff meeting, our Executive Director Larry McDaniel led our staff in a discussion about “Finding Peace in Chaos.” We think children and adults alike will benefit from the insight and wisdom that was shared.
How do you deal with chaos when you can’t run away from it?
Larry: One of my methods is framed in an old Polish proverb: “not my circus, not my monkeys.” Sometimes you’ll see relational chaos that you want to fix – but you need to step back and ask – what is the motivation? Why do you think you need to step into it – are you really wanting to help, or do you just want to make sure your opinion is heard? Then, if you still feel like you need to help – don’t cop out. That’s just as bad as stepping into a situation where you don’t belong. So – if you decide it is your circus and it is your monkeys, remember that “peace” doesn’t mean there are no problems. It simply means that you’re calm in your heart, in the midst of troubles and problems. Remember – if you think you have to fix everything in order to fix anything; you’ll never fix anything. Everything can’t be fixed. Maybe you can just do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. Make a little bubble of peace somewhere. Start where you can; where you have an opportunity.
Amanda: We simply bring other people into our circus – willing, helpful friends.
Mandy: Chaos always seems to happen when we have somewhere we need to be. It can escalate because I’m tense and know we HAVE to be somewhere; or, I can choose to say, “OK – We’ll just ride it out and see how it works.” You have to live with the understanding that nothing is absolute – if they see you getting frustrated, that fuels their fire. Don’t live in their chaos.
Rachel: I have to recognize that my expectations are not everyone else’s. I have to be flexible so I can be at peace. Sure – I’m disappointed when expectations fall through, but do I need to let that ruin my time with the family? I have to re-frame those things; allow my expectations to change. Chaos happens when we try to frame the situation.
Jordan: I find more peace when I take “me” out of the equation and don’t take things personally. It’s not really me, my rules or Coyote Hill that they’re angry at – there’s so much more there; so many deeper issues. Bill Atherton often reminds us about spiritual warfare – it’s not just us or the school that they’re fighting against. This is spiritual warfare and I shouldn’t take it personally. When I take ‘me’ out of the equation – it takes away any of my personal chaos from the situation as well.
Merri: When there are big messes that you can’t walk away from, I teach my kids to apply coping skills. I’ll pop in some worship music and let them see how it soothes me. We try other coping skills, such as playing outdoors, going for a walk or hitting a punching bag. You learn your kids’ individualities and figure out what works for them. I like working through that with my kids; helping them learn their coping skills, because those skills are something they will need throughout their life.
Rebecca: I have to remember my end objective; it’s not about minor details. We don’t have to ride a horse today. It’s their heart that is important. Are they really angry at me or the horse? No – they’re angry at something bigger and deeper, and I have to recognize that and give them space and time to deal with it.
Brian: I was taught the importance of finding a way to give them a choice; even if the choice is extremely simple. Why, when a child is throwing a fit and you have to take him outside for a walk, would it be important to let him choose if you’ll turn to the left or the right? It’s because in the midst of their chaos – they actually gain some control when allowed to make a decision for themselves. There is so much in their lives that they have no control over, but suddenly when you give them even the smallest of choices, it can defuse a situation.