SuzieQ: 00:03 Hi, I’m Suzie Q talking to you about happy, healthy whole adoptive parenting where we’ll discuss how to parent from your heart, not your hurt and how parenting the adopted child isn’t difficult. It’s just different.
SuzieQ: 00:25 On the premise of adoption trauma whereby the child comes into the world already wounded, we’ll be covering and discovering the most overlooked parts of parenting. The parts that are critical to raising a happy, healthy whole adopted child. I’m Suzie Q and I got something to say. Today’s conversation is with Kevin Strauss. It’s one Kevin’s been studying for 20 years. It’s one of the most avoided topics. Yet at the same time, the most critical of topics. We dive deep into what causes behavior, how behavior shows up for you and your child and what you can do about it. This is a really, really insightful conversation. We had so much to talk about that I had him back a second time and you will be able to hear it in two weeks.
Kevin: 01:22 There you go.
SuzieQ: 01:23 Here we go. Hey Kevin.
Kevin: 01:27 Hi Suzie. How are you?
SuzieQ: 01:29 I’m wonderful. Thank you for taking the time to have a chat with me with us. And I just want to say to the people who are listening, this guy is a brilliant mind. I love talking to him because not only does he get it, but he is so passionate about it. Kevin is to connection and emotional health, to me, what Tony Robbins is to personal performance.
Kevin: 02:01 Wow. Thank you.
SuzieQ: 02:03 So, I know that is your schtick. That is what you’re most passionate about. And I would love for you to share, to share what you think is are the most important things that we need to know about it. I’m going to start off by asserting one cannot be as an effective a parent as a child needs them to be as long as they’re still carrying around their traumas from their past. Their kids will open those wounds and in Layman’s terms their kids will trigger them and they’ll project their baggage onto them, thus causing emotional damage. So Kevin, tell us one, what does being emotionally healthy look like? And, put another way, if an alien popped into this conversation right now and wanted advice on how to build a deep connection or deep connections so no one would know they aren’t from here. What would you tell it or him or her or…and where does connection fit in? What does it look like?
What does being emotionally healthy look like?
Kevin: 03:33 What I see emotional, healthy and emotionally healthy person. To be perfectly honest, it’s someone who is not struggling with destructive behaviors. That’s what emotionally healthy looks like to me. That’s what I’ve discovered. Um, you know, in digging into this for almost 20 years now, is that a person’s state of emotional health drives their behavior more than anything else. But that’s really what it boils down to and how a person nurtures their emotional health or what nurtures a person’s emotional health is that person’s ability to give and receive love, connection and belonging, you know, to feel heard, to feel valued, to feel like you matter in this world. What emotional health looks like is, is more constructive behavior than destructive behavior. Because our behavior especially our destructive behavior is how we compensate for our poor state of emotional health.
SuzieQ: 04:50 Can you clarify that? Are you talking about that’s where addictions come in? That’s where abusive behaviors come in…
The research is wrong
Kevin: 04:59 All of it, all of it. Addiction, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, self-harm, gun violence, micromanaging clock, watching, shaming, judging, Anorexia or Bulimia, obesity, you know, all of these different behaviors are just symptoms of a deeper issue and that deeper issue is this lack of love and connection. Now there’s other things going on as well, but when you look at the research, when you look at all the different research in all the different areas, the problem with the way research is being done is that a specific behavior is being investigated. And then the researchers looked into, oh, well how do we improve that specific behavior? Very, very, very few people that I’ve come across are putting it all together. Because what I have found is that when you investigate eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, you find that a person begins to improve. So they’re eating disorders get better when they feel more connected to others and it’s usually to others that matter to them.
The root cause of high-risk behaviors
Kevin: 06:19 It’s not to just strangers, it’s to someone who matters who has relational value, which is a psychology term. Actually, the same thing happens with people who are struggling with alcohol abuse. Their, uh, their alcohol abuse improves when they feel more connected, when they feel heard and valued by that important person in their life. The same thing with drug addiction. The same thing with obesity. The same thing with depression, the same thing with anxiety, but no one’s looking at this common root cause. And I just happened to stumble upon all of this, um, back in 2001 when I was trying to develop a tool to help families have fewer arguments. That was really my goal. And it occurred to me that most arguments seem to arise when one or both people were not sharing what they truly thought or how they truly felt. And as I started looking into this and looking into high-risk behaviors by teenagers, it’s like suicide, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy.
Kevin: 07:31 Um, and a few others, I can’t remember, there were like six or seven back in 2001, I think there are like nine or 12 now. Um, they, they probably even have, you know, screen time as a high risk behavior, which is completely ridiculous for a whole nother set of reasons. But, but these are just symptoms and, and all of these are almost all of these behaviors improve when the person feels more connected. And that’s what I found, you know, reviewing all the research and you know, just reading article after article and so on.
SuzieQ: 08:04 When you were talking about Corporate E-journal for Businesses and Family E-journal for families to create the experience of talking – Why aren’t they talking? Are the children not feeling safe? They’re not in a safe environment where they can safely express themselves?
Kevin: 08:20 See so people aren’t talking right. And we keep hearing from all the mental health professionals and counselors and therapists like, oh, we got to talk more.
The generational cycle of disconnection
Kevin: 08:29 People aren’t talking. We got to talk more. And that’s all true. You know, we do need to talk more, but not so much talk as in verbal exchange. We need to connect and communicate and connect are two different things. And, and the problem is, is that people don’t know how to connect. Parents don’t know how to connect with their children. And then children never learned from their parents how to connect back. And this is not necessarily like blaming parents. It’s the fact that parents never learned how to connect themselves because they were never taught how to connect from their parents who were never taught how to connect from their parents. And it, this just goes on through generation after generation. And I would argue that the reason we’ve struggled to authentically connect is because it’s just simply never been a priority. Our priority for 200,000 years has been survival, right?
Kevin: 09:35 So even as few as 150 years ago, so the late 1800 humans could not reliably source food. We could not reliably preserve food. We didn’t even know if we were going to make it through a winter. So our, our entire existence was around survival. So 80% of the world is still struggling just to survive. But it’s those 20% of the world that does have their food, water, shelter, safety needs being met that are struggling and, and self destructing either harming each other with like war, gun violence, things like that, or harming themselves out of out of an attempt to compensate for their emotional pain. So, so yeah, I think parents, they simply just don’t even know how to connect with their kids.
SuzieQ: 10:35 Okay. But, but do you really buy that in this day and age with all of the information out there… Is it, is it still an excuse? We didn’t know better.
Kevin: 10:49 I really don’t see it so much as an excuse for parents. I just see it more as the reality of where, where the species is and how we, how we exist, you know, with so few people even understanding what emotional health is and so many people struggling to nurture their emotional health because their emotional health was never nurtured originally. I think that’s where the problem is really stemming and it just goes back generation to generation like I was speaking before. Um, so I think now, now that some people are aware of emotional health or at least aware of the need for connection and it’s getting more play, you know, the whole loneliness, isolation, epidemic, all those kinds of things.
Kevin: 11:50 Um, I think that is, is a great start. But it is, it is. So just the very, very, very tip of the iceberg is just even being aware of it. The whole idea of actually nurturing emotional health. And by that I mean nurturing love and connection and belonging. That is a whole nother issue that, um, oh my gosh, you know, I’ve been digging into this for almost 20 years now. And even if I mentioned the word emotion, people’s wall just go straight up. I mean, they won’t even go near it. And then our, and so many of our behaviors in society, and I don’t just mean in the United States, I mean worldwide, so many of our behaviors have, have become accepted norms such as drinking alcohol is an accepted norm. It’s okay to get drunk, but there’s no need for alcohol in the human condition.
Kevin: 12:54 It’s just not needed, you know? But it’s become so norm is, oh, let’s go out and have a, have a few drinks and connect and it is a way to connect. But you know, again, you know better living through chemistry, right? Or you get the um, um, the beer goggles, you know, like you or the alcohol bravery, I forget the term, you know, um, of getting all that confidence through alcohol, you know, this is how we try to deal with our emotions and it’s become socially acceptable. But that doesn’t mean it’s right, you know, and now I don’t want to go to an extreme of saying no alcohol ever, but you know, when so many people struggle with alcohol or, or it’s so frequently used, you know, oh yeah, just had a couple of drinks, happy hour, you know, no big deal. But the fact that that you’re doing anything that’s going to harm your body, like alcohol’s does nothing good.
The child in the womb
Kevin: 13:54 You can find a study where, oh, it’s good for you. But that’s, that’s bs. I mean that’s just trying to justify and rationalize your behavior. But really the reality is, is your behavior is destructive and why? Why do we behave that way? It’s not because we’re mentally ill, it’s because we have a pain and that pain is emotional. And that pain is because we didn’t feel loved. We didn’t feel connected, we didn’t feel heard. And that goes all the way back to that early childhood. Or even before that actually, I was listening to a lecture about what’s going on as a child is developing in, in the mother’s womb, there’s an energy, there’s a, a frequency that your cells vibrate. There’s, everything’s vibrating at some frequency. You know, the tables vibrating, the, everything’s vibrating. When you get down at the atomic level and subatomic level and all, and people the same way, your cells all have a charge.
Kevin: 14:54 Um, there’s all this energy going on. It’s not woo woo. It’s actually real, you know? So if the mother is experiencing, let’s say, all kinds of anxiety, like it’s her first child, she doesn’t know how she’s going to raise it. You know, she doesn’t, you know, there’s not enough money in the family to even support, let’s say the husband and the wife. Um, and we weren’t planning on getting pregnant and then, oh, my husband just lost his job. And you know, my job isn’t making enough to cover both of us. You know, if there’s all that stress and anxiety, then – then that mother is, and that mother’s brain is creating all kinds of chemicals and you know, Cortisol and Adrenalin and you know, all these different hormones and so on. That’s all getting passed to the child. So that child is dealing, it has to, is taking on all of that same kind of chemistry, but it’s even the physics of it, which comes before chemistry is how all of the elements are combining and, and the energy pathways that the developing child is getting coming from the mother.
Kevin: 16:02 So that’s part of that. It’s not just the genetic code in the DNA, it’s what that mother is experiencing and the kind of chemicals that the mother’s brain is producing. And not just brain, but you know, the, the pancreas and the hormones and all the kinds of things that the mother is producing. And, and I would actually even go further on to say, and this is probably a big reason why separating a child from the biological mother is so catastrophic because there is a connection there. I mean, they come from one body, right? I mean it’s, it’s a human being. And then you get a seed and you create another human being within one human being. There’s a, there’s a connection. I mean there’s a physical emotional, mental, well I don’t know about mental quite yet, but an energy connection. And, and again, this is not woo woo. This is actually real. You can measure that, you know?
SuzieQ: 17:06 Babies come out of the womb and they know who their mother is. There’s been studies where the mother’s breast milk was on a pad and other breast milk and the baby brand new, knew which, which breast milk was the mother’s having not even tasted breast milk yet.
Kevin: 17:23 Yeah, yeah. They, you know, I mean, you don’t know consciously because of the, the baby’s not even conscious or aware of itself. At that point, it’s, it’s not until they’re like six or seven or older that they’re consciously aware of themselves. So you know, humans know, and that’s what your subconscious is all about. You know, your subconscious is taking in far more information and processing far more information, you know, orders of several orders of magnitude, more information than your conscious brain is able to, to take in and comprehend and process. So, so there is a real connection between a child and its mother. So you’ve got a real connection. And then once the baby is born, because let’s just move past the wound part and actually birth and after the birth and, and then we don’t know how to actually connect to that child. And in fact we, we start to damage the emotional connection literally on day one.
How we damage the emotional connection from day one
Kevin: 18:29 So on day one, when a baby is crying, what do we do? We hold the baby and we say, shhhhh, you’re okay, you’re okay. Right? So holding the baby’s good. They can feel our warmth are touch that that’s good. That’s comforting that it feels safe. But then we say, so what we’re doing is we’re telling that babies stop crying, stop emoting, right? Suppress your emotions. I don’t want to hear those emotions. I don’t want to hear you cry. You just bottle that up and push it down and push it away. And then we add insult to injury by telling that baby you’re okay. So then you know, we’re telling that baby how to feel you’re okay and no one person can ever tell another person how to feel. You feel however you need to feel and you need to experience those feelings. So we are shutting the child down and training that child from day one.
Kevin: 19:33 And that’s just what we learned from our parents and so on through the generations. Now what we could be doing is saying something like, I hear you. I’m here for you. Instead of saying you’re okay, we say, I hear you. I’m here for you. And that lets that child know that it’s okay to emote. It’s okay to have those feelings. You’re not in trouble. I don’t not love you because you’re crying. I love you no matter what. Now as parents of, you know, let’s assume we do love our kids unconditionally. Sure. But that’s not the message that we’re giving our children. So we need to honor each other’s feelings. We need to allow each other to experience our feelings and emotions starting from day one. I mean, you can even go from conception, but let’s just say from day one of life, you, we need to be honoring those feelings and emotions and still in society.
Denying our emotions is killing us
Kevin: 20:39 Okay. At least in the United States, you know, emotions are considered a weakness, right? I mean, feelings are bad, you know, or it’s okay to have happy feelings, but it’s not okay to have sad feelings that is so beyond incorrect. I can’t even stress that enough. Emotions are human, not only are emotions, human, they are a Mammalian function, right? All mammals have emotion. And you can even go so far as to say primates, all primates have emotions. So, but then we even know that, you know, birds mate for, for life, you know, things like that. So to deny our emotions is to deny our humanity. And, and that’s what we’ve been doing for millennium, you know, and, and it’s killing us at this point now. It’s really hurting us a lot. Like literally.
SuzieQ: 21:40 I completely agree. And I would like to just kind of expand on your initial comment about carrying the child and all the emotions and the connection that that involved in what the mother is thinking and feeling and the stress hormones versus happy hormones while pregnant reflecting to adoption. So now you’ve got a mother who is considering adoption. It may or may not be a personal choice. They may be forced into it for a multitude, of reasons. So there was that that you’ve clearly explained all the repercussions and consequences and you know the good sides to all that goes on in the mother that gets passed into the womb. But I want to take it a step further with adoption and a parent who is not aware of the wounds that the child carries being relinquished who doesn’t understand, you know, what they need to understand about the adopted child and further behaviors or you know their need for connection, which is – the child is born, the child is adopted out.
Adoption trauma and unprepared adoptive parents
SuzieQ: 22:53 Immediately lost that connection at the same time is carrying all of the signifiers from the mother of you know, let’s assume that the mother was in stress because she really wanted to keep her child, but there was just no way so you know there was loss and those hormones of loss and stress and mourning. Now the child has this. The unequipped adoptive parent who doesn’t know about this does not understand it, doesn’t believe. Just thinks they can take somebody else’s child and raise it – raises this child. And now we’re going to have a connection gap. The child is going to have behaviors because that’s how, that’s a symptom of something deeper,
Kevin: 23:35 Right – That’s how they’re compensating for their pain…
SuzieQ: 23:39 and then what happens Kevin? Then the child gets labeled in the adoption world with oppositional defiance behavior RAD with
Kevin: 23:51 Right – aggression and you know, hypersensitivity and whatever, uh, whatever else. Again, adoption world is not as, you know, I’m not as familiar as you are for sure. Um, so I’m just coming from the connection side of everything. But I totally agree and see what you’re saying. I mean it, it totally makes sense and it seems to me that an adoptive parent, you know, they, their job is just that much They need to take their parenting to an even higher or different level because from the start they’re dealing with a child that’s already experienced the trauma just from the separation. So they need to go above and beyond to help that child feel safe and secure. They’re going to be feeding it and clothing it and you know, that kind of thing. But above and beyond for the safety and security. So far more holding, being within eyesight or you know, of that parent –
Kevin: 24:59 So when the child looks back at – if their playing – and they look back, Yup. Mom is still there. Okay, good. I can go keep playing or whatever. But then even more so emphasizing the, I don’t just want to say unconditional love, but they need to show that child in words and in actions how much that child is loved and they need to bond with that child in a way that that child understands it and definitely feels safe. But we need, the parent needs to connect with that child in a way that that child is able to receive it. Whether that’s hugs, whether that’s verbal affirmations, you know, whether that’s spending more time together. And I think with the adoptive child, adoptive parent, child relationship, it just has to go to an even further degree or further awareness and action. Yeah. Because that child is already starting out, you know, behind the curve really, because they were separated from their biologic parent.
SuzieQ: 26:13 And you know what? That sounds all complicated. So for somebody listening, they might go, oh my God, that I got to go through this process of adopting and I got to do, and now I got to do all this?? Well, first of all, yeah.
Kevin: 26:29 Well that’s part of being a parent. Right?
Releasing emotional pain and baggage
SuzieQ: 26:31 Right. But I want to go back to my initial assertion when we first started, which is as long as somebody is still carrying their own traumas and baggage their past, they will be ineffective. As a parent, that’s all you gotta do. That’s all you want to do is clean up your past. And that’s what I help adoptive parents with it. You clean up your past, we recognize what your triggers are. Where are your strengths, where are your weaknesses? We work on that.
Kevin: 27:03 Yeah. Well the less pain you’re in as a parent then the, the more energy you’ll have to work with another human being or the less pain you’re in, then the less likely you will to be triggered by other happenings in your world. Absolutely. And the less pain your in. And again, the pain that we’re talking about here is emotional pain. It’s not, it’s not physical pain, it’s not mental pain. It’s emotional pain. The less pain you’re in, the less you’ll need to be compensating for your pain through your own destructive behaviors or your extremely constructive behaviors because any behavior in its extreme can be detrimental to you or to others.
SuzieQ: 27:59 I want to read you something. Do you feel like a bedtime story?
Kevin: 28:03 Sure.
Gabor Mate’ quoted
SuzieQ: 28:06 Gabor Mate’. This is a direct quote. Studies show the exponential impact of childhood loss. The more losses accrued, the greater risk of addiction, cancer, mental illness, autoimmune disease, dysfunction, criminality, relationship problems, personality disorders, et Cetera, et cetera. He quotes from Pediatrics, the official publication of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Early childhood trauma or stress results in adaptations that help the child survive in the short term, but are the basis of pathology for a physical and mental illness later on. Now I’m going to cut in for a second. Adopted children live by adapting, so it’s like adoption slash adapted. Because we are not with our roots, we because I’m adopted, because adopted children have been removed from the only roots that they know, they’re like stuck in this family of strangers and they literally have to adapt. So you spoke earlier about emotions being denied by saying ‘shhh’ and, and things that we think are normal is actually detrimental to a child’s. Um, right. Well that’s what we do all the time as an adopted person because we already have that detachment. So we have attachment issues, we have abandonment issues. We have to adapt our environment to make sure that they’re not going to give us back to make sure that they’re not going to leave us again.
Kevin: 29:45 Ya, You’re already – adoptive kids are already starting out in, in like a hole, you know, let’s say if, uh, if, uh, a regular biologic child is born to their biologic parent or mother, Mom, Dad, and living in that family, that’s, let’s say that’s baseline. That’s like starting at Ground Zero. So I totally agree. I think that the adoptive child, when they go into the adoptive family, they’re starting already at a negative. They’re already below. They have to deal with trauma right away, right, because they’re separated. So it’s that much more difficult. Not it can, it can be overcome for sure. But it’s just that much more effort has to be put forward by the parents. If the parents, I’m gonna sorta summarize what you’re saying before and it’s the parents are struggling with their own emotional unhealth that they probably aren’t even aware of. If they’re struggling with their own emotional unhealth, it’s going to be that much more difficult for them to show love and connection to their child. Makes it all the harder.
SuzieQ: 31:03 Kevin, thank you so much for, for sharing all of your wisdom. I really honestly love everything that you have to say because, because I finally get it and of course we’re very much on the same page. We’re, we’re teaching the same things, going about it slightly differently, but with the same end result in mind.
Kevin: 31:24 Thank you. Thank you. I really appreciate the opportunity and I love our conversations and we’re both so passionate about what we’re doing and I agree we, we are working toward the same goal, the same kind of mission. And um, and from that I think working together is, is just better than working solo.
SuzieQ: 31:44 Absolutely. Well, I will talk to you on the next episode.
Kevin: 31:52 Sounds good. Thanks so much.
SuzieQ: 31:54 Even though I didn’t invite you on the recording to the next episode.
Kevin: 31:58 Well you can do it now.
SuzieQ: 32:04 I hope you enjoyed this episode, and if you have any comments or questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org that’s S U Z @ SUZIE Q solutions.com. I have a whole list of guests. I’ll be interviewing different topics, different perspectives with one common goal to get to the root of what it takes to be a great adoptive parent. If you have any ideas for shows that you would like to hear covered, send those along in the email as well. And I will see what I can do my very best to you and to your family and always know as a parent, I want the very best for you and as an adopted person, I want the very best for your child and I’ll do whatever it takes to get you there.
You can find Kevin here: