The following list of often-experienced behaviors of traumatized adopted children was developed by Dr. Arthur Becker Weidman, Ph.d.  He has studied attachment and complex trauma especially in children who were adopted after the age of 18 months.  If you are an adoptive parent and you can check off more than a few of the characteristics on this list, you may have a child with attachment and/or complex trauma issues.

1. My child acts cute or charms others to get others to do what my child wants.
2. My child often does not make eye contact when adults want to make eye contact with my child.
3. My child is overly friendly with strangers.
4. My child pushes me away or becomes stiff when I try to hug, unless my child wants something from me.
5. My child argues for long periods of time, often about ridiculous things.
6. My child has a tremendous need to have control over everything, becoming very upset if things don't go my child's way.
7. My child acts amazingly innocent, or pretends that things aren't that bad when caught doing something wrong.
8. My child does very dangerous things, ignoring that my child may be hurt.
9. My child deliberately breaks or ruins things.
10. My child doesn't seem to feel age-appropriate guilt when my child does something wrong.
11. My child teases, hurts, or is cruel to other children.
12. My child seems unable to stop from doing things on impulse.
13. My child steals, or shows up with things that belong to others with unusual or suspicious reasons for how my child got these things.
14. My child demands things, instead of asking for them.
15. My child doesn't seem to learn from mistakes and misbehavior (no matter what the consequence, the child continues the behavior).
16. My child tries to get sympathy from others by telling them that I abuse, don't feed, or don't provide the basic life necessities.
17. My child "shakes off" pain when hurt, refusing to let anyone provide comfort.
18. My child likes to sneak things without permission, even though my child could have had these things if my child had asked.
19. My child lies, often about obvious or ridiculous things, or when it would have been easier to tell the truth.
20. My child is very bossy with other children and adults.
21. My child hoards or sneaks food, or has other unusual eating habits (eats paper, raw flour, package mixes, baker's chocolate, etc. )
22. My child can't keep friends for more than a week.
23. My child throws temper tantrums that last for hours.
24. My child chatters non-stop, asks repeated questions about things that make no sense, mutters, or is hard to understand when talking.
25. My child is accident-prone (gets hurt a lot), or complains a lot about every little ache and pain (needs constant band aids).
26. My child teases, hurts, or is cruel to animals.
27. My child doesn't do as well in school as my child could with even a little more effort.
28. My child has set fires, or is preoccupied with fire.
29. My child prefers to watch violent cartoons and/or TV shows or horror movie (regardless of whether or not you allow your child to do this).
30. My child was abused/neglected during the first year of life, or had several changes of primary caretaker during the first several years of life.
31. My child was in an orphanage for more than the first year of life.
32. My child was adopted after the age of eighteen months.

My own children have exhibited most every one of the behaviors listed above, including #28.  (Yes, that was a scary, scary time.)  Depending upon which of my two traumatized children we’re talking about, they continue to exhibit many of these even after being home for nearly six years.  It is exhausting for all family members and most of all for the children affected by trauma and their mama.  The behaviors that are most pervasive for my kids seem to be those that are also pervasive in other families with traumatized older adopted children.  Numbers 1-7 are pretty much a given, no matter what family I know.  Likewise, #15-19 dominate the life of many traumatized children/teens.  In fact, many of us parenting trauma have learned to EXPECT lies and demands and while we’ve learned to redirect our children, we are very weary from having to do so all the time.  Another behavior I have seen in nearly all the traumatized children/teens I know is #29.  My kids love blood, gore and violence.  They love dark stories with depraved characters, evil and black magic.  It doesn’t matter that these are things we avoid in our Christian home.  Even though they profess to be Christians themselves, they are still drawn like a moth to the flame.  It is NOT a spiritual deficiency.  It is how their brains have been wired by trauma.  It’s what makes them feel “normal” and not anxious.  Yet, it is also what makes them act out in big ways with big feelings.  They will sneak around to read books and view YouTube videos as well as watch movies we don’t allow whenever they get the chance.
Now, please understand, I am NOT saying that all adopted children exhibit all the behaviors listed.  Please remember, too, that I have parented four neuro-typical children prior to adopting my two from hurt backgrounds.  I know any child can exhibit any of these behaviors.  However, I also know neuro-typical (NT) kids don’t exhibit them on a regular basis, nor do they exhibit multiple behaviors at the same time on a regular basis.  This is NOT “normal” kid stuff.  (Most parents of traumatized kids that I know are especially tired of hearing from those not walking this road that it is.)
I am saying, however, that ALL children I know who were adopted after the age of 18 months or so do indeed deal with trauma.  They deal with attachment issues.  They may not have full-blown RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), but they struggle with attachment on some level due to trauma.  That may make a reader or two bristle, but I stick by my experience.  Getting adopted is traumatic and it does not happen without profound loss.

However, I am also not saying that adoption is a negative thing.  It is not!  It is wonderful and it is a blessing, even as it is a challenge.  I am saying you’d better make darned sure you are called to adopt before you do it.  It is HARD to knit a child to your heart who has experienced the loss that is involved in adoption.  Do not expect your child to love you back or be grateful for the time, love and things you give him or her.  Ask tough questions from people who live this life before you ever fill out an agency application.  Make sure those people are brutally honest with you.  Pray hard.  Learn more than the social workers require of you.  Read everything you can about trauma and attachment before you ever complete your home study.
If you're already an adoptive parent dealing with this kind of stuff and you need some connection with people who "get it,  let me know.  I know some people and I have some resources to share with you.  If you're anyone else, thanks for reading!  If you want to know more because you want to help a family you care about, let me know that, too.  I also have some resources to share with you.

- Trauma Mama T  (who blogs at My Life as a Trauma Mama)

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My Orlando Experience

Posted by admin on May 06, 2013

This simple title doesn’t even come close to capturing what Orlando did for me and I feel it is time to share although something with something that touches your spirit so deeply, the words do not come easy.  Bear with me. 

Before I start let me tell you just a bit about me.  I am a single parent to 2 boys who came to me through Foster Care in 2008.  I always knew in my heart I was destined to provide a loving home to children.  I had a lot of love in my heart and I wanted to share it kids who needed it.  My boys were officially adopted in 2011.

Parenting was much more difficult than I had imagined.  I had already been a special education teacher in a high needs school so I figured, “how hard could it be?”  Hard was only the beginning.  There were LOTS of things I didn’t know.   In 2010 when my son was sent to RTC because he wasn’t being safe, I had a lot of learning to do.  That’s when I learned about attachment disorder and how it affects our kids.  That really turned the light on for me and from there, I was not only able to advocate for his needs, but I was beginning to understand how to be the parent HE needed.

It was a rough road.  My family didn’t understand.  I lost several friends.  The county that preached all about collaboration and teamwork was ready to take my kid from me when I asked for help.  I was alone.  I saw one of Christine Moers’ videos and got started on my therapeutic parenting.  Things got a little better, but still, I was alone.

Some crazy people I had met through another foster parent and friend told me about Orlando.  I thought they were just that.  Crazy.  I had never left my kids.  Gosh, how would they survive?  Who would watch them?  Would they survive?  I decided it was a dream and let it go.

The crazy started up again.  I was feeling overwhelmed and I became determined to join the crazy people in Orlando.  If nothing else, to just get away and get my head together.  I figured I deserved that much.  And so, things fell in to place and I went.

I cried the entire way there.  I am sure I looked like a lunatic on the plane.  I was incredibly nervous.  I am a little…awkward…and am a little shy around new people.  I was having all kinds of big feelings.

This is where everything becomes a blur.  The welcoming committee was there.  I met Christine.  I went to a house that was filled with people.  Lots of “hellos”.  Lots of breaks in my room to compose myself.  I LOVED talking to the people.  I met many amazing woman that weekend.  But there were a handful of experiences that really made a permanent mark on my heart.

The first was during the Friday night scavenger hunt.  I was overwhelmed and really struggling inside.  It was all so much.  This woman could see I was having a hard time and told me to tap my face and say some words.  That was when I learned about EFT.  A tool that has since helped me and my children heal in so many ways and it also gave me the language I was missing to reach my kids.

On that same scavenger hunt I was matched with a very passionate woman who was really trying hard to find a home for her son.  He has some pretty significant behaviors due to his trauma, but no matter what he did, she whole heartedly believed he deserved a home and a family.  And dammit if it couldn’t be with her, she was going to find him one.  I loved that about her, so much passion and love.  We spent most of the last night talking as well.  This woman had not just lots of knowledge, but enormous amounts of strength and love too.  I still have not gotten sick of talking with her.  I love her to pieces. 

There was a dance party at the clubhouse Saturday night.  I am not much of a dancer, but I have some moves.  Mostly it is fun to just “be”.  I could be myself and I was fine. (Well mostly fine, I was quite thirsty that day and had a little to drink).  But no one needed me, no one was staring me down, no one was waiting for me to be this certain person that they needed.  I could just be me.

Of all my interactions with people there was one that I think of as the most significant.  One morning we were all standing around the kitchen.  One of the women came up beside me, put her arm around my shoulder, and gave a squeeze.  This woman is so beautiful and strong.  A strong, kind woman.  And that gesture.  I don’t even know if she knows how powerful that moment was to me.  You see in that moment, I realized I could be seen.  She saw me.  She touched me.  In that moment my heart stopped.  She saw ME.

That may sound weird to you.   But you see, I had been existent in the world without really being seen.  I was there, but not.  I had this big heart and these great ideas and I felt like people couldn’t see me.  Much of that is because of how I grew up.  My basic needs were ignored.  That affected me.  I didn’t even know it, but it did.  And I don’t want any pity for how I grew up, but now that my eyes have been opened, I surely want to embrace this new idea, this love. 

I used this experience, this first year as a spring board.  I made connections with people and have deepened the connection over the last year.  They are my support system. 

That is what I got out of my first year.  My next year was much different.  I realized I was no longer missing so much of myself.  I have grown so much in the last year and am ready to give back. After this year I realized I want to help other people make connections too.  It makes such a difference in this world where we are trying to heal our children. 

Orlando is going to be different for everyone.  Everyone has their own path.  For me, Orlando opened up my eyes and my heart to unconditional love.  Something I had never had the joy of experiencing before.  It has changed me. 

Orlando is a place where you can look inside yourself, you can be yourself, and you can make a better self.  Or you can just be.  Orlando can be whatever it is you need.

You cannot know what you are missing until it is revealed to you. 

These women showed me unconditional love.

I am changed and I am grateful.

Perhaps Orlando can do something for you.

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Things That Make My Heart Hurt

Posted by admin on May 03, 2013

A lot of times one of our "birth kids" will ask me something about when they were born, or when they were babies. This then will prompt a "adopted kid" ( I hate how that looks for some reason) to ask me the same or similar question. It makes me sad that I cant answer their question. With our almost 7 yo, I actually could answer some questions about her birth, But I wont. Not yet anyways. You see she was born addicted to meth, and taken away and placed into foster care for the 1st time of many times :( Also her birth Dad was in the country illegally and wanted for violent crimes in the US, so he was arrested that day also. These are things she will learn one day. And that makes my heart hurt. I mourn the loss of their beautiful birth stories, laughing as we look at baby pictures, or talk about those 1st teeth, words, and   steps...  


So we try to focus of the firsts we do have, the 1st time I saw them, the 1st time they called me Mom, we now have 1st lost tooth, day of school, birthday party, and for our 8 year old her Baptism. We are creating our own beautiful memories, but how my heart still aches for those lost moments I can not share with them.....

        Elayna signing her adoption papers :)

   My 1st day with Mr. Bradley :)


  Bryleigh's 1st lost tooth :)

 

- Kelly (who blogs at Finding Joy in the Journey)

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Transformed from the Inside Out

Posted by admin on April 30, 2013

As I watch my adopted daughter heal I wanted to share a moment that reached deep into my heart today. Yet I believe only with true perspective can you understand how we reached this relationship. As the mother of a wounded child I want to give encouragement and hope to each of you who struggles with a child, biological or adopted, that is hard to “feel” love towards. These are excerpts from my blog over the years.

But love is not a feeling. It’s a choice. Say that with me. Say it again. It’s a choice. If I had to “feel” loving towards these kids (my adopted RAD kids) they would have been booted out a long time ago. (So would my husband, but that’s a different story!) It’s the same choice Eve had with the serpent. Turn away from sin or take what looks good and pay the consequences. Everyday we must turn from the sin of our human nature and love unconditionally, rejecting Satan and his influence. Thank the Lord He wants to teach us this lesson over and over……and over and over. Ouch. My kids and your kids are worth the sacrifice. I believe that. I just have to remind myself sometimes. Okay, a lot of the times. Thank God for second chances, for us and our precious children.

Moved to tears. Filled with awestruck wonder. Heartfelt prayers of gratitude. Why these strong emotions? Today I took my youngest daughter S to get her hair cut for Locks of Love. This organization that makes wigs for sick children needs at least ten inches of hair so she has been diligently growing it out for months. Years actually. Thick, beautiful, long hair.


We drove 25 minutes to the hair salon and enjoyed the kind of easy conversation that in the past would have seemed impossible. She is a very intuitive young woman and she mentioned that time is fleeting. We talked about her older brother Joshua and his call to be a missionary to France. We would only see him then a couple of times a year. Sad to tell her it would not even be that often. I reminded her that one day she, too, would leave home and build a family with God’s chosen mate for her. At age 14, she sees in her older siblings how fast time flies and chooses to see the beauty in capturing these moments. Not only capturing, but cherishing.

But the truth in this situation is that I did NOT make these children this way. Their birth parents, in all their selfishness and inadequacies did. That may be harsh, but it’s the truth. I can’t put these kids in my womb and give birth to them. I’m just part of the healing process. I pray I’m part of the healing process. Because I’ve done everything I know to do and even more. I’ve sacrificed more than I ever believed possible, but the outcome is in their hands. I can’t change anyone but myself. And I’m not going to believe anymore that somehow if I had done one thing, or many things, differently our lives would have been different. I love them, unconditionally. I pray for the strength to love them through the many difficult years to come. I also hope beyond hope that I did enough with my own birth kids to help them see God through the fiery trials. Yet I’m still sad. It’s not fair to anyone, but that’s the ugly reality that is RAD. God, give me strength.


My girl was completely at ease with this stranger cutting her hair. Able to speak clearly and enjoy conversation. Give her opinion and listen to others. Skills that have been years in the making. A polite, caring and kind teenager.

On the way home it rained hard for a couple of minutes and I struggled to have intelligent conversation while maneuvering on the highway. S was giddy with her new haircut but ever grateful for my taking her and spending that time with her. I told her I hoped that if her birth family could see her today they would see her for the beautiful, loving, mature young lady she is. She told me it was because I had invested so much in her. I told her we did it together. But you labored with me, Mommy. 

I was able to look into her eyes and tell her she was a precious gift that I will always treasure. How many years did it take to get to this place? So many that I want to forget but they brought us to this point in time. I truly “feel” that way about her. I can look into her eyes and see life and peace and hope. The years she spent in anger and denial and fear and grief were not in vain. She has such a servant’s heart and I believe she will one day change the world, her world, with her story. She is able to tell me of her fears and allow me to fill that part of her soul. 

I’m not sure there have ever been sweeter words spoken to me. Such a recognition of the journey of 12 years. Days, months, years of despair and hopelessness. Barely putting one foot in front of the other and clinging to God’s hand with all of my strength, the wounds of adopted children smothering everything in sight. Never knowing if there would be healing but praying in utter humility and surrender for the strength to continue this journey.

God you are faithful.

But you labored with me, Mommy.

 
- Marty (who blogs at Marty's Musings)

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Dear Trauma Momma

Posted by admin on April 28, 2013

Dear Trauma Momma,

You didn’t sign up for this. When you chose to parent a child who experienced trauma, you didn’t know it would result in you experiencing your OWN version of trauma. You didn’t know that when your child survived a horrific trauma and his physical body healed that his mind would be forever scarred by the impact of trauma.

You didn’t know how isolating this journey would be. Or that you’d have to relearn how to parent. That all your parenting instincts would be almost worthless. You didn’t know that no one would believe you. That your child would be loved by everyone else, and you’d get emails and school reports, and even THERAPIST reports that exclaimed about how wonderful your child is, how charming, and resilient- how much that person just enjoyed being with your child. You didn’t know that instead of beaming with pride that you would feel a frustrated, invalidated, alone, and even crazy. “Maybe my child IS wonderful and I’M the one with the big problem.”

You didn’t know how hard it would be to go out in public. Or have a date with your partner because your child cannot be left with a baby-sitter. You didn’t know how much money you’d spend on therapy, OT, books, medications, and trainings.

You didn’t know that when the flight attendants spoke to the passengers, and no one is even listening, that who they are REALLY speaking to is YOU, trauma momma. You, who really does need to “put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others.” You didn’t know that parenting trauma is an invitation- no a DEMAND- to focus inward, love yourself, and heal yourself- because only after you put on your OWN oxygen mask can you assist others.


- Robyn Gobbel LCSW (who blogs at Parenting. Adoption. And Adoptive Parenting.)

 


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You Think I Did What?!

Posted by admin on April 25, 2013

Nothing strikes fear in the heart of a parent like a call from Child Protective Services that says they need to make a visit to your house.  It is easily the most upsetting thing that we, the parents of traumatized kids, hear.   And yet, it is something that has either happened to each one of us or will in the future.  

Unfortunately kids that have grown up with early trauma or have attachment issues are prone to making false allegations.  It could be for several different reasons depending on the child.  In some cases, the child has learned through being a part of "the system" that they can manipulate adults and make false allegations either to get attention or to get back at an adult for a perceived in justice.  In other cases, the adults that are charged with taking care of them at school or other places may not understand their attachment issues and may question the parent's choice of parenting style.  This can cause manipulation by the child and they sometimes tend to exaggerate what is happening in the home. If the adult already may not agree with what they think they are seeing this can cause issues. 

We have had numerous allegations against us in the past 12 years.  We have had our son go to school and tell far fetched stories that the teacher felt obligated to report.  We have had him go to school with bruises from simply playing rough or perhaps from a rage and when asked, he may have a fishy response or he simply may not know how it happened and he accepts words that are put in him mouth.  We have been reported by neighbors for the screaming (his) that eminates from our house on a regular basis.  Any normal person would assume a child that is screaming like that is being hurt, so CPS has been called.  We have had a report filed because our child has chosen to run out of the house and stood on the front lawn screaming "Let me in!" even though the front door is open.  We have even had a report filed that we are not feeding him enough because he is VERY thin and is always asking begging for food.  My child eats more than 3 adult men because he has no pain receptors and very rarely "feels" full.  To anyone who is not familiar with our situation all of these reports would seem completely and totally justified.  

I had to come to grips very early on with the fact that CPS would likely be a consistent part of our life.  It is difficult to live under the stress of a possible complaint being filed at any time unless you adjust your thoughts about the whole process.  Here are some of the ways I try to think about the issue and relieve my own stress. 

1. Understand that CPS is a necessary evil.  I had to realize that if it was not for a CPS complaint my child would likely be dead at the hands of his bio-parent.  He was saved due to a neighbor's complaint.  When they are thoughtful and take time to really understand what is going on in a particular situation, they are invaluable. Be thankful that they exist, this frames your reaction to them. 

2. Understand that you did nothing wrong.  When you react to authority in a threatened manner they assume you did something wrong.  Be yourself.  Your love for your child and your family will show through.  Your intentions are good, taking the time to explain your situation and not go immediately on the defensive is crucial.  

3. Advocate for your child.  Explain the situation that they came from.  Explain their background and ask if they have had any dealing with that particular issue before.  Explain that your child has experienced early trauma and that is no different than physical damage.  It affects them in many different ways.  Your main goal is to keep them safe.  You are the one who is dealing with the fall out, not the one who inflicted the inital trauma, but you are usually the target.  

4.  It is ok to get frustrated or emotional, but be polite and use good manners.  Try to limit the anger. Attempt to look at them as advocates and not aggressors.  They are simply doing the job they are called to do.   Portray yourself in a positive light.  I have been known to say "I am not upset at you or my child.  I am angry that he has to live this way and that this is our life!"  Be honest!  Explain that this is difficult all around and you are thankful for agencies that are there to keep people safe.  

5. Have the magic binder ready.  We keep all our important paperwork related to my child in a binder that is easily accessible.  Phone number for doctors, therapists and social workers are in the front.  Letters or determinations of diagnosis are definitely important as well as any school paperwork like IEP and/or therapy reports.  We also keep a copy of our adoption decree and medical paperwork there as well.  Unfortunately, I also have the report determinations and case closed paperwork from the previous investigations in their own section.  Police reports, other allegations, bio history, and/or abuse information would be beneficial as well.   Offer this information and explain that you have it ready so that you can prove that there is a history of either false allegations of attachment issues.  

6. Be honest with caregivers. It is OK to say "My child's behavior at school and my child's behavior at home greatly differs due to his diagnosis. I understand that is hard to grasp.  If you have any questions about what that looks like, feel free to ask." It is ok to share details of your child's issues.  It is easier for our kids to hold it together during the school day and then let loose at home.  Most people don't understand that concept.  It is ok to educate others on the ways that trauma affects our kids.  You don't have to share specifics to educate.  You can point them toward resources that back up what you are telling them. You can explain that you are pleased they see the other side of your child, but there is much more beyond he surface.

6. Above all know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  Find a support group that "has your back" and knows what it is like to face that kind of trauma.  It is crucial to have someone who has been through it before and understand what it feels like.  It is a place to vent and to express all the previously unspoken fears.  It is the place you can go to get angry and others will understand.  It is your place to let off steam and to regroup.  Knowing that a hundred or more women are praying for a quick resolution and telling you it will be OK is priceless.

It is one thing to type this and know it and yet another to live through it and still freak out.  Just this past week we received a letter from our local prosecutor's office(our APS agency worked through that office) that we were implicated in a complaint filed by the school from our now 18 year old.  Since he is 18, it was referred to Adult Protective Services.  My first thought was, "They don't know us!" and one of my support moms said, "Think of it as training a new social worker.  It will be fine".  And it was.  It was simply a case of him making an allegation and then changing the story.  He did have a mark on his body, but it was from a restraint that was keeping him from harming himself and others in the family.  Once our side was heard, the  complaint was dismissed.  APS is much different than CPS.  In our experience APS was more in tune with the family and more concerned about helping find resources instead of pushing blame.  So this time, our experience was good. Perhaps it was because I have this thing mastered . . . likely not.  I'd like to think it is because I showed that I am not afraid because I did nothing wrong.  I'd like to think it is because they did not only see the frustration but also the love for my child and the anger that this is HIS life.  

We ended our intereview with a shout out to BeTA.  I explained that there are parents who have come together for the good of their children who have all experienced trauma and/or have attachments issues.  I asked if I could provide them with materials to give to other parents that they speak with who might need that kind of support.  They are THRILLED to have another resource to give to famillies.  It is my hope that another momma, another dad will feel less alone by understanding we are here waiting on them.  

-Sheri (who blogs at Ain't That Sherific)


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Then the Penny Drops

Posted by admin on April 22, 2013

Then the penny drops and I figure it all out. Sometimes I am really slow, like painfully slow at realizing the obvious and even though other people point it out to me I still don’t really get it.

Let me back up, things have been hard here for awhile, some of it is my kids behaviour, some of it was winter, some of it was my depression and some of it was just that lately life was not quite what I had thought it would be. I was lulled into this false sense of security with my boys and around December things started to fall off the rails with them and things have been really hard ever since.

They have both come so far and I thought that things would just keep getting better, that the healing would continue and that it would all be good. Then it stopped being good, in fact it got really hard and as a certain small girl started to attach to me, to actually love me I realised that the boys only are still  insecurely attached. That was a big moment for me. It is normal for humans to give and receive love, it is part of taking care of one another and it was not until I started to be loved by Ramona that I realised that the relationship I have with the boys is much different.

You can google insecure attachment if you want to learn more about it but what it means is that they both still struggle with trusting that I am going to meet their needs, keep them safe and that they will be loved unconditionally. Neither of them is very good at understanding that love is a reciprocal thing that is both given and received.  They are both stuck in the stage of toddler/preschooler where it is normal and appropriate for it to be all about you and what you need. They are unable to realise that the needs of the people around them might be impacted by their behaviour and choices. They both often go straight to a tantrum just like a toddler when they do not get there way. There is nothing quite like a 12 year old having an actual stomp your feet and scream your head off tantrum to remind that something is not right in their brain.

We have had the boys for 5 years his July and we are sill having the same conversations about boundaries, personal space, sharing, talking, not hitting, etc that were having when they were 6 and 8. When I say the same conversations I do mean the very same ones.

Calvin is still unable to maintain a relationship with kids his own age, when we go out he gravitates towards the younger children and will happily play tag or in the sandbox for hours on end. I have no problem with his this but other kids are starting to wonder about his behaviour. Kids his own age whom we have known for years will no longer really associate with him because they are maturing and moving on to being teenagers and he is not. Calvin is unable to understand that other people have emotions and that his choices affect how other people are feeling.

Fudge is a different story, there are other factors at play for him and in many ways the profound  neglect he suffered as an infant has  and will continue to affect his daily life. That being said he has made huge strides in his attachment to me and unlike Calvin he feels remorse and tries to make things better after he makes a mistake. I have some of the best apology letters from him because he although he has cognitive issues that effect his impulse control and other aspects of his daily life he genuinely wants to be in relationship with people even if it scares him to death because he so very afraid of losing the people he loves. He works at having friends and although he struggles with being socially appropriate he wants, and  is mostly able to maintain superficial friendships with his peers.

And although I try not to compare my kids it is really hard because parenting Ramona is so different.

Ramona has been here a year, her ability to understand when she crossed the line, ask forgiveness and change her actions amazes me. She is empathetic towards others when they are in pain and tries hard to make amends when she has wronged someone. She gets that she makes poor choices and can talk about how her choices effected the outcome of a situation. She is attaching to both P and I and actually desires to be loved and accepted by us as her parents. Now that being said she does rage, tantrum and manipulate every single situation and without her meds I can barely contain her. She struggles with friendships, sharing and tries to control everything but I expect that from her and things are getting so much better and she grows and feels safe here.

So the other day when I realised that Ramona was loving me, that she was genuinely concerned for my well being I had to stop and have a little cry because I have never felt that from the boys in the same way. To be honest  I am not sure that they are able to love in the same way. Not because they do want to but because the damage done to them as little kids means that their brains are not wired the way they should be. I know that, I understand that,  but my heart often forgets because I pour myself into these kids everyday.  I do everything I can and when there is nothing in return it hurts, it hurts because being loved is a normal part of relationships and it makes me so sad that they are still having such a hard time loving and being loved.

 - J. (who blogs at Stellar Parenting)

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It's Not About Me

Posted by admin on April 18, 2013

It is difficult as a parent to learn that my child's behaviors and whether he is attached or not isn't about me.  As a foster parent I went into this world wanting to make a difference in the life of a child who needed a family.  I would hazard to say that  most mom's go into this thinking that if I love them enough and give them a home and a family and readily available food, they will be thankful and eventually love me for it.  I learned that that is not always the case.  

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I had to come to grips with the fact that regardless of the horrors my child experienced he still longs to be with his "real mom". (his words) Regardless of everything I provide him, he will still say things like "I should've said no when they asked me if I wanted you to adopt me" when he gets angry.  He lives in a world where his attachment is fluid.  He may never accept me for the parent that I am or want to be.  That is simply too hard.  He may never connect the fact that I am the one who is providing, he should be appreciative of that.  He may never understand that when I do lose my cool, it is directly linked to disrespect or his refusal to follow directions.  He will only see that I have lost it with him and that simply adds fuel to his fire.  

It is HARD to feel unwanted and unappreciated and STILL show that love and compassion.  It is HARD to shove that frustration down over and over and STILL be the mother and the provider that I am called to be.  I have to live with the fact that He will likely never see me in the  light I would prefer.  I have to live with the fact that everyone else gets the perect side of him and I get nothing.   It is what it is.

That is the hardest part.  It would be different is everyone aw that angry, defiant and unappreciative child.  But no, they get the sweet charming and kind child.  Why?  Because being in a family is HARD.  It is easy to maintain that persona for times when they are in public.  They aren't angry with the teacher or with the grocery store clerk.  They are angry at the parents.  Relationships that form in a family are terrifying for these kids.  They still think if they connect, if they trust, we will leave like everyone else.  They are angry with the fact that their original family unit is lost.  I am the one trying to take over in the role that they so desperatly needed to hang on to.  I am the one who took that place and thus took on the anger.  

It took me years to get to the space where that could not affect my parenting and pervade my thoughts.  I had to stop wishing things were different and come to terms that they may never be any different.  I still took an oath to love and care for him as my own and I didn't take that oath with stipulations.  My love cannot be dependent on his love for me.

That is a harsh one to speak. 

My love must be unconditional.  I may have to guard my heart, I may have to wrap it in bubble wrap, but I am called to love and take care of him.   And that I will.  

It's not about me.  


- Sheri (who blogs at Ain't That Sherific)

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Laughter is the Best Medicine

Posted by admin on April 16, 2013

My husband, Robert,  is a hoot.  He is sarcastic and funny.  He is able to twist words and thoughts and make something funny out of just about anything. He can find humor in the bleakest of situations.  He is not disrespectful, but he is definitely able to find the FUNNY in most things.  It used to really irritate me.  Sometimes I just don't want to laugh.  I want to  wallow in my anger or frustration.  I used to get angrier when he would try to make me laugh.  I was a pro at the "evil eye".  But I began to embrace the FUNNY.  I have purposefully, willed myself to smile at his stupid jokes when I was angry.  Or giggle at his odd thoughts or puns when I was frustrated.  It is pretty hard to continute to be mad when you are snickering. 

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For instance last night I was getting very frustrated with my son.  He was doing his best to get my attention and I was attempting to watch television and do some work on my laptop at the same time.  I didn't have time for his nonsense. .  Sometimes if you ignore him he will quiet down because he is not getting a reaction from you.  Other times, he takes it as a sign that I cannot hear him if I am not looking at him (he struggles with object permanence)so he thinks he can just continue to play around.  Even though he is 18, has has the intellectual capacity of a 5 year old, so he plays like a five year old.  In the 30 minutes that I had tried to ignore him he had pretended to fall unconscious out of his chair three times. He had hummed his version of the National Anthem complete with bombs blasting 3 times. He had played drums on his bare stomach for almost 5 minutes. He had attempted to whistle over and over and over. He had smacked himself in the face and on the top of his head approximately 1,256 times and pretended to shoot 859 arrows, from the pretend quiver oh his back,  into the television.  

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At this point, my frustration had built and I was D-O-N-E trying to ignore him.  I lost my cool and told him in no uncertain terms to "Knock, it off!!!"  He turned to me and said, "Geez mom, took you long enough."  

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It would've been very easy for me to holler at him.  I could've very easily thrown a pillow at him.  I am certain I was red face and steam was likely coming out of my ears. I chose to chuckle.  I said "Touche!".  And he looked at me with the quizzical look and just smiled his silly grin.  I asked him why he thought I was ignoring him and he answered, "So I would stop. But I wasn't going to until I got you mad.  Why didn't you get mad?" I replied, "Because you are being ridiculous. Please stop."  He did.  

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Humor is an important diffuser in our house.  Sometimes when I am getting really angry at something Dustin has done or something I am trying to discuss with him Robert will come up behind him making silly faces.  There are other times when I will walk away from a situation that has really made me angry and my husband will come up and whisper in my ear (quietly, away from the children) "Honey, that kid ain't right" in some sort of accent of his choosing. It always relieves the tension and makes me giggle.  I don't see it as disrespectful, I see it as a coping mechanism.   We are not making fun of him, we are trying the best we can to cope without losing our cool.  Humor and laughter makes us better parents and helps us realease the frustration.  

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Hopefully, we are also teaching all of our kids that life is not so serious.  We are showing them that laughter is a salve to the soul.  It can help us deal when things seem so very hard.  It can lighten our mood and help us get back in touch with our therapeutic side.  It helps us remember that we are all human and make mistakes.  It helps us not to take ourselves too seriously and move on to better things.   It shows us that our angst is not permanent and we make the choice to let it go.  

So L A U G H.  It is ok to have fun.  Stop taking yourslef and your kids too seriously! 

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Before and After

Posted by admin on April 12, 2013

Before and After

 

 

 

This message is all about hope.  Hope for all kids with RAD and their parents.  It's really easy to get bogged down in day-to-day life and we forget how much progress our kids have made. 

Human nature makes me forget how far J has come.  I do forget all the progress she has made and I shouldn't because she is nothing short of a miracle.  She has worked very hard on her life and I'm so proud of her.  I try to look back periodically to remember from where we come. You can click Here for an example.

Before J (5 y/o) came home our first AT's had the previous foster mom to fill out a R AD-Q created by L!z Rand*lph.

The previous foster mom rated J a 5 on a scale of 1-5 (5 being the worst) on all of the below:

  • Child acts overly cute and charming to get what they want.
  • Child has trouble making eye contact.
  • Child is overly friendly with strangers.
  • Child pushes me away or becomes stiff when I try to hug him/her unless they want something from me.
  • Child argues for long periods of time often about ridiculous things.
  • Child has tremendous need to have control over everything, becoming very upset if they don't get their way.
  • Child acts amazingly innocent or pretends that things aren't that bad when they are caught.
  • Child does very dangerous things ignoring how they may be hurt while doing them.
  • Child deliberately breaks or ruins things.
  • Child doesn't seem to feel age appropriate guilt for their actions (seems to lack a conscience for their actions.)
  • Child teases, hurts or is cruel to other children
  • Child seems unable to stop themselves from doing things impulsively.
  • Child steals or shows up with things that belong to others with unusual or suspicious reasons for how they got them.
  • Child demands things instead of asking for them.
  • Child doesn't seem to learn from their mistakes and misbehavior (no matter what consequence I give the child continues the behavior.
  • Child attempts to get sympathy from others by telling them that I neglect/abuse them.
  • Child "shakes off" pain when they are hurt refusing to let anyone comfort them.
  • Child likes to sneaks things without permission even though they could have them if they had asked.
  • Child is a pathological liar (lies when it would be easier to tell the truth or lies about obvious or ridiculous things.
  • Child is very bossy with adults and other children.
  • Child hoards or sneaks food or has other unusual eating habits (eating paper, raw flour, dirt, etc.)
  • Child cannot keep friends for more than a week.
  • Child throws temper tantrums (screaming fits, throwing things, hits or kicks walls) that last two hours or longer.
  • Child chatters non-stop, asks repeated questions about things that make no sense, mutters or has other oddities in their speech.
  • Child is accident prone (gets hurt a lot) or complains a lot about every little ache and pain (needs constant band aids)
  • Child teases, hurts or is cruel to animals.
  • Child has set fires or is pre-occupied with fire.
  • Child prefers to watch violent cartoons and/or TV shows or horror movies (regardless whether you allow them to do this.)
  • Child was abused/neglected, suffered severe chronic pain, had more than one change in caregiver, was separated from mother for more than two days, or was in an orphanage in the first two years of their life.

There was no honeymoon period.  Radtastic behaviors started the first day home.  I was the 28th mom by the time she was 5.... why bother with a honeymoon?  Let's just hurry up and get this over cause I know you're not going to keep me.

Honestly, after she had been here two weeks I would have rated her a 100 on each of them.  RAD on crack. I was overwhelmed and drowning.  The 3rd week in I was so sick and lost my voice.  Totally stressed out!  By the fourth week I was going to work (sick or not) just to escape home. I am sure she was ready to escape me too!

She also had some things not on the list.  Projectile puker (she could hit me from 6' away - that's talent!), self-mutilator, destroying shredding all new clothes, refusing to eat for days on end, could not handle any praise (see previous post), removed the molding around her door with her bare hands, tried to kill me on multiple occasions, if I gave her anything sweet she would eat it in front of me then puke it up under her bed, on the rare occasion when she would eat what I cooked she'd put her head in her plate and eat, she would not feel anything on her body (as in if there were food or snot on her face) scream "owie" if I barely touched her hand, hypervigilant on crack, etc.  I'm sure I've forgotten things and I'm glad of it.

Lying is still on the list but it's more normal, as in she's afraid she'll get in trouble....not the crazy lying.  I've heard lying is the last thing to go.  Believe it.  She can still be bossy with people she doesn't know because she hasn't built up trust with them. She still loves to be in control but doesn't have to have screaming temper tantrums when she doesn't get her way.  She deals with it even though she might not like it.  She can still act amazingly innocent over stuff if she thinks she can get away with it.  Big deal.  When I call her on it usually we both start laughing because neither one of us can believe I'd fall for it.  I can leave and come home and not get punished for leaving (most of the time).  If she gets mad/frustrated she still has a hard time verbalizing it but eventually she will get there if I choose to help her. The other behaviors have faded away.  It has happened over time, years in fact, ... not overnight.  I have thrown everything except the kitchen sink at RAD.  Some things worked better than others but I think they all had their purpose.

We still have days where it's challenging but it is N.O.T.H.I.N.G. like it used to be. No sirree bob!

She is a joy to be around and she has a conscience.  She is thoughtful, kind and funny.  She can "get" a joke, tell a joke, has a smile that lights up a room and loves sarcastic humor. She is my daughter.

Do I do my RAD Mom job perfectly?  Absolutely not.  I've made lots of mistakes.  She's gotten better in spite of my mistakes and failures.  I am over the moon proud of her!

So yes... there is hope.  There is always hope.

J and I just read this post together and she wanted to tell you something.  Here's a message from J in her own words:

All I can tell you is to keep your hope.  Don't let RAD win by giving up hope.  RAD really means your kid is terrified.  We have our reasons for being scared of love because we've been moved too many times and thrown in the trash, hurt, starved, bugs crawled on us, we had no one to protect us, no one held or rocked us and made us feel safe. Believe your kid can get better. I did so they can too. Give them a really big help tool box so they can get better.  To all parents and RAD kids: get with it already!

Sincerely,

J
♥♥♥♥♥

 

- Lisa A (who blogs a Life in the Grateful House)

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