My husband and I adopted our daughter when she was nine years old. She has a long list of mental health diagnoses. We quickly discovered that parenting a special needs child results in the whole family having a special set of needs. As I've interacted with other parents of children with special needs, I've noticed that there are some factors that most of us have in common.


These characteristics are typically present regardless if the child has been diagnosed with ADHD, autism, physical disabilities, Down syndrome, emotional issues or any other special needs.

1. We're tired.
Really, really tired. Exhausted, actually. This isn't an occasional thing for us. We don't miss out on a full night of sleep once in a while. It's all of the time. My daughter suffers with insomnia and nocturnal panic attacks. It is not uncommon for her to be awake for most of the night. Even if we do get enough sleep, we're still run down from all of the energy it takes to manage our children’s conditions. Our schedules are jam packed with various doctor, therapy and psychiatric appointments, IEP meetings and trips to the pharmacy. On top of it all, we still have to go to work and keep up with general household duties.

2. Our brains are constantly busy.
We're always considering possible triggers in every situation, wondering how to explain our children’s unique needs to others and worrying about the future. My daughter suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and seemingly innocent encounters can send her into a meltdown. I spend hours analyzing every one, looking for the trigger and making plans to help her process it and get through it better next time.

3. We're lonely.
Our friends and family often have stepped away because our children’s needs made them uncomfortable. Or perhaps we had to step away from them because they refused to respect our boundaries and parenting decisions.Most special needs children don't respond well to traditional parenting methods.Our brains may explode if we hear one more time that all our child needs is more discipline. Discipline isn't the issue – our children’s special needs are. By the way, that isn't their fault nor ours. My husband's mother even cut off contact because she found our situation to be too stressful to be part of.

4. We know more about our child's condition than most doctors.
My daughter is diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder. I've read piles of books on the subject and keep up with the latest research online. Her pediatrician has never heard of the disorder.Mental health professionals in our area have very limited knowledge of it. I had to become the expert.

5. We're fragile.
We feel judged all the time. We want what's best for our children like any other parent and worry if we're doing enough for them. We often don't have enough time or energy left to take care of ourselves.

So what can you do to help parents of children with special needs? Understand that we're overwhelmed and near the edge. Bring us coffee and a muffin "just because." Tell us we're doing a great job. Be gentle and kind with us. We're doing the best we can.

 549834_10152603717870024_1558975835_n.jpg

- Rachael Moshman

Comments Welcome

Leave a Reply



(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)


Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.



He Has Changed Me

Posted by admin on March 19, 2013

I don't know if it is me getting older, or me getting wiser, but I think I am growing up. Hitting 40 last year was easy on me as I never have really panicked over my age. It's gonna happen whether or not I fret about it. I still feel like I am 20 in my head. But lately I have found myself with much more compassion that I have ever had before. I see things that would've typically thrown me for a loop and had me snickering and/or complaining about someone else and now I find myself thinking more positive thoughts about them. I see myself "cutting them some slack". I find myself looking for reasons instead of pot shots. I search their eyes looking for the good in the situation.

I would like to think it is me growing older and wiser, but perhaps it is me understanding my son and his disability. Perhaps I am finding that while I see others making assumptions about us and our parenting skills I am understanding what it feels like to be on that side of things.

I had a talk with Dustin this weekend that I am sure I will have to have many, many times in the future. It is a talk that I think is important enough to repeat over and over. We were working in the backyard and I had given him some stuff to take around front to the trash. I had no realized his sister was in the front yard. They are like oil and water. While she is is staunch advocate when someone messes with him, she really likes to irritate him to no end. They got into a scuffle at the trash can. In the 30 seconds it took me to put the rake down and head out the fence toward them it had already grown to a feverish pitch and he was whining at the top of his lungs. Turns out he had thunked her on the hand with a board and she was refusing to let him pass her and come back to me. He was in tears and jumping up and down, whining, hollering "Let me through you big meany!" She is 7 and he is taller than me. It was quite amusing.

I got him in the backyard. Of course the entire way he was hollering and whining. I got him quiet and asked him to think about something for a minute. I began by asking him about the kids in his class at school who "look different". We talked about the ones in the wheelchairs. We talked about his friend "T" who is physically disabled and drools constantly. We talked about people looking at them and immediately knowing they are different. I explained that we can look at his wheelchair friends and know right away that they cannot walk up the stairs. It is obvious they are different, not lesser, just different.

Then I asked him about our neighbors. We live in an area that has a lot of rentals. There are people that have moved in over the winter that have yet to be introduced to our brand of crazy live and in person. I asked him if they looked outside and saw him what would they see? We talked about how they would see a handsome, tall, teenager. They wouldn't know just by looking at him that his "brain is broken" from FAS. They would expect him to act like the 16 year old's they know. I explained that his disability is hidden inside him and people don't always understand that. I told him that if the neighbors had just been watching him with his little sister they wouldn't understand why he was whining and carrying on like a 4 year old. I explained that he needs to learn to control these types of outbursts in public, not because we care what others think, but because we don't need people in our business. He shook his head in understanding.

He said, "I acted like a baby.". I explained that I could sometimes throw baby-fits too, but I try to keep them private! He laughed.

I want him to understand that how we act when others are looking is impportant. I don't want him ashamed of his disability, but I want him to learn some self control. I expect the same from his siblings who are "typical". I want to temper that with the realization that when we look at other's outward appearance we are judging them with blinders on. We have no idea what their background is, their disability is or their day has been like. We cannot possibly understand the load they may be carrying. I want to teach my children to look at others with compassion and help.


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

Comments Welcome

Leave a Reply



(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)


Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.


Disclaimer: All views expressed are the views of individuals who are guest blogging  and do not necessarily express the views of BeTA as an organization.

All content from other blogs and by those who are guest posting were used with the permission of the author.


Yes, Of Course, Absolutely

Posted by admin on March 18, 2013

When my sibling group of six moved in 7 years ago, I devoured any and all books about trauma, attachment, and adoption I could find. I had thought I was prepared from my experience being a live in houseparent for teen girls and working in a residential facility for children with predatory behaviors. I was no where near prepared for the level of defiance, aggression, peeing, sexual acting out, and violence that was now my every hour of every day life. I quickly found that not all the wisdom I was reading would work for us. I began to pick things from each of the books and come up with my own thing. In other words, I have no idea where I got this from or if I am a genius like the Moms say. Don't burst my bubble, I'm going with the genius thing.


One of the many things that became apparent with the kids besides their inability to trust anyone, their need to destroy anything of value, and the clear need for boundaries, was that they would lose their crap when I would tell them “No”. Being frustrated and completely, thoroughly exhausted, I had a hard time saying “Yes” about anything. I wanted to scream “No” at the simplest requests. That began the cycle of “No” (me), giant tantrum of destruction (them), sobbing (mostly me), and then the “I Hate You” (always them). That and the year long lice infestation, we were struggling.


I don't remember exactly how or when it came about but I made a conscience effort to stop saying “No”. I was determined to find a way to say “Yes” to everything. Surprisingly, it wasn't that hard. I found they were much more willing to do the things I needed them to do if I was agreeing with them. They also were beginning to like me, just a little. While I am aware that is not a part of parenthood, try being hated, truly and deeply by the children you are willing to sacrifice your sanity for. This was a perk that made life worth living. I began to feel like we were going to make it.


I'm sure you're thinking, good parents can't just agree to everything. You are right. I always add my own spin to the request. “Yes, of course, absolutely you can watch TV as soon as your chore is done.” We both win. It works for all sorts of things. It is simple but it works, even for my kids with extreme control issues.


Before I knew it, I was agreeing to all sorts of things. Staying up 30 more minutes, wearing shoes without socks, and even having dessert before dinner and no one was getting hurt. I was stopping to think about why I wanted to say “No” to something and figure out a way to say “Yes”. Who is it going to hurt if they draw with chalk on the porch? It can be washed off. Why not eat all the Halloween candy in one day? Sick for one instead of two. Can't every mom use a makeover from their 5 yr old and have pictures to prove it? I began to relax my expectations and they began having fun.


I decided to give them choices when I needed them to do something. The worst thing first (to catch them off guard) and the thing I want last (my kids always pick the last option regardless of what it is because they can't remember the other options). “Would you please clean the entire kitchen or would you rather just unload the dishes?” or “I need someone to clean up all the dog poop in the yard or scrub the toilets, which do you want to do?” When mine started to catch on, they were healthier so now I make it more of a joke. Instead of cleaning up the dog poop, I can tell them to clean up squirrel poop. I have only had one kid spend an afternoon looking for squirrel poop. I was more than happy to scrub the toilet that day for them while they looked and looked. I needed a place to regroup so I could keep a straight face anyway.

- Rachel D (who blogs at Finishing Off My Family)

Comments Welcome

Leave a Reply



(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)


Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.


Disclaimer: All views expressed are the views of individuals who are guest blogging  and do not necessarily express the views of BeTA as an organization.

All content from other blogs and by those who are guest posting were used with the permission of the author.


Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

Posted by admin on March 15, 2013

Put your own oxygen mask on first.

Anyone who has flown in an airplane has heard that phrase.

The flight attendants teach us that in the event of an emergency, you must help yourself first prior to helping those around you. I am sure there are those out there that would do that without being told. But for most of us moms, our instincts tell us to do the exact opposite. Our instincts tell us to put our kids first, to make sure they are okay before we even consider our own well-being.

Many of us here in this group are adoptive moms of difficult-to-place children. Children who were older when they were placed with us, or who came home with special needs and traumatic histories. We are caretakers by nature. The kind of women who feed stray cats and the neighborhood children. We are moms who not only put our biological kids’ needs above our own-- we see other motherless children and make them ours, and then we put their needs above our own.

In the event of an airplane crash-- our instinct is to comfort our children, hug them and kiss them, fasten their oxygen masks, and hand them their life jackets before even remembering we need to take care of ourselves.

This is why we need to be told-- Put your oxygen mask on first! If you do not, you will pass out. You will not be able to help your children, and you will all perish.

This is true in life too. If mom’s well runs dry, everyone goes thirsty. This is true of all moms, but it is especially true for those of us with challenging children. We have children who daily push us to our limits. Children whose behaviors are so extreme we struggle to just to keep everyone alive until the end of the day. Our own self care often comes as an afterthought. Too many of us, too often, reach a breaking point. We think we cannot survive one more minute of this life. Some of us, when we reach that point, cannot even remember where to find our own oxygen mask.

So what can we do? How do we fill our own wells so we can then take care of our children?

1. Find support! You are not alone! There are other moms out there dealing with the same feelings, the same behaviors. I promise you-- whatever it is, there is someone else out there who is dealing with it. Call any other adoptive moms you know, click the resources tab on this site, email me, reach out to someone. You are not alone!

2. Remember what used to bring you joy. There was a time several years after my son came to me where I realized I could not remember the last time I had fun. That is unacceptable! It was for me then, and it is for you. Remember what used to bring you joy, and invest time and energy in that. Play a game with a friend, take time to read a book, work on a craft, take a class in something you enjoy. Make time for your own fun!

3. Take care of your body. It is so easy to let this slide. When we are tired and stressed many of us choose unhealthy food, we stop moving our bodies, and we stay up too late just to catch a few minutes of “peace.” Unfortunately, all of this makes us feel worse. Our bodies need healthy food, exercise, and sleep in order to feel good. We teach this to our children, we need to live it for them as well.

4. Nurture your spirit. Many of us find our lives with our children test our faith. Many of us felt called to adopt, and when that journey is harder than we could ever have imagined we find ourselves left with more questions than answers. Invest time in your faith. If the activities that nourished your faith before are failing you now- reach out to others and ask what has worked for them. Again, I promise-- whatever you are feeling, you are not alone!

5. Seek respite. We all need a break from each other. Whatever you need to do to make that break happen-- do it. If it means taking a day off of work while your child is at school? Great! Consider summer camps, baby sitters, relatives, day cares or church groups. Find someone who can keep your child safe for you for a few hours, and take a break! Your child needs to learn that you will leave and come back. You need to remember that you have a life separate from your child. This is not an option. Especially for those of us with young or home schooled children-- you cannot spend 24 hours a day 7 days a week with your child and expect to be okay. You have to take time away.

6. Check out alternative therapist. Check out this blog post by Lisa http://lisajordanpuddin.blogspot.com/2012/03/tapping-psychological-reversals-wet-dog.html about different alternative therapies she has found useful. If you look on the right hand side of the page you will find more information about each. Check out Brad Yates you tube page. He has a great video explaining tapping (EFT) here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiD72cZ5mcU It is a simple, noninvasive treatment that you can try at home for free. You have nothing to lose-- and I will swear it has helped both me and my child, and I can name several other moms who will swear by it as well.

7. Seek professional help. Any unresolved issue you had prior to this journey-- your child will trigger it. In addition to that, we are learning more and more about a phenomenon known as “Secondary Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” If you google it you will mostly find articles related to the spouses of combat veterans-- but this syndrome can affect anyone living with someone who has PTSD. The amount of stress their trauma brings into the home, the unpredictable behaviors, the uncontrolled anger-- all of that can cause PTSD in others. In the DVD Chaos to Healing, Billy Kaplan recommends parents consider seeking a therapist skilled in EMDR. When I saw that, I was at a point where I was struggling to even get out of bed, let alone respond to my child in a therapeutic way. I sought treatment, and found that working with a skilled therapist and undergoing EMDR was amazingly helpful.

6. And most important-- let go of the guilt!! Do not let yourself feel “bad” for taking care of yourself. Remember-- you have to put your own oxygen mask on. Without that you will not be able to help your child. That means even when you feel like you are doing something “selfish” that is just for you-- you are really doing it to help your child. Feel good about that! We want our children to grow up to know how to take care of themselves. We need to model that for them. Healthy adults take care of themselves first, and their children second. Let go of the idea that their needs must always come before yours. Remember, you cannot fulfill their needs if yours are not met.


- Sarah M

Comments Welcome

Leave a Reply



(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)


Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.



Parenting Trauma - word vomit

Posted by admin on March 14, 2013

Parenting a child with a traumatic past is extremely draining. It is labor intensive, always second guessing yourself, never knowing which "expert" to listen to, not sure if you will make things worse or help the child move forward. There is almost no self care time available, the siblings get pushed to the side because they seem to be doing "OK" compared to Mr. 3 hour Meltdown, and your spouse will feel isolated or ignored as well. You keep telling yourself it is temporary, because you are desperate to believe it, but nothing about two hours of primal screaming feels temporary. You feel locked in an abusive relationship ready for vicious lies, destroyed furniture, feces smeared walls and physical attacks at a moments notice, or less. We begin to feel victimized, we began to feel targeted and destroyed, we begin to feel that nothing will work. We begin to realize that we, the adults, have fallen apart.

Once you find a method or a groove, maybe respite, or a solid school program, or even a group of understanding parents also living the nightmare- you begin to realize that the "experts" are not experts at all. That many of them do not have degrees or proven studies of hard data to show results. They each might have a few "case studies" of an individual they "saved" but at the end of the day, there isn't enough collected data to tell you why anything worked and if the sacrifices made were worth it, or if it could even be duplicated. There comes a point when you realize the best thing you can do is empathize with the child, lower your expectations and find ways to smile together, even nonsense ways, especially nonsense ways.

We have to accept that even if a child was from a horrifically abusive and neglectful background, adoption itself is trauma. Changing countries, languages, food, surroundings, smells, familiar people- is traumatic at any age. (Add in the complication if they were in a loving family and forcibly or fraudulently removed.)We are causing trauma and declaring the ends justify the means. We aren't the ones that get to say that. That isn't our judgement call to make.We are causing trauma, pledging allegiance to "attachment specialists" without a lick of real data to prove their methods and then we are falling apart at the trauma circulating throughout the house from family member to family member, which in turn causes more trauma for everyone involved, especially the child that was just placed with strangers that can't speak their language and keep touching the child. When do we stop pissing in the wind? When do we say enough is enough? When do we realize that we, the adoptive parents, do *not* have the life experience to say the ends justify the means?

Everyone wants to know how is it possible that a textbook R.A.D child that once wanted me dead and was willing to do it by his own hands is now hugging me and seeking a relationship with me? What medication is he on? What therapy approach do we use? What RTC did we use? What do we do for redirection and punishment? What type of therapist did we use?

I am going to tell you a little secret- RAD is real. RAD is absolutely real. However, it is not a unique, rare breakdown from multiple care givers, and an inability to empathize. It is a REASONABLE response to trauma and feeling unsafe. Seriously, read that again: It is the reasonable response to trauma and feeling unsafe. You fight or flight. Fight the situation- the new language, the new food, the people that keep smiling and touching you and saying they love you but are strangers. Flight from the situation- shut down, don't feel, don't be vulnerable, withdraw into yourself, be anti-social with the strangers that keep saying they love you and touching you. RAD isn't some big scary beast that we need to call in an Exorcist or use a Papoose Board to overcome. It is just simply TRAUMA and the natural response to trauma: fight or flight. 

Vivace had extreme trauma, he is easily diagnosed chronic PTSD, but what if it is us that had RAD? What if we, the adults, are so thrown by the needs of these children, so disoriented from the marriage of our expectations to our reality...that when their trauma explodes we reactively respond....so reactively, that it negatively impacts our attachment to the child who is still having a trauma eruption...

He had chronic PTSD, I had RAD with a piggyback case of In-over-my-head-itious and we just kept feeding off each other. Trauma feeds reaction, reactions not based in data proven methods, trauma answers the reactions louder, reaction becomes louder, trauma gets louder...and the peanut gallery of non credentialed "experts" keep cheering for you to piss in the wind all the while we can't figure out why this abused, neglected (or loved and stolen from original family) child isn't attaching to strangers, in a manner that is acceptable to us- the non traumatized ones? 

The BIGGEST shift Vivace had was when he started talking about his life experience in Ethiopia with a male adult outside of the family. It was NOT with me. It was with an adult he formed a relationship with and trusted. The BIGGEST shift I had was when I stopped trying to parent him, and started offering a soft place to land as an invested mentor. The lies we were given and he/we lived for the first few years of his adoption were exasperating an already destructive relationship of unrealistic expectations and false "truths." I am extremely grateful for my therapist in NC and her ability to let me pour out parenting insecurities and brainstorm possible reasonable responses with him, her way of gentle guidance of looking at each challenge from a different perspective. She never claimed to be anything she wasn't or know anything she didn't. The healing that began in the year plus that I was seeing her, allowed me to be a healthier parent and make healthier choices in my responses to Vivace's trauma behaviors.


Everyone thinks his RTC was some magic pill, but the truth is that RTC is under investigation. I was on them worse than I am on the schools. I was calling, emailing, following up and traveling down there so much that I should have gotten paid, I was certainly logging overtime and holding the RTC accountable was already a full time job. They were crap and what he got most from that facility was being around other deaf kids. His language grew and his understanding of relationships grew. We all got space to heal and regroup, we got insurance paid respite for 19 months. We finally got rid of the parasites right before his admission, so he literally grew into himself while he was there. Time, consistency, and language are the biggest factors in his progress. There are no magic pills or special fairytale lands that hold magical RTCs....there are kids so deep in trauma they need outside help or a safe place to be, there are families so overwhelmed they can not function appropriately for these children. It happens. Our response has to change and part of that response is the prevention of unethical adoptions, along with holding agencies accountable, and asking the tough questions of "attachment experts"- like "What are your credentials?" "Where is the data to prove this method?"


We have to stop seeing RAD diagnosis as curses and start seeing them as a measurement of trauma the child has experienced. If a therapist, psychiatrist or any other doctor says "Your child has Reactive Attachment Disorder" instead of letting your mind wonder to all the horrible stories and possible outcomes- hear their words as this, "Your child has suffered unspeakable trauma, they need you." If we change our own REACTIVE response to RAD diagnosis, and see it as a significant trauma measurement tool, then the cycle of destruction can stop with us, because we are stopping the reactive knee jerk responses.
 

- Jillian (who blogs at Rooted in Love)

Comments Welcome

Leave a Reply



(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)


Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.



More on Lying

Posted by admin on March 13, 2013

While I wrote a bit about lying yesterday, I really felt this topic needed its own post.  Lying is so pervasive in our home.  Our kids lie to protect themselves and each other, no matter how illogical that “protection” may seem.  They lie about stupid stuff.  They lie about things that are clear and in front of our faces.  It drives us crazy.  Lying is probably MY biggest trauma trigger.  Lying pushes MY buttons.  My kids know this.  It gives them a way of controlling me.
 
I met another trauma mama at a local coffee shop this morning.  She’s about my age, but started her family younger than I did, so she’s already been through what we’re going through.  It’s nice not to feel so alone sometimes.  Her daughter was also adopted internationally.  She also has biological children.  She’s been through the lying and the not being able to believe a word that comes out of her child’s mouth.  She knows.  Again, it was just nice to be with someone who gets it.  She knows what it’s like to have a child lie about everything.
 
Conversely, one of my children is also a compulsive truth-teller.  Yup!  She’ll rat herself out if she feels it will relieve her stress faster than lying.  She’s very smart.  The trouble with this is, I really have to be even more careful with her because she’s a 50/50 toss.  I don’t want to treat the situation as though she’s lying when she’s really telling the truth.  While I’ve gotten better at figuring it out most of the time, I still mess that up sometimes, too.
 
Both kids “crazy lie.”  Something can be as obvious as the nose on your face, and yet, they will still lie.  My son can convince himself that his lies are the truth.  It doesn’t take much.  He took something not too long ago and lied about where he got it.  When he finally put the story together, he came up with a tale about how his grandparents gave him the object.  The thing is, my in-laws don’t give our kids gifts.  They’ve only ever seen the kids once.  They are not crazy about our adoption and it is quite clear that our adopted kids are not their “real” grandchildren.  Yet, my son, screaming at the top of his lungs, told me to call my in-laws and “prove” that he’d gotten the item from them.  Of course, I didn’t do that.
 
Lying is fear manifested.  Yes, I understand that ALL children lie.  I get sick and tired of hearing from parents of children raised from the womb, from teachers, from school counselors and principals who say, “All children lie.”  I know that.  I’m not new here.  It’s not the same for adopted kids!  There is an intense fear behind my children’s lies.  They are masters at it.  They are extremely convincing.  They convince other people all the time.  They used to convince me, too.  However, their motivation is more intense, more constant, and for much deeper seated reasons than it is for other kids.  When they feel unsafe, when they feel fear, they lie.
 
I was reading the blog of a young adult who was adopted out of foster care.  She wrote a story about how she became such a skilled liar.  Her experience, too, was rooted in fear.  Her abusers killed her dog in front of her, and they told her if she ever told anyone what was going on,  her little sister would suffer the same fate as the dog.  She said she lied to the police when they asked her if she was being hurt.  They believed her for a long time and the abuse went on.  She lied because she “knew” her sister would die if she didn’t.
 
Unfortunately, whether our kids can grasp that fear of dying cognitively or not, the fear of losing their life is quite often the motivation for their fear and their crazy lies.  Even if the trauma, abuse, neglect, and "really bad stuff" happened before they were old enough to put their memories into words, the emotional memory is stored in that center part of their brain (the amygdala).  When they are triggered, that emotional memory comes to the surface and they are literally scared to DEATH.
 
What we need to do as therapeutic parents is pause and get ourselves centered before reacting.  This is especially important if lying is one of your triggers, like it is mine.  We need to step back and ignore the lie – YES – ignore it – and see the frightened child.  What our child needs in that moment is reassurance from us that they are loved. 

My friend told me her daughter, while adopted as a very young baby, still needed this reassurance as a child.  She would cling to her mother and need constant “mommy checks” long past the time most children do (normally about 8 – 28 months old).  It’s a little awkward when a 16 year old boy, who stands many inches taller than you, needs the reassurance of a 2-year-old.  But that’s what he needs in that moment of fear. 

So, what do you do once you take that breath and you pause – even if that pause takes a few minutes or a few hours?  (It’s okay to say, “I need some time.  Let’s talk about this later. “  Then, WALK AWAY and come back when you’re calm.)  Again, remember this:  IGNORE THE LIE.  Reassure your child that you love him.  Tell him what may seem obvious to you.  “You’re here now.  You’re home with the family that loves you, and wants you, and takes care of you.  We are not going anywhere.  You are not going anywhere.  You’re safe.”  Pause again.  Take note of your child’s countenance.  If he’s softened, hug him, if he’ll let you.  If he’s still hard, tell him again.  Say, “I’m going to tell you again.  Look at me.”  (Get eye contact.)  Then tell him again.  Tell him a third time if he needs it.  Keep IGNORING THE LIE.  Let whatever love he’ll allow you to demonstrate to him happen.
 
Then, and only then, tell him you know there’s more going on than meets the eye.  When he is ready to talk with you more about it, he should let you know.  Tell him you can wait.  Then wait.  Don’t prod.  Don’t suggest.  Wait.  If he tries to forget about it or let it pass (my daughter is also a master at this), it’s okay to remind him you’re still waiting.  You haven’t forgotten.  We still need to figure out everything that’s going on so we can move forward.  But still, IGNORE THE LIE.  Your child’s sense of safety is most important here.  He’ll never come clean while he feels threatened, whether the perceived threat is real or not.  What you’re thinking and feeling won’t be the factor that gets him to the point of reconciliation – and ultimately, restitution and natural consequences for the behaviors associated with the lying.
 

And hang in there.  This is a constant battle, but it’s worth the fight.  Every inch gained in our kids’ attachment is a huge victory!  (Somebody remind me of that the next time I’m mucking through this.)

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

Comments Welcome

Leave a Reply



(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)


Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.



Someone Broke My Babies

Posted by admin on March 07, 2013

omeone broke my kids. It was not me. Before I knew better,  I probably made things worse for a while  but I was not the one who broke them. I quickly figured out that I was in over my head and started to learn about how to parent these kids in a way that would ensure we would all survive until they were adults. I am still learning though.

That being said my kids are not like kids who were born to me. I have never birthed a child but I do know about family, relationships and child development. My kids are not like biological kids and it frustrates me when people tell me that all kids behave like my kids. Yes all kids do the things that my kids do but attached children who have not experienced trauma do not behave like their whole life depends on lying about whether you took the nail clippers and stashed them in your room. Taking the nail clippers should not create a raging tantrum and days of fallout. But here it does. For kids who have experienced trauma and neglect, this is their normal. Taking those nail clippers, testing that limit with your forever family might mean that you have to leave because you have had to leave so many other places where you wanted to stay so you better deny it, you better protect yourself because if you are vulnerable you might get hurt.

My kids brains are broken. It is not their fault, they did not ask for this.

In-spite of their brokenness I love them fiercely. I love them when they are raging at me and throwing boots at my head. I love them when they scream that I am bitch and that they never wanted to live here anyway. I love them while they sob  ( my heart breaks and I cry right along with them)  about just how very unfair all of this. I love them when they use pee as a weapon of mass destruction and when try to beat the crap of adults and kids alike. I love when they tell me I am not the mother they wanted or that they did not want to be adopted.  I love them they break my stuff and steal things that are special to me. I love them when I have to supervise  them  like a jail guard at every event because one of them might be totally inappropriate of they feel as if they might away with it this time. I love them when they try to manipulate other adults into feeling sorry for them when they are not getting their way. I love them when they pretend they can not do something just to make me crazy or run away and scare the crap out of me. I love them when they remember the pain of their trauma and then spend days making everyone around them miserable because that is how they are feeling inside.

I love these kids in a way that only a mother could and there are days when the last thing I want to do is love them. There are days when I am so angry that I wonder why on earth I ever agreed to this, when I wonder what was I thinking when I signed up for this.

Deep down I know why and most days I actually have to stop and remember that I was thinking they deserved a chance. I was thinking they deserved a family, that they did not deserve to grow up in a world of uncertainty and that knowing you are loved to the core of your being, regardless of your choices,  is so very important.

Parenting these broken babies is so freakin hard, their pain, their anger and their grief has overwhelmed me and yet I am still here. I am still committed. I never knew I was strong enough for this but I am. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, it hurts. There are days when I wish this was not my life. Days when I wish I was just like those people who I used to be friends with, the ones who have regular lives where the effects of trauma does not permeate  every moment. We are not friends anymore, they do not know how to cope with my kids or with the way that I have changed in the last 5 years. There are moments when I miss them, moments when I wish they were able to understand but they are only moments. Then my kids start screaming and they pull me back to reality, that is not my life.

This is my life, someone broke my babies and I am trying to help them heal.


- J. (who blogs at Stellar Parenting 101)

Comments Welcome

Leave a Reply



(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)


Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.



Residence in the Heart

Posted by admin on March 06, 2013

It’s here.

 
Orlando,  that is.



Tomorrow, I fly out . . . alone for the first time ever . . . to meet not only the women I’ve grown to love, but others who will take up residence in my heart as well.


I’m excited, I’m terrified. I feel inadequate and giddy. In the scary places of my heart, I expect no one to like me.


And yet, I hunger to be there because these women ‘get’ it. They’ve had their love rejected, time and again. They’ve pressed that love into their children when they wanted to do nothing more than run away and hide. They’ve been to dark places, terrifying places, in their journeys with their kids, and yet their hearts still hunger for love to be reciprocated, for their children to be whole.


My wish is that each and every one of you builds a network around yourselves. We so desperately need relationships with people we can not only be transparent to, but people who ‘get’ it. Who can offer age-old advice. Encouragement, because they’ve come out the other side of this very struggle you are going through. Understanding, because they’ve been there before. And survived.


This morning, I turned to see Mr. Boy pocketing his meds. The last time he was this anxious, and Momma forgot his meds, he was suspended from school for his behavior. I noticed and appreciated the fact that he was not trying to overtly sabotage me, but instead was going with the ‘what will be, will be’ method. Small steps for some kids, huge ones for attachment-challenged kiddos.


We talked earlier in the week, and I asked him where his anger level was. He stated that it was about a 5 – 6. I replied, “Okay, you are a 7 – 8. That’s pretty high.”


He whipped around in anger, “You always raise it! You always say it is more than it is!!”


Looking in his eyes, I reply, “Because you always underestimate where your anger level is. Maybe you don’t know it is that high. Maybe you don’t want me to know. Either way, you always lowball the anger level.”


He turns away and butters his toast. I walk to the other side of the kitchen counter so I can turn and face him. “It’s okay to be scared, George.”


Whipping around and cutting his eyes at me, “I’m not afraid!”


“Yes you are, Son. You are afraid I will get in a plane crash. You are afraid I won’t come back. You are afraid you will lose this Momma too. It’s okay to be afraid. Let’s put words to the fears so they won’t be so big.”


His shoulders slump as I speak, and he walks around the utility cart. He looks up at me with sadness in his eyes, and says, “I don’t know most of the things I’m afraid of!”


“Son, I will help you put words to your fears. I promise. Okay? I love you, Stinky Boy.”


He looks into my eyes, searching out that truth. I can see he wants to believe. But it’s going to take my going away and returning for him to take the next step toward believing I will be here for him.


And I’m good with that. I just wish I could heal some of his fear. Take some of his pain away.


I wish my boy didn’t have such deep, dark places in his heart. Like his Momma does.


I wish our kids could have had healthy, whole lives before coming to us. Lives filled from day one with comfort and laughter, safety and joy, love and stability.


And since they didn’t, I’m thankful they now have you. And me.


Love you all. Will think of you often while I’m gone. Praying you can go next year

- Brab G (who blogs at The Porcupine Dance) written 3-2012

Comments Welcome

Leave a Reply



(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)


Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.



Lying, and Stealing, and Tears! Oh my!

Posted by admin on March 05, 2013

Stealing and lying are not uncommon occurrences for kids who were adopted, especially for kids adopted out of orphanages.  Oh, how shocked and upset I was the first time I “caught” my son with stolen property!  Actually, I should have had an inkling I would deal with stealing (and the lying that follows) at some point.  After all, my daughter was caught stealing a pack of gum by our missionary friend when we were shopping together during our adoption.  I’m not exactly sure why I was shocked when it happened here at home with my son, too.  I knew it was quite common for orphans (and former orphans) to steal and lie.  They had to be resourceful.  It was often a matter of life and death.  I guess I wasn’t prepared.  Our kids were home more than three years and I was gobsmacked.  I thought we were not going to have any of “those” problems.  I hadn’t caught either of them blatantly stealing something since that one day in the market during their adoption.  Then, all of a sudden, we were dealing with the theft of not just one expensive electronic device, but several.  On top of that, our son even figured out how to steal bandwidth from the neighbor by hacking into their (poorly) secured wireless internet connection.

 
Strangely -- and I’m not saying this happened easily, nor quickly -- I began to look at the positive in all this. 
 
HUH?  What’s positive about a kid stealing and then lying his BRAINS out after the fact?  Even telling “crazy lies” about the most obvious of things? 
 
Okay, I hear you.  Remember, I was right there!  But take a breath and think about it.  What is GOOD about a kid that knows how to steal and how to make up stories?  They certainly are resourceful!  They certainly know how to assess a situation and figure out where all the players are located at any given time and in any given scenario.  They absolutely know where the things they want to steal, as well as the things they have already stolen, are located.  No lost or misplaced items on that account!  They also know how to distract other people and how to manipulate them to their advantage.  When I thought about the skill involved in knowing how to do all these things, I started to think about how we could apply those skills to things our son could use as assets.  I don’t have a lot of time left with him.  He’s getting older.  He’s going to need a job in the not-too-distant future.
 
A kid that is aware of his surroundings is a good person to have around when you’re a middle-aged mom who often forgets where she put her keys or her cell phone.  A kid that always knows where the important things are located can find just about anything that’s “hidden” or “lost.”  A kid who knows how to play up a situation, or work things to an advantage, can develop the skills necessary to become a used car salesman or even a politician!  (Don’t laugh.  The world would be a vastly different place without politics and cars.)
 
The thing I’ve learned about my PTSD/RADish IA kids is they just don’t learn from words.  Lectures about what’s right and wrong don’t change their behavior.  Tears shed by them after being caught are much more about shame (a HUGE issue for most IA kids) and about, “dang, I got caught!” feelings, than they are about remorse.  And don’t even tell me “‘home-grown’ kids sometimes steal, too.”  (I know.  I did.  I stole a little toy from a store near my house when I was a kid.  My mom made me take it back and pay for it.  I remember it like it was yesterday.)   It’s not the same.  The motivation is different.  The aftermath is for sure different.
 
All internationally –adopted kids from orphanages know property is a collective commodity.  There are no personal possessions in an orphanage.  Everything belongs to everybody.  “Taking” something doesn’t mean the same thing as “stealing” it to our kids.  Additionally, because our kids had no personal property, it is hard for them to fully grasp – even years home – the concept of ownership.  Entitlement is the concept they know, and the one that builds to epic proportions once they’re home in America and have “stuff.”  Just going into Wal-mart or Target can be a completly overwhelming experience.  Put yourself in their shoes.  What is it like to go from nothing to virtually EVERYTHING?  Imagine getting by on a $30,000/year income and winning a power ball lottery.  Why are people in that situation, broke and worse off than they ever were within just a few years?
 
When your internationally-adopted child steals, try to stay calm.  (Don’t go ballistic like I did.)  They are going to be stressed.  You are going to be stressed.  It won’t matter if it’s a pack of gum or an iPod Touch (or two iPod Touches, computer components, and the neighbor’s internet connection).  It’s about their response to stress.  Lectures aren’t going to change the behavior.  They’re just going to become even more “resourceful” the next time.  (The chance that there will be a next time is higher than the chance this is a one-time thing.)  Shame sure isn’t going to change the behavior.  The lies will just get more elaborate.
 
Another thing to think about is when our kids steal, they are self-soothing.  They are taking control to meet whatever need it is they think they have, whether that need is to be the electronic king at the middle school, or a baby who needs the oral stimulation of sucking (sweet mother’s milk).  (This is a topic for another post, but my kids often ask for a piece of sucking candy or gum when they are stressed.  The sweetness and the sucking sensation are soothing to them.  They are getting something they got far too little of as babies.)
 
So, what do we do?  Ever work with 2-year-olds?  You do things over and over and over again. 
 
Our kids need matter-of-fact, natural consequences – over and over and over again.  Remember the years of abuse and neglect have wired their brains so differently than those of us raised in relatively happy homes.  If your child steals a pack of gum, think “Double-Mint.”  In other words, double it up!  Have the child pay back double for what they’ve taken.  FACE the manager at the store.  Make your child FACE the manager at the store.  Stand BEHIND your child while they do it.  Have them pay for the item.  Follow through on whatever consequences the manager sees fit to impose.  (Most managers will not/cannot accept double payment, but the double can be given to a charity that matters to the store – most all of them do something in their communities.)  This isn’t about humiliation or degrading our children.  It’s about restitution and restoration.  If your child doesn’t have money of their own because they’re too little, then show them how you are using YOUR money to pay for it – that it takes a young person, working minimum wage, to work X amount of time to earn that amount of TAKE HOME (after tax) money, and that they will need to work to replace that money for your family.  Give them a job to do at home they wouldn’t normally have to do, and let them do it for whatever amount of time is needed to earn that “take home” pay.
 
The lying that accompanies stealing is also a reflex and a means to the end of protecting oneself (however irrational or “crazy”).  In the orphanage, if someone got into trouble, the goal was to find the kid who could be in even more trouble.  Pointing fingers and telling stories was just what you did to get by.  It’s a way of life – even a culture – and that way of life is hard to turn around, even if your kid has been home several years.  When I moved from the Northeast to the Midwest, it was hard!  I had to change some of the things I did or said regularly -- things that were a way of life in the Mid-Atlantic, but were seen as rude and completely unacceptable in the middle of the country.  It’s really no different for my kids when it comes to dealing with what is automatic for them – to lie.  This topic deserves its own post – maybe even several posts.  For now, let’s just say when it accompanies stealing, you really need to let the lies go – at least while you’re dealing with the muck of the theft.  “Making” a child tell the truth will usually just get you an even crazier lie.  Be silent.  If you must say anything, say, “I know you’re not telling me something.  I can wait for you to tell me the rest of what really happened.”  Then wait.  Don’t badger.
 
There’s no simple way to wrap all this up.  Stealing and lying are hard things for a good parent.  I’ll admit quite readily that being lied to is one of my own top triggers!  Still, when you talk with your child after the heat of the moment, and you want your questions answered, try using “what” questions.  (Don’t use “why.”  They don’t know WHY.)  Ask, “What did you want?”  “What were you thinking before you got the toy?”  “What do you think we should do now?”


There are many places on the internet to read much more on this topic.  I recommend the book, Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child, which you can get from Amazon or read online at Google Books here.  Feel free to add links in the comment section below this post!
 
- Trauma Mama T (who blogs at My Life as a Trauma Mama)

Comments Welcome

Leave a Reply



(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)


Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.



What I Want You to Know About Older Child Adoption

Posted by admin on March 04, 2013

 



My husband and I adopted our daughter a little over a year (two years) ago.  She came to us at age nine.   She was abused, neglected, homeless and abandoned during her first four years with her biological family.  Then she bounced around foster care for the next five years.   She had a dozen sets of “Mom and Dad” before us.   We reassure her all the time that we are her Last Mom and Last Dad.

It took six months from being chosen as her parents to bringing her home.   She was a straight adoptive placement through the foster care system, but we were in Florida and she was in Texas.  ICPC and other aspects of the process took forever.  We weren’t allowed any contact with her during those six months.   She was actually in a group home during that time.  She was moved there just a couple weeks after we were matched because her foster family was no longer willing to work with her aggression and tantrums.   She was clearly a child in pain.   We knew it and agreed to the match.   We felt strongly that her behavior was situational and that she needed the right environment and help to sort it out.  We thought we could give it to her.

Being approved to be the parents of a child that is so obviously hurting and in need of your support, but having to wait for six months of paperwork is torture.   Our home and hearts were ready for her, but she was placed in a group home and didn’t even know we existed.  

Once ICPC cleared, we were finally allowed to send her a photo book and she was told that she was going to be adopted.   We flew to Texas two weeks later.  We met her on a Monday and visited with her for a couple hours after school each day that week.  On Friday she was ours forever.   Within a few short weeks, she found out she was going to be adopted and moved to another state with people she had met just days before. 

No amount of research, adoption classes or book reading can prepare you for life with a traumatized child.  They call older child adoption “special needs” adoption for a reason.   Her special needs are real and they are vast.   Fear, anxiety, anger, grief, shame and confusion are swirling around inside her all the time.   It is not uncommon for her behavior to reflect all the pain she has inside.   We get it.  We understand.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t hard or that we don’t get overwhelmed, exhausted or lose our cool sometimes.  

One of the hardest parts is the isolation.  It is very difficult for people to understand all that you’re going through.   A loving home is not enough.  Your child doesn’t just need “time to settle in”.  Traditional discipline structure or parenting styles are usually ineffective with traumatized children.   People become uncomfortable with the truth about how things are really going at home, so you stop sharing.  Traumatized children often act very differently when they are around others than they do at home.   You may start to get the feeling that people think you’re the source of the problem.  

Parents of kids with trauma and attachment issues need to be seen as the authority figures all the time.  An attaching child needs to learn to depend on their parents to meet their needs, comfort them, keep them safe and give them affection.   We have had to cut people out of our lives who refused to accept and respect our roles as parents of a hurt child.   

It can even be difficult to find professionals that get it.    Teachers, pediatricians and mental health providers might not take your concerns seriously because your child doesn’t show them the pain.  They save that just for you.   Our daughter is on the honor roll at school and has won awards for her positive behavior choices.   The school wants to drop the IEP for emotional disability that we carried over from her last school in Texas.   The month before they brought this up, we had to call 911 because she was having such an epic meltdown due to big feelings brought on by Mother’s Day that weren’t sure of our ability to keep her safe.  All three of us wound up with bruises, scrapes and scratches.  She caved in the roof of my car.   She may not show it at school right now, but her emotional needs are high.

We have had no luck in finding a therapist in our area that understands trauma and attachment.  We are on our third try.  Bad therapy is worse than no therapy.  We work hard on our own at helping our daughter process her past and her feelings.    Therapeutic parenting has been very effective and she has made great progress.   Her current therapist is not helpful.  In fact, we have to do a lot of work to keep her from being harmful.  Unfortunately, the only way to get medication prescribed for her anxiety is to meet with the therapist weekly.   Her pediatrician won’t prescribe anxiety medication, resources are extremely scarce and we’ve exhausted all other options.

Older child adoption is doable.  It’s worth it.   Progress, hope and healing are attainable.   Our daughter shows us this every day.   We have not regretted becoming her parents for a moment.  I think it is important that people understand this journey is difficult, will change your life in every way and that you will likely have to face it on your own.  

 

- Last mom ( who blogs at Last Mom)

Comments Welcome

Leave a Reply



(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)


Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.