This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Media and RAD

Michael is an adult RAD survivor. He is not a licensed therapist, but I see him as an expert in his field. He recently wrote a blog post called Media and RAD - The Ugly Truth in which he discussed his reaction to a crash scene in the movie Armageddon. 

Ironically, our issues with media, particularly with Kitty, had recently become such an issue that I had decided to have the kids do an assignment to reinforce why I am so strict about this. Kitty especially wants to be allowed to watch shows and movies that I feel have a negative/ triggering effect on her.

Almost a year ago, I had Bob do a FAIR Club assignment about the effects of media on kids (posted here). She did a good job. So a few days ago, I decided to have the kids take a quiz on the report. Mostly fill in the blank stuff, but I wanted to be sure they actually read it. (Kitty couldn't do the quiz though. *sigh* She just didn't understand the questions. I'll have to sit with her to do it.)

So here is my comment on Mike's blog post.

As a preschooler, my daughter (RAD) was allowed to watch horror movies (like The Scream and Jeepers Creepers). In foster care (age 9-11) her favorite TV show was CSI. She loves violent shows, the more blood and gore the better - I know this is typical for kids with RAD and PTSD.
Personally, media of all kinds has always affected my moods (I dealt with depression and attachment issues) so I choose to watch nothing but comedies, and read nothing but books, that have happy endings. I don't like horror, thrillers, drama, or tragedies.
With all my kids, both adopted and bio - ages 10-15, I don't allow them to watch PG-13 movies, and seriously limit what they can watch on TV (not even certain cartoon channels and shows), and what they play (no E-10+ computer games, no Bionicles or Pokemon).
All my kids think I'm the meanest mom ever and swear they can handle it. When I do give in or they see something at a friend's house, sometimes their reactions are immediate (agitated, talking loudly, aggression, leaving the room), but other times it's delayed or less obvious (especially if they know it means I'll remove approval to watch something).
So my question is, am I the meanest mom ever?
Would it have been helpful to you [Mike] as a teen to have your media "censored?"
I realize my "censoring" doesn't change their past at all, and they ARE dealing with the issues media could be bringing up both in therapy and reality all the time but I don't think they need the exposure to upsetting media all the time.
My adopted son (15) appears to be dealing with his life well right now, and could potentially be able to handle it (he sneaks it anyway), but our adopted daughter (his biological half-sister, age 14) is emotionally fragile - truthfully, I expect her to be in residential treatment within the next couple of weeks.
So what do you think? My adopted children were abused and my bio kids have PTSD caused by living with angry, "acting out" older siblings. Should I lighten up or get stricter? I know lots of moms who don't let their kids watch TV at all.
Mary Themom
And here's his response:

Dear Mrs. T,
Ironically, for not being a professional therapist, I get the same question “am I the meanest mom ever???” question almost daily now. My resounding answer most assuredly is NO. I am of the belief that while being a mom or a dad is a great thing, there is a limit to the amount of “coolness” or leeway that you can provide. If you feel that they don’t need the added pressure and exposure to certain media, be firm and be confident in the fact your making the best call that you can. You’re the mom and that’s the way it goes.
I find it refreshing that you want to be able to filter what your kids see. I think that in today’s society it’s easier to toss a child a T.V. [phone or tablet] while parent’s pursue other interests. It speaks volumes to me that you want to have such limits in the interests of your children’s safety in your household. It’s a very inspiring value.
“The meanest mom ever” comment of course is not accurate and remember with R.A.D. kids, no how matter much they push your buttons and give you trouble, don’t take it personally. Their outbursts aren’t about YOU it’s about THEM. I remember holding a knife to father’s throat, not wanting to kill him of course, but to assert authority. It wasn’t about him, it was about MY anger.
Sounds to me like you're making the call for your family that you have to make, in a society that tells you to do otherwise. You're sticking to your guns and your values. I think your kids will not only say, “Thank you” one day for your sense of values you have impressed upon them, but the “Greatest mom ever” mug you eventually receive from appreciative young adults will prove me correct. 
Sincerely with regards and the warmest of wishes,
Michael S

So what do you think? 

I know I'm not the meanest mom ever (I know too many moms of RAD kids to ever believe that), but am I doing the right thing? Should I be doing more? I know a lot of moms that don't let their kids watch TV at all.

How should I handle the different needs of my 4 very different kids? Some of whom can handle what we have now, and others who would probably benefit from even more restrictions.

I believe that children should not be treated equally. Life is not fair. Each of my children has different needs, but it's hard for Kitty especially, to accept that without being jealous. She can't see the privileges she's getting that others don't (like not being held accountable for her inappropriate behaviors). All she sees is that she's older and yet isn't being treated like a 14-year-old (because developmentally she's not one and she can't handle it).

One reason I've questioned our decision to adopt children older than my oldest bio child is that it makes it more difficult to allow the younger kids to have privileges they've earned and can handle. Even though in my head I know that treating my children equally is not in their best interest, explaining that to them and others is hard! 

(Blog Posts on This Subject:
Explaining Age-Appropriate Parenting to Your Child
Dear Person Who Just Doesn't "Get It"
Adopting Out of Birth Order

OK, I've babbled on long enough. Time to get ready to take Kitty to her psychiatrist appointment. I'm expecting him to write a recommendation for her to go to residential treatment tonight.

Edited to add:

Here's how we handled Media: 

I subscribe to the Garbage In, Garbage Out” philosophy.  I have removed anything I don’t think is GOOD for them (not just "not bad").  
  • Movies
    We purchased a 
    Clearplay DVD player and any videos rated PG or higher must be played on that. This allows them to see the movies their friends are talking about, without all the violence, language, and sex.
    Movie Reviews - Adoption at the Movies -
  • Streaming
    At the time of this writing, streaming, Netflix, Amazon Prime... didn't exist. My understanding is that Clearplay claims to offer filtered versions of streaming movies but probably no longer does. Currently, a company called VidAngel still does. But the studios are fighting this, so I'm not sure how much longer they will be able to do so.
  • TV Shows
    We don’t allow any TV shows rated higher than PG (no PG – 14), and we completed banned certain channels and most of the more violent cartoons. 
    *  No Cartoon Network at all, because the majority of the cartoons were violent, rude, inappropriate -- No Spongebob – too violent and rude. No shows like iCarly which is pretty much rude all the time.
    *  Nothing on Nick at Nite.
    *  Pretty much everything on the Military or History Channels {the violence and blood and stuff really triggered Bear}.  *
    *  We even dumped the ABC Family channel which played some great movies, because they were advertising really inappropriate shows (Degrassi, stuff about teenage moms…).
  • Music
    I had the children switch to all Christian music (there are all kinds – rap, heavy metal, pop…). I loaded their MP3 players with it and listen to it exclusively on the car radio. It wasn't about it being Christian, it was just the easiest way to filter out all the stuff I didn't want them exposed to (violence, foul language, drugs...).
  • Computers and the Internet
    We have a "kid's computer" that does have access to the internet (some of their homework assignments require it). It's in a common area of the house where we can see the screen at all times. No TVs or Computers allowed in kids' rooms. {Although once Bob entered high school, she was allowed a laptop in her room for homework. She often studied late into the night and during the day, it got too noisy and distracting for her in common areas of the house.}
    *  If I don't feel that the school can properly supervise my kids on the school's computers, then I don't sign the permission slips for that child giving my permission for him/her to have internet access at school. In fact, I specifically told them we were not giving permission. If the school provided a computer to my student, I said, "No, thank you." I especially wasn't going to sign for liability if there was damage to the laptop!
  • Passwords - Kids were required to give us passwords to everything and ask permission before signing up for things.
  • Parental Controls - We put parental controls on everything, but I'll admit, they figured out how to get around them pretty quickly.
  • Mobile Phones/ Smart Phones - According to my kids, we were the only parents who didn't allow our kids to have smartphones by age 12 (and in our neighborhood, they might have been right). Once we felt they were ready, we did allow the kids to have phones that could text and make calls (no internet). Bob got one first because she could handle it and needed to be able to reach Grandma (if Grandma needed to pick the girls up earlier or later from school or other activities).

    When Bear first came to us (at age 13), he had a pre-paid phone. We decided to put him on our phone plan because we figured it was cheaper than getting cards and allowed us more supervision if we bought it and were paying the bill (plus it gave us more ground to stand on if we took it away as punishment). Let's just say he charged a few crazy bills (10-hour calls to Alaska among other things!) and we took it away. We never gave another one to Bear because we felt he wasn't ready. He did borrow/ steal them often. We mostly tried to provide line-of-sight supervision to deal with this. (Lying and Stealing)

    Phones went on a charger in our room at night so the kids didn't stay up until all hours texting friends (and biofamily). They were in high school before Bob and Ponito got hand-me-down smartphones. Kitty purchased one with her own money her senior year - I'm still not sure she was ready.
  • Gaming Systems
    No games rated Teen or above. The gaming system was in a common area where what was playing could be supervised. Ponito did manage to get access to games rated Mature when he went to friends' houses. We tried to stop that wherever we could, but he seemed to handle it OK, so we weren't very vigilant about it.
  • Picking It Apart/ Teachable Moment
    One thing my mom did when I was young (which made me crazy at the time), was point out the flaws in shows and movies, most especially in commercials. They also became opportunities for talks about better ways to handle things, sex, relationships, values, faith, even politics.

    I still remember ignoring my mom's advice and buying something I'd seen on TV. A beautiful real diamond ring with a free matching necklace for the bargain price of $14.95. (plus S&H). When it arrived, it was a minuscule diamond chip surrounded by a setting that made it look like a bigger diamond when it was on TV, but in real life, didn't look like a bigger diamond at all. I learned a valuable lesson.

    My sister also ignored her and got on one of those Columbia Records deals where you get 7 albums for a penny, but they sign you up so you receive a lifetime subscription for records (they send you 2 a month unless you remember each month to tell them not to- at full price of course).

    For my kids, watching PG-13 movies often led to a sex ed talk which was highly embarrassing to have with mom! It also led to some discussions in therapy about issues and triggers brought up in the media.

    I liked using movies in analogies (for my kids who understood analogies) - see our Integrity Study.

Maybe some kids can handle the innuendo, adrenaline-inducing, emotionally-triggering, violence…  mine can’t.  My kids are developmentally much younger and have very black and white thinking that makes it hard for them to understand when it is (and is not) appropriate to emulate what they see on TV.  

We decided that to treat them as though they were their chronological/ physical age, or as if they are able to handle things we have recognized as triggers, was just cruel and unfair. 

It is definitely hard to follow through on this!!  Providing all this structure is draining, to say the least. Most people don’t understand it, and my kids certainly don’t love it, but we’ve had fewer meltdowns and the foul language and attitudes have improved, for both my kids of trauma and my “neurotypical kids.”

1 comment:

Kristina P. said...

Very interesting! I didn't realize there was a connection between violent media and RAD kids.