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, October 14, 2009

What I got from the ACT conference - relationships

The main thing I got from Katharine Leslie's presentation was about relationships (interdependence, reciprocity...). I learned that I do not have a relationship with my adopted children because a relationship is...

Relationship: A mutual satisfaction of each other's needs.

Correspondent Reciprocity: (big words, but don't worry it'll be OK!!)
Most friendship relationships are 50/50 equal. I pay for Jeri's lunch on the way to the seminar. She pays for mine on the way back. She drives, I offer a shoulder to cry on (not literally - she's driving!). Mike, the organizer of the seminar, offers us a place to stay. We volunteer at the seminar, lugging things, helping with check in. We are all more comfortable with the equality. As adults we can handle things being uneven for awhile, but usually the person asking for more feels guilty until the scales can balance.

Complementary Reciprocity: People give and take different things, but are equally satisfied.
75% (parent) + 25% (child)=100% or even 90% (parent) + 10% (child) =100% 

This is typical of healthy parent - child relationships. For example, a parent may give an adult child $100 dollars as a birthday present. Both are comfortable with this exchange; however, if the child were to give the parent $100 or an equally expensive gift for the parent's birthday this would most likely upset the parent. A thoughtful card or a phone call would be more appreciated/ appropriate. (obviously this is just an example).

An intimate relationship (like a marriage) usually starts as correspondent, but later becomes complementary reciprocity.

Unconditional Caregiving
A child with Reactive Attachment Disorder (or really most children of trauma) has no idea how to reciprocate. They do not learn to have healthy relationships with others or themselves. They feel isolated, entitled, superficial love...

Providing unconditional love to a child without getting anything in return will make you sick. (If this were a stranger or a celebrity it would be called stalking!). Instead we should practice unconditional caregiving.

Children have to be taught how to reciprocate. Unlike healthy children who can learn through their parent's role modeling of appropriate behavior, traumatized children have to be taught - more on that in this post - Relationships(cont.).

When Reciprocity is working correctly in Parent-Child relationships:


  • Positive interactions
  • Each has pride in the other


Child needs:

  • Accurate reflection of self as worthy and lovable
  • Support for exploration and expression
  • Knowledge and skills as to how to please the parent

Parent needs:

  • Acceptance of parental warmth, affection, support
  • Compliance with limit settings and directives
  • Signs of appreciation and adoration

As a sweet biochild, Ponito has reciprocity down cold. Love that kid.
We had a skirmish today because he's been lying when he doesn't want to do something or forgets.

He's been saying he did it (usually a chore), and when this involves (not) feeding the dogs that's huge. When I confronted him on the lie he pouted and then got angry. I tried to get him to understand I wasn't mad, I just needed him to tell me when he didn't do something so we could fix it.

Grandma is finally back from vacation (Missed you, Mom!). She took him with her to go pick up Bear after school and he came back calm, and eventually climbed in my lap gave me a kiss and said he was sorry. It took a little more coaxing to get him to talk it through.

**At bedtime tonight, we discovered that when he'd gotten mad and slammed around in his room he'd ripped the shutters off one of his windows, destroying the shutters and damaging the wall.

Now he'll have to reimburse for the repair work. He recently earned almost $30 that he was planning on using to buy speed cups (toy). That will probably get confiscated. Sad really. He worked hard for that. He won't like it, but he'll understand. Actions have consequences.

Kitty also had a meltdown tonight. I'm putting it on a different post because this is already long enough.

1 comment:

Mom 4 Kids said...

I really love how you put this down in understandable terms. It is very helpful! Thank you!