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!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Skills trainer response

This is a letter from Bear's Skills Trainer through ____MHMR in response to the letter in the previous post. She has been meeting with Bear weekly since June, and for most of the Summer she had to ask me to sit in on the meetings because he just lay there with his eyes closed and ignored her completely. She has been visiting him at school now so I don't know if he's changed his attitude toward her.

I was probably too sarcastic in my reply. Oh well.

Hi Mary,

I don’t quite understand how this is moving in a forward direction. I am wondering if it would be more beneficial to work toward growth, progress, and success in whatever capacity Bear is capable of instead of setting up a situation in which he is sure to fail.

My thoughts are that by giving Bear tangible tools that he can progress with, he may be more willing to continue with his meds regardless of where he lives. I also have to wonder if his stating that he will no longer remain on the meds once he moves out is his way of attempting to establish some form of independence. Why not start there? At least if he fails in his attempts of independence, such as meeting with friends, going to football games or whatever he is requesting to do, he is still on meds and can better process complications or struggles yet still feel like he has some sort of self control. Again, you are there to help him work through the complications.

Just wanted to share my initial thoughts.

Hi Susan,

I don’t know that this is “moving forward.” At this point Bear is NOT moving forward; he’s moving backward and away, and he’s gaining speed. I see this as trying to stop this downward regression while we hopefully still can and THEN we can start moving forward again. Maybe if you think of Bear as like an alcoholic? He has to WANT to change and to do that he most likely he has to hit rock bottom first. By preventing him from hitting rock bottom and allowing him to easily remain in this state of denial, we are enabling him, and quite frankly delaying the inevitable (for 10 months anyway). All I’m suggesting is removing the artificial supports we have in place that are allowing him to continue to function in total denial. Unless he is forced to face this I believe we have absolutely no chance of helping him grow, and you can’t honestly believe that Bear as he is now is ready for the “real world.”

Bear has been saying for years that he does not think his diagnoses are correct. While his statement that he won’t remain on meds after he leaves could be a way of establishing independence, I believe it is more likely a natural outgrowth of his disbelief in his diagnoses. Actually disbelief is not the right word. Denial would be the more appropriate word. Bear is terrified that his diagnoses are real because this means he needs help. To accept help he has to trust. To trust, he has to make himself vulnerable. To be vulnerable is to allow himself to be abused and/or die. Bear has RAD. To him, trust is a life or death situation. His whole life Bear has had it pounded into him (literally) that people he loves and trusts will hurt him, and this is one lesson he learned very well. I do not believe that in less than a year I can unteach this lesson, but I have to try! I choose to believe that I can teach him that he can trust us, by forcing him to depend on us so we can show him that we are trustworthy and therefore it is safe to love us.

This means NOT encouraging his independence, but rather his dependence. This sounds wrong for a teenager, but we have to remember that he is really still a young child. He is a little boy who needs other people, as I believe we all do in order to be happy functioning adults. People need relationships! Bear is trying to function without that, and that is why he is so miserable and dysfunctional. I believe that Bear needs a foundation of love and trust in order to be able to move on to true independence. By skipping that foundation everything we’re doing is like building on sand.

You mention “giving Bear tangible tools he can progress with.” I’m trying not to be sarcastic when I say, “How’s that working out for you?” People have been “giving him tools” for longer than we’ve known him. He’s been given anger management tools, calming techniques, behavior modification training, independent living skills, social skills… Tools do no good if you don’t understand how to use them, even less good if you don’t see the need for taking them out of the box. Bear is not listening to you or us when we’re trying to give him the tools and skills he needs, because he doesn’t trust us – more than half of what we say is the opposite of what his well-honed defense mechanisms say to do.

We’ve tried treating him like a normal teenager with independence – it blew up in his face every time! You mentioned us being “there to help him work through the complications”? Bear can’t accept our help so he’s having to do this completely on his own, and he doesn’t have what he needs to do so.

What you are suggesting is not working. Nothing we have tried so far has worked and it makes no sense to me to continue it for 10 more months. I feel we owe it to Bear to try something different, and this made the most sense to me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and listening to mine. I believe we need to work as a team if we’re going to make a difference in Bear’s life.

" Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain."

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