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, May 24, 2012

Choosing joy!

  • Today after Kitty had been in her room pouting for awhile I went upstairs to talk to her.  I woke her up from an escapist nap. 

    I told her that I'm either an evil parent who is torturing and treating a normal 17yo like crap, or I'm a therapeutic parent who is treating her child the way she needs to be treated because of her mental illness and trauma history (BTW, I think I'm a good parent). 

    Then I apologized for not being fair to her. I've succumbed to the pressure from others like social workers, and her, to offer her levels and things I know she is not capable of achieving, and acting like they are options; therefore she assumes the reason she's not getting them is because she's a failure or I'm an evil parent.

    I reminded her that a reason we've been more restrictive is because we're trying to get her stable before we start adding potential stressors, especially since the baby steps we've taken lately haven't been so successful.  I talked about how frustrating it is for me that when we offer her a baby step, she demands something bigger and is so angry when I won't give it to her that she can't acknowledge or enjoy the smaller step.

    I also tried to gently tell her that by choosing to stay stuck and angry that she is forcing me to be even more restrictive, is losing out on what she wants, and is taking a chance on not being able to live in her family. She can't just give up or she's definitely not going to get what she wants.

    Kitty was getting obviously depressed and defensive.  She was feeling that I was taking away  everything she wanted and she had no reason to keep trying.  So I talked about a friend of the family who is going blind. She was a great artist, and now has chosen to change to being a sculptor when she had every "right" to be depressed, angry, and giving up. 

    I talked about how a lot of the friends we make and the goals for the future that we make when we're young change a lot as we get older.  We don't know what all our options are when we're younger.  We don't know how things will change.  Some things we learn by trying them or just experience.  A couple of years ago, Kitty's goal was to be a doctor.  That wasn't a viable option for her and she needed to choose another option.  I'm sorry that she has to make some difficult choices because of her issues, but if she continues to blame me and be depressed and angry she's ruining her life.

    I tried to talk to my daughter about "Choosing Joy."  She was listening.  She saw that it was in her best interest, but she just can't maintain it.

    We're going to Nebraska (13+hours in a car each way! *eek!*) and then we were going to stop at a hotel with a pool, and take a day to hang out with Kitty's biofamily before we go on to my MIL's house.  Rather than be happy that she gets to see biofamily, she's chosen to focus on what she wants that she's not getting.  (She wants to be able to go to her Grandmother's house, alone, and stay all week, and maybe stay through junior college...).  She started picking a fight on the way home from a shopping trip I'd let her go on even though she didn't "earn it" or do her chores as my way of saying that I know she tried and my expectations for her really have changed.  Probably because she didn't get to buy something she wanted, Bob did, and the trip took a long time.


    SHE'S ONLY 6!

    I apologized to Kitty for not being fair. Because of her trauma and "issues," she missed out on a lot of the normal kid stuff that Bob and Ponito got to do, and had to focus on and work hard at handling her life, leaving little time to learn some of the lessons that kids who didn't have to handle all that stuff learned when they were younger. This meant that emotionally and socially she was a little behind. We talked about the "level chart" and why it was harder for her than for the other kids who didn't have to work through all the other stuff.

    By expecting her to be able to do all the things that kids who didn't have to deal with all the stuff she has (and she's done great at dealing with it!), I was making it impossible for her to succeed, and I was also getting frustrated and angry with her when she didn't do things other teens could handle - like chores. I ended up not letting her do any of the "fun stuff" because she hadn't "earned it."

    When she first came to us at age 11, she was "stuck" at age 4. Not intellectually!  She's smart, but emotionally she was much younger. She needed time and to feel safe to grow up / and mature in certain areas, which she did! She's grown a lot in so many ways! She's no longer stuck at age 4 - she can access her physical feelings and a lot of her emotional feelings as well. When we ask her to do something she can do it if I break it down in to smaller pieces ("empty your trash then..." vs "clean your room") with only a few reminders, whereas before, if we had even said, "Who left the butter out?," she had a HUGE meltdown. Now she can admit it was her, and clean it up!

    I told her this was like her learning disabilities. Yes, she has trouble with certain parts of reading (like spelling), but she's reading on grade level. She is NOT stupid! She just needs some extra help with certain things and someday she will probably get to a point where she doesn't even need that help.

    I told her that while in a lot of ways she was a normal teenage girl, there were some things she still needed help with. She knows that she struggles with a lot of the "responsibilities" of being a teenager. I can't hand her a list and expect her to do everything on it (or better yet, do them without needing a list!). When she's stable, she can be left home alone for a short time. There have been some issues (fighting with Ponito, putting a metal cup in the microwave, a lot of things having to do with attempts to cook!) that mean she's not ready to stay home alone for a long period of time, yet.

    This was the hard part!

    As a good mom, it is my job to parent her where she IS, not where someone says she SHOULD BE. Expecting her to act like a teenager when she's not ready yet is not fair to her. In the last few years, when she is stable, she has grown emotionally from 4 to about age 10! and she's growing all the time. When she is not stable, she needs extra help, about what a 6 year old might need.

    This is where Kitty's Concrete/ Black and White thinking made things super difficult. I had to repeat a LOT (and it still didn't stick) that I didn't think she was stupid or 6 years old. I felt that she needed the emotional support that a 6 year old needs.

    I let her know (repeatedly!) that this was a GOOD thing! Yes, it meant that she wasn't going to automatically get a lot of the "teen privileges," but she also was no longer going to get in "trouble" for not meeting her responsibilities. I wasn't going to be upset with her all the time, and she would have a lot fewer chores and expectations. Life would be a lot easier.

    PLUS, she still got to do the fun stuff. Even if she'd had a rough day (ex. meltdowns and threatening herself) she would still get to go out to eat with the family. She'd still get to watch TV (although the shows would be more "age appropriate"). Most importantly, we wouldn't be frustrated with her all the time. If she felt like Hubby was getting upset with her for not doing something she was "supposed" to do, then I would run interference. If she saw me getting upset with her, she could remind me of this conversation. (And I would chant my mantra in my head, "She's only 6!  She's only 6! She's only 6!).

    As I mentioned, this didn't go over well with Kitty, but it wasn't about her accepting it, it was about me explaining why I wasn't going to keep trying to keep treating her the same as the other kids, and how that meant I loved her MORE not LESS.

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