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!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Retired? Homebound? Bored? Things for Adults to Do to Stay Active


Looking for something to do now that you're retired, homebound, or just plain bored? 
Here's some ideas.

GAMES
Board games don’t have to be boring. From games played with others - Bingo, Scrabble, card games (Cards Against Humanity, strip poker?), Jenga, Apples to Apples, billiards/ pool, bowling... to games that can be done alone - like solitaire, Mahjong, crosswords, Sudoku, online computer games, and jigsaw puzzles... 

Some games can actually improve your memory (for example, seeing several pairs of cards for ten seconds and matching them up again). Improving your memory can also improve your concentration as it helps your mind to become more alert.

Games are also a great way to keep from resorting to hours of mindless TV-watching
 
EXERCISE

You can exercise by yourself or in a group. Playing systems like the Wii, work out videos, bicycling, or just going for a walk on a regular basis (you can walk at a local mall if it's too hot outside or the weather is bad), all can be a wonderful way to stay physically active without having to join a gym. 

If you have access to a gym or club, you might have even more options - water aerobics, tennis, volleyball, weight lifting, golf, Zumba classes... Join a sport rec league. 

Think you could never run a marathon? This year 88 people over the age of 75 ran the New York City Marathon - Here's how they did. http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/nyc-marathons-oldest-runners-howd-they-do/

Not only does physical activity help you feel better physically and emotionally, it can also help keep your brain active too!


CRAFTS/ HOBBIES
Do something creative or learn something new. Crafts and hobbies can all be done at home, in a class, or with a group of like-minded individuals. They can be for your own enjoyment, to sell (check out Etsy.com), or donate to charity. You can take classes or even teach others how to do a craft or hobby that you enjoy.
  • Crafts - knitting, crocheting, cross stitch, embroidery, scrap booking, making cards, pottery, tapestry, sewing, dress making, collages.  (Ex. Some ideas for Crocheting and Knitting for Charity (https://www.craftsy.com/blog/2014/03/crocheting-and-knitting-for-charity/  ) Project Linus - gives homemade blankets to children in need (https://www.projectlinus.org/)
  • Artistic - Drawing, painting, calligraphy, coloring in adult coloring books, working with modeling clay, woodworking/ carving, jewelry making, glass staining.
  • Creative writing – This can involve writing in a journal, creating poetry, or writing a book/ stories. If you want to have a wider platform for your writing, you can publish it online in a blog. Some authors have been “discovered” through their blogs. Or you can self-publish a book, which is becoming more and more popular these days - Self-Publishing a Book, 25 Things You Need to Know
  • Cooking and Food Appreciation - Try new recipes. You can learn or teach others how to cook and enjoy different types of food: Basic beginning, gourmet, gluten free, vegan, multi-cultural, dessert/ pastries... Become a wine connoisseur or just learn the art of wine tasting. Make your own cook book with pictures and everything.
  • Research your family / Make a family tree. Check out Ancestry.com https://www.ancestry.com/
  • Gardening - Gardening can be enjoyable and a great way to stay physically and mentally active, whether your garden is a cactus on your desk, a few potted plants on your balcony, a small garden in your backyard (herbs, flowers, and/or vegetables), or a large garden with excess produce to sell. To learn more about how to start a garden, you can research online. (Ex. Basics of Gardening
  • Other Hobbies - This can be whatever you're interested in or interested in learning about - weather watching, ham radios, bird watching, small appliance repair, photography, furniture refinishing, interior decorating, 


WORK/ VOLUNTEER
Whether it’s making follow-up calls or providing advice to businesses or tutoring students, many jobs can be done from home these days. Learn more in this article from AARP: Work from Home Jobs for Retirees

It's usually pretty easy to find volunteer work, you can check out some local non-profits in your area and contact them to see if they need any help. Guidestar - Directory of Charities and Non-Profits

Look for work in an area you enjoy: 
  • Children - babysit, respite, foster care, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for foster children (volunteer position that does not require any particular experience), run a home daycare, sitting with newborns in ICU, read story books at the library or book store, tutoring...
  • Animals - Dog walking, pet sitting, volunteer in an animal shelter. Check out places that offer services involving animals, like equine therapy, to see if they have volunteer positions. Train animals as service dogs or therapy pets.
  • Elderly/ Disabled - Caregiver or just spend some time with a senior citizen. You can volunteer at places like hospice providers, nursing homes, drive elderly and disabled people to church services...
  • Office work - reach out to local non-profits and see if they need any help with filing, answering phones, writing thank you notes... 
  • Tech/ Design/ Media - If you have skills in these areas, many non-profits and other agencies are always looking for talented designers. Ex. PeaceGeeks - build the technological, communications and management capacities of grassroots organizations who work to promote peace, accountability and human rights.  
  • Food - work at a food pantry, cook for a soup kitchen, 

PETS
Get a pet! Pets can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase social interaction and physical activity, help you learn, and can reduce depression and lessen loneliness. 

Learning about animal care and training can be fun and rewarding. Going to dog parks and meeting others, can keep both you and your pet entertained and active.


LEARN!

Keeping the mind active can improve your memory, improve your health, ward off dementia... To help your mind stay young and flexible, continuing education or informal classes (learning something new just for fun), can help the mind stay active. 

You can check out your local community college - there are online courses for just about everything and a lot of them are free. it might take a little research to find some good ones, but good news! There's often someone that has already reviewed the type of courses you're looking for and posts the best options. 

CHANGE THINGS UP!
Change can be fun. Redecorate, decorate for the seasons, change out pictures. rearrange the furniture, DIY some fun projects, sell some clutter on sites like Craigslist (https://geo.craigslist.org/iso/us), LetGo.com (https://us.letgo.com/en), or ebay (https://www.ebay.com/). 

READING

Any place, anywhere, any time. Books are awesome! Start or attend a book club, book stores, libraries, book carts, start a little free library (https://littlefreelibrary.org/), the possibilities are as endless as the worlds that books can take you to.

ENTERTAINMENT
For low cost concerts and plays, check out a local high school for live entertainment. Check out senior day care facilities for special activities or just visit once in a while. 

MUSIC
 
This could be listening to music, learning a new instrument, and/ or joining a choir. Go dancing! Take a Dance Class! Attend a concert.
concerts and plays at your local high school for low-cost/low-stress live entertainment

LAUGH!
Laughing doesn't just make you feel better, it can make you physically better. Laughter has been clinically proven to strengthen your immune system, activate and relieve your stress response and stimulate many organs.
Watch old TV shows on DVD like "I Love Lucy" or the "Marx Brothers" for a laugh.
Play! - 40 ideas to experience childlike playfulness as adults 
The Importance Of Laughter In Long Term Care Facilities

PAMPER YOURSELF
Have a spa day, even if just in your room. Invite some friends over and do each other's nails. Manis, pedis, facials, experiment with makeup and hair styles, skin treatments, impromptu fashion shows. Check out an online makeup or hair tutorial online, and try something new. Host or attend a makeup, jewelry, or fashion party - you don't actually have to buy anything. 


GET OUT OF THE HOUSE

Attend worship, travel, outings, and shopping trips (this can be window shopping!). Go for a walk or a drive. Visit a museum, place of interest, go antiquing. Travel to faraway lands (even if just in your imagination). Explore new cultures and learn new a new language. You'd be amazed at how much you can learn from the internet nowadays. 

FRIENDS and STRANGERS YOU DON'T KNOW YET
Clubs are a great way to meet and keep in contact with others. Check out computer clubs, sewing clubs, golf clubs (Sorry! just had to throw that in there). Lunch groups and social groups, singles groups. Hang out an activity center, YMCA, senior center... Join a support group online or in real life.  Plan a dinner party, trivia night, movie or other event party.





Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Parenting Biokids and Adopted Kids Together

See also this post, Biokids with Adopted Siblings

Adopting Out of Birth Order

My adopted children were older than my biokids, and that caused some extra issues, because the bio kids were able to handle tons of things the adopted kids couldn't.  Here's a good post I did for a lady adopting a RAD child older than her bios (different age, but kids of trauma are often younger developmentally, emotionally, and/ or socially).

Adopting Children Developmentally, Emotionally, and/ or Socially Younger
This could also apply to parents with kids who are not technically out of birth order, but are close in age or younger (for example giving birth to biokids or adopting a child(ren) younger than the older adopted child(ren) but with fewer issues). The problems come when this younger child(ren) pass up the adopted child(ren) developmentally, emotionally, and/ or socially. Parenting often appears to not be fair, like you're choosing favorites, and/ or that you're criticizing or punishing the delayed child.

{My adopted children were both delayed and older than my oldest biochild (Bob, biodaughter). Bear (adopted, 3 1/2 years older than Bob) was very aggressive and intimidating to everyone and Kitty (adopted, 1 year older than Bob) was aggressive toward Bob (jealousy, pushing to get kicked out like everyone else has done to her in the past, delayed emotionally and socially - so tended to be more like a toddler who uses her hands not her words...).}  

All Children are Not Created Equally - Nor Should They Be Treated That Way
For a long time, we tried to treat the children equally, especially the girls who were close in age and in the same grade at school, but we finally figured out that was not going to work. Life got smoother when we started using age-appropriate, therapeutic parenting.
Post:  Chap. 1 Parenting based on Developmental/Emotional Age

Here's some of the things we did (or I wish we had done sooner!):

* Explain Why They're Treated Differently - We sat the adopted children down and tell them that they were being treated differently because of their trauma, not because we loved them less or loved biokids more. They absolutely did not understand this or believe it, but it needed to be said, if only so we could refer back to the conversations.
Posts: Trust Jars/ Love Jars post;
Choosing Joy - Explaining Age Appropriate Therapeutic Parenting to Child(ren)

          The younger biochildren did not have the same childhood and there were going to be areas where they got to do things the adopted kids didn't, even though they were older.   None of this solved anything by the way, but it gave us a reference point that we could keep pointing back to,

"I know it doesn't feel fair that your sister gets to spend the night at your friend's house and you don't, but you're not at a place to do that right now, because it's hard for you.  Your sister didn't have the trauma that you did so she can handle it.  
You'll get there!  Just not today."

*Stop treating them equally.  They are not equal! They have different life experiences, different interests, different abilities, different needs...  My mom always emphasized that with my sister and I.  We both got a Christmas present, but it wasn't matching dresses (which is one thing my dad liked to do)!  Neither of us would want what the other wanted! Our gifts were chosen with our unique likes and dislikes in mind.

^This is actually how the FAIR Club got started.^  http://marythemom-mayhem.blogspot.com/2009/03/how-to-discipline-your-difficult-child.html My kids were constantly whining, "That's not FAAAIIIRRR!!!" I needed a way to discipline and structure their lives that was appropriate for each of them.  Structure for the adopted kids, but not really punishing them for things that were out of their control (fight/ flight/ freeze reactions for example) - while avoiding letting the biokids feel that the adopted kids were "getting away with" behaviors that we didn't want the biokids to start thinking was OK for them to do!

* Emotional Age - Remember that develomentally (emotionally and socially) most kids of trauma are a LOT younger. http://marythemom-mayhem.blogspot.com/2011/04/developmental-stages.html  If we expect them to "act their age," we're all going to be disappointed.

*ABSOLUTELY no touching of other kids!  None.  Ever. The violent one especially, literally had to be out of arm reach of the other kids at all times.  If I had to be in another room then that child came with me or was in his/her room alone. They weren't allowed to sit next to each other on the couch or in the car.  They were NEVER allowed to be alone in the same room.

* Separate rooms. Originally the girls shared a room.  BIG mistake! We converted the playroom to a bedroom to separate them.  When I was a kid, my bedroom was the breakfast nook with some slatted closet doors bolted in to make a wall.

*ABSOLUTELY no parenting.  The adopted kids felt they had a right to boss the other kids around. The biokids just handled it.  Kitty expected it and was terrified of Bear so she often tried to anticipate his wishes.

EVERY time we heard it, we reminded everyone that WE are the parents and that was not their job.  We NEVER put the kids in a position where they got to tell the other kids what to do.  Not even relaying a message, like, "Mom said to come downstairs and do the dishes." At most, they were allowed to say, "Mom is calling you."

* Individual parent time.  Just me (or Hubby)  and the child doing something together.  Could be making a meal, going shopping, a "date," sitting next to their bed and chatting, telling a story or singing... I tried to make it fun, even when they were being obnoxious, awful, or in trouble.  It was an attachment activity and necessary. I did this with all the kids- adopted and bio. Try to squeeze in a combo of activities -  If you're at the school for an IEP meeting, have lunch with a biokid.

* Family and individual activities. Don't skip that family vacation because one child can't handle it. Find an alternative for the child having issues (preferably something fun for them), and GO! Make time for each child's school events and activities. Go to your biokids' art show, soccer game, whatever. Sign them up for dance classes that their adopted sibling isn't a part of (this is when it really comes in handy to have a spouse so you can divide and conquer!).

Try to find ways that all the kids can participate without overshadowing the other's fun. While watching your son play T-ball, let the other kids play on a nearby playscape or spread a blanket behind the bleachers and play with toys they don't always get to play with. Have a Letter Party and each child gets to do something different to help (pick the letter, shopping, helping cook, pick the movie, set up the picnic area...).

* Individual Time - Give biokids a break from their siblings and family life sometimes. There were summers where Bob went to live with her grandparents. She remembers them as some of the best summers ever.

* Provide structure and reduce overwhelm.  Our adopted kids needed LOTS of Structure and Caring Support.  Their insides are so chaotic that we had to make the rest of life as calm and simple as possible. That means stripping their rooms of all but a bed and one toy.  It means for them, chores that biokids could handle with ease, have to be simplified and fewer.  Multi-step directions were overwhelming and impossible.  They usually triggered Dysregulation and Meltdowns.

* Make it OK for biokids to complain and vent. Living with mentally ill siblings is HARD. It is for parents too of course, but there are rarely support groups and people teaching Self-Care for kids. As long as it wasn't in front of their siblings, and they didn't share it with friends who knew their siblings, then I made sure that they knew it was even OK to resent/hate their sibling. I probably let it go too far and let the biokids feel that it was OK to be totally negative about their siblings without encouraging them to look for the good stuff too.

* Avoid over sharing. I'll admit that as Bob got older, it was easy to confide in her and sometimes vent or bounce off ideas. She knew the people involved and the situations, much better than any other friends and family members outside of our immediate family. She often had great insight, and I knew she wouldn't judge me for being upset/ angry with the adopted child or the situation. I often worry that I laid too much on her shoulders, because she seemed like she could handle it. I forgot that she's still a kid and going to have to have and/ or establish some kind of relationship with this sibling for the rest of their lives.

* SELF-CARE!! Self-care!! Self-Care!!! This is a tough life and if you're "bucket" is empty, then you're no good to anyone.
Advocating for Yourself, Your Family, and Your Child - In That Order**

Biokids with Adopted Siblings

See Also - Parenting Biokids and Adopted Kids Together



I rarely blog about my adopted children on here any more. Mostly because Kitty (22) and Bear (24) are now out of the house, although Kitty will probably be moving back home in the next 6 months or so.

So I'm going to talk about Bob and Ponito. If you just started reading my blog, then here's a brief summary. Bob (21) and Ponito (18) -- obviously not their real names-- were 7 (bioson, Ponito) and 10 (biodaughter, Bob - if you want to know how she got the name, Bob, click here) when Bear (13) and Kitty (11) joined our family. Kitty and Bob were in the same grade at school and there were a LOT of clashes between the 2 girls.

Bear was a very squeaky wheel, and it wasn't until he went into residential treatment at 14 that we realized how loudly Kitty was squeaking too. Between the two of them, I'm afraid all other squeaks were pretty much tuned out.

Bob was the next squeakiest. I'm pretty sure she still struggles with not getting all her needs met after the adoption, and I'm also pretty sure it's why she's such a strong, independent, young woman.

Ponito didn't squeak at all.

Bob - Biodaughter (21)



Bob is starting her 4th year of college and just turned 21 - no longer a teenager. She's an amazing young woman now. All those years of her making me crazy and pushing my buttons, living with  severely mentally ill siblings, being incredibly smart and incredibly stubborn... have turned her into a strong, capable, responsible young woman.

Bob's finally stopped pushing me away, and we have a pretty good relationship. I probably talk to her a little too much about what's going on with her siblings and asking for her advice, especially with Ponito.

She tends to be pretty honest with me about her opinions, whether they hurt my feelings or not. I know that's a good thing, but of course it still hurts to hear her say that she understands how Ponito is feeling and that she too wanted to leave home the minute she graduated high school.


Independence and Separation from Family - Teenage Developmental Stage
I know this is a normal developmental stage. Teens are supposed to be working on becoming independent from their parents, and pushing their parents away at this time is developmentally appropriate. I did it too. It wasn't until my mid to late twenties, that I started going back to my mom for advice and support. I remind myself of this every day. It still hurts. 


Ponito - Bioson (18)

Ponito was always a sensitive, laid-back, little kid. In a family of strong female personalities, he took after his dad. His Love Language was obviously Physical Touch, and he was always climbing in our laps, or plopping himself down between Hubby and I.

He was small for his age, so I was even able to carry him around - which he loved - long after the age I had to stop carrying Bob (she was 5'1" by the time she was 10, and 6 foot tall by age 14).



Ponito was very active, incredibly coordinated, and social. When we weren't calling him Monkey, we called him the Energizer Bunny. In 7th grade, he was in band, football, soccer, drama class, and had an adorable, little girlfriend (I say little, because she was petite). At 5'5" and thin as a rail like the rest of the boys in my family, we encouraged him toward soccer rather than football, He loved soccer and it came easily to him, but he never had a real drive to win.

Then things started changing. In 7th grade, he started failing classes. He seemed to just stop caring. He started getting stomach aches (after years of specialists, we finally figured out it was most likely anxiety - Prozac helped a lot, but quickly thereafter, he refuse to take it). When it came to makeup work, he wouldn't ask for assignments and wouldn't do them when he got them (he said he didn't understand them, but he wouldn't ask for help).

When he started high school, Ponito dropped out of band and football (which made sense as he was going to need more time for academics with his advanced math classes). Within a year, he had dropped out of soccer and all extracurricular activities too. Starting in 8th grade, he did little besides play on his gaming system (unfortunately, Hubby and I couldn't come to an agreement on how to handle this, so he was pretty much able to play anytime he wanted - which was all the time).

He barely ate, and kept losing weight. By 14, he was only 5'6" and weighed less than 120lbs. At that point, I found some protein bars he was willing to snack on. Within 6 months, he'd shot up to 5'10". Then 6ft (made Bob crazy when he passed up her 5'11 1/2"). By the end of high school, he was 6'3", but still barely ate (he'd stopped eating protein bars after a year).

At the end of junior year, I finally talked Hubby into getting him a psych eval. We'd tried several therapists and even a few anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds, and ADHD meds. Some of them worked, but he quickly refused to take them.

We'd always known he was smart, but the academic part of the psych eval was even better than expected. In math, he tested post-graduate level (from college!), in English, college level. He was also diagnosed ADD with almost no "general fund of acquired knowledge."

His other diagnosis was Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood. According to Ponito's therapist, this is kind of a junk drawer diagnosis for "we have no idea what it is, but something is obviously wrong." The therapist recommended DBT therapy, but that Ponito had to "buy into it," which wasn't going to happen. So we agreed to stop therapy.

Now a high school graduate, Ponito plans to go to college out of state. He found one that was willing to accept him, despite his abysmal GPA. He spent the whole summer on his PS4 all night, and sleeping all day. I pretty much despair that he'll do well in college and end up dropping out, but who knows? He may surprise me.

My hope is that this is that independence phase, and that when Ponito is in his 20s, he'll come back to the family and get his act together. I do still think there's something fundamentally wrong (mental health wise), but I've never been able to figure out what or how to help him.

I will always feel a little guilty that we didn't catch the ADD sooner, but like Kitty's issues were hidden because they were overshadowed by Bear's, Ponito, my least squeaky wheel, was overshadowed by them all.



Adopted Siblings Falling Behind Biokids

Our adopted kids' issues meant they were emotionally and developmentally delayed in a lot of ways (like most kids with trauma issues). The younger biokids quickly "passed them up" and were able to do and handle things that their siblings couldn't. Because the girls were basically twinned (in the same grade), the differences were usually VERY obvious which caused a lot of extra issues.

For example, both my biokids are now able to drive. My adopted daughter is not. In her mind, the fact that I won't let her drive is because I "love them more." Of course, the facts are that she is easily distracted, has difficulty with processing her environment, can't multitask, frequently has issues with esophoria (eyes crossing when she's tired or stressed),..



Adopted Siblings Resenting Biokids

The adopted kids resented that Ponito was getting to have the happy childhood they didn't, and we had to protect him from their sabotaging that. I'm 95% positive our adopted kids were doing it subconsciously, but they actively made his life miserable whenever they could. Since he was younger and smaller, he needed more protection than our biodaughter. He was a very laid-back little guy, and as the least squeaky wheel, I now realize he got a lot less attention than he needed/ deserved.



Helping Siblings Cope with the Child of Trauma Not Having Consequences

It was difficult for the other kids to understand why Kitty and Bear rarely had consequences for their "bad" behavior (they cussed, lied, stole things, hit and bit, broke things...). When they complained it wasn't "fair" (which was rare once we started the FAIR Club), we mentioned that they didn't always see the consequences, but that didn't mean they didn't get them (True! Having to live life like this is a consequence all it's own - The adopted kids had a lot more Structure).

To help the biokids understand their adopted siblings' differences, we tried to give them examples and explanations (at their age level).

  • "You know your {developmentally delayed} cousin and how she's older than you, but she has trouble with reading, writing and understanding things? Well, your sister is kind of the same, but she also has trouble with dealing with her feelings."
  • "Think of how we treat {my 7yo niece}. We don't expect her to be able to do all the things you can do, right? Your sister needs to be treated that way because the stuff that happened to her when she was a kid kept her from growing up in some ways."


No Triggering Allowed

We also had to explain that if any of our children teased or triggered their sibling, especially if they triggered him/her on purpose, then THEY would be the one getting in trouble.



Biokids Mimicking Behaviors

The biokids did try mimicking siblings behavior, and we had to squelch it pretty hard. They wanted to see if they could get away with it too. They usually only tried it once or twice before they "got" that our expectations of them were different. We held them to a higher standard that was age-appropriate for them.


Would We Do This Again?


I don't know.

There were some advantages -
  •  I don't think Bob would have become as much of  the mature, responsible woman she is today without the challenge of being the opposite of her sister. 
  • My relationship with Bob would have been a lot more antagonistic without the invention of the FAIR Club. She and I were so much alike (she was as stubborn and "spirited" as I was as a kid), that we butted heads all the time. The FAIR Club was the first and only discipline method that worked for us, and I wouldn't have invented it if we hadn't desperately needed the structure it provided. 
  • I think I'm a calmer, better parent for all of my children. I was "forced" to focus on Self-Care so I think I am a calmer, better person in general. 
  • It helped me set better priorities that benefited my family as a whole - Advocating for Yourself, Your Family, and Your Child - In That Order**


There were also some disadvantages -

  • It took me quite awhile to Find the Joy, and in the meantime, the whole family suffered from not having a stronger mom/ wife/ person. I was often depressed and easily triggered because my "bucket" was empty.
  • Biokids and adopted kids both felt like I loved the other one more. Biokids because they suffered from my focus on the needs of the adopted kids. Adopted kids, because they were jealous and felt that I favored the biokids, especially when the biokids got to do things the adopted kids weren't socially/ emotionally/ developmentally ready for. Age-Appropriate Therapeutic Parenting
  • Bob lost her position as oldest child, but still get a lot of the higher expectations expected of a first-born. Now that she's older, I probably rely on too much and overshare with Bob.
  • Especially when the girls were in puberty (and therefore insane and hated me). I probably relied a little too much on getting my "bucket" partially filled by Ponito, since we shared the same Love Language - Physical Touch. I loved cuddling with him (although since it is his love language, it helped fill him up too).
  • Ponito, my youngest, was often targeted (sometimes physically) by the adopted kids, because he was having the happy childhood they didn't get. 
  • Some of Ponito's issues went unnoticed or didn't get the attention they needed (ADD, anxiety disorder, failing grades, avoidance of emotional situations...).
Do the Kids Wish We Hadn't Adopted?
Probably.