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!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ever heard the idea...

that the way the child's twos go will be a pretty good indicator of how their teens will be? This terrifies me!!!

Bob at 2, notice how much taller than the other children she is?!

Bob hit the "terrible twos" at 17 months and didn't come out again until age 4.5 years. She about drove me around the bend, and was the reason I "discovered" the internet. When Bob was 2.5 years old, I found a parenting website based on a fantastic book that I credit for being the only reason Bob is alive today. Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. The message board is no longer in existence, but it was great to be able to go somewhere and get support from other parents who's children have painted the dog blue. (This is also how I feel about the Special Needs forum on

How angelic she looks! Believe me, it's an act!

So now that she's entered the "terrible teens" at only 12 - but she does everything early - what do I do with her?!

My family has a strong genetic predisposition to bipolar disorder. My grandfather and his 5 brothers had it and committed suicide. His two sisters probably had it as well. My mom has it, I have it... so when my daughter starts acting moody I have the added worry of - is this adolescent onset of bipolar disorder/ depression? At age 13 my mom remarried, we moved to a more affluent part of town, I was chronically ill with colds and flu (lowered immune system is a standard side effect of depression) so missed tons of school, and within a year I left home to go live with my father. Obviously I was miserable and moody as all get out, with many life-changing reasons, let alone being a teenager. The depression didn't go away though so I look back now and say - "oh yea, that was the start of my issues with depression."

My mom says the same thing happened to her and her mother talked about sending her away, but although her father intervened, he never mentioned he understood because he'd gone through the same thing. Mental illness was taboo. I don't want Bob to spend her teen years miserable if there is anything I can do about it. Obviously teens are moody and miserable, it's part of being a teen, but depression makes it so much worse. Bob doesn't have the same history that Bear and Kitty do (or I did), but this has been a tough couple of years with a lot of life-changing events.

Lately Bob has been moody, miserable and defiant. Normally I'd ignore this, but the problem is she's dragging down Kitty with her. Kitty is feeding off her moods and it's triggering major issues for her - add that to Kitty's biomom recently having a baby, and our two year anniversary (yes, we got the kids 2 years ago today!!!), and all she can talk about is wanting to go back to her biomom. Bob would be happy to drag her all the way there - Bob's been seeing all the downsides to having her new siblings (Kitty isn't allowed to watch Harry Potter and the Tenth Kingdom because they triggers issues for her so no one gets to watch them, I invented the FAIR Club because of the adoption, Bob is no longer the oldest child, Bob doesn't go to public school because of Kitty...). I've tried to point out some of the positives, but she'd rather be miserable.

So last Sunday, Bob refused to go to church. Not a horrible thing in and of itself, but I had to deal with her so I didn't get to go either. It escalated as I kept trying to find a way to get through to her. I tried reasoning, empathy, telling her stories from my childhood, and eventually moved to threatening and consequences. She of course went in the FAIR club, and as it worsened I told her I was taking away her saved allowance (about $45) - no impact, then told her I would empty her room of books - she kept on escalating from pouting to yelling and storming out. At this point Hubby got home from church with the rest of the kids and started trying to talk to her. For awhile she escalated and I loaded up three grocery bags full of her books and put them by the front door. She finally calmed down so I stopped. Later she put the bags back in her room. I saw them, but decided to let it go.

This weekend Bob didn't want to go shopping (wouldn't you know I, the bargain queen, get kids who hate shopping?!), even though it was mostly for clothes for her. She's grown so much and the weather is supposedly changing soon (it's still in the mid-eighties) so she needed cold weather clothes. Bob pitched a fit and refused to go. I tried to stay calm, but really hate it when she cops an attitude like this.

Hubby got involved and talked to her until she calmed down some and went to her room. Hubby then got on my case about allowing Bob to get to me, and always escalating the situation. He blamed me for my inability to listen to Bob and hear her side of it?!! I admit sometimes I get angry and punish Bob by doing things like taking away her books - which didn't help the situation, but I don't know what else to do! I do listen to Bob and her concerns, but sometimes the answer is, "Tough toenails. We all have to do things we don't want to do." Bob does what he says because he's a big, strong Dad and doesn't accept disobedience. When she acts like this should I let her walk all over me? She won't do what I say just because I say it. Hubby doesn't seem to get that. I admit this verbal dressing down in front of my mom and the other kids really hurt my feelings.

When I went in to check on Bob, I found her crying on her bed instead of getting ready to go as Hubby thought she was. I talked to her for awhile, listened to her complaints, said some of the things that Hubby had pointed out might help (mentioning how I'd felt like this at her age), and she finally got up, got her shoes on and got in the car. Soon thereafter though, the attitude returned. She refused to move, ran away from me to sit on the side of the building when it was time to leave, pitched verbal fits, whined and complained, demanded things she knew I wouldn't buy her... and was generally a horrid brat. The sales clerks all marveled at how I managed to stay calm (which I admit made me feel better). What should have taken 2 hours max, ended up taking 5, and we didn't get everything we needed!

On the way home (finally) she became even more verbally defiant. I tried to ignore her, but she kept dragging the other kids into it, especially Kitty. She made sure I knew that there was nothing I could do to consequence her and mentioned getting the books back. (Later I made sure to mention that I allowed her to get the books back.) I told the other children to ignore her, but Kitty wasn't able to. I kept warning Kitty that she shouldn't let Bob get her into trouble, but Kitty was already triggered and started talking about going back to Nebraska and biomom. *sigh*

I know I'm a little depressed right now, and felt that I might have taken Hubby's talking to me in the wrong way, but my mom confirmed that he was obviously criticizing me, and in front of the kids. Hubby tends to discount my mom's opinions because she thinks he is depressed too (has for years) and has suggested anti-depressants to him. He doesn't believe in popping pills for everything (OK, for almost anything) and doesn't really like me taking them either. He felt that my mom was suggesting meds for Bob (she wasn't). Anyway, he's not being the big support he usually is, and when I talked to him about hurting my feelings, he feels crucified (did I mention I agree with my mom that he's probably depressed?!).

Basically I'm at my wit's end. The FAIR Club is insufficient, consequences must be applied or all the other kids see Bob "getting away with" this behavior (as does Bob)and their behavior becomes more defiant. I plan to have Bob read the entire book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens as she reads super fast and this is nowhere near her first offense. I'm thinking of getting Bob into therapy for a little while but truthfully we can't afford the $25 copays. I'm skilled at therapeutic parenting now, but I'm used to the support of meds and a therapist.

OK, this is a really long post. I'm going to stop now. I'll tell you tomorrow how our 2 year anniversary goes!


Brenda said...

Sounds like some tough times ((((((hugs))))))) email me at next to you are coming to Nebraska! We started back to Attachment therapy.There is NO WAY I have time to do this right now but I can't stand not to either.

Anonymous said...

Looks like you've got three issues there: 1) "Bob's" behavior/health. 2) DH's behavior towards you 3) Your behavior as a mom and wife.

The easy one to tackle is DH. Bring it up again and say, "I appreciate your insight into how to handle Bob. You've been dealing with me for "umpteen" years so you've got some experience and I respect that. But, please in the future if you think I need some redirecting pull me asside somewhere private and talk to me kindly. I was really embarrassed by the way you corrected me in public." Then go on to ask him for tips on how to deal with Bob right now. I have learned from my sons how to talk to my DD, ODS has some real insight in that arena. And I have had to talk to DH about how to talk to MDS and DD, but I try to do it in private. No adult wants to be corrected, but if you have a two-way conversation it won't feel so punitive.

As for Bob, watch her moods in conjunction w/ her cycle. Bump up her vitamin B, investigate naturopathic alternatives (you know, those ginko-lavender-echinascia options)and try to see what tone of voice works the best, especially for the 3-5 days leading up to her period. Good physical activity sometimes helps, too. Then also watch her for bi-polar, but rather than assuming she has it, assume she doesn't and try as hard as you can to "cure" her of PMS. You may see an improvement, but if depression becomes evident then you'll know that you have to take her in to the doc.

That's my 2cents. I have a 13y/o daughter, but no special needs involved. My sister has a 16y/o who was almost hospitalized for depression this summer and I've seen what she's going through as a mom. There were/are no easy answers!

Big HUG. (((Mary)))

Anonymous said...

Denise has some great advice. I went through so much of this with my bio daughter (she's 13 now). Jealousy was a HUGE portion of it and she didn't have a clue how to express it other than defiance and anger.

Don't engage her. That has been the biggest help for us. If she's pitching a fit and won't stop or leave the room, take everyone else out of the room. If there's no audience, there's no reason for drama. Be consistent in this.

Focus on teh positives. Instead of a list of "no" things, go at it from the "yes" side. I may have asked Anne to clean her room but she only made her bed. I focus on that positive and not the negative of what she didn't do. It has made her crave that attention more because she's not getting negative attention.

Sometimes, as hard as my children can be to parent, I think my bio daughter has been the hardest. We have "reasons" why our adopted children behave a certain way (abuse, neglect, mental illness, etc.) but our birth children shouldn't be misbehaving! Unfortunately, they are only human. ;-)

I wish I could figure out exactly the perfect way to help bio siblings assimilate new siblings into the family. Our problems with Anne didn't start until puberty -- several years after the other children joined the family. It's definitely a trigger time and one that needs more research and education.