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, May 6, 2009

Anger Management

Kitty had a big test of her ability to handle her anger on the way home from her new program in the van. I have no idea who thought it was a good idea to put 6-7 emotionally disturbed teens in a 9 passenger van for up to 1 1/2 hours each way with only a driver and no aide. (You know that I have stated this vehemently to many people at the program.)

Two girls, one of whom Kitty had thought of as her best friend, began picking on Kitty (stomping and pulling on her seat belt), and when she continued to ignore their behavior her BFF told the other girl to pull Kitty's hair. Kitty's hair is one of her triggers, and she turned and snapped at the girls, "I swear to God if you..." I'm so proud of her, and she was very proud of herself, that she didn't finish the sentence.

Luckily she went almost straight to therapy (by way of the ice cream shop!) and was able to vent and deal with the anger that she had just swallowed -- instead of inflicting it on us.

While we were discussing how she deals with her anger, how we (her parents) deal with our anger came up. At one point Kitty deflected the discussion by accusing us of yelling and cussing when we get angry, so therefore she can do it too. I pointed out that we rarely even raise our voice and I think I've "cussed" maybe twice in the 2 1/2 years she's lived here (and those words were probably "shut up" and "crap.") We reminded Kitty that it is her perception that we are yelling at her. Even speaking firmly triggers her, so we wouldn't dream of actually yelling at her - not to mention we are pretty calm people, we don't naturally yell or throw things.

We know Kitty is triggered to fight, flight or freeze reactions when she is scared of others. We know that shows of anger trigger this as well. For Kitty "behaving" means not showing anger or letting others know she is upset. Swallowing her feelings and running away from her feelings are common for her. I didn't want her to finish the sentence, "I swear to God if you do that again I'll kill you," which is how she wanted to finish it but I also don't want her to "behave" at this school and stuff all her emotions. Otherwise what's the point of having her in the program. I want her to learn to say something like, "Cut it out!" or "Leave me alone!" I want her to know it is not tattling to tell the bus driver.

I'm worried that we are not role modeling the proper way to deal with anger.

As a young child my anger actually triggered epileptic seizures for me. My mom's way of helping me deal with this was to teach me to avoid situations that triggered anger. I still feel very uncomfortable with both mine and other's anger.

When Kitty accuses me of not dealing with my anger well, I get very frustrated, because I feel that I'm dealing with it the same way she does - by swallowing it. At the same time, she can't handle anything else, so I guess for now nothing will change.

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