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 17, 2010

What to do? What to do?

Bear's ARD - IEP meeting is Thursday. On Saturday, Hubby and I discussed our options on how we want to proceed this next year and that of course effects how we'll proceed with what we want at the ARD.

We started thinking we should back off on fighting to get Bear in the special school because he seems to be motivated to do well in school this year so he can get his license and go to Oklahoma to live with his Grandfather (whom we know nothing about, including whether or not this is a valid option for Bear). Then I started getting ready for the meeting and reviewing the reasons we made push for changes at the last ARD, and remembered the feelings and events. Oh yeah! Now I remember. Guess I'd repressed it.

Tonight we'd arranged an emergency meeting with Bear's therapist to discuss how we should proceed. He asked me to describe the options we'd come up with and how we felt about them.

1. Normal teenager - basically give him a clean slate and let him easily earn all the "normal" teenage stuff. This seems to be the option of choice of the caseworkers, school and therapists.

*Sometimes feels like Hubby thinks this way too, but as an option this one bothers Hubby the most. He feels this should be earned. Plus it would require us to trust Bear at home alone and in other ways that we don't feel comfortable with.*

Grandma prefers this option. She suggested it's too late for him to really attach to us at this point (let's face it, 17 is not the typical age and might even seem abusive), and our best bet is to focus on getting him ready for the real world. Her advice, if we must try to link his behavior with the family to his objectives is to make it very concrete and short term. Ex. Bear must behave appropriately with the family for one week, at which point he will be allowed to get a job. He must work well for 2 months at the job, and surrender all paychecks. At the end of 2 months if he's behaving appropriately he can start Defensive Driving (if at any point he's not behaving, then he loses his job and can't try again for a month).

2. Attachment to Commitment - basically commit to Katharine Leslie, and if we can afford it, do some consulting with her. Put Bear on notice that if he wants to do family stuff, then he has to be part of the family. Step up therapy, step up everyone's commitment and dedication.

Attachment techniques are often counterintuitive to normal parenting techniques and could even be seen as abusive.
  • Having to earn the right to a hot meal with the family, can look from the outside as though you're scapegoating or emotionally abusing the child who eats a sandwich in another room.
  • Teaching reciprocity requires making the child earn things (like help with homework, a ride to school, time to talk to parents) that are just naturally given by parents to healthy kids.
  • Enforcing parental control (so the child learns to trust that you can keep him safe) can look over controlling and severe.
  • With Kitty we did have to use physical restraints to keep her safe. This was what she absolutely needed. Bear needs to know that we can restrain him too (for the same reason - he is full of fear and MUST feel safe). On the other hand I am 95% sure we won't need to actually restrain him, he just needs to know we CAN.

This is one reason we've not totally committed to doing this for Bear. We did do this for Kitty and I firmly believe this is why she is attached now. If we choose this option, I feel we will need at least one strong professional support/advocate. So far all those concerned have said they'd "support" us, but all that means is they'll back us up (if we're lucky) not advise or help us. I'm afraid to make this choice without someone saying we're doing the right thing (not just to me, but to outsiders and the school, caseworkers, and family) and helping us figure out what that is. Then as Bear's therapist also pointed out, I need one more person to be fully committed, and that's Hubby.

Hubby's biggest concern is the effect this is going to have on the family. He is miserable being warden, and he’s already pretty overwhelmed as it is. Plus he knows I'm off my meds and taking on something like this, knowing confrontation and dealing with Bear in a bad mood is always stressful for me, well….

He worries most about the littles dealing with this, but in this respect I feel this option is better for the kids, because it gives us an "excuse" to protect them that we don't use now. (A kid in this program is not wanting to be/able to be part of the family, and therefore is not allowed to interact with the family on any terms but those set by the parents - which means we can say, "NO interaction with the other kids at all until he's ready to handle it.) We'd also go back to Grandma having extremely limited interaction with him as well.

The way I see it, the most we'd have to handle this intensity is 11 months. After that Bear turns 18 and leaves, or it "worked" and he's willing to stay. Still this is a MAJOR commitment, and until we can get our ducks in a row, then it looks like we’ll be sticking with status quo… with a few new twists.

I don’t think status quo will make any improvements for Bear, but it is evident that we’re kind of stuck with it for now.

3. Status quo - keep Bear under fairly close supervision, but still allowing him to do all the family stuff and a little "normal teen" stuff. I worry that this means keeping up the Mexican standoff and continue to let him treat women and kids as though it's OK to snap at us and be grumpy.

This is a combo of the other two options and is really a compromise. My concern is that it compromises so much that it loses the benefits of both (just enough Normal Teen to torment him like a carrot he knows he cannot have and be able to blame us for keeping it from him... and just enough Attachment to "poke the bear" and make him want to rebel against it and make us look "bad" to outsiders).

*This option makes me unhappy because I think it keeps everyone miserable - including Bear, and it means we're giving up hope that anything will improve because we're not doing anything differently. Over the years Bear's made lots of improvement, but it feels like we're regressing now.


I didn't adopt Bear thinking, "Oh, I want to adopt kids so I can keep them from killing themselves (joining a gang, getting someone pregnant, taking drugs...) until they are 18, and then be done with them." I'm also not foolish enough to think my kids are going to fall in love with me and think I'm the best thing since sliced bread and I'll be the perfect parent (not that I would have been adverse to this, just saying I am realistic). I do love my son and want him to at the very least have some idea of how to love, trust and respect females. Doesn't have to be me, but if not me... who? and if not now... when? My goal for Bear and our family is not, "Do no harm," it's more like "Help them 'be all they can be.'"


Over the past few days Grandma and all the kids have come up to me and commented on how hard Bear has been to live with for the last month, and how unhappy he's made everyone else - grumpy, irritable, rude, and of course sleeping. I don’t know what happened today at Grandma’s, but when I came home and said something to him (I think I asked who made brownies – this is an ongoing issue between Grandma and I. She apparently hates whole wheat flour and rarely uses artificial sugars. So the kids, especially Bear, love to eat and cook at her house. I have a horrible sweet tooth so I can’t resist either. Bear is majorly straining all his clothes, Kitty is gaining back the weight she lost this Summer. It’s frustrating. Plus, Bear put the dozens of brownies on the counter right before dinner, ate a few or more, and put a sign on them stating they were for sale $.10 apiece. I don’t like the idea of having them in the house in the first place, let alone making a profit off his siblings, or having cash in his pocket. I didn’t tell him no, just questioned what they were made of, who made them, and commented that I do not like the idea of charging for treats made with ingredients paid for by someone else. I plan to hide them before bed so the “Midnight Muncher” won’t eat them.)

Anyway, Bear bit my head off and then told me he didn’t want me to talk to him because he’d had a bad day. A little while later I dared speaking to him again, asking him if he’d had his mid-day meds (it was 7pm. He’s supposed to take them by 4pm at the latest). He snapped a “No” at me and said he’d do it. Flash forward to 15 minutes before bedtime (8:45pm), when he should already have taken his night meds. I asked him if he’d taken his mid-days and he jumped down my throat again. When I fussed at him for not taking them when he said he would, he denied my having mentioned it earlier. I also told him not to speak to me that way, and he justified his behavior by saying I’d irritated him earlier by fussing at him. Hubby mostly just listened, but did call him on his attitude a little.

Tomorrow is the ARD and I've been ignoring all the amazing IEP resources that Struggling To Stand gave me months ago. Guess I better get my rear in gear! And get some sleep right now!


GB's Mom said...

Best wishes- go with your gut!

Anonymous said...

Anxious to hear what you all decided, though I have to admit I don't see how option #3 is better than #1. (#2 I don't get at all... me being an "outsider" and all.)

marythemom said...

Still no official decision made. I'll keep you posted.

Purple - 3 is different from one because my kids aren't treated like other people's "normal teens." Actually there are a lot of people with "normal teens" who are as strict or stricter than I am, but not a lot.

My son doesn't have a cell phone.

He has a 9pm bed(room) time.

He is not allowed to go anywhere, even church youth group, without an adult family member. This includes leaving our front yard. We adults are pretty busy so he rarely goes anywhere.

He is not allowed to watch PG-13 or rated R movies.

Only Christian music is allowed.

He is not allowed to watch most cable channels. Even if it's an appropriate movie, if it's on a channel that advertises inappropriate shows like Degrassi and 16 year old parents. No Spongebob, Grossology, Recess... nothing on Cartoon Network (it has one or two appropriate shows, but it was easier to nix it than to argue about it).

I don't buy fried or sugary treats, sodas, or keep the house stocked with junk food. No caffeinated beverages allowed.

Even when he earned an allowance (which he doesn't anymore because he owes everyone money), he wasn't allowed to keep it in his pocket. I had final say on what he spent it on.

If he has friends over, especially girls, they must remain in the common areas of the house. Not even in the upstairs playroom because an adult needs to be able to see them easily.

This ended up being long so I'm going to post it.