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!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Family meeting

I sent out this e-mail on May 8th:

Bear has been crying and moody a lot lately (both at home and at school) and isn’t sleeping again. He says he is upset about his sister’s issues and girlfriend trouble, and “everything.” He seems very depressed and I’m a little worried. Also, he’s still "fidgeting,"{when Bear's meds are not right he gets what we call "twitchy" - uncontrollable body movements, including adjusting his shoulders like he's trying to
"settle in" to his chair continuously, can't keep his hands still...}, but it’s not as bad as it was.

{Info about meds deleted}


Over a week later I received this e-mail:

Hi Mary,

{Kitty's skills trainer} and I have discussed your email and wondered if you would be interested in having a family meeting (Bear and Kitty and whomever else you think is being affected by the current situation) as well as {Kitty's skills trainer} and myself. It seems that with all of us present it would allow us to be on the same page and hopefully with clear direction as to what we can hope for with the upcoming summer.


{Bear's skills trainer}

The next evening was the "Sock it to Stigma" support meeting and both skills trainers were there. I told them both that while I think Bear would benefit from this, and we've discussed doing it in therapy, we had decided that Kitty was not ready. I mentioned to Bear's skills trainer that in addition to all the other reasons we had, Kitty had only met her skills trainer 3 times so I did not feel they had established enough of a relationship to help Kitty feel safe.

The next day, Kitty's skills trainer met us for Kitty's weekly skills training session (which I'm considering dropping, or at least not allowing the trainer to meet with Kitty alone, because the trainer has unrealistic goals and keeps getting Kitty wound up with entitlement expectations that make her angry and resentful. After meeting with Kitty, the trainer tried to talk me into letting the meeting with Bear et al go forward.

These are the reasons I gave her for saying no:

  • With more than one or two adults present, it would feel to the kids like we were ganging up on them and they would just shut down (this always happens during IEP meetings) - doesn't matter how many times we tell them they're not in trouble. It's a strong defense mechanism.

  • Bear already feels like Kitty going into psych hospitals is his fault (for whatever reason) and this would just solidify this in his mind.

  • Kitty is physically afraid of Bear (and everyone bigger than she is). We keep the two of them apart most of the time for this reason so that she can regulate. Consciously she may know that he won't hit her, because he hasn't in 3 years, but subconsciously I know she remembers Bear hurting her when they were little (he has choked her, punched her, and rough housed with her). They're only a year and a half apart in age so he was only acting like unsupervised, abused kids with no boundaries would... but he was a BIG kid and she was little. He's NEVER hit me (although he's gotten violent with Hubby), and even I flinch when he gets angry. Bear is not allowed to physically touch the other kids, beyond a mutually agreed upon hug. He doesn't know his own strength, and has roughhoused or even just run into Ponito and seriously hurt him. He has justified his aggressive behavior with the fact that the other person started, or he perceived that they started it, and this scares all of us. Bear is NEVER left unsupervised with any of the kids for this reason. I just can't trust him.

  • Kitty is intimidated by Bear. When they first came to live with us, she catered to his every whim (offering him her seat, the best of everything, and asking him if she could get him anything). It's only been in the last year or so that Kitty has been able to stand up to Bear at all and tell him no. When Bear is confronted, he tends to get defensive and angry. If my husband is unable to attend this meeting then it will be a bunch of women - who Bear rarely has a problem letting them see him at his patronizing, intimidating worst. Even if he holds it in because he hasn't let any of these women see that side of him, Kitty knows he could go off at any moment and there is no one there to keep her safe (well, there's me, but that doesn't always feel like enough).

  • She also has only recently (in the last couple of years) begun to be willing to say or hear anything negative about him. It is still hard for her to hear even implied criticism or to want to criticize him. This could set her off. Kitty still subconsciously believes that if Bear is in trouble then he will be kicked out of the house and within months she will follow (this is historically how it has happened throughout her life - she lost biofamily this way and her first foster home).

  • This is something that needs to be addressed in therapy! With skilled therapists who know the kids, know the history, and know the parents. We've discussed this with the therapists already and we agreed that while Bear might benefit from the different perspective that Kitty can provide on their childhood, that Kitty is nowhere near where she needs to be to handle it emotionally.

I do want to have a meeting with Bear’s therapist this weekend, but instead of bringing Kitty, I want to bring Grandma. In talking with Grandma I believe we’re missing a lot of what’s going on when we (the parents) aren’t around. He is a lot more intimidating and threatening to women and kids, especially when he believes he’s unsupervised. This really concerns me in that I think this will really effect his future employment, I would like to be able to leave him unsupervised at some point in his future, and I’d REALLY like to address this during this last year we have with him as a “child.” Also while we have a few months left with the skills trainer who can provide yet another opportunity and perspective to helping him learn how to handle this appropriately.


Accidental Expert said...

I am impressed by your insight into your children and how you advocate for them. I'm also impressed that your therapists want to work collaboratively, however misguided. This is something we have yet to get. Seems our kids professionals tend to work in a vacuum. Good luck with your meeting.

Anonymous said...

Mary: I worry sometimes that you try too hard to get others to not just agree to what you feel is best, but for them to understand ("buy into it"). For people like the skills trainer who aren't likely to be in your lives for much longer, I think just this one part was needed:
"This is something that needs to be addressed in therapy! With skilled therapists who know the kids, know the history, and know the parents." If there is resistance past that point, you can say "If you knew the history, you wouldn't be asking for this. And since you are asking for it, you prove my point about not knowing the kids' history!"

On the subject of Bear's meds, on the one hand I'd say it is worth looking at increasing his anti-seizure med (even if it isn't used for that purpose). Did he recently switch from name-brand to generic? On the other hand, just this morning I was wondering how much of Bear's insomnia is caused by that same med.