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!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Five Stars! My Top 10(ish) things I couldn't do this without!

So many people ask what books and methods that I recommend for becoming a therapeutic parent and I realized that while I labeled things this way on my reviews, I had never actually gathered them together.  

There are a lot of fantastic books and techniques not listed here (for example, TBRI which is awesome and a lot like the therapeutic parenting we do, but wasn't really around when we started this process).  Those here are the ones I felt helped me the most on my own personal journey.

Please view the posts on the right sidebar ---->

These posts include everything I have read, learned, and thought, on a ton of topics (like School, dealing with Lying and Stealing, Traumaversaries, Age-Appropriate Therapeutic Parenting...). 

This post is about my favorite books and attachment gurus, but I hope you get a lot out of the other posts too! I've listed some of my favorites at the bottom of this post). 

Disclaimer:  Every child is different.  Their personalities, their histories, and where they are in their journey.  Parents and families are different too, and needs must change and adapt over time.  For this reason, no one technique or method will work for every child and family all the time.

How to Use This Blog
It is our job to try to find what works best for us and our family.  We will make mistakes and we will learn.   Most families end up taking bits and pieces of many different concepts and putting them together to form what works for them.  (That's what I did!)

Please take what you need from what you find here, and respect that other’s journeys may be different from your own. 

I am by no means an expert, this information is from resources I've gathered from my own reading, seminars, and other Trauma Mamas and parents on the support groups I belong to -- including, and especially, the amazing people in the international support group I admin - Parenting Attachment-Challenged Children

My top 10 in no significant order!
(I highlighted the actual books in RED. If it is underlined then it is also a link.).

I have done a whole series of posts reviewing the info in her books and seminars (see right sidebar of this blog) and I HIGHLY recommend her books - especially Coming to Grips with Attachment which is full of practical advice and great with older child adoption.

2.  Can This Child Be Saved? Solutions For Adoptive and Foster Families by Cathy Helding and Foster W. Cline - 

Image result for can this child be saved bookFoster Cline is one of the authors of the Love and Logic books.  I really like the L&L books, but they don’t work well with kids of trauma.  This book is written for those of us parenting kids with trauma and attachment issues. 

The title is scary, but it is very empowering and validating to parents. 

  • The first part of the book is an overview of the disturbed child.  
  • The second part of the book gives more practical parenting tools.  
To me, the best part of this book is that it lists both conventional and non-conventional techniques like Sticker Charts and why they do or don’t work with our kids! (Hint: Sticker Charts DON'T work with our kids!), giving us "ammo" and resources to quote to those pressuring us to use them.

These two series of posts combine most of what I've learned and/or used in a lifetime of working with special needs children, mentoring their parents, and caregiving (including my time as a director of a large preschool/daycare). Plus, of course, parenting my own children - including my severely mentally ill adopted children with RAD. I also have a Masters in Social Work with a focus on mental health and a Bachelor's in Psychology with a focus on child abuse and neglect. (And I'm ancient! lol) 

These behavior management techniques are a combination of all the therapeutic parenting techniques, methods, books, advice... that worked for me.

Trauma can cause significant delays in development (emotionally, socially, intellectually...).  Frequent moves and other traumatic life events can also cause delays or even get the child stuck at an age when trauma occurred. We need to parent our children based on where the child IS versus where they “should be,” basing our expectations of our child on that child’s emotional age.  
To parent your child where they ARE, sometimes means treating a teen like a 6-year-old. Or treating a 6-year-old like a toddler.  
Our kids may find "normal" kid stuff overwhelming. We had to keep our children's rooms stripped to the essentials, avoid overwhelming places like grocery stores and birthday parties, fight the school for accommodations, avoid letting the child get tired or hungry...
STRUCTURE and CARING SUPPORT - Children NEED structure and caring support to feel safe and start to heal.   This feeling of safety is usually not based in reality – it is a perceived feeling of safety.
 If the child feels that they are in control instead of us then their world is not SAFE.
To outsiders, the high level of structure we provide seems controlling and overprotective, but Bear really did feel safer knowing we cared enough to pay attention to him. I believe Bear often acted out when he felt unsafe just to increase our level of supervision. 
TBRI and connected parenting came along somewhat after my time, but it follows with most of what I've learned about therapeutic parenting. It's been highly recommended by other Trauma Mamas. I suggest you check it out!

The FAIR Club 

helped me be a better parent. It gave me a way to take the emotions out of consequences and adapt as my kids matured (Bob quickly figured out how to get around most methods - like 1-2-3 Magic - and level systems were usually so complex that we just couldn't maintain them). It also helped me parent kids who were at such different age levels (emotional and physical) and with significantly differing abilities. 

The concepts behind The FAIR Club work better when you are dealing with older kids (I'm speaking of emotional maturity, not chronological/ calendar age). 

I love that it adapts well when you have both bio kids (despite being physically younger, mine could generally handle more complex consequences) and kids with attachment/ trauma issues (who need the added support when they are dysregulated). Because it emphasized that every child is different and therefore has different consequences, even when 2 children did the same thing (for example, Kitty and Bob got different consequences when they stole some Barbies, despite being similar physical ages). 

The FAIR Club also allowed all the kids to see that everyone has consequences for "misbehavior," so they are less likely to mimic the behaviors (like cussing and rages) that they feel a sibling "got away with."  

Structure and Caring Support

Our biokids learned from The FAIR Club and grew out of the need for it. We found that for our adopted children that living 24/7 in a structured environment like The FAIR Club (without the writing assignments and extra chores) worked best for our adopted kids, and they needed it for a much longer time. 

4.  Self-Care - Caring for the Caregiver

I know it sounds stupid, but I needed "permission," encouragement, and constant reminders to take care of myself. 

Parenting a child with attachment issues is extra draining (especially when we're in the "fake it till you make it" stage) and we need extra support to deal with that. But it felt so wrong to prioritize myself over the needs of everyone else. 

Society tells us we should be nurturing and prioritize our family and people who work with our child tell us we have to prioritize that one child, you HAVE TO prioritize yourself over the needs of the family. 

One way I look at it is, like what they say on airplanes - you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first and then take care of those around you. If you give and give and give without getting much, if anything, back, then there is nothing left!

Prioritizing Yourself, Your Family, and Your Child - In That Order!

I also needed "permission to prioritize myself and the rest of the family over the needs of one child. Yes, my job as a parent is to help this child, but not at the expense of my marriage and the other children.

Continuous Traumatic Stress (CTS) - When Your Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is Not In The Past Yet

4a. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

This is not specifically a therapeutic parenting book, but I use the Love Languages daily.  Not just to help me understand my husband and family and express my love to them, but with every person I come in contact with.  With my employees, it helped me know how to best motivate them and reward their achievements.  With friends, I can figure out how best to express my appreciation or provide support.

Most importantly, it has helped me understand what I need and make sure my "love tank" is full, which is key to helping me be a good therapeutic parent. 

I'm going to repeat that...


My family struggles with their own needs and can't be counted on to fill my tank (although I have "trained" Hubby to speak to me in my Love Language!). 

Knowing my love language is Words of Affirmation means that I can focus my limited time and energy on meeting this need for myself. In my case, through this blog and the FB group I moderate. I can't tell you how many times a thank you or a positive comment brightened my day and helped fill my tank. (Of course, a negative comment, especially a troll, cuts deeply and leaves me feeling drained).

5.  Finding the Joy aka Choosing Joy
This is one of the most important concepts that helped me.  Accepting life the way it is and choosing to be happy. Remembering that I haven't failed when my children or my life aren't what I wanted and expected them to be.
You Haven't Failed!!
Another post that helped me, especially when I realized that my son was never going to be attached to me or handle any relationships for longer than a couple of weeks. 

6.  Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back 
Image result for stop walking on eggshells bookWhen Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder by Paul Mason MS, Randi Kreger
I found this book to be helpful for anyone dealing with a child with an attachment disorder, not necessarily borderline personality disorder. It helped me better understand why they acted this way, which helped me be more empathetic. It also helped me with setting boundaries for my children.

Raising Your Spirited Child : A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic by Mary Sheedy... by Image result for the explosive child book7.  The Explosive Child and Raising Your Spirited Child  Neither of these books is specifically about children of trauma, but the latter is the only reason Bob survived to the age of 4!  I learned a lot about personality differences and what a difference tolerance levels can make. I couldn't understand why Bob (and my other children) did a lot of the things she did, and this book really helped me have insight and empathy into our differences (and the things we had in common!).

Image result for the bipolar child book8.  The Bipolar Child- This is another book that should be in the bookshelf of all parents who are dealing with a child with trauma and mood issues.  While trauma will not cause things like bipolar disorder, if a child has a genetic predisposition to mental illness, trauma can trigger early onset!  A substantial number of children end up in foster care because they have mentally ill family members.  

This book discusses not only how Bipolar Disorder looks in children (which is significantly different than in adults), but also other disorders and issues with similar symptoms that can mimic bipolar disorder.  (ADHD, PTSD, trauma…).  It also discusses medications and their effects.  This is a great reference book!  

Three of my four children are diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  I’m finding it interesting how much overlap there is between bipolar and RAD.  This book has some spots that are dry and tough to read but has also got some extremely helpful info.  And not just for bipolar disorder in kids.

9.   Beyond Consequences Logic and Control: A Love-Based Approach to Helping Attachment-Challenged Children With Severe Behaviors by Heather T. Forbes and B. Bryan Post 

I use this book primarily to remind myself where my children are coming from (fear!), especially when they're Raging.  It helps me with empathy.  

When I read it though, I do have to keep in mind that this book tends to be negative toward parents. The book's premise is that if we follow their recommendations then the child will get better, if the child doesn't get better, then it's our fault.  That's just not true! 

10.   Support!! 
Trauma Mamas - I started on this journey feeling alone. No one around me had adopted teens. No one had adopted children with severe special needs. I found one forum that finally led me to people like me.
Christine Moers at Welcome to My Brain  is a weird, Christian chick with dreadlocks and tats and the most amazingly warm and understanding person you can imagine - a coach who really "gets it."  

She co-created with Billy Kaplan, a DVD called "Chaos to Healing: Therapeutic Parenting 101" - which explains Dan Hughes' PACE technique extremely well and I highly recommend it.  She also offers therapeutic parent coaching and crazy, amazing YouTube videos.  (I can no longer hear a certain song without substituting the word pee!)
And Lisa, a blogger at Life in the Grateful House, started this journey at about the same time I did, and I have the privilege to call her my friend. She has been incredibly transparent on her blog about her amazing work with her daughter J.

Plus many others who helped me with our unique, individual journey because something about them and/or the blogs they shared, resonated within me.  In the blogging world, I found people who are kinda like me and going through what I went through or maybe is doing things totally differently than I would, but has something I could learn from. 

The biggest reason I've made it this far:

Online support groups 
Beyond Trauma and Attachment and other Facebook Groups including one of the ones I now admin (Parenting Attachment Challenged Children), provide the most support I've ever found.  Parents from all over the world at all hours of the day and night, reaching out to people who "get it" to ask and answer questions, rant or rejoice, just let others know that they are not alone.  These amazing parents sit in their living rooms or at a Starbucks, or even meet in real life (once a year, there is a large group of Trauma Mamas that meets in Orlando).  

These therapeutic parents made more of a difference for me than any other therapist, medication, book or resource.  They "get it."  

Real life support - people like Hubby - who's always got my back, Grandma - who provided weekly respite for years - BLESS HER!, Leslie, Sherry, Lori, Kim... fellow trauma mamas who listen to me vent and give constructive advice, Terry and Mike and the COAC (local adoption support group) and the ACT crew, Kitty's attachment therapist... and my friends and family who don't really "get it," but who listen and support me anyway (Denise, Sharon, Caty, Cuz Susanna, Cuz John...)...