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 usually remember to label things this way on my reviews, I've never actually gathered them together.  There are a lot of fantastic books not listed here (for example, TBRI which is awesome, 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, thought, on a ton of topics (like school, dealing with lying and stealing, traumaversaries, age appropriate parenting...). This post is about my favorite books and attachment gurus, but I hope you get a lot out of the other posts too!

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.

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

So here's my top 10 in no significant order!

I have done a whole series of posts on her books and seminars (see right sidebar of this blog) and 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 - 
Foster Cline is one of the authors of the Love and Logic books.  I really like the L&L books, but they don’t really work well with kids of trauma.  This book is different.  This is one of my favorite books to help with kids of trauma.  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 is that it lists both conventional and non-conventional techniques (like sticker charts and and why they do and don’t work with our kids!

Two series of posts that combine most of what I've learned and/or used in a lifetime of caregiving (including my time as a director of a large preschool/daycare)/ parenting/ and education (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.
Age-Appropriate Parenting - (Chapter 1: Parenting based on Developmental/Emotional Age) Trauma can cause significant delays in development (emotionally, socially, intellectually...).  Frequent moves and other traumatic life events can also cause delays or even get them stuck at the age the 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, even if that means treating a teen like a 6 year old.  Or a 6 year old like a toddler.  These 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, and avoid letting them get tired or hungry...  (Explaining Age-Appropriate Parenting to Your Child )
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 acted out when he felt unsafe just to increase our level of supervision. 
Karyn Purvis and TBRI 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 - or they were so complex - level systems - that we just couldn't maintain them, but with The FAIR Club that never happened). The concepts behind The FAIR Club work better when you are dealing with older kids (we're talking emotional maturity not chronological/ calendar age), but I found it adapts well when you have both bio kids (who can generally handle more complex consequences) and kids with attachment/ trauma issues (who need the added support when they are dysregulated). The kids see that everyone has consequences for "misbehavior" so are less likely to mimic the behaviors that they feel a sibling "got away with."  Our biokids learned from The FAIR Club and grew out of the need for it. We found that living 24/7 in the structured environment of The FAIR Club (without the writing assignments and extra chores) worked best for our adopted kids, and they will probably need it for much longer.

4.  Caring for the Caregiver
Sounds stupid, but I needed "permission" and encouragement 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. It felt so wrong (since society tells us we should be nurturing and prioritize our family) but you HAVE TO prioritize yourself over the needs of the family. One way I look at it is, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." If you give and give and give without getting much or anything back, then there is nothing left!
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 helps to know how to best reward their achievements and motivate them.  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 making sure my "love tank" is full, which is key to helping me be a good therapeutic parent. 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 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.
Advocating for 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.
Self-Care - Caring For The Caregiver**
Getting Respite, Planning a Retreat**

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!!**

6.  Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder by Paul Mason MS, Randi Kreger - I found this to be helpful for anyone dealing with a child with an attachment disorder, not necessarily borderline personality disorder.

7.  The Explosive Child and Raising Your Spirited Child - Neither of these books are 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!).

8.  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!  

My children are also 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's more about empathy.  When I read it though, I do have to keep in mind that it 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 the case!

10.   Support 
Bloggers - 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.
Like Christine Moers at Welcome to My Brain who is a weird, Christian chick with dreadlocks and tats, and the most amazingly warm, adviser 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.  She also does does therapeutic parent coaching and crazy, amazing YouTube videos.  I can no longer hear a certain song without substituting the word pee!
And Lisa 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 the blogs they shared, resonated within me.  Check out the blogging world and see if there's someone out there that's like you and going through what you're going through or maybe is doing things totally differently than you would, but has something you can learn from. I admit I don't really have time to read blogs anymore, but they're in my reader because they've touched me in some way.  Like books on my shelves that I can go back and read sometimes when I need to hear from a friend.

The biggest reason I've made it this far:

Online support groups like Beyond Trauma and Attachment  and other Facebook Groups including the one I now moderate, 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 ask and answer questions, rant or rejoice, just let others know that they are not alone.  They sit in their living rooms or at Starbucks, or meet in real life.  Once a year, there is a large group of Trauma Mamas that meets in Orlando.  They've made more of a difference for me than any other therapist, medication, book or resource.  They "get it."  Many of these people are also bloggers, like the amazing Christine Moers.

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 ACT crews, 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...)...

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Anonymous said...

Mary, your pointers are more than a life-line for other families on this journey! I can't imagine how much research and life experience has gone into what you so honestly, kindly (and even with some humor) have shared. If people still meet in Orlando every year, we're in :) Thank you! Kathy G.

marythemom said...

Thank you for the compliments. :)

Yes! They still have the retreat in Orlando every year! It's in February this year, and I think they still have openings. The website is not up to date, but the contact info should be good.

marythemom said...

Apparently I had a bad link. Here's the up to date info on the retreat -