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!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Common Comment Response


I wanted to address one of the comments I receive a lot.

"If I was Kitty I would want to move out to get away from you.

Yes, what you see on my blog does appear controlling and restrictive.  There's several reasons for that:

  • I think people are projecting their own feelings or experiences on my children.  Yes, as adults or older teens being treated like a child would be demeaning and feel controlling.  I remember how I felt as teen, ready to get out on my own and try new things.  My mom was pretty strict and protective, and I wanted to rebel from that.  I lived in a big city and I look back now and realize how much my mom's rules protected me.  I had so many friends who got raped, pregnant, dropped out of school...  That being said, I did rebel against some of the rules, and I dealt with the consequences - which luckily weren't too severe.  I think how I parent 17yo Bob and even 14yo Ponito (which I don't talk about much on this blog, since it's not about neurotypical teens), shows that I can parent teens well.  HOWEVER!!!  Kitty is NOT an older teen!!
  • Kitty is at best age 10.  Yes, she gets jealous of the privileges her neurotypical siblings have, what little sister doesn't?   This doesn't mean those privileges are right for her.  RAD behaviors and teenage rebellion/ independence LOOK alike but they are NOT.  Kitty will not be moving out, because 10 year olds expect to have this kind of structure and support.  She may not always like it, but deep down she knows we love her and she doesn't want to leave, just like any other young child.  It is not appropriate or in Kitty or Bear's best interest to parent them like I would a child of their chronological age.   
  • I've been burned before.  I do base some of my responses on our prior experiences.  Honestly, we bowed to pressure a lot with Bear and gave him more freedom than he could handle, and he felt abandoned because of it!   He NEEDS structure and support and when we didn't provide it, he assumed it was because we didn't want to, instead of realizing it meant we were trusting him!  I think he was afraid to admit that he needed the structure and love, so he found ways to force us to give it to him!  I have become more structured, because I know it's what is needed and I'm learning to trust my instincts.
  • I know I tend to overplan and overthink things.  {I also tend to use more words than less!  ;) }  I like to have at least an outline of a plan, which I really am OK with changing.   I try to use this blog (and other resources) as a sounding board.  This blog is often where I experiment and "talk things through" before implementing them.  Although it usually hurts {a LOT} to hear, you guys give me some good feedback, and I listen. Sometimes I change my mind, sometimes I tweak things, and other times I stick with my first instinct. 


Anonymous said...

I think I see what you mean - I can imagine Kitty wanting the same things her sister has, but if you gave her those privileges she might end up saying (or thinking, anyway) "you don't care what happens to me!" It must be very difficult to want what other kids your age have, but not be ready for it.

On a related note, what do you think about her plans to become a flight attendant?

marythemom said...

I think her plans to become a flight attendant are unlikely to happen. In addition to it being a highly competitive field, she needs:
* to stay calm in a crisis (not have her processing ability drop to next to nothing).
* to be able to speak a foreign language or two fluently (she can barely read and write English).
* to relocate to whatever city the airline's major hub is located.
* to be able to drive.
* to be able to pass a swim test and be physically fit.
* it's not specifically mentioned, but I imagine that requiring multiple psychotropic medications, which cannot be discontinued abruptly would be a deterrent to an airline
* Most importantly she needs to be more than 10 years old!

Miz Kizzle said...

An airline couldn't refuse to hire her as a flight attendant because she's on psychotropic meds. That violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, you're right that she wouldn't be a good candidate if she can't remain calm in a crisis. It doesn't seem from what you write that she is very good at multi-tasking, something flight attendants have to excel at.
Do you know any flight attendants, or can her school guidance office put her in touch with one? Maybe they could talk to Kitty and explain what the job is really like.

marythemom said...

Miz K - If she doesn't meet the criteria to get a driver's license ("Do you currently have or have you ever been diagnosed with or treated for any medical condition that may affect your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle?") - then I think they CAN refuse to hire her. I think you're right that it can't be because she may not have access to her meds (although that was an issue for Bear with the military), but they can because of the side effects of those meds.

Anonymous said...

From what I understand I don't think being able to speak a foreign language would be required for domestic US service, although Spanish certainly would be helpful. Is she thinking she wants to go international?

Aside from an employer hiring her, I wonder if she'd really like it - she'd be away from home, on her own, and she doesn't seem that independent right now.

So she doesn't qualify to get a driver's license? I see that you said your husband was thinking of having her get her learner's permit.

Erika said...

The reality is that Kitty is not obligated to attach to you. She is not obligated to like you or love you. That's a really painful truth. I don't doubt that you love her or that you adopted her with good intentions, but she might not return those feelings and she doesn't have to.

What I struggle with when reading your blog is that on the one hand you're quire controlling due to Kitty's mental illnesses/borderline IQ yet on the other hand you demand that she has insight to her actions, that she exhibit advanced reasoning skills, and that she cooperates in therapy. I'm a clinical psych and someone who fits Kitty's profile usually does not benefit from insight therapy. It's not because she's a bad person or you're a bad mom; she's probably incapable of having that level of insight due to her limitations. As far as "attachment therapy" is concerned, many of us in the field are strongly against what some practitioners, like Nancy Thomas, peddle. It's not evidence based practice, it's coercive, and again, no child (adopted or biological) is obligated to bond to a parent. You can't force it. And of course, attachment therapy often ignores that it's not just the child who is disordered: the parent/child relationship is disordered. The parent or primary caregiver is part of the problem.

I work with adults like Kitty in a supported housing program. Many of them have similar problems with their families, histories of trauma and abuse, significant mental illnesses, and poor coping skills. Many of my clients are not attached to their parents or don't like their families. That's okay. They don't have to like their families. Since they are over eighteen their families do not even have to be involved in treatment. If they never talk to their parents again there's nothing I can do about it. In fact, I think it's healthy for some of my clients to cut ties with their families due to the histories of trauma and abuse. It's sort of like the Bonnie Rait song, "I Can't Make You Love Me".

You can't make Kitty love you. You can't force her to have feelings that she just doesn't have.

marythemom said...

Yes, she wants to travel internationally. She wants to believe she's independent. She dissociates from her needs.

I don't know why Hubby told Kitty she could get her permit. I think he was bending under the pressure we get to let her do age appropriate stuff. Also, he's not as familiar with Kitty's issues and the criteria for a driver's license.

Just because we didn't pursue legal guardianship, doesn't mean she doesn't need it. Everyone forgets that sometimes, even me.

Joy in Belgium said...

I get the same comments from people on how I parent my 10 yr old daughter. She came to use at age 2 and already was showing signs of RAD. She would run to people and hold her arms out to be held and they would be so rude when I asked them to please not give her attention as she needed to bond with me only. I have been told how unfair I am to her because I am so much "harder" on her than my neuro-typical kids. People just don't get it. These kids require TOTALLY different parenting. Until you live it, you don't get it. I like to read your blog because it is like I am seeing what the future could hold for my daughter and I like learning some of the approaches you have tried. Know there are parents like me reading that like to know they are not alone.

marythemom said...

Erika - Of course Kitty is not obligated to love us, but she does. The problem is that she doesn't know how to express it. That's what we're trying to teach her. I agree that it's OK for Kitty not to like us, but we'll have to agree to disagree on the fact that she doesn't have to love us. I believe that people NEED to love others - especially kids. It's what we're designed for!

Unlike the adults in your supported housing program Kitty is still a child and as such she is still learning how to love and be loved.

I admit I get frustrated with Kitty's lack of insight and reasoning skills, it's so hard to know what she can and cannot do, sometimes I have to step back and remind myself that something is over her head. Often I go ahead with things anyway, because it's not going to work either way, so I might as well get something out of it. Other times, she surprises me.

As for attachment therapy, we don't actually do that anymore - she's anxiously attached now. Kitty still sees an attachment therapist (the same one she's seen for over 6 years), but we do trauma, somatic, EMDR... other types of therapy. I don't agree with everything Nancy Thomas, or even my fav attachment person Katharine Leslie teaches, but a lot of it works and makes sense. It's better than nothing! Here's a post expressing my thoughts on attachment therapy

marythemom said...

Thank you Joy! You're the reason I write this blog. :)

Lisa said...

No, no one can really understand what its like to have expectations that aren't fulfilled, or love that's not reciprocated, or to spend every waking moment working so very hard to help a child that you love be successful - only to have them sabotage every effort you make - UNLESS THEY LIVE IT. I know things sound very restrictive and truthfully, wouldn't our lives be so much simpler if we could just enroll them in school, drivers ed, etc and forget about it? That is never going to happen with kids like ours. I think every one of them shows very similar behaviors and thought processes which convince me that there is a very specific part of the brain being affected by trauma/abuse and lack of attachment. I also see how each one is very individual and need very specific plans to help them cope and grow and try to live in our society. Best case scenario? There is a big community out there somewhere where the kids/young adults can have a type of assisted living with therapists, cooks, job coaches, etc who teach them day in and day out the things they fight us on simply because we're "Mom" and they don't want to relinquish control to us. Where they can live indefinitely but are encouraged to have realistic goals and can branch out into the community and society at their own pace (if at all). Where they are protected from predators who would steal their money, and take advantage of their vulnerability just because they are so trusting and because they so desperately want to fit in. Because this place does not exist (and frankly, could WE afford something so wonderful?) we have to muddle along the best way we can - dealing with the world as it exists right now. Some people will help, some will do irreparable harm to our kids, to our relationships with them, some with be so ineffectual that we want to slap ourselves for being so trusting and gullible and wasting valuable time. It is life.

I think you are doing all you can. It's never as much as we want it to be. I have point blank told two of my RAD daughters that I know they don't want to be here. That when I was their age I had tons of freedom - and tons of responsibility. That I wouldn't be happy living the way they are right now - but that they are the only ones that have the power to change things (if it's even possible and within their abilities). We can fight for and offer every service, go to every seminar and read every book, but THEY are going to progress in their own time frame. We all hope it's sooner rather than later, but it's very individual. Kitty may not be ready to leave home EVER, but it doesn't mean she won't. She may get angry and do things you cannot undo. That is something we all have to live with - and is so incredibly unfair when you factor in all of our hard work and how badly we want success for them. Due to perception issues, she or Bear may never admit how supportive you've been or how much better their lives are because of all your hard work. They may scream to the world how unsupportive you've always been and how you've only tried to keep them down - it is what it is. Just because they believe it to be true, doesn't mean it is. I think we all get so wrapped up in helping and in our own good intentions that we lose sight of their actual ability levels. I have a few who won't ever drive, one that drives but the thought of them driving scares the life out of me (very, very dangerous and most definitely not my idea), and a few who will progress at a pace society views as "normal". Hopefully they will all do the best they can within their ability levels. No, we can't make them love us, can't make them do anything for that matter, but still we work at it because we are the family they deserve.

erika said...

Kitty is an adult. As I understand it she is over 18, and you do not have legal guardianship. I agree that she needs legal guardianship and that she exhibits immature behaviors, however as it stands she is an adult much like my clients. I have clients her age who have elected to leave home and their parents do not have legal guardianship.

As for needing love, I agree that people need love. My point is that Kitty does not have to love you. She could elect to form relationships with other people

Joy in Belgium said...

Erika, I know you are probably a very good, caring psychologist but I have found MANY psychs and therapist that really don't have much experience with RAD. They are also very bad about falling for the triangulation and manipulation these kids are so talented at. Children NEED to bond to feel loved and safe. If they don't learn to form proper bonds they will not have normal relationships as adults. Sometimes you must force them to bond. As a parent there are many things we must "force" our kids to do that they don't want to do. I don't follow all aspects of attachment therapy but I know it works for many of these kids that nothing else has worked for.

Erika said...

The difference between being the parent and being the psych is that as psychologists we are bound to provide ethical, evidence based treatments to our clients. Attachment therapy is not evidence based treatment.

I'm not arguing that children don't need to feel loved. They do, absolutely. At the same time, you cannot force a child to love a parent (biological or adoptive) and much of attachment therapy is coercive or flat out abusive.

Do psychs fall for triangulation? You bet. Does that mean that the parent isn't part of the problem? Nope. It takes two (or more) to tango with RAD. Mom and dad are not co-therapists, they are also clients. They bring problems to the relationship with their child. RAD is not just the child's problem.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Erika. We all need love, but if a fully grown adult who you do not have legal guardianship over says that she's just plain not interested, you cannot make her. We may be designed--all of us--to need love and relationships, but what if there came a time when Kitty just plain gave up? If she stopped going to therapy with you, stopped putting out effort at home, etc? What would you do with her then? Drag her to therapy? Drag her out of her room? What if she went to the police and accused you of assaulting her? You cannot make someone be in relationship with you. You have to live with whatever she chooses. Forcing it on her solves nothing. I agree that she shouldn't be out on her own just yet, due to her severe cognitive impairments. And being a flight attendant doesn't sound like a good fit for her. But you cannot make her love you and insist that she do it. You can't tell her to feel things she just isn't. Just let her have the freedom to feel her own feelings. Spend time with the emotionally healthy members of your family more often. She wouldn't miss, surely, what she doesn't want.

Joy in Belgium said...

Yes, RAD is my problem because I have a child who suffers from it. However, I disagree that it takes 2 . My child is brain damaged. Her bio made the choice to drink, do drugs and who knows what else while my child was in the womb. Then she suffered neglect as an infant and toddler. When we got her she went to strangers for attention. At age 2 she screamed for hours at a time, self abused etc. I went to therapist after therapist. Psychologists etc and they gave me the same spiel. That I was part of the cause, they gave me different approaches to try that would work for a while and then my daughter found ways around them. She was a master at manipulating them. She has told therapists that I beat her, choke her, brain damaged her(my personal favorite lol). Yet after all this " conventional" therapy we had made no progress at all. I started looking for more. I got online and connected to other parents of RAD kids. I learned methods that worked for their kids. I made my daughter shadow me. Everything she needed, she had to come to me for. I started slow with the physical affection but made a point of making physical contact with her throughout the day. Sometimes we would just sit in the rocking chair together. At first she would refuse affection. Slowly though she started accepting it. Then one day she started giving it.

Joy in Belgium said...

Now I have a 10 yr old daughter who is bonded and shows and gives love. It isn't perfect but who needs that? I know that if I had stuck to traditional therapy, my daughter would not be where she is today.

Anonymous said...

How can Kitty even be expected to attach to you when you spend so much time disparaging her? Didn't you once blog that your husband curses at her and calls her names? How is that in any way "theraputic"?
Every idea Kitty has, you shoot down and mock.
You constantly talk about Kitty's mental age but I don't know any actual good parents treat ten year olds the way you treat Kitty, typical or otherwise.
How is what you do attachment parenting?
I've been reading your blog for years and the way you depict it, your home seems quite unsafe for Kitty.
Your depiction makes it seem that you are forcing yourself on her to no avail whatsoever with little to no positive results. Isn't that the definition of insanity?
Your "Fair Club" seems UNfair and not based in any kind of science or reality, especially when it is only used sporadically at your own whim.
People feel sorry for Kitty because like it or not, your description of your parenting appears abusive, infrequent and unsafe.
All I can think is that Kitty must spend much of her life bewildered and frightened, a prisoner of your slap-dash, unbalanced "parenting". Your blog is a testament to that.

marythemom said...

My reply to Anonymous was too long, so I'll make a post about it instead.