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, December 21, 2014

Holidays, Birthdays, Life Changes, and Other Traumaversaries Tips

Holiday (aka Traumaversaries) Trauma Tips 

Holidays, celebrations, birthdays, vacations, life-changing events, "traumaversaries"... WHY do they act this way?

Between scary creatures and a sugar rush on Halloween, the start of many schedule changes with Daylight Savings Time, family gatherings on Thanksgiving stirring up feelings about family members not present (including bio), and feeling judged to see if you’re naughty or nice… there is no shortage of potential trauma and upset during the holiday season.  

For parents of children with trauma and special needs, the holiday season, birthdays (theirs and others), adoption and TPR days, and other "traumaversaries," can create significant disruption and spark some serious trouble.

Around here we usually hold our breath in October and don’t exhale until January,” says Barbara Streett, a parent of one special needs child, 10, and two neurotypical kids, 7 and 5, respectively.  If it’s not one thing at this time of year, it’s most definitely another.”

This is a great article about why our children act the way they do on holidays. The following is a paraphrased excerpt from this article:

WHY: Adopted children have been abandoned causing deep shame and feelings of being unlovable and unworthiness of anything good.
This has nothing to do with the reality that they are now in a safe, loving family. So they sabotage to gain control of what they know will be inevitable disappointment and if they trigger us into anger then it just validates their beliefs. {If You Find Out I'm Not Perfect, You'll Leave}
WHY: "Big Days trigger Big Feelings. No matter the extreme (good or bad), it is all INTENSE and triggering." 
WHY: Holidays rarely have routine or structure and they are full of expectations and surprises. {the stress of change combined with a fear of the unknown. Why Doesn't My Child Feel Safe?}
("What is in the package?" "Did she get something better than me?" "Will I get what I desperately want? Can I handle that?"). The stress is overwhelming and scary! Children react to feeling unsafe by going in to fight/ flight or freeze mode (meltdowns, shut downs, attempting to totally control the situation which is impossible...). {Handling Dysregulation and Meltdowns}
 WHY: "Big Days are a reminder of what should have been but wasn’t, all that was lost, all that will never be." 
 WHY: Holidays are usually a time for family. Thinking about families can trigger big feelings of loss, abandonment, homesickness (sometimes for an idealized version of what might have been), regrets, memories (good and bad)...

  • Limit the "runway." Downplay the hype and discussions of  expectations as much as possible. Avoid things like decorating for Christmas as long as possible. Not letting a child know you are leaving for a trip until the day before or even the day of prevents them angsting over it and sabotaging it.
  • KISS - Keep It Simple! Keep things as lowkey as possible, don't make elaborate plans, instead schedule lots of downtime and avoid overwhelming/ overstimulating situations whenever possible (like shopping or parties). 
  • "We cast simple, manageable vision for Big Days: this is what we’ll do, this is who will be there, this is what we won’t be doing, this is about how long it will last."
  • Use Calming Techniques when you see a child getting overwhelmed or ramping up. 
  • Acknowledge and talk about the child's "Big Feelings." "We assure them that whether they get a handle on it or not, they could not possibly make us love them less, and if the worst thing that happens is they have a bad day, then no big deal."
  • Remember that we as parents are human too! "We’ll just keep working, keep trying, keep loving, and keep forgiving ourselves when it all goes sideways. You are not alone, know that.

Christine Moers, one of my favorite attachment gurus, says one of the most important things to remember, "YOU CAN'T LOSE CHRISTMAS!"
 "Trauma has jacked with the brains of our kids. In a stressful moment/week/season they get stuck in a part of their brain that was meant to only be visited on occasion, in extreme circumstances. Our kids also find themselves regressed emotionally and developmentally in those times. They can be, quite literally, a three-year-old in a 12-year-old body. 
Imagine a three year old kicking and biting and hitting two days before Christmas. Throwing toys and scratching up the family dining room set. Having a massive tantrum. Would we take Christmas away? Nope. That's crazy talk. A three year old cannot understand the magnitude of what they're doing when they feel out of control. We would redirect in the moment. When they are calm, we would reconnect with them and give them an opportunity to do the same. That is how we heal and guide young children. Our kids need the exact same thing. There is a reason they do these crazy things that are just so beyond description. They are camped in a part of their brain that wanted to kick them out long ago. 
Family celebrations and holidays are an opportunity to imprint into their minds and hearts: you are a part of this family. Period. Finito. You can never lose that. "
The challenges associated with holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s, Gotcha Days, and birthdays can be overwhelming for a family with special needs, but with preparation and awareness of the individual family member’s needs, it can be done!

A few minor tweaks to holiday rituals can go a long way:

  • Downsizing. Instead of big family gatherings with lots of expectations, try downsizing!
  • Small chunks. Instead of big family gatherings, try spacing out visits with one or two relatives at a time.  
  • Quiet activities. Have some quiet activities for the child in case they become overwhelmed.
  • Routines. Try to stick closely to your child’s usual schedule - regular nap time, bedtime and meal times are important! 
  • Respite care. Have the child spend some fun time with a friend or relative while you go to the party or big family gathering. 
  • Advanced "warning." If you are visiting, try sending family members a letter beforehand with some suggestions about how to make the child feel most comfortable {See below for a sample letter.}
  • Safe Zone. Set up a safe place in the house for your child to go if he or she just wants to be alone.  Stock this place with a few soft toys, a quiet activity or two and some books, maybe an MP3 player filled with soothing music.

    TRAVEL TIPS: If you decide to travel, here are a few tips: 
  • Take electronic gadgets AND the chargers.  There are inexpensive converters that can be plugged into your car allowing you to charge items that normally plug into the wall or even USB.
  • A personal DVD player or laptop stocked with movies and/or games.
  • Pack a personal backpack for each child with new dollar store items. Include a few favorite toys, pencils, snacks etc.  
  • A bag with new or rarely used items – like travel games and snacks, that can be introduced at various intervals throughout the trip.
  • Small heavy blanket, for sensory kids.
  • Travel pillow and soft toy/lovey.
  • Headphones.
  • Ask flight attendants and hotel about accommodation’s available to make your trip a family success.
  • Plan for frequent stops to move around (look for places with playgrounds).  
  • Think about traveling at night, but if you travel during the day, try to stick as closely as possible to routines – especially mealtimes and bedtime.
  • Medications.
  • Visual Pencil Box to help a child understand the sequence of events. A visual pencil box usually holds simple pictures, stored in a pencil box, with Velcro dots on each picture.  The top of the box has 3-4 Velcro dots (the soft side of the Velcro) on the outside.  Pictures are placed on the box so the child understands the order of activities.  For example: a suitcase (to show packing), a car, food (to show will eat lunch), then a picture of the destination (ex. Grandma’s).
  • Think about putting your child in respite and going without him/her! Just be sure it's not treated as a punishment for the child (it can be a low-key fun time with a family friend or relative). Trips can be just too overwhelming for some kids and can ruin the experience for everyone else.  "Re-entry" (coming back from time away from your child) can be super hard, but if it gives you some respite and a chance to recharge then most trauma mamas agree the re-entry meltdowns are worth it.

Remember, every child is different, and there is no flow chart for how this works.  The overarching goal: Be flexible, and remember that no tradition is more important than the comfort and happiness of your kids.

Let It Go 
Holidays and the like are supposed to be special times for the whole family.  Most of us grow up expecting them to be memorable and fun.  When we have children, we experience these dreams and expectations even more acutely.  It’s perfectly natural, then, to experience an emotional roller coaster when presented with the challenge of navigating holidays with a child with special needs.  

One key to managing this inevitably frustrating situation is learning to let go.  Set realistic expectations and be flexible.

You have to be willing to modify certain traditions, or forget them altogether,” says Barbara Streett, parent of a child with autism. What you want or envision may not be the best thing for your child, so you have to change your plan accordingly.”

  • Holidays are about the kids, but a successful holiday doesn’t have to look like a Norman Rockwell painting to make the kids happy.
  • Remind yourself that it’s OK to let go of certain traditions that just won’t work… for now.
  • Allow yourself to be frustrated and anxious; there’s no shame in that.  When you feel frustrations welling up, take a step back and focus on what you’re doing.
  • Frequently remind your child that there is nothing they can do to lose Christmas.  This is frequently such a source of anxiety for children that they sabotage it rather than take that chance.  In the long run, this “naughty” behavior will usually stop as the anxiety decreases.
  • Remember what your child’s “currency” is and use that to interact with him or her.
  • Streett is careful to add that especially at holiday time, the definition of a family meal should also be flexible.  “If your child doesn’t want to eat with everybody else, that needs to be OK; if the child needs to take a break, let him go,” she says. “The sooner you stop fighting the fact that these kinds of traditions must be set in stone, the more enjoyable the holiday will be.”
  • If your child tends to destroy gifts (very common when they don’t feel they deserve gifts or for now aren’t able to accept what they mean).  Try inexpensive gifts from the dollar store. The bigger the better.


At our house (2 siblings adopted as teens from foster care and 2 neurotypical biochildren), we realized our children were overwhelmed by the holidays so we started simplifying things with some new traditions:

Halloween - 

Children of trauma can be both attracted and triggered by the gore and scary fantasy associated with Halloween (not to mention the sugar rush!).  I love Halloween, but my kids just couldn't handle it.  

How We Handled It:
We chose to turn off the porch light and have a small family Halloween party.  We ordered pizza and soda (a special treat), and I bought each child a bag of their favorite kind of snack size candy that was just for them (explained as, "This way you don't get a bunch of stuff you didn't like!"), made Halloween shaped sugar cookies they could decorate themselves, and watched a non-triggering Halloween movie (usually the "made for TV" Disney movies). 

As the kids got a little better about handling the holiday, we slowly added a few new things :

  • We left the porch light on and the kids took turns handing out treats to the little Trick or Treaters. 
  • They wore costumes and went to a small church "carnival" for a short period of time.
  • They wore costumes and we went to a few familiar neighbors houses.
  • When they hit their tweens and young teens we dressed up and did a quick trick or treating walk of the block as a family
  • They were allowed to have one or two friends join us afterward for a small Halloween party. 
  • By their late teens, they were told they were "too old" for Trick or Treating, and we went back to having a small party and handing out treats.

Our Christmas Traditions 

For us, Christmas is very low key. We have several traditions which seem to help lessen anxiety levels because the kids know what is coming next (helps them feel safer).
    Jesus' birthday cake
Jesus’ Birthday party – 
To alleviate some of the building of stress and anxiety of waiting for Christmas and to change the focus from the Christmas presents beckoning under the tree, we celebrate Jesus’ birth on Christmas Eve with a birthday cake and Jesus gifts. 

Jesus gifts are similar to New Year’s Eve resolutions. Everyone writes on a piece of paper what they are going to give Jesus this year, usually something we think he would want us to do – like spend more time with the family or give more time to those less fortunate.  

Each person can choose to read his or her Jesus gifts aloud and then we put the papers in a special envelope on the tree. Then we read last year’s gifts and see how we did. Afterward, we all eat birthday cake (Knowing there's cake when it's done helps my antsy ones sit through this!).

Christmas Eve presents -  

Before bed, we open our Christmas Eve gift - usually a pair of PJs, and a book or stuffed toy – depending on the child’s age.  This helps the younger children wait (and makes sure everyone looks nice for pictures in the morning!

Three Gifts - 

A few years ago, we decided to start giving only 3 gifts to the kids on Christmas morning. (It was good enough for Jesus!). It has helped me out in many ways (the kids are not quite as fond of it).  

Usually at least two of the three gifts that the children get are “themed” gifts. So it’s several smaller items in the package.  The cost of the gift seems to be largely unimportant. One year, the most envied (meltdown inducing) gift was a kit for hair highlights that one daughter got and the other (RAD) daughter didn’t.

Advantages of Three Gifts

  • Takes some of the focus off of gifts and put it back on the “reason for the season.”
  • Reduces some of the pressure to get the exact same number and equivalent gifts for each of my 4 children. {I remember my sisters and I counting gifts on Christmas Eve – quantity and size were more important than cost}
  • Decreased the clutter. My adopted children can’t handle too much stuff in their rooms or lives.
  • Reduced the cost! Christmas is expensive enough with 4 kids.
  • Made shopping easier. It’s HARD to find presents for teenage boys (assuming that like us you do not want to buy expensive electronic stuff he’s only going to break or lose anyway and/or can’t handle).
  • Less wrapping!
  • Less time sitting watching everyone open presents (better for my kids with ADHD).

Scarlet Claus
Santa Claus 
My biokids (7 and 10) still believed in Santa when the older kids (11 and 13) came into our home the month before Christmas. We made it very clear to all the kids that if they said they didn't believe in Santa then Santa wouldn't bring them presents. 

My insistence that Santa is real (HE IS!) caused some issues with Kitty because she decided that made me a liar. 

Santa used to bring the best presents, but we changed that approach when we realized we didn't want him getting all the credit! We wanted the kids to know that we were supplying the gifts that said, "We know you. We love you. And we are giving you these things because we want to show you how we feel." 

Santa still brought stocking gifts (although the kids knew we added to those), but he started bringing "family presents" - gifts for the whole family to enjoy rather than for each child. Over the years, Santa has brought, a dog (a red husky named Scarlet Claus), a big screen TV, a Wii, a Clearplay DVD player with a bunch of movies they hadn't previously been allowed to watch because they were too violent or inappropriate...

Birthdays - 

Even the bio kids start to go nuts about 2 weeks before a birthday and for about a week after. Not just their own birthday, any family member's birthday. 

When the biokids were little, I used to throw big parties with the whole neighborhood invited. We had balloon animals (made by a friend) and two homemade cakes (weird family tradition - long story!), costumes, activities, pinatas, slumber parties... We quickly learned that this wouldn't work for our kids with trauma issues at Kitty's first birthday party with us. She spent the entire day in her (walk-in) closet with one friend (the youngest at the party). 

New tradition! 
Birthday parties are usually dinner out (child's choice of restaurant - within reason) and include extended family (aunt and uncle and their kids, plus grandparents). 

If the child has a party (sometimes they're not in a good place - like just out of a psych hospital), then it's usually at home with maybe 2-3 friends. If it's to be a slumber party then only 1 friend. this may sound harsh, but it was definitely all they could handle. The biokids are introverts so they're usually ok with it too, but we have arranged to have all the other siblings stay with the grandparents doing something fun while the child who can handle a bigger party has their party. 

For the parents' birthdays, we usually have a quiet celebration with family and then do something on our own without the kids (our birthdays are 3 days apart, so we usually celebrate them jointly).

"Gotcha Days"

We've never really celebrated Gotcha Days. I feel this day is too traumatic. Yes, they are getting a new family, but it also symbolizes losing the old one. 

On the actual day of their adoption, we might have lunch or dinner at a place of the child's choosing. Coincidentally, our kids' "Gotcha day" falls right around their birthday (2 weeks before for Kitty, and one day before for Bear) - which is another good reason not to have a big celebration. 

We do celebrate the day the kids moved in with our family (they're a sibling pair, so it was on the same day), but usually just with sparkling grape juice or cider (Kitty loves this stuff so reminds us every year) served in our fancy crystal champagne glasses.

Life Changing Events (moving, change in caregivers, new siblings added to the family, sickness, death or loss of a family member, foster care, adoption...). - 

Even positive changes add stress to our lives and our bodies don't know the difference between the two. 

Plus, our kids tend to have a Low Tolerance/ High Overwhelm

Stress can lead to physical illness as well as "acting out" or "acting in." {Dysregulation and Meltdowns, Handling Child Stress, The Spoon Theory}

"We often think of stress as being a largely mental state. After all, it seems like we can stress out about things we only imagine. But stress is more than just a thought in our minds. Stress is a physical response in our body to a perceived threat.
Thousands of years ago, this stress kept us alive by flooding our bodies with cortisol and adrenaline in large enough amounts to escape attacking animals or tribes. In modern times, our most stressful life events are much different. Our bodies respond the same way, though, and sometimes that can lead to illness." Top 10 Most Stressful Life Events: The Holmes And Rahe Stress Scale
Use calming techniques when you see a child getting overwhelmed or ramping up. 

Starting or Ending School

School holidays like Winter Break and Spring Break - any major changes in the child's schedule and routine can be terrifying for the child and trigger Dysregulation and Meltdowns. (School )

Other Triggers

There are lots of triggers for feeling unsafe that we as rational adults totally miss - food is a huge trigger for my kids. So if he suddenly lashes over a snack, it may have brought up a memory (smell is a BIG memory trigger). 

A lot of times our kids don't know how to react to big feelings so they get overwhelmed and drop in to fight/ flight/ freeze mode. 

Some triggers to watch for are: 

HALTING US (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, Ill, New - changes are scary!, Guilty, and UnSafe, ). {Calming Techniques}

    Helpful websites:
    Top Toys for children with special needs: - Model Me Kids® videos demonstrate social skills by modeling peer behavior at school, on a playdate, at a birthday party, on the playground, at a library, at the dentist, restaurant, and more. Designed as a teaching tool for children, adolescents, and teenagers with Autism, Asperger Syndrome, and developmental delays, the videos are used by teachers, parents, and therapists. Real children model each skill.

    Sample Holiday Visit Letter 
    – Adapted from article –
    Holiday Survival Guide for Parents with Special Needs

    Dear Family and Friends:

    We look forward to seeing everyone for the holidays. I can’t wait to see everyone and celebrate together. Before we gather this year, I would like to share with you about ______________ and let you know how you can support him and our family.

    My son is loving, kind, and very affectionate. He loves to talk about his siblings, ______________ and ______________, and camping. He likes to play Candyland, Legos, and with his iPod.

    He also has (attachment disorder/ autism/ sensory integration disorder...).

    Holidays are a time of year that ______________ looks forward to. However, the extended

    family and friends, decorations, and festive noises that the holiday brings can be frightening
    and/or overwhelming for him. They also cause him anxiety because there are so many new things happening that are different from his routine.  He is hypervigilant about new situations, and it reminds him of traumatic things from his past.  Please understand that this is not about his feelings about you or me.

    ______________ may need a quiet place to retreat to take in everything presented to him in this new and different environment.  Please have a quiet room available for ______________ so that he can have time to himself to process everything. This room should be off limits to everyone but ______________ and me (mom). ______________ is used to routine and all these changes can cause anxiety. Once ______________ can regroup, he may be OK to return. However, if something changes, we may need to leave suddenly.   Also, although we love being with family, we will need to leave at __pm to allow ____________ to stick as close to his normal bedtime routine as possible.  Please support us in this.  It is very necessary for his well being.

    ______________  or I may appear bossy and controlling. This is to help him cope. ___________ needs structure, and often things have to be done in a way he is familiar with or else he may get stressed and frustrated. This does not mean you have to change the way you are doing things--just please be patient with ______________, and look to me (mom) to redirect this behavior.

    People with (attachment disorder/trauma/ autism/ sensory integration disorder...) often have certain behaviors to help themselves feel more comfortable and safe. ______________  is not trying to be disruptive or defiant; he is doing this to regulate himself in his surroundings. Please be respectful of these behaviors and look to me (mom) on how to handle this.

    _____________ often needs to get up and walk around (maybe even go to his quiet room) to regulate himself.   I ask that you not give this a lot of attention and continue eating and conversing.

    Please do not be critical of mine or my husband’s parenting skills. Remember that ____________ needs to be watched more closely than most children are his age. Like all parents, we do our best but are not perfect. Holidays are filled with new sights, sounds, and smells packed into a busy and often frantic household with a big tree plopped down in the middle of it. It is very hard work to incorporate (attachment disorder/trauma/ autism/ sensory integration disorder...) into this. I said it was hard – but it can be done. We have been doing this for ____ years, and although it is not perfect, it works for us.

    We are excited to share this holiday experience with you and look forward to seeing you,

    Dear Friend or Family Member Who Doesn't "Get It"

    A Letter To Our Friends And Family During The Holidays (Things Adoptive and Special Needs Families Want You To Know)
    Another letter to family and friends.

    Sunday, December 14, 2014

    Trauma Mama Gift Swap/ Secret Santa - 2015 Update

    Edited to Add -
    2015: Several trauma mamas and I have decided to do a small Trauma Mama gift swap. If you are a trauma mama and interested in participating, please fill out the following form and put it in the comments (it will not be published) or email it to marythemommy at gmail dot com. Please be 100% sure that you are able to participate, remember there is another trauma mama who may be hurt and disappointed if you do not follow through.

    One of my favorite things to do at Christmas time over the last few years is to participate in the Trauma Mama Holiday Gift Swap. Unfortunately the people sponsoring it found that doing this for large groups quickly became too much for any one person to organize. For one reason or another, many people did not honor their obligations (which I totally understand as we are all trauma mamas and Christmas time is HARD!) so many mamas did not receive gifts. Many others tried to step in and fill the gaps, but a lot of needy mamas were hurt and disappointed.

     This year I participated in a small group exchange and I did a one on one swap with another mom. I was also an "angel" to a trauma mama who could not afford a gift for her child or herself. I'm so glad to be in a place in my life where I can do this.

    If anyone wants to organize their own gift swap or just exchange with a friend, here's a form I adapted from the From Survival to Serenity 2012 trauma mama holiday gift swap. I found it to be particularly helpful in finding just the right gifts. I hope this will inspire you to start your own group or just a one on one swap with another mom. Moms deserve special gifts under the tree too!

    Trauma Mamas Holiday Gift Swap Registration
    Please complete at least the required questions marked with an asterisk. All other "Get to Know You" questions are optional, but please do keep in mind that the more questions you answer, the better the person who gets your name will be able to connect with you. It will also help us in creating matches based on similar situations, geographic areas, interests, etc.
    **Hint** If you would like to answer the "Getting to Know You" questions, but don't have time to complete the whole form all at once, write out your answers in a word processing program and then cut and paste them into the form boxes when you're ready to send it in. Registration forms are due no later than November 15. All matches will be made on or before November 20. Unless there are special circumstances that need to be considered, packages should be mailed to their recipients no later than December 14. International packages will need to be shipped no later than December 1. We learned from sad experience last year that if they're shipped any later than that, they don't arrive before Christmas, even when they're coming from or going to Canada. .
    * Required

    Contact and Shipping Information*

    Name (first and last)
    Shipping Address

    Other Contact Information
    Examples: Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, etc. You are also welcome to include a phone number or whatever other contact information you wish and/or feel comfortable sharing.

    I am 100% committed to participating in this event. *100% commitment means that I acknowledge and understand there is a very real mama with very real feelings on the other end of this swap. She's also a trauma mama who's been in or is still in the trenches just like I am. She's very likely put much of herself into preparing something special for another mama. I want her to receive something special this holiday season to remind her that she is loved, that the work she's doing is worth it, and that she's not alone. It would be very sad for her to be looking forward to receiving something special from a potential new friend, but not have it arrive. I will make sure that doesn't happen!

    What if I need to back out? *If circumstances arise and I'm unable to keep my participation commitment, I will notify one of the organizers as quickly as possible so another match can be found for my assigned mama.

    Shipping Confirmation *I promise to ship my package using a method that can be tracked, even if I have to pay a little bit extra in order to make that happen. I want to make sure my mama actually gets my package once I've sent it.

    Getting to Know You
    These questions aren't required, but the more you share, the more the mama who gets your name will be able to get a feel for who YOU are outside of being a trauma mama. Not only does it help her be able to put together a special gift for you, but it will also help in deciding who you ultimately get matched with. One of the most fun aspects of participating in an event like this is finding others to add to your circles of support and friendship. If matches can be made among people with similar interests or family situations or whatever, they will be. Unless otherwise noted, these answers (along with your contact information) will be shared with the person you are matched with.

    Briefly describe yourself and your family. Describe your personality, share your general age, what your profession is, any special talents, etc. Share whatever you want about what makes you you. Also share a bit about your family including how many kids you have, their ages, are they bio or adopted, if adopted, how old were they at adoption, where they were adopted from, and whatever else you want to share.

    What type of activities do you enjoy participating in with your family?

    If you had spare time for hobbies or interests, what would they be?

    What are your top 3 favorite movies?...the ones you could watch over and over again and only love them more each time you see them.

    What are your favorite colors...both for decorating and for wearing?

    What is your decorating style? funky, contemporary, eclectic, shabby-chic, country, traditional, minimalist…

    Do you collect anything in particular? (coins, figurines, butterflies, angels, snowmen, etc)

    What are some of your favorite things?
    These would be things you love and enjoy having in your life and in your space

    What type of gifts would you most like? things to pamper yourself, accessories, crafts, soft cuddly items, inspirational items, food treats, things you collect…

    What types of things do you dislike?
    This would be things you smile sweetly at initially, but then they secretly end up in the trash bin later on.

    Do you have any allergies? Gluten free? Caffeine free?  Include food, chemical, metal, etc

    What are your favorite foods and/or beverages? Do you drink alcohol?

    Do you have any dietary restrictions and/or preferences?

    What are your 3 most favorite restaurants?

    What stores do you like to shop at when looking for a little something special for yourself?

    Is there anything else you'd like to share? ie: a particular religious affiliation, perhaps you celebrate a holiday other than Christmas, any unique life circumstances or situations, etc.

    I can help with this event by...
    If you have the time, sanity, and desire to help make sure this event continues to be a fun and fulfilling experience for everyone, please let us know.

    I am willing and able to ship my package internationally if needed

    I am willing and able to be an "Angel Mama" if needed. Should the need arise, I can help out by putting together a second package for a second mama. Feel free to contact me if you need some help in this area.

    I can help with event coordination and logistics if needed. Should the need arise, I can help with the coordination efforts and logistics of this event. I am willing to help out by working with the other event coordinators, sending emails to other participants as needed, or doing whatever else is needed to make sure the logistics of this event are manageable.

    Tuesday, November 18, 2014

    Self Care

    I decided I need my home to be clean(er) for the holidays, but the thought is totally overwhelming, so I have this new 31 day house cleaning routine that I'm going to try.

    31 Day House Cleaning Routine 

    I'm going to have to modify it for my home (which is bigger than the one described), but it breaks the job in to chunks I can handle. I've also decided to treat the children as "bonus" helpers so I don't get so frustrated with them when they don't help.

    It may not sound like self care, but I think it will make me feel better and more accomplished.  Plus, Bob has been saying she wants to bring friends home from college, but is too embarrassed.

    Wish me luck!

    Monday, November 17, 2014

    Books and Methods Review - Traumatic Brain Injury - Brain Damage

    Traumatic brain Injury linked to ptsd and suicide.

    Bear - left parietal and left temporal
    Kitty - left temporal

    Both my children have brain injuries (called Cerebral Dysrhythmia - the cause and time of injury is unknown - could be birth defects, could be from abuse).  The temporal lobe is definitely damaged in both, Bear also has damage in the parietal lobe.  I always thought it explained a lot, and I bet more than a few of "our kids" have these issues.  I always include the brain injuries when mentioning their issues to people who need to know, because I think it helps people understand that this is PERMANENT not something that therapy or medication is going to "fix."

    Damage to the parietal lobe can also lead to Anosognosia - "impaired awareness of illness." Affects approximately 50 percent of individuals with schizophrenia and 40 percent of individuals with bipolar disorder.may not recognize that they are ill. Instead, they believe their delusions are real (e.g., the woman across the street is being paid by the CIA to spy on him) and that their hallucinations are real (e.g., the voices are instructions being sent by the President). Impaired awareness of illness is the same thing as lack of insight. The term used by neurologists is “anosognosia,” which comes from the Greek word for disease (nosos) and knowledge (gnosis). It literally means "to not know a disease." This is more than just denial!

    We are often told that brain damage can be "fixed," and I believe that to a certain extent that is true, but at some point we have to acknowledge that some of it isn't going to get better or we'll be blaming ourselves (or allowing others to blame us) for our child not healing.

    Some analogies:

    The Newborn Kitten - Kittens eyes stay closed for awhile after they are born.  Scientists did a study in which they didn't allow kittens eyes to open when they normally would. When they finally allowed the kittens' normal, healthy eyes to open, the kittens were completely blind. The part of the brain that processed vision did not form. The kittens will never be able to see.

    Amputated Limb - If a human being has a limb removed and replaced with a prosthetic limb, then the brain can be trained to use the remaining muscles in a different way that allows movement of the new limb.

    So the question is, if a person has brain damage or an injury, can they "heal"?  Can they retrain their brain to work in a new way that circumvents the damage (like teaching a person with dyslexia "tricks" to make it easier to read) or is it permanent?

    I assume the answer is that it depends.  On the age of the person, on the cause and extent of the damage, on when and what quality of intervention/ therapy was used, and on the motivation of the "injured" person to heal...

    There is evidence that in addition to brain damage and the way the brain forms in utero, a lot of what happens to a child as an infant can also cause brain damage.  I've written a couple of posts reviewing Piaget's child development and Katharine Leslie's take on Cause and Effect and Object Permanence and how it effects children of trauma, but here's a couple of key points:

    Cause and Effect - Children with attachment disorders and FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders) often have problems with cause and effect. This may start with the caregiver not meeting the child's physical needs (ex. not changing them when they're wet or feeding when they're hungry). The child doesn't learn that if I cry then someone will come make it better. Instead they might learn that if I cry then someone will hit me, or if I cry then no one will come anyway... this makes behavior management difficult - both self-regulation and parent discipline. If I steal a cell phone, then I will get in trouble. If I yell at my sister now, then she will be scared of me - even 5 minutes (or 5 years) from now.

    Object Permanence - We all know that young infants have no ability to understand object permanence. For example, if you hide a rattle under a blanket they don't look for it, it's gone. For them, out of sight out of mind is really true. At about 8-9 months though they "get it." They start to look under the blanket. We often help them develop this ability by playing peekaboo with them. "Wheeere's Mommy? Here I am!"

    Now imagine the child who's infancy is not the norm. Who never "gets" this concept. So what? Maybe they never put their toys away because if you can't see them they don't exist. Might not even be so bad because when they are put into foster care they "forget" about all the things left behind... but it's not just things the child doesn't remember. It's people.

    You can't attach to someone who isn't there the second they step out of sight. Mommy doesn't exist anymore.

    There's a weird movie with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore called 50 First Dates. Because of a car accident that damaged her short term memory Drew's character is unable to remember anything that's happened in her life the day before. Adam meets her and courts her anew every single day. They introduce a character called "10 Second Tom." He can only rememember things for 10 seconds. Drew is able to fall in love with Adam because she has the ability to create attachments. Tom would be unable to attach to anyone.

    Even though I'm here and not going anywhere, my kids' ability to attach is severely damaged, and for Bear, maybe permanently. Katharine assures us that even a child/person older than 8 who's brain is pretty much hardwired now, can learn these skills and abilities (or approximations of them), but just like learning a foreign language, the older you are the less perfectly you'll be able to learn it and the the more effort it takes (think of people who learn to speak English as a second language as a child versus as an adult).

    Thursday, November 13, 2014

    75 Positive Child Behaviors and Attitudes - Katherine Leslie

    75 Positive Child Behaviors and Attitudes 

    from Katherine Leslie's Coming to Grips with Attachment

    The survey contains a list of positive child behaviors and attitudes. Please put a check mark under the column that best describes whether each of these behaviors or attitudes is generally true (GT) or generally not true (GNT) of your child.  Please fill out a different survey tool for each of your children.

    1 Cares about self
    2 Cares about others
    3 Takes care of the pets
    4 Good work ethic
    5 Is kind and giving
    6 Has a positive outlook
    7 Enjoys learning
    8 Loves spending time with family
    9 Adds to family unity and peacefulness
    10 Wants to do what is right
    11 Friends and relationships are important to him/her
    12 Is polite and respectful
    13 Is conscientious and accepting of others
    14 Is remorseful when he/she makes mistakes
    15 Stands up for her/ himself
    16 Is grateful and appreciative
    17 Asks me to play with him/ her
    18 Asks for compliments
    19 Wants me to share in his/ her successes
    20 Tells me things he/ she's learned or seen
    21 Appreciates my efforts
    22 Responds respectfully to my discipline
    23 Does things/ chores to help me
    24 Wants to please me
    25 Hates to disappoint me
    26 Demonstrates behaviors we've talked about
    27 Looks to me for approval
    28 Listens to me when I give directions
    29 Shares ideas and feelings with me
    30 Asks for help and advice from me
    31 We talk together about life
    32 Looks up to me
    33 Talks to me about his/ her problems
    34 Is interested in hearing my life stories
    35 Enjoys my hugs and kisses
    36 Tells me his/ her fears
    37 Is natural and authentic
    38 Cares about what I think
    39 Knows I will be there for him/ her
    40 Wants to be cared for by me when he/ she is sick
    41 Comes to me for comfort after being scolded
    42 Falls asleep in my arms
    43 Feels sad when I leave or if I'm not around
    44 Is excited/ happy to see me after a separation 
    45 wants to be near me
    46 Seeks me out for comfort I he/ she is hurt or feeling bad
    47 Lets me teach him/ her things
    48 Looks for me if I'm watching his/ her sporting events/ activities
    49 Wants a hug and a kiss from me at bedtime
    50 Wants to spend time with me
    51 Gives me support and encouragement
    52 Compliments me
    53 Wants to be like me
    54 Pays attention to me
    55 Seems to like me
    56 Shows concern when I am upset
    57 Talks positively about me to others
    58 Makes things for me
    59 Gives me gifts
    60 Tells me I am the most important person in his/ her life
    61 Tells me I'm great
    62 We play, tease, and joke around
    63 We enjoy doing activities together
    64 We cuddle and giggle together
    65 We rough house together
    66 We share the same sense of humor
    67 He/ she is funny and makes me laugh
    68 Gives me hugs and kisses every day
    69 Isn't afraid to show me affection in front of others
    70 Tells me he/ she loves me
    71 Responds to my affection with warmth and happiness
    72 Smiles at me many times a day
    73 Writes me cards to tell me he/ she loves me
    74 Hugs and kisses me out of the blue
    75 Looks to me for protection

    I loaned out my Coming to Grips with Attachment book years ago and it never came back, so when someone mentioned this checklist, I was curious how my kids rate now. It was really depressing until I decided to look at it for ALL my children and realized that some of it is probably the fact that my kids are teens. 

    Kitty 15-20 if I'm feeling generous. 

    Nope, still depressing.  *sigh*

    Wednesday, November 12, 2014

    Caring for the Caregiver Ideas

    We HAVE to "fill our buckets." It's not selfish (no matter how many people tell you otherwise!). It doesn't mean we don't love our kids or are "bad parents." If we give and give until we're completely drained, then there's nothing left! You have to find little ways (or a few big ones) to carve out something that's just for you.

    When people said stuff about Caring for the Caregiver to me early on in this journey, I just looked at them like they were crazy. Who has time for that?! I needed to believe that if I said, did, taught... just the right thing(s) that my child would heal, and I knew that if I didn't... then it would be my fault that my child was broken.

    So put your foot down and DEMAND that you get time for yourself. Fight for it. Carve it out. Put a priority on it.

    What fills your bucket is unique to you.  For me, it helped knowing my love language.  Since my primary love language is Words of Affirmation then I tend to lean toward finding ways to fill that need.

    • Splurge a little on a treat just for you. Remind yourself that if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!
    • Buy your favorite kind of chocolate (or other treat) and hide them for when you need them.  (Tell someone or write down where you put them!  Nothing worse than not being able to find your special treat when you absolutely need it right now!
    • Pay someone for a mani/pedi or have your own little homemade spa. Can be a fun thing to do with a regulated child.
    • Keep a little jar with reminders of the times you've done something right.  It can be a quote from someone else, a thank you card, a note you wrote yourself about a recent achievement.  It can simply say, "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And doggone it, people like me."  (I have a Positive Affirmations folder in my e-mail for when I get a positive comment on my blog, or my boss tells me I'm doing a great job, or my kid has a special achievement that I know I had a hand in -even if that "hand" is raising an amazing kid....  Sometimes if I'm feeling down, attacked, or judged, I open that folder and remind myself that I am a good person and I'm not the only one who thinks so.)
    • After everyone is in bed, I love a bubble bath, a good book that has nothing to do with trauma or adoption or anything (my fav is the funny,romance novels by Katie MacAlister), and maybe some candles and/ or a glass of wine.
    • Turn on Spongebob. Let the kids zone out in front of the TV while you take a break.
    • Have your kids come up with a list of things to do when they're bored (check out this example) and then encourage them to do one or more of the activities while you take a break.
    • Tell them that room time is at 7pm, whether they're tired or not (and change the clocks if need be). 
    • Buy a cheap alarm for their bedroom door so you don't have to worry about where they are. 
    • Sing along to the radio!  It's amazing how much better you feel after singing. 
    • Find something to laugh about - watch a silly video, read something funny 
    • Call the friend that is always saying, "let me know if I can help," and say, "YES! Please come by my house at 7pm and watch my kids for 2 hours." 
    • Call a fellow trauma mama who "gets it."
    •  Join the annual trauma mama Christmas Gift Exchange. 
    • EXERCISE - Turn on an exercise video and work out - if the kids want to do it too, great! If not, then they can sit on the couch and watch. I love Richard Simmons for the low impact work out and easy to learn routines. Try Christine Moer's (Welcome To My Brain) hoop challenge (30 minutes for 30 days)
    • Start a snowball fight in the backyard (or if you're in Texas like me, a water fight or run through the sprinklers!). 
    • Find a regulated kid and cuddle (borrow a neighbor child if you have to!). 
    • Read Healing from Hazardous Parenting by Brenda McCreight PhD.
    • FIND A SUPPORT GROUP of people who "get it." If you don't have anyone local, try online. You can find anything on the internet these days!
    • Start a co-op with other trauma mamas. 
    • GET ENOUGH SLEEP. Take a nap whenever you can. Go back to sleep after the kids leave for school.
    • EAT WELL. 
    • Make something special just for you, and let them eat cheap boxed pizza on paper plates.
    • Give the kids the "burned" pieces. Don't always take the bad stuff for yourself.  I always have my own bowl next to me when I cut watermelon and the best pieces go in MY bowl.
    • LAUGH! Find whatever makes you lol and check it out daily.  Whether that's  People of Walmart, an iFunny app or Spongebob.  One of my personal faves is 99 Ways to Drive Your Child Sane by Brita St. Clair - This short little book is full of wild ideas and hysterical humor to bring the laughter back into a home with an emotionally disturbed child.  It includes lots of "one liners" and silly, fun ways to help parents avoid anger around tough topics. Written by a very experienced and loving Therapeutic Mom with years of success helping tough kids heal.

    Almost every Monday for the last 2 years, I have met a friend at IKEA for breakfast.  We met casually in a fabric store one day and started chatting. She is not a Trauma Mama, and we have very little in common. She's about 15 yrs older than I am. Has grandchildren the same age as my kids.  She's an artist (makes beautiful art dolls). Grew up in Germany.  Living green is very important to her... She lives about 1/2 an hour away from me, and we almost never meet or talk at any time except for these couple of hours once a week. We vent, talk about our kids and husbands, and shopping, and religion and family...  I consider her one of my best friends. Sometimes you just need a person to go to, who is not part of your everyday life, but never judges you.  Who is always glad to see you and always willing to listen.

    Saturday, November 8, 2014

    Parenting Biokids and Adopted Kids Together

    FYI, this picture is for illustration only. These are the 192nd Fighter Wing kids. Not an adoptive family.
    See also this post, Biokids with Adopted Siblings

    Adopting Out of Birth Order

    My adopted children were older than my biokids, and that caused some extra issues because the biokids were able to handle tons of things the adopted kids couldn't.  Here's a good post I did for a lady adopting a RAD child older than her bios (different age, but kids of trauma are often younger developmentally, emotionally, and/ or socially).

    Adopting Children Developmentally, Emotionally, and/ or Socially Younger
    This could also apply to parents with kids who are not technically out of birth order, but are close in age or younger (for example giving birth to biokids or adopting a child(ren) younger than the older adopted child(ren) but with fewer issues). The problems come when this younger child(ren) pass up the adopted child(ren) developmentally, emotionally, and/ or socially. Parenting often appears to not be fair, like you're choosing favorites, and/ or that you're criticizing or punishing the delayed child.

    {My adopted children were both delayed and older than my oldest biochild (Bob, biodaughter). Bear (adopted, 3 1/2 years older than Bob) was very aggressive and intimidating to everyone and Kitty (adopted, 1 year older than Bob) was aggressive toward Bob (jealousy, pushing to get kicked out like everyone else has done to her in the past, delayed emotionally and socially - so tended to be more like a toddler who uses her hands not her words...).}  

    All Children are Not Created Equally - Nor Should They Be Treated That Way
    For a long time, we tried to treat the children equally, especially the girls who were close in age and in the same grade at school, but we finally figured out that was not going to work. Life got smoother when we started using age-appropriate, therapeutic parenting.
    Post:  Chap. 1 Parenting based on Developmental/Emotional Age

    Here are some of the things we did (or I wish we had done sooner!):

    1. SELF-CARE!! Self-care!! Self-Care!!! 
    This is a tough life and if you're "bucket" is empty, then you're no good to anyone.

    2. Prioritizing Yourself, Your Family, and Your Child - In That Order
    Not only do we tend to put ourselves last, but we also tend to listen to the "experts" and focus on the needs of one child (or two). First priority needs to be yourself, then your significant other (after all, hopefully, he/she will be around long after the children are out of the nest) {How We Keep Our Marriage Strong}, and then the family as a whole. The needs of the "squeakiest wheel" need to be last

    Believe me, I regret how little priority my other kids got and we're seeing some of the negative effects now that they are grown. Especially when I realized that my son, Bear, (the squeakiest wheel) was not able to heal {You Have Not Failedbut even with my daughter, Kitty, who was able to heal and might not have if I hadn't poured so much energy and time into her. Sacrificing the family as a whole for one child was a mistake that I deeply regret. 

    3. Finding the Joy 

    Once I finally had enough emotional reserves to be able to function, then I had to figure out boundaries, priorities, support... the things I needed to be able to keep going and keep my "tank" full enough to be there for my family.

    4. Explain Why They're Treated Differently
    We sat the adopted children down and tell them that they were being treated differently because of their trauma, not because we loved them less or loved biokids more. They absolutely did not understand this or believe it, but it needed to be said if only so we could refer back to the conversations.
    Posts: Trust Jars/ Love Jars post;
    Choosing Joy - Explaining Age Appropriate Therapeutic Parenting to Child(ren)

              The younger biochildren did not have the same childhood and there were going to be areas where they got to do things the adopted kids didn't, even though they were older.   None of this solved anything by the way, but it gave us a reference point that we could keep pointing back to,

    "I know it doesn't feel fair that your sister gets to spend the night at your friend's house and you don't, but you're not at a place to do that right now, because it's hard for you.  Your sister didn't have the trauma that you did so she can handle it.  
    You'll get there!  Just not today."

    5. Stop treating them equally.  
    They are not equal! They have different life experiences, different interests, different abilities, different needs...  My mom always emphasized that with my sister and I.  We both got a Christmas present, but it wasn't matching dresses (which is one thing my dad liked to do)!  Neither of us would want what the other wanted! Our gifts were chosen with our unique likes and dislikes in mind.

    ^^This is actually how the FAIR Club got started.^^ 
    My kids were constantly whining, "That's not FAAAIIIRRR!!!" I needed a way to discipline and structure each child's life that was appropriate for them.  Structure for the adopted kids, but not really punishing them for things that were out of their control (fight/ flight/ freeze reactions for example) - while avoiding letting the biokids feel that the adopted kids were "getting away with" behaviors that we didn't want the biokids to start thinking was OK for them to do!

    6. Emotional Age

    Remember that developmentally (emotionally and socially) most kids of trauma are a LOT younger.   If we expect them to "act their age," we're all going to be disappointed.
    Therapeutic Parenting Based on Emotional/ Developmental Age
    Developmental Stages

    7. ABSOLUTELY no touching of other kids!  
    None.  Ever. My violent child especially, literally had to be out of arms reach of the other kids at all times.  If I had to be in another room then that child came with me or was in his/her room alone. They weren't allowed to sit next to each other on the couch or in the car.  They were NEVER allowed to be alone in the same room.

    8. Separate rooms. 
    Originally the girls shared a room.  BIG mistake! They giggled all night keeping each other up. Our adopted daughter stole things from her sister. One child was a "neat freak" the other was not. The smells and dysregulation of our adopted daughter, plus disagreements between the two girls created a resentful/ hostile environment that often made things worse.

    We converted the playroom to a bedroom to separate them.  For example, when I was a kid, my bedroom was the breakfast nook with some slatted closet doors bolted in to make a wall (this was because I moved in with my dad unexpectedly, not for any trauma/ safety issues).
    8a. Children were not allowed in other family members' bedrooms. Ever (although exceptions were made if a parent was present). This was to prevent thefts and potential abuse.
    8b. Cameras, alarms, and locks. We never installed cameras but I often wonder if we should have. There were alarms on the exterior doors and windows that helped let us know if a child was going outside without permission but I sometimes wish we had put one on the interior door of our son's bedroom so we would know when he was wandering at night. We did end up locking the pantry to prevent issues with stealing food but I realize we were very lucky that our son was not interested in physically or sexually abusing his siblings (just stealing from them).  

    9. ABSOLUTELY no parenting.  
    The adopted kids felt they had a right to boss the other kids around. The biokids just handled it.  Kitty expected it and was terrified of Bear so she often tried to anticipate his wishes.

    EVERY time we heard it, we reminded everyone that WE are the parents and that was not their job.  We NEVER put the kids in a position where they got to tell the other kids what to do.  Not even relaying a message, like, "Mom said to come downstairs and do the dishes." At most, they were allowed to say, "Mom is calling you."

    10. Individual parent time.  
    Just me (or Hubby)  and the child doing something together.  Could be making a meal, going shopping, a "date," sitting next to their bed and chatting, telling a story or singing... I tried to make it fun, even when they were being obnoxious, awful, or in trouble.  It was an attachment activity and necessary. I did this with all the kids- adopted and bio. Try to squeeze in a combo of activities -  If you're at the school for an IEP meeting, have lunch with a biokid. 

    Figuring out your child's Love Language can really pinpoint what will make your child feel the most special and loved. 

    11. Family and individual activities. 
    Don't skip that family vacation because one child can't handle it. Find an alternative for the child having issues (preferably something fun for them), and GO! Make time for each child's school events and activities. Go to your biokids' art show, soccer game, whatever. Sign them up for dance classes that their adopted sibling isn't a part of (this is when it really comes in handy to have a spouse so you can divide and conquer!).

    Try to find ways that all the kids can participate without overshadowing the other's fun. While watching your son play T-ball, let the other kids play on a nearby playscape or spread a blanket behind the bleachers and play with toys they don't always get to play with. Have a Letter Party and each child gets to do something different to help (pick the letter, shopping, helping cook, pick the movie, set up the picnic area...).

    12. Individual time - 
    Give the kids a break from their siblings and family life sometimes. There were summers where Bob went to live with her grandparents. She remembers them as some of the best summers ever. 

    13. Squeaky wheels - 
    Be very aware that our natural inclination is to take care of the squeaky wheel first. The problem is that biokids tend to be less squeaky (well, except during puberty when all of my kids went insane). I still feel guilty that my adopted kids were so squeaky that my biokids were often ignored. Prioritizing Yourself, Your Family, and Your Child - In That Order**

    14. Provide structure and reduce overwhelm.  
    Our adopted kids needed LOTS of Structure and Caring Support.  Their insides are so chaotic that we had to make the rest of life as calm and as simple as possible. That means stripping their rooms of all but a bed and one toy.  It means for them, chores that biokids could handle with ease, have to be simplified and fewer.  Multi-step directions were overwhelming and impossible.  They usually triggered Dysregulation and Meltdowns.

    15. Make it OK for biokids to complain and vent. 
    Living with mentally ill siblings is HARD. It is for parents too of course, but there are rarely support groups and people teaching Self-Care for kids. As long as it wasn't in front of their siblings, and they didn't share it with friends who knew their siblings, then I made sure that they knew it was even OK to resent/hate their sibling.
    {I probably let the venting/ complaining go too far and let the biokids feel that it was OK to be totally negative about their siblings all the time without encouraging them as much as I should have to look for the good stuff too. Please be aware of that yourself and don't do what I did!}
    15a. Preventing abuse. We also had frequent conversations with all our kids individually about personal safety and who was allowed to touch their "private parts" (parents and doctors and only if necessary). We made it very clear that they needed to come to us if they felt threatened or hurt in any way. We also watched carefully for "grooming" behaviors (abusers will often "woo" potential victims to build trust before actually abusing them).

    16. Avoid over-sharing
    I'll admit that as Bob got older, it was easy to confide in her and sometimes vent or bounce off ideas. She knew the people involved and the situations, much better than any other friends and family members outside of our immediate family. She often had great insight, and I knew she wouldn't judge me for being upset/ angry with the adopted child or the situation. I often worry that I laid too much on her shoulders because she seemed like she could handle it. I forgot that she's still a kid and going to have to have and/ or establish some kind of relationship with this sibling for the rest of their lives.

    17. Down the Road? 
    As our biokids get older, they might have to take over the care of their sister, Kitty (and possibly even their brother, Bear), when Hubby and I can no longer do it. I'm not sure how I feel about asking that of them, but I don't foresee any alternatives.

    Reluctant Keepers of a Brother With Autism:We have always believed that Nick and Grace should take responsibility for their brother when we no longer can. We have worked to engrave that duty on their hearts, but they accept it grudgingly. I wonder if we failed as parents to instill compassion in the twins, if we somehow hardened their hearts instead of softening them. [My husband] reminds me that few people accept familial duty with joy.  
    Nick and Grace, meanwhile, at 23 are now busy young adults with romantic relationships and promising careers. They rarely ask after their brother, but when we all get together for holidays, they treat Jeffrey with detached kindness rather than the resentment of the past.  We sometimes remind the twins of their duty to care for Jeffrey, and with the optimism and confidence of youth, they say they will handle it, and anyway, it is far in the future. But I know that the future has a tendency to arrive sooner than expected, and that it will not be easy.
    Are we asking too much of the twins? What is the responsibility of a sibling for a sibling?  When we are both gone, the burden will be passed down, along with the silverware and the photo albums, and Nick and Grace will be forced to take up where we left off. And we can only hope that we have done right by all of our children.