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!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

When Adopted Kids are Older than Biokids

My adopted children were older than my biokids too, and that caused some extra issues, because the bio kids 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).

My son was very violent to everyone and my adopted daughter was aggressive toward my biodaughter (jealousy, pushing to get kicked out like everyone else has done, delayed emotional and socially - so tended to be more like a toddler who uses her hands not her words...).  For a long time we tried to treat the children equally, especially the girls.

Here's some of the things we did (or I wish we had done sooner!).

* 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.  Trust Jars/ Love Jars post -
 It was our job to keep everyone safe. We cared about them, but 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."

*Stop treating them equally.  They are not equal! They have different life experiences, different interests, 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!

^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 their lives that was appropriate for each of 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!

*Remember that develomentally (emotionally and socially) kids of trauma are a LOT younger.  If we expect them to "act their age," we're all going to be disappointed.

*ABSOLUTELY no touching.  None.  Ever. The violent one especially, literally had to be out of arm 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.

* Separate rooms. Originally the girls shared a room.  BIG mistake! We converted the playroom to a bedroom to separate them.  When I was a kid, my bedroom was the breakfast nook with some slatted closet doors bolted in to make a wall.

*ABSOLUTELY no parenting.  The adopted kids felt they had a right to boss the biokids around and the biokids were good kids they just took it.  EVERY time we heard it, we reminded everyone that WE were 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 ("Mom said to come downstairs and do the dishes.") At most, they were allowed to say, "Mom is calling you."

* Individual parent time.  Just you (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 the biokids too, because they deserved a break too.

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


Suzanne said...

The FAIR Club? That you don't actually your:
(1) biokids to because they mostly don't need it and
(2) adopted kids to, because Kitty's too "fragile" to be told she's in FAIR Club.

You wrote so many lovely, detailed posts and... let Kitty do whatever the heck she wanted & discouraged her school (a special needs school!) from letting Kitty work towards her (unrealistic) goals. Which if Kitty failed to reach? Well, that's how kids learn.

Grieving Widow said...

Thank you so much for this post. It helps to hear that others have done the same things that we have done in our home. Very reassuring. God bless you!

marythemom said...

Not totally sure I understand your comment Suzanne, but I'll try to respond anyway.

Yes, we used the FAIR Club for quite awhile although it stopped being needed for the biokids pretty quickly. We would have used it longer if we'd started it earlier. I struggled for a long time trying to find something that worked for Bob and this did. Like any discipline method, the idea of it worked longer than it was actually needed. How many moms still say 1 (from 1-2-3 Magic) to remind their kids to straighten up?!

The FAIR Club was designed to work with BOTH our adopted kids and our biokids. Partly as a way of providing visible discipline of the adopted kids for the biokids to see, and therefore not feel like they could get away with stuff the adopted kids "got away with," and partly so the adopted kids could see that the bio kids got in trouble too. All the other kids knew was that you were in the FAIR Club. They usually had no idea if the "punishment" was really just a simple reminder that that was a bad idea (the equivalent of a "slap on the wrist") or a complex writing assignment that required thought and growth to complete.

It was also a way to provide the therapeutic parenting that the adopted kids needed in a way that they could handle (versus grounding, spanking, or letting them run wild with no disciple at all). Plus it gave ME a chance to calm down before deciding what to do that would best help the child learn.

It was unfortunate that Kitty couldn't handle being told she was in trouble (implied criticism), but Bear was able to handle it and ended up in the FAIR Club a few times. It also helped us figure out how to structure their lives in a way that worked better for them.

I'm not sure why you think Kitty got to do "whatever the heck she wanted." Not true at all. Just because I didn't officially put her in the FAIR Club doesn't mean she did whatever she wanted.

Gotta run. More later.

marythemom said...

"discouraged her school (a special needs school!) from letting Kitty work towards her (unrealistic) goals. Which if Kitty failed to reach? Well, that's how kids learn."

I'm really not sure if you're saying I should have encouraged Kitty's school to have her work towards unrealistic goals or not.

We tried allowing the school to work toward unrealistic goals with Bear and he graduated with no vocational skills and unrealistic expectations. Probably because of his brain injury (which they both have), he can't "learn" from this.

We tried to help Kitty find attainable goals to work toward while she was in school. Without the cooperation of the school we were unsuccessful. Now we struggle to find something she the skills and abilities to do and would enjoy. She thinks she might like cosmetology school, but we have to find one that works with her sleep issues (we're trying to get her in a part-time evening program).

Thanks for the positives, Grieving Widow!

Anon England said...

I'm a year late or so...but what about some kind of blended learning program?

Like a correspondence course where she just goes in for tests/practicals?

marythemom said...

Anon England - Kitty's severe learning disabilities and lack of executive functioning (which among other things makes her disorganized, unable to work independently, and forgetful), plus her attachment issues (making it hard for her to accept help or critiques from me and family members)... all add up to most independent, correspondence or homeschool type programs being next to impossible for her.