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!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dear Person Who Doesn't Get It


Trauma Business Cards
I have seen versions of this card used by many parents with kids with trauma issues. On the back is usually a link to some place that explains trauma and attachment disorders like:
Beyond Trauma and Attachment (BeTA) http://momsfindhealing.com/

The Attachment & Trauma Network, Inc. (ATN) https://www.attachmenttraumanetwork.org/ 

These cards can be handed out when you are not in a place to explain what's going on. For example, when you have a raging child in a public place and need others to back off and not interfere. 


People Who Don't Get It

So many times we deal with people who just don't "get it." They tell us we're doing it wrong. They tell us how they would do it/ how we *should* do it. How their neighbor's first cousin's barber's kids do the same things and it's totally normal behavior. They feed into our child's manipulations by believing the child over us. They base their opinion on their own (limited) experience, and ignore the person who knows your child best (YOU!)

Some of my favorite responses:

"Thank you, we are aware of {this issue} and our child is under the care of a team of specialists {this includes YOU by the way}." Then smile and walk away. 


"We respect {our child}'s privacy and don't discuss his personal story with others. Thank you for your understanding." Then smile and walk away.

"Thank you for your concern. I prefer not to discuss this, especially in front of my child." Then smile and change the subject.

Give them the "Miss Manner's look." (the one that says, "Excuse me, but how dare you ask such a personal question?") Then walk away.

So what do you say when a busybody tries to tell you what to do and/ or criticizes the way you're doing it? Feel free to reply in the comments. 



You have my permission (not that you need it, but here it is!) to completely ignore them. They don't know any better. For years, I sought validation from professionals and other people who "didn't get it" and was miserable, because I wasn't going to get it (the validation). Surround yourself with people who "get it," and do LOTS of SELF-CARE! If we allow it, these people can be just as draining as our kids.

We're told we are overbearing, over-controlling, helicopter parenting, too strict, too laid-back, too lenient, we need to "beat it out of him," need to "just love her more," need to be more involved, need to back off, need to "let him fail," need to praise her more, put them in martial arts so they learn discipline, we just need to "explain" to him how/ why his behavior is not okay...

The truth is, all those well-meaning people who tell you what you "SHOULD" (or should not) be doing, have no idea what parenting 24/7 with a child with an attachment disorder is like (even those who have experience working with special needs children). They don't know YOUR child and how your child is with YOU (especially if you are the female caregiver).

Plus, they work at most an 8 hour shift with your child, then they get to go home!  None of them need to take into account the needs of the rest of your family, your other children, your marriage, or you.  Their priority is the one child, not your family as a whole.
Prioritizing Yourself, Your Child, and Your Family - In That Order

Additional Post:
Best of the Worst Parenting Advice



Dear Friend or Family Member Who Doesn't "Get It," 
written by a Trauma Mama, shared with permission
You are receiving this letter because you are someone we love and value as part of our family.
Parenting children is one of the hardest tasks we can take on as humans and doing so in the best of circumstances has many challenges. We have had challenges and have tried always to put them before God and wait to receive His guidance and then commit ourselves to following that direction.
We don’t pretend that we have always done the best job of that nor that we always acted in a Godly manner. We will answer to our creator for our mistakes, just as anyone else will have to.
One of our greatest challenges, parenting in our unique situation, is the fishbowl effect of it. Our family’s challenges are often played out in more public ways than others’ may be. With that brings the opportunity for those other people to watch and formulate an opinion without necessarily having all the facts. Those ill-informed opinions in and of themselves may be harmless (we don’t believe they are – they negatively affect relationships) if not acted on. When they are acted on, at the least they cause pain and hurt feelings, at the worst they undermine our parenting and do harm to our child.
What we ask is this: “let no word proceed from your mouth but what is profitable for building up.”
  • Understand that the decision you are judging is not yours to do so. 
  • Understand that we laid it before God and are acting on the guidance we received. 
  • Understand that we don’t know what will happen next year or even the next minute, but we are being obedient in this minute and leaving the future to God. 
  • Lastly, understand if you cannot do this, we will have to pull back from our relationship with you.
We have always needed your support, but if you can’t give it, please don’t tear us down.
Blessings,
A Trauma Mama
Shared with permission

*******

Sample Holiday Visit Letter 
– Adapted from –
See also (Holidays, Birthdays, and other Traumaversaries Tips for more resources and information)

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 {your child's name}, 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, {your child's siblings name(s)} and {your child's interests}. He likes to play Candyland, Legos, and with his iPod.


He also has {attachment disorder/trauma/ autism/ sensory integration disorder...}.


People with {attachment disorder/trauma/ autism/ sensory integration disorder...} often have certain behaviors to help themselves feel more comfortable and safe. {Your child's name} is not trying to be disruptive or deļ¬ant, nor does he need rescuing; 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. 


One of our greatest challenges, parenting in our unique situation, is the fishbowl effect of it. Our family’s challenges are often played out in more public ways than others’ may be. With that brings the opportunity for those other people to watch and formulate an opinion without necessarily having all the facts. Those ill-informed opinions in and of themselves may seem harmless (we don’t believe they are – they negatively affect relationships), but if they are acted on, at the least they cause pain and hurt feelings, at the worst they undermine our parenting and do harm to our child.


{Your child's name} needs a special kind of therapeutic parenting that does not look like the parenting that worked for you or with children without {attachment disorder/ trauma/ autism/ sensory integration disorder...}From the outside, it can make us appear bossy and controlling, or even seem abusive -- we are not. 


Please know that we have received special training and {Your child's name} is under the care of specialists, and trust me (mom) to know what {your child's name} needs and how to handle his behavior. 


It is very hard work to take {your child's name} out of his routine and comfort zone and incorporate (attachment disorder/ trauma/ autism/ sensory integration disorder...) into situations like holidays. {Your child's name} is used to structure and routine and all these changes can cause anxiety. 


We also need to ask you to change the way you interact with {your child's name}, such as {not hugging him, not giving him food or treats, not allowing him to charm you into believing he needs rescuing, he does not}. This may not make sense to you, but we need your support in this.  It is very necessary to his well being.


{Your child's name} often requires parental assistance to regulate himself. I ask that you not give this a lot of attention and continue eating and conversing. Once {your child's name} can regroup, he may be OK to return. However, if something changes, we may need to leave suddenly.   


Again, please do not be critical of mine or my husband’s parenting skills. Remember that {Your child's name} needs to be watched more closely than most children are his age. Like all parents, we do our best but are not perfect. 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,


Sincerely,

A Trauma Mama

More Letters:

Don't Save My Child
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.



Dealing with Outsiders Who Work with Your Child:
All those well-meaning people who say you "SHOULD" (or should not) be doing ____________, have no idea what parenting 24/7 with a child with an attachment disorder is like (even those who have experience working with special needs children). They don't know YOUR child and how your child is with YOU (especially if you are the female caregiver)- plus, they work at most an 8 hour shift with your child, then they get to go home!  None of them need to take into account the needs of the rest of your family, your other children, your marriage, or you.  Their priority is the one child, not your family as a whole.

Advocating For Your Child at School

New School Year Letters.  I send a letter every year to my child's teachers telling them a little about my child and what works and what doesn't.  



Ask if you can make a presentation to all of your child's teacher or even the entire school about your child's disabilities in general.

Details on the use of the chart at the top and ways to make effective presentations about your child that teachers will actually read are in this awesome post written by an amazing fellow trauma mama at Serenity Links Coaching.




Other good letters: 


A letter to grandparents of children with RAD - written by a grandmother


Letter to friends and family hosting holiday parties


Preparing the school (and others) for your child - includes lots of links to good articles


Trauma-informed approach for teachers and other team members


Other good letters and articles are in this post about School.

And these posts about:
 Holidays, Birthdays, and Other Traumaversaries
If You Find Out I'm Not Perfect, You'll Leave (aka Why Do They Act Like That?)


 The Frozen Lake Story
"In order to understand what an unattached child feels like, one must understand his perspective. Imagine that you are the young child who must cross a frozen lake in the autumn to reach your home. As you are walking across the lake alone, you fall suddenly and unexpectedly through the ice. Shocked and cold in the dark, you can't even cry for help. You struggle for your very life, you struggle to the surface. Locating the jagged opening, you drag yourself through the air and crawl back into the woods from where you started. You decide to live there and never, never to return onto the ice. As weeks go by you see others on the ice skating and crossing the ice. If you go onto it, you will die."
"Your family across the pond hears the sad news that the temperature will drop to sub-zero this night. So a brave and caring family member (that is you, the parent!) searches and finds you to bring you home to love and warmth. The family member attempts to help you cross the ice by supporting and encouraging, pulling and prodding. You, believing you will die, fight for your life by kicking, screaming, punching and yelling (even obscenities) to get the other person away from you. Every effort is spent in attempting to disengage from this family member. The family member fights for your life, knowing you must have the love and warmth of home for your very survival. They take the blows you dish out and continue to pull you across the ice to home, knowing it's your only chance."
"The ice represents the strength of the bond and your ability to trust. It was damaged by the break in your connection to someone you trusted. Some children have numerous bonding breaks throughout their young lives. This is like crashing them into the ice water each time they are moved, scarring and chilling their hearts against ever loving and bonding again." By Nancy L. Thomas



So You Think You Can Do It Better?
From a fellow Trauma Mama:


WANTED:


Applications are now being accepted in the position of family support personnel.


Think I am doing it wrong? Think you could totally do it better? Now is your chance!! Hop on board for this opportunity to make the difference in a family you think just isn't cutting it! 


Skills Needed:
  • -The ability to cut through the bull shit from both child and professionals
  • -The ability to put your own feelings, hurt, etc aside to unconditionally love a child who lets you know you are not enough for him. 
  • -Must be able to remain calm when asked the same question for literally the 1000th time, or the 100th time today. Literally. Like really, seriously, he knows the answer but he is gonna ask anyway.
  • -The physical ability to bend over backwards as needed in order to put the needs of one small child who has been seriously damaged before your own and everyone else's (Just kidding, thats nuts, stop asking me to!)
  • -The ability to feel like you are doing it all wrong and it is only getting worse and still keep chugging away with a damn smile on your face and love in your voice.
  • -The amazing ability to discern when a child really can't or is just pretending he can't
  • -The ability to diagnose conditions that doctors can't seem to agree on and create an appropriate treatment plan
  • -The acceptance that 1/3 of your paycheck will be cut, because obviously he needs therapy, fidgets, the right food, a LOT of replacements clothes, bed, sheets, and toys
  • -The ability to remain calm when he breaks, tears, or otherwise ruins said clothes, beds, sheets, and toys, because he didn't realize it would break when he pulled it, picked at it, or bent it that far and he just wanted to see
  • - The knowledge and skills to assess his academics and life skills, write an IEP, and implement it because, sorry putting on his pants using the button even though he is about to size out of pull on pants isn't an academic need, and we swear he is on grade level
  • -The mad skill of being able to remain calm when your child is sweet talking someone into giving them something and then telling you how easy it is to control kids
Duties to include:

  • -night waking
  • -making sure nothing is stolen, broken, or hoarded, while still allowing him a full room of stuff and every trinket they buy his compliance with at school, appointments, etc. because otherwise you're mean.
  • -Dropping everything and every feeling to be therapeutic because he needs it now, even though you just worked all day and got yelled at by three people and you just want to crawl into bed and sleep for hours (See first duty)
  • -Letting harsh criticism roll off your back because this kid will act completely different when other people are around
  • -Diplomatically explaining why this kid can't be treated like other kids to every person you interact with several times
  • -Wiping, washing, scrubbing, monitoring and damn near militaristically overseeing all manner of hygiene.
Ok, I'm mostly kidding, but seriously, if you want to judge, step in our shoes for a minute.

Sincerely,
A Trauma Mama 

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