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!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Seven Years

Hard to believe I started this blog seven years ago. One month after the adoption of our son, Bear (the day before his 15th birthday), and 5 months after adopting Kitty (2 weeks before she turned 13). This blog started out as a way for me to get support and advice from other people who had adopted and a place to vent about the overwhelming drama/ trauma in our home. Blogs were one of the few ways I had to connect to the adoption community.

In our house it's called the "Three Vent Rule." In my need to talk through my problems I discovered I was not only burdening my friends and family with my problems, but I was also "ruminating" and actually making myself feel worse. I eventually came up with the "three vent rule" - which stated that I could only whine/ complain on any one subject to no more than 3 people. I try to spread the love around too so no one person bears the burden of all my whinging (except Hubby - poor baby always has to listen, but that's why I married him - because of his broad shoulders - designed to bear all the weight of my world, and then some). I also had an unwritten rule to try to make the story as entertaining as possible so no one would notice what a total whiner baby I really am.

Another big source of venting for me was the long e-mail (Hubby calls them novels). I would write all about what my children were in to (or more likely up to) and the whole adoption team was FORCED to read them. Now that my children's adoptions are FINALLY final, I no longer have a captive audience. I'm hoping that this blog will allow me to vent without overwhelming my small support group.
So now I begin the journey into blogging.

Over the years, as we muddled through the mayhem of living with teens with RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) and severe trauma and mental illnesses, my life and outlook have changed RADically. I no longer need the validation that I'm doing the "right thing." I know that doesn't really exist. It still hurts when people criticize my parenting and my choices, but I feel more confident that I'm doing the best I can.

3 years ago, I discovered that Biomom had been reading my blog. I freaked out decided to shut it down. I knew that over the years, I had made assumptions and criticized Biomom's parenting in a way that would be hurtful to her. I did/ do have empathy for why she made the choices that she did and I regretted damaging our relationship (such as it was).

I chose to write my blog for several reasons:
  1. As a place to vent and get support from other moms who "get it."  When I first started blogging I didn't have access to this amazing community, and the few people I knew who'd adopted, even those who'd adopted RAD kids, had adopted younger children.  
  2. To share and provide support and education for other trauma mamas.  Over the years I've had to acquire a crash course in RAD and trauma and I didn't want others to have to go through what I did and make the same mistakes I made.
  3. To provide information to those in my kids' lives that needed it (like Grandma), without having to repeat myself or chance having the kids over hear it.
  4. To maintain a record of events.
Now that most of my children are (legally) adults, I blog mainly to give back to the adoption community. I moderate some FaceBook groups and comment frequently on others. I maintain this blog primarily as a resource.

I will continue to post resources, and include occasional updates about the kids, but I am no longer actively blogging. I want to thank everyone who has been there for me over the last 7 years.

Family Update:

Bear (22) still in prison, but he's expecting to get out soon. We talk to him weekly(ish) on the phone and send him a small monthly stipend. He changes his mind on a daily basis as to whether or not he will move back to our state to live near us or move in with biofamily. Either way, we'll have to limit our relationship until he gets stable on meds. I will continue to help him and do his case management, but for the sake of the rest of the family, he cannot live in our house again.

Kitty (20) still lives at home. Her therapist (and I) believe she will never be able to live without some support. She just misses the cut-offs for most assisted living/ group home type situations, but that may change as she gets older. Working and school have proven too stressful for her, and we're still working on finding her something she can do all day (besides watching Netflixs, going to therapy, and occasionally hanging out with friends). As she matures, I am hopeful that she will find a way to be happy with what she has, and what she needs.

Bob (19) is starting her second year of college and living in her first apartment. She loves school and has become a confident, amazing young lady. She is so independent, except when she's not! She still calls Hubby and I when she needs to know what to do about a flat tire, how to handle her roommate keeping a dead baby bird in a jar of water on the counter in their dorm room, what to do when her roommates figure out what an incredibly picky eater she is...  I hope she will always need her mama a little bit.

Ponito (16) is a junior in high school this year. He has recently been diagnosed with Depression and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). We're hoping that we can find the right medications to get him back on track at school and start to enjoy doing the things he loved again (like soccer).

Hubby (50!) is still my rock. 21 years of marriage and he still loves me. Yea! We're struggling financially, which stresses him out, but he keeps moving forward.

Me (45) I'm finally working only one job. I'm (mostly) full time in the corporate world, but I telecommute so my schedule is pretty flexible. I am able to go to all the therapies, doctor appointments and do the case management needed by Kitty (and the other kids). We've decided to sell our house in a few years, so I'm trying to squeeze in a lot of remodeling (DIY to save money) in my "spare" time. Another reason to be grateful I don't go to the office every day, I'm usually covered in paint/ stain/ sawdust...

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Handling Child Stress

I wrote this for a fellow Trauma Mama whose children are reacting to school starting. Sorry about all the links!!

When my children acted out, which was always worse around Holidays, Starting or Ending School, Birthdays, and Other Traumaversaries,..., when I wasn't so frustrated at them I could scream, I pulled them in. I reminded myself that they were terrified. This was life or death to them, and they couldn't really handle change or added stress (this has gotten better as they healed). Even my bio kids reacted this way, just not to this extreme.

Why Do They Do That?
Some insight into why our kids act the way they do.
 (Why Won't My Child Just Behave?)
(If You Find Out I'm Not Perfect You'll Leave)
(Why Doesn't My Child Feel Safe?)

How We Handled It

Calming/ Relaxation Techniques
I used Calming Techniques a LOT with my children.

Anxiety Scale
My kids needed concrete tools to help them with anxiety. The Anxiety Scale is a tool we suggested to help the school and our daughter figure out how anxious she was (number scales were difficult for her) and what might help at each level. 

Age-Appropriate Parenting
I reminded myself that they were really so very much younger than they looked, and I was expecting a lot from them. I tried to change my parenting to better match their emotional age (Chapter 1: Parenting based on Developmental/Emotional Age).

Discipline vs Behavior
I also tried to remind myself that they were SCARED and punishment for something that was out of their control (Chap. 2 Discipline vs. Behavior Problems), was not just mean, it was pointless. What they needed was to feel safe and loved. That meant I couldn’t take away all fun stuff (even though I wanted to!!!)

Structure and Caring Support

Most of all, I gave them a LOT more structure and support (Structure and Caring Support). Our kids need a LOT of structure and support, especially when they are overwhelmed and Dysregulated (Handling Meltdowns).

We went back to line-of-sight supervision, time-ins instead of timeouts, removed as many overwhelming events as possible (not just avoiding throngs of hyper children in places like sporting events and the park, but also the grocery store and Sunday School). Yes, there were things I could do little about (school/ daycare), but I could talk to the teachers and minimize as much stress as possible.

When stress was high, my kids’ life was like being in the FAIR Club (our family discipline method  ), but without actually being in the FAIR Club.

I tried to find calm, quiet, but still fun, things to do (Trapped in The House: Activities for Kids) so they wouldn't feel punished (taking a walk, letter parties … ). This wasn't about being in trouble or loss, they'd had enough of that; this was about making their life smaller. So they would feel SAFE.

I worked with the school to try to find ways to reduce my child's stress there. (Anxiety Scale and Crisis Plan)

At home, I did things like strip their room (Decluttering), because even with me helping them clean, it was overwhelming. So I did it when they weren't there, although I let them know ahead of time.  I left nothing but a bed, a book/ quiet toy, and a stuffed animal, at one point I even had my daughter's dresser in my room, and she "checked out" her clothing by bringing me the dirty ones, THIS WAS NOT A PUNISHMENT. 

Explaining Age-Appropriate Parenting
I tried to find ways to help my children understand why they were parented differently and the benefits. For example, having a stripped room meant that now cleaning their room would be a lot easier! (Explaining Age-Appropriate Parenting to Your Child)

A lot of time I screwed up. I lost my cool. I gave up (You Have Not Failed).  I finally learned that I absolutely had to do a LOT of Self-Care! Caring for the Caregiver because this is HARD WORK. I couldn't put myself last anymore. I couldn't allow my emotional reserves to be drained completely dry. I had to put myself FIRST!

I forgave myself (which was really hard!), then I put on my big girl panties, tried to Find the Joy, apologized to my child for not helping them feel Safe, and started over.

Therapeutic Parenting
Being a Therapeutic Parent SUCKS, but it does get better.