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, December 30, 2015

Running Again

She's running again,

I'm not sure which comes first, Kitty getting frustrated and unhappy so decides to run to biofamily, or thinking about running to biofamily stresses her out so much she gets more easily frustrated and unhappy. (Why Do Adopted Kids Go Back to Birth Families?)  Probably an escalating combination of both.

Kitty first moved in with biofamily immediately after high school graduation, then discovered that she just couldn't handle it, and came home in less than a month (lasted one week with biomom, and then stayed with pregnant biosister's baby daddy's sister for the remaining 3 weeks. She'd slept on the floor and acted a a free nanny to the girl's 3 kids).

Now, almost 2 years later, we're going through the same thing again. Kitty is impulsively (less than 2 weeks notice) wanting to move back in with birth family again. They've been applying a lot of pressure for years, and right now Kitty is dealing with a lot of friend and family drama.

It is so hard watching my kids self-destruct and wondering where to draw the line. I know I should let Kitty go again, but I sooooo don't want to be the one to pick up the (probably pregnant) pieces.

On a positive note (kind of), finally the therapist is seeing why I have started giving "Ultimatums." This time I described the process to the therapist (and Kitty confirmed). It doesn't start with ultimatums - it ends with them, because nothing less works (and even the ultimatums only work on occasion)

  1. Kitty informed me that Biomom would be coming to pick her up in a week and a half. She comments that she'd actually planned on waiting until after Christmas to tell us (which would be less than a week's notice). She tells me it's going to be different from last time, because she's going to live with BioGrandma instead of BioMom.
  2. We have a calm discussion (Kitty confirmed this to the therapist) about the issues with moving across country without time to make needed doctor appointments, plans for meds, psychiatrists...

    We talk about the way Medicaid works (cannot get more than 1 month medication at a time and she takes 6 psychotropic meds - which run out at random times throughout the month).

    We talk about the fact that she has no way back since she refuses to get on any type of public transportation (bus, plane, train) - Biomom has been known to be less than reliable and does not want Kitty to leave again (last time she held Kitty's things hostage to get her to stay).
    We talk about Kitty's current financial obligations and how much money Biograndma would need to cover the cost of Kitty's food and rent.

    I let Kitty know that with someone with her chronic, major medical issues traveling across country with less than a week notice... was irresponsible, irrational and not an adult decision and that I do NOT support it.

    Kitty stayed "present" for most of the discussion and participated.
  3. The next day, Kitty restates her decision to leave.
  4. We have another calm, discussion. Kitty doesn't like what she's hearing, but again participates and stays "present." We discuss options to make this work. I make it very clear that while this is possible and I won't make her stay home, it is NOT possible with 1 week notice - especially with most of that during a major holiday.
  5. The next day, Kitty restates her decision to leave that weekend. *UGH!*
  6. I tell Kitty I think this is an irresponsible decision and I cannot support it, because it is not in her best interest.

    I then tell her that despite this belief, I will help her, IF she gets on birth control (specifically an IUD) before she leaves. Kitty refuses, because she doesn't like the thought of putting something in her body (but piercings and penises apparently don't count!).
  7. The next day, Kitty restates her decision to leave that weekend.

This time, the therapist stopped saying I needed to change and let Kitty know that my "ultimatum" is not unreasonable. That Kitty is not making a rational, adult decision and is not accepting any input or being part of a discussion. Without using those exact words, the therapist told Kitty she is WRONG.

Finally, validation for me! I know that's not the point, but it makes it easier for me to quit feeling so frustrated and angry, because someone is validating Kitty's belief that I'm "mean" and therefore EVERYthing I say can be discounted. Maybe that's petty, but it is hard enough living with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder and Kitty's issues with reality, and I don't need it to be any harder.

In a therapy session, the therapist, Kitty, and I came up with a plan together.

Plan/ requirements for Kitty moving across the country:
  • Make an Exploratory Visit (at least 2 weeks but less than 4).
  • Guaranteed way there AND back – $ for a bus/ plane ticket is fine – doesn’t have to be the actual purchased ticket. You do have to be willing to get on the bus/ plane/ train. {has often stated she is not willing}  Counting on someone giving you a ride is not sufficient.
  • Verify where you will get your services (psychiatrist, therapist, medical, pharmacy transportation...). All will need to accept Texas Medicaid until you get your insurance transferred (which may not be for 6 months to a year – depending on how hard it is to transfer).
  • Have a psychiatrist appointment and annual physical before you go.
  • Find out how much money you are expected to pay.  Count on your SSI money to not be transferred for approximately 6 months (give or take) after you move there. Will $100/ month (not including your $11.50 weekly allowance) be enough?
  • Get on birth control. IUD is really the only option - the pill requires taking it consistently AND it is only 80% effectiveness due to your meds. The shot has similar effectiveness and the hormones can alter your mood dramatically. -- increasing issues with impulsive, risky choices - especially when not taking meds regularly and making poor choices about safety and environment. {Last time she lived with biofamily, she did not take her medication regularly and became very dysregulated.}
  • Set up a plan for getting your medication. You can take up to one month's worth with you (the limit with Medicaid) for the exploratory visit, but will need another method after that. To get on a schedule that allows you to pick up a full month of meds on one day will take at least 6 months (this would be done by picking up medications a few days early or a few later {She's allowed to pick meds up about a week before she runs out). Inching her med pickup time closer to once a month.}
I still believe this is a totally rational plan, but we're not dealing with rational.

The day after therapy, a cold front hits (gets down to the high 50s). Kitty suddenly remembers how much she hates to be cold.

Kitty decides not to move/ visit - until the Summer.

I'm sure some of her decision is "cold feet" (an excuse not to make the move), but I'm beyond frustrated.

Now we're back to needing to discuss what it looks like to live in our house, but despite being asked to spend some time at home during extended family's visit (Hubby's mom, our nephew, and nephew's fiancee who is Kitty's age)... Kitty spent the majority of her days and nights at friends' houses, only coming home if we planned to go out to eat.

I believe she will be receiving another ultimatum soon.

And Again...

Summer rolled around and Kitty did move in with her biograndma. We helped her load all her belongings into BioGrandpa's truck and they drove across the country non-stop (approx. 15 hours). Not surprisingly, Kitty was a giant triggered mess by the time she left.

This time was a little more organized than the last time (but not much).
  • Trial PeriodKitty understood that this was to be a 3 month trial period. Nothing would be transferred to her new state until the end of this trial, no matter how inconvenient, because transferring everything back would be more so and lead to time without coverage (insurance, SSI, and other services).
  • Medication. Kitty saw her psychiatrist right before she left, so she had a full month's worth of meds. 
  • Medicaid. We verified with insurance that she could access her TX Medicaid in another state (unfortunately, this turned out to be incorrect information and she ended up having to use just our private insurance and pay co-pays)
  • Closure visit with therapist.
  • Other services were informed she was "going on vacation out of state."
Kitty arrived at BioGrandpa's house late Saturday night. She slept most of Sunday (she was unable to sleep in the truck), but did move in with BioGrandma (BioGrandparents are divorced). Monday morning bright and early, I got a call from the social services office. Kitty was positive this was going to work out, so she was trying to transfer everything up there. *sigh* Luckily, as her rep payee I was able to stop this. I reminded Kitty that this was a trial period for very good reasons and that she had agreed to them.

Kitty was being hit on all sides from biofamily, trying to convince her that I was evil and just out to keep her money. Luckily for me, most of time, I was back on a pedestal (we discovered this "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" feeling the last time she moved to Nebraska --> I was horrible and they were awesome until she moved there, then I was awesome and they were horrible). So in general, she was able to ignore their claims and continue to rationally accept my help.

Medical Expenses
Almost immediately after arrival, Kitty started seeing doctors, even though I repeatedly reminded her that she did not have Medicaid there and did not have money for co-pays from our private insurance.

She'd allegedly injured an ankle a couple of years before, and felt that I hadn't let her see any specialists to get it fixed. Of course, during those last 2 years, she'd worn 6" platform heels almost every day and often gone "hiking" with her friends. Most of the time when she'd seen a doctor, she'd forgotten it even bothered her (so I assumed it was psychosomatic).

Every doctor who'd seen her in the last 2 years (when she remembered it hurt), said it was fine. Right before she left though, she managed to convince a doctor that if it was still bothering her after "2 years" that maybe she should see an orthopedist. She didn't have time to get an appointment before she left. 

After multiple x-rays and a couple of specialists, she found a doctor there that said that she'd not healed properly from an injury and needed surgery. I don't know if this was accurate or not. My point was that she'd waited "2 years," and could wait a couple of months until she had Medicaid there. She's on a fixed income and can't afford surgery without it. From half way across the country and not finding out about the visits until after the fact, there was nothing I could do, but continue to pay the bills as they trickled in. 

Honeymoon is over
Kitty lasted a week with BioGrandma before BioGrandma completely fell off her pedestal.

Kitty had been very mature in recognizing that a lot of BG wanting to "spend every waking minute" (Kitty's description not mine) with Kitty was not BG thinking that Kitty couldn't handle things on her own, but loneliness.

Then Kitty started to feel that BG didn't like a biosister's baby daddy and Kitty's youngest biosister (~8 years old), because they were Hispanic. When Kitty heard that BG had once hit the biosister in the face, she moved in with Biomom.

Biomom lived in a 2 bedroom apartment. She shared her bedroom with the 2 youngest biosisters (~8 and 14) unless she had a boyfriend spending the night. The other bedroom was occupied by the 17yo pregnant biosister and her baby daddy. Kitty stayed on the couch.

Because the apartment was subsidized housing (Biomom and one of the younger biosisters are on SSI), they didn't want Kitty to pay rent because that would jeopardize their housing. Unfortunately, if Kitty receives room and board without paying rent, then she will lose her SSI money (and therefore Medicaid).

Kitty couldn't understand this and kept trying to "contribute" by paying for the rental furniture, junk food for her siblings, gas for the vehicle, and other mostly non-essentials. 

Transfer Services
I got a call for Kitty's SSI annual review (I'm her Rep Payee so they do this with me instead of with her). Managing everything from across the country, constantly being accused of theft and of not treating Kitty like the adult she thinks she is, dealing with constant demands for more money, and watching Kitty put up with this horrible living situation for over 2 months, when I got the review call from SSI, I threw up my hands and told them that she'd officially moved out of state.

I had everything transferred to the new state, including Medicaid. I kept the rep payee status (they'd mentioned suspending her SSI funds if I didn't), but requested that they find someone (NOT biofamily!) to take it over as soon as possible.

Biofamily Neglect
I received more and more calls from Kitty about how "mean" everyone was to Kitty. At first, she talked about how mean everyone was to her biosibs as well, then she started complaining about them too.

She actually called me one day and demanded that I "do something" about the youngest biosister. I told her she needed to talk to Biomom, but apparently Biomom "wouldn't do anything about it." I have no idea what Kitty thought I could do from here, but she isn't exactly rational at the best of times. 

After having the ankle surgery, Kitty was confined to the couch, only getting up to use the restroom. She talked about how the family would make waffles and pancakes and eat them all without offering her any. I think not getting food (a huge trigger for Kitty) was the straw that finally broke the camel's back. 

She decided to come home despite knowing that she'd have to go to a year-long residential vocational school designed to teach independent living skills to people with mild intellectual disabilities. It's a great program, although Kitty things she'll be "wasting her youth" there. *sigh*

We're downsizing (the house is too big now that Ponito is about to graduate high school and go off to college, Bear is in prison, and Bob is in college), so we need to prep our old house for sale. Kitty absolutely cannot live here during this final push to get things done (18 years of "benign neglect" meant I needed to do some major renovations on the house) and while the house is on the market. She is just not able to keep things clean enough.

How to Get Home?
Of course Kitty had spent all her savings rather than keeping some money for a ticket home. Originally Biomom was going to drive Kitty back home, but she backed out. Then Biomom said she would buy Kitty a plane ticket. Again, she backed out. We did not have the money needed to pay for a plane ticket, and Kitty had stated many times she'd rather die than get on a bus. We'd actually traveled to Nebraska for our nephew's wedding mid-July and offered to bring her and all her stuff home, but she hadn't been ready yet.

Kitty discovered that if she didn't spend the money she received weekly for gas, food, and spending money, for a whole month, that she would have enough for a plane ticket. After 3 weeks, she double checked the price, and discovered that the cost of plane tickets goes up the closer you get to departure date! We informed her that sadly, we didn't have the money to make up the difference, and she had spent almost all her savings on medical bills and the few requests for extra money that I had granted. 

We let her know that if our nephew decided to come here for Christmas, we could ask him if he'd bring her home then. Kitty was still convinced that she was capable of going to community college full-time, so I would have preferred that she stay until December so she could try that for a while there. I wanted her to see that it wasn't going to work, instead of me having to be dream killer yet again.

Kitty decided to take the bus. By not spending her gas, food, and spending money, she had just enough money for her ticket home and one bag (she planned to leave the rest of her stuff with my nephew until he came to visit us or we went there). She could make it home... if I gave her a small advance on her weekly allowance. I agreed to advance her the money.

She had some cash she'd received for babysitting that she used to purchase some food to take with her. I let her know I was impressed that she'd thought ahead and purchased food from the grocery store where it would be cheaper than buying food on the way. Unfortunately, her youngest sister ate all the food (Kitty was upset that Biomom was unwilling to reimburse her or replace the food). Biograndma took Kitty to the bus station, and was going to buy her breakfast, but forgot.

When Kitty called me from the bus the next day, she hadn't eaten in almost 48 hours. I immediately put money on her debit card and told her to get food at the next stop. 

Lesson learned?
Kitty got home at the end of September, and we're still fighting to get her services reinstated. Except for me contacting the social security office and changing her address, she insisted that she could do it all herself, and refused my help.

After a month, she was completely out of meds, had no Medicaid, no psychiatrist appointment, and was finally willing to turn a lot of it back over to me. Three weeks later and I'm still working on it. 

She's already taken her medications back to her room, even though I told her that was not an option. *sigh* We need to reestablish the ground rules for her to be able to function here. I'm not looking forward to it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Therapeutically Parenting the Adult Child

So how do you live with an adult child with Borderline Personality Disorder

I've been trying to continue to age-appropriately (Kitty's probably emotionally about 13-14yo) therapeutically parent Kitty, with allowances for her legally an adult status, and it has NOT been easy.

For the last few weeks, I've been making Kitty do family therapy every session instead of alternating with individual therapy, because we're both extremely "dissatisfied" with family life right now. Kitty's therapist has been OK with this, but is frustrated, because she believes that unless both Kitty and I want to change, nothing is going to change and we're going to keep talking in circles.

Our biggest issue:
Kitty feels I'm being too controlling and I should let her do what she wants to (hang out with friends). She doesn't feel she should have to do household chores**, because she's "rarely home to make the mess." She's rarely home, because when I do see her I end up spending our very limited (her choice) time together telling her to do her few household chores (and asking if she's remembered to take her meds). It's not what I want our relationship to look like, but maybe she can't handle more. When we are having fun as a family (something I have to work hard at to make happen), Kitty usually just leaves, but if we catch her leaving and ask her why, she claims she's tired or doesn't feel well.

We both trigger each other. Kitty runs away (usually hides in her room or spends as much time as she can with friends). I get frustrated, because I know that nothing I say makes a dent, so I find myself making passive aggressive comments and simmering most of the time - which I hate, since that's not my personality.

The therapist has been saying we both need to compromise and be willing to change. She's said I need to be "more therapeutic" and back off... a lot. She wants me to go back and try all the therapeutic things I've done in the past and that I see no point in doing any more, because they haven't worked. At one point, the therapist said I needed to "find someone to talk to about my anger" so I can change (this made me fume). She told Kitty that Kitty needed to change too, but Kitty has already said that's not going to happen, and was so triggered and shut down that she admits she never even heard the therapist's comments.

The therapist has pretty much said that we're both refusing to change so there's nothing she can do to help. Right before Christmas, I walked in to therapy more mad and frustrated than other times - my nephew and his fiancee will be visiting for a week as of December 26th. I've been really focused on renovating the house as we get closer to our planned selling date (we're downsizing) so the house is a mess. I needed a little help from the kids. Bob and Ponito were not excited about helping, but completed the to-do lists I wrote. Kitty doesn't want to help so she's only home when we're going out to eat.

The therapist said we need to communicate - sit down and talk together. She said Kitty and I need to get together and talk about what chores I want done and deadlines.

I'm so tired of explaining that I don't think Kitty is capable of handling more.
I really want a way of holding her accountable and giving her consequences, but I'll settle for her to quit acting like she's entitled to all the adult privileges and being told I'm a a horrible person for treating her like the child she is.

After MUCH discussion with a LOT of people. I think what I've decided is that I'm going to stop feeling guilty about my unwillingness to change. I don't care how old she is, I'm the parent and this is MY house. She agreed to follow the completely reasonable  rules, but she's not.

I think I've been sending her the wrong message. That she has the right to tell me I should change. I'm done.

Now I have to figure out what that looks like. Probably something like the Basic vs Luxury plan. I definitely plan to reread Stop Walking on Eggshells.

Spaghetti and meatball from 3 days ago

Not keeping her room clean - 
I recently went in to Kitty's room and discovered a container of 3 day old spaghetti and meatball on the floor (food is not allowed in bedrooms); 20-30 glasses many 1/2 filled with liquids (1/2 of these were in a plastic sack with some silverware in her trash can!); my shoes she'd borrowed and not returned; dirty laundry and trash so thick you couldn't see the floor... The room smells so badly that the hallway reeks even if her bedroom door is closed.

Possible Consequences - 
  • In the past, I would strip her room to be less overwhelming and within her abilities to handle.
  • Bob's dorm does a weekly room inspection, and fines up to $10/week for violations (ex. $.50 if the inside of the microwave isn't clean). 
We have let Kitty know that her room and the bathroom she uses MUST be clean and organized. I gave her a deadline of having it to this standard by January 1st - and when she asked if I would help, I said yes. If it's not clean by then, the I will strip and clean her room. There would be weekly inspections with fines.

I hate this, but this is a health hazard, and we cannot sell the house with her room like this.


**Kitty and Chores:

Over the years, I have lowered my expectations of what Kitty is capable of achieving. Due to her ADHD, brain injuries, attachment issues, IQ... Kitty does better when she has achievable goals that are not overwhelming. It also helps me better able to parent her if I'm not comparing her to other kids her physical age. Kitty knows (and enjoys) this, but claims to resent it when she wants to feel justified in being angry at me. She says my lack of belief in her abilities makes her want to not do any thing and pull away. She has no answer for the therapist who questions why she isn't trying to "prove me wrong."

Kitty's Current Household Chores

  1. Feed the dog in the morning and at night - with reminders and assuming she's home to do so.
  2. Clean the cat's litter box every other day - happens once a week or two - if I put my foot down.
  3. Keep the shared bathroom clean - she's now the only one that uses it because the other kids feel it's too disgusting (even Ponito who only showers on a weekly basis).
  4. Load the dishwasher - she refuses to empty it.
  5. Keep her room clean - she doesn't even attempt this.

Kitty wants me to praise her for the chores she does do. I'm resentful that I had to nag, push, and tolerate a half-assed job. A lot of times, I'll walk past a job that I asked her to do days or even weeks before, see something blatant (like an overflowing trash can) and assume she hasn't done the job. I'll then tell her (again!) that she needs to do the job. She gets angry because I criticized her so she shuts down and pulls away.

Words of affirmation is both of our love language. A few months ago, Kitty randomly decided to give me praise daily, by telling me how pretty I am. 2 to 3 times a day. That sounds lovely, right? But I have asked her to stop (repeatedly), because the whole point of it being my love language means that it's a way of telling me you love me. She admits that right now she doesn't like me and doesn't want to be anywhere near me, so why would I want her superficial compliments?

Follow-up Post

"Adult" Boarder vs Family Girl

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Safety First

Children NEED structure and caring support to feel safe and start to heal.   This feeling of safety is not about physical safety and often not based in reality – it is a perceived feeling of safety.

Just like our kids keep using old defense mechanisms that are no longer needed, our kids with scary, traumatic early childhoods often get stuck in the feeling that they are not safe.

This is a life or death feeling! 

A child who feels unsafe is a scared child. A scared child will act out (or act in) to try to feel safe again.

Feeling unsafe is not rational. You can't explain to the child that they're safe now. Logic doesn't work. Feelings of being unsafe can pop up at the most unexpected times, like a PTSD flashback. For a good explanation of this see: The Frozen Lake Story (at the bottom of this post) by Nancy Thomas. Generally, this feeling of being unsafe will fade as our child heals, but there will probably always be times when it comes up again.
Children who don't feel safe in infancy have trouble regulating their moods and emotional responses as they grow older. By Kindergarten, many disorganized infants are either aggressive or spaced out and disengaged, and they go on to develop a range of psychiatric problems. They also show more physiological stress, as expressed in heart rate, heart rage variability, stress hormone responses, and lowered immune factors. Does this kind of biological dysregulation automatically reset to normal as a child matures or is moved to a safe environment? So far as we know, it does not.” ~ The Body Keeps the Score, Beseel A van der Kolk, M.D.
For a fantastic explanation of safety and why it is so important - plus what to do about it. I highly recommend the video Chaos to Healing - Therapeutic Parenting 101 which explains Daniel Hughes P.A.C.E concept in an easy to understand and practical way. One of the presenters in this video is therapeutic parent and coach, Christine Moers. If you haven't seen her YouTube videos or checked out her blog, I HIGHLY recommend her.

Kids of trauma are often easily triggered, extremely sensitive to emotions, unable to regulate their emotions... causing them to react as if they are in a war zone.  You can't learn, attach, and heal if you don't feel safe and you're living in a war zone!

Hypervigilance (obsessively monitoring her environment) is super common among kids with PTSD.  It relaxes when they start to feel safe, but probably doesn’t ever really go away.

Who's in Charge Here?

Our kids need to know we're in charge. If the adults aren't in charge then they can't keep the child safe. When we back down - let our kids argue, intimidate and manipulate us into changing our minds, we are sending a mixed message to our child. That message is that we cannot keep our child safe.

If the child feels that they are in control instead of us then their world is not SAFE.

I said "safe" a lot. That's because I believe it's one of the most important motivators kids with trauma issues have. They do not trust and they do not feel safe. 

An insecure, scared child behaves in increasingly bizarre and scary ways to get control of their world. When they have the control, instead of the adults, then they get more afraid and things cycle even farther out of control.

Structure and Caring Support

It took me a long time to believe it, but my children actually craved caring structure. Their favorite teacher at school was a behavior staff person who always called them on their behavior (if they were acting like a turd, she said so, bluntly), BUT, unlike the teachers who let them do whatever they wanted, or were super strict, but didn't actually care about my kids, my kids knew that this teacher legitimately cared about them.

When I began providing Caring Structure, I thought for sure they would rebel and make our lives miserable. They didn't always like it, but it seemed like their few complaints were based on what their peers thought about it, rather than something they were truly feeling. Unlike my neurotypical, biochildren who understandably would have protested the strict structure their adopted siblings required, most of the time, my adopted children just accepted it and moved on.

Without this structure or when we "lightened up," my son would act out until he had to be returned to the stricter structure level. Somewhere deep down, subconsciously, his brain knew he needed that structure to feel Safe. 


The time to talk about rules and consequences is NOT in the moment. In the middle of a meltdown, our kids are most likely in Fight, Flight or Freeze mode and feel like this is a life or death situation. The thinking part of their brain is not online.

The premise of the Beyond Consequences books is that there are only two primary emotions, love and fear.  For example, when a traumatized child shows anger it is because he or she is scared.

It helps me to remember that during a meltdown, my child feels like a cornered or injured animal and is lashing out to protect himself. He is a scared little boy. This helps me be empathetic, which makes it easier for me to be therapeutic.


Rules are like fences. Kids need them to feel safe. If the child feels that they are in control instead of us then their world is not safe. 

Children NEED rules, routines, and boundaries – these are like fences, they keep children safe.  Think of children as researchers.  Some children are very aggressive researchers; they will continuously test the rules over time to see if they are still firm and clear. Rules make children feel safe.  Only when a child feels safe can they trust enough to feel loved.

Some "rules" on Rules:
  •  Rarely say “No” – Provide lots of structure from the beginning.  There is nothing wrong with saying, “No," but it's better to set up the child’s environment so that he/she doesn't hear a lot of "No"s.  There just shouldn't be an option of doing things that need a “no.”  Think of it like childproofing.
  • "4 Foot Rule" and "Shadowing" used when the child is dysregulated, threatening harm to him/herself or others, and being intimidating and/or aggressive… or just seems to need the additional emotional support. The child must be within (approximately) 4 feet of a caregiver at all times (this usually just means line-of-sight).
  •  Rules should be simple and few.  Make sure rules and consequences are very clear and consistent.  Go over rules with the children often!  It only takes 2 minutes to tell the children (or have them tell you!) the rules, and the consequences if they are not followed.
  • Positive and Concise!  Try to keep the rule to no more words than the age of the child (3 words for a 3-yr-old, 4 words for a 4-yr-old...) and phrased positively.

    Instead of saying "No running!"  For a 3-yr-old, you would say, "Use Walking Feet!"  Instead of, "Shut UP!  Why are you always screaming?!  You're making Mommy crazy!  Why can't you just play quietly for 5 minutes?!...."

    Keep it short and simple. -quietly state "Inside Voices."

    Instead of "Quit standing on the furniture!"  Try, "Chairs are for bottoms (not feet)."
  • Don't say “DON’T – When you tell a child “Don’t” you just increased his chances of doing what you’ve just asked them not to do tenfold.  Instead of telling a child what not to do, we need to tell them what to do.  Create a positive picture.  The more enthusiastic and happy you are the more likely they are to listen!  Really!
  •  Clear, consistent communication – When delivering consequences, make sure your message is clear and direct.  Be firm, consistent, and FOLLOW THROUGH!  Stay calm and pleasant.
  •  Fresh starts - Fresh starts should be soon – a whole week is ineffective.  “I’m sorry you forgot the rule.  Tomorrow (after nap time, after dinner…) we will try again.”
  • Blank Slate - Forgive, but do not forget. If your child's life becomes one endless punishment ("You're grounded till you're 35!") then they have no motivation to continue.
    However, if you continually give them second chances with no qualifiers, then they will continually make the same (or worse) choices. Instead, change your expectations to ones that are developmentally age-appropriate and allows them incremental steps to earning whatever privilege they want but can't handle yet.
  •  Choices – Never give a child a choice you don’t want them to make.  Give them one or two options (both of which are acceptable to you).  If you ask a child if they want to get in the car or continue to lie on the floor and throw a fit, guess what they’re going to pick?!
  •  Okay?” is not okay, okay? - By ending a statement with “Okay?”, you are asking their permission and sending them an unclear message. Drop "Okay?" from your vocabulary, okay?


STRUCTURE AND CARING SUPPORT - Helping your child feel safe by providing the structure they need/ crave.

CHAOS TO HEALING - Therapeutic Parenting 101 video which explains Daniel Hughes P.A.C.E concept in an easy to understand and practical way.

CHRISTINE MOERS, therapeutic parent and coach. See her YouTube videos and check out her blog,

ATTACHMENT THERAPY and THERAPEUTIC PARENTING - As the child heals and attaches to you he/ she feels safer.

CRISIS PLANS - Setting up a plan with the child's school, caregivers, treatment team... to determine ahead of time, what to do if the child starts feeling unsafe and acting out or acting in.

ANXIETY SCALE - a concrete method of determining how a child is feeling.

CALMING TECHNIQUES - some effective techniques for helping a child calm down or stay calm.

CONSEQUENCES - Thinking outside the box (letting the kids help)

DEVELOPMENTAL AGE APPROPRIATE LEVELS - a concrete plan used to explain to a treatment team why a child is being given privileges and responsibilities more appropriate to a younger child (hint: because they are dysregulated and don't feel safe!)

THE FAIR CLUB - This can be used for discipline, but it can also be used to provide a very structured lifestyle for kids of trauma.

MY TOP 10 - the things that helped me the most in this journey!


My kids used to say they wanted to be in charge and often manipulated people so they were in charge, but underneath, the belief that adults were "stupid" and could be manipulated easily, TERRIFIED my kids (especially my son). They NEEDED the structure and caring supervision.

When we felt Bear was doing well and gave him more freedom and choices, he usually reacted by acting out. For a long time, we thought it was because the freedom gave him the opportunity to get into trouble. Eventually, we realized that it was because that was the fastest way to get us to reinstate the restrictions so he could feel safe again. He WANTED/ NEEDED to know exactly what was going to happen next (structure) and being closely supervised made him feel cared for. If we "weren't paying attention to him," then we didn't love him (yet another example of black and white thinking).

Once the kids felt safe and really knew that we "had their back," THEN they could handle having some choices and being in charge of themselves.

Unfortunately, Bear was never able to trust others enough to feel safe. That's why he needs the structure that we were no longer legally able to provide when he became an "adult." He could have gotten this structure in the military, but he wasn't eligible (due to his mental illness and medications), so he got it in the only other place he could, prison.

I felt like a bad parent until I realized that this is how he's wired and there's nothing more I can really do at this point to help him heal. I still have hope that his brain will continue to heal and someday he'll be able to maintain relationships and trust enough to not need this much support. You Have Not Failed

THE FROZEN LAKE by Nancy Thomas
"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