Posted by admin on January 22, 2015
BeTA. Beyond Trauma and Attachment. When you’re in the midst of it, it consumes your life. It consumes every waking and dreaming moment, it consumes your family, your friends (usually by chasing them away), the life you thought you were going to have, and the life you had. It consumes everything like a fire raging, and turns it into something else. But there is a Beyond. Like the mythical phoenix rising from the ashes, there is beauty that forms in the raging fire, and rises out. But before BeTA there was….
Me. Adoptive mom of 1 little boy, 5 yrs old. FASD, meth baby, a host of problems, but no attachment issues. We’d gotten through the medical scares, we’d given him every chance we could to have him reach his full potential, he had already surpassed each and every prognosis ever given for him. Hubby and I had given it our all, and our little boy had flourished. As adoptees ourselves, me adopted at age 2 out of foster care, raised in a verbally and sometimes physically abusive home, and hubby, adopted at age 5, after having been raised off on the streets, then put into foster care as a toddler, moved from foster home to foster home, he was the hell-on-wheels kid that you dread to have in your life. He was adopted into a very abusive home. But somehow, we both made it out. We found each other. And we were determined to adopt kids, the hard-to-adopt kids, ourselves, in a way, and do it “right”. To show love, because we thought, that’s all it takes. Just love and time and provide them with everything they need, whether it be services or medicine or whatever, make sure they have it. But mostly it takes love. (Insert laughter here.)
Then we brought home 2 little boys from Ethiopia. They were biological brothers, aged 3 and 5. From what information we had received, they had recently been placed in the orphanage due to circumstances but had been raised by their father and mother and older siblings, had lived with them, and had been loved and cared for. They had only been in the orphanage a short time. There were no problems. The boys cared deeply for each other. (Insert sarcastic laugh here.)
Fast forward six years. Six years of me being the only one to see the side of the younger one that worried me. Years and years of him peeing on his bed every morning (yes on, not in). Years of him complaining about his older brother being abusive to him, that at first we believed, until I saw him literally hit himself bloody, start crying, then come running to me and blame it on his brother, not knowing I could see him the entire time. To everyone else, he was charming, sweet, absolutely a doll: the most compliant kid you could imagine; the most well-behaved child you could imagine; even for his father, he was a complete angel. For me he was destructive, abusive to others and animals, defiant, would purposely cut up his own clothes, and the lies, oh the lies. He would tell the bus driver I didn’t feed him breakfast or dinner the night before, so that she would give him her lunch. Every day she would pack him a lunch because “we didn’t feed him”. Ignore the fact that he was a chubby guy, and he had two older brothers on the bus to verify whether or not he (and them) were being fed!
Even hubby decided the problem was me. After all, he was perfect for everyone else. Even though we had been trained as foster parents in several states (we had moved around a bit due to jobs) AND we had fostered twin nine year olds with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and he should have known better…. He still blamed me. I should have babied him more as a toddler, rebabied him, hugged him more, etc. etc. The fault, the blame, was all mine. Even I began to believe it.
When the child’s façade finally began to break down, and hubby began to see just a fraction of what I’d been seeing all along, we got him into an attachment therapist and he was diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder, just the tip of the iceburg. To me, it was a “no kidding” diagnosis. My husband was shocked. Finally, validation that it wasn’t me and it wasn’t my fault.
Over the past six years we’d lost all our friends, all our social circles, because of the behaviors of our children. I’d been told “all boys do that” or “kids are kids” about things, or that I was being too harsh because I kept a strict schedule for my children and didn’t let them do things other kids their age would be allowed to do. People pulled away from us, we pulled away from people. It was just the two of us, once again united, although nowhere near the team we were with the first child, neither in support or action. My husband worked nights, but not really nights, more like a half-the-night-half-the-day schedule that pretty much left me on my own. Weekends hubby would sleep a lot during the day to catch up on some much needed sleep, and also to keep his sleep schedule. Parenting sucked. There was no other way to say it. I felt like a failure. All I did was yell. All I felt was angry and miserable.
I found a blog that was not all unicorns and rainbows in adoption, a blog that talked about the hard stuff, the “you don’t always win” truths about adoption. I was floored. It was the first time I’d heard honesty about adoption. I devoured her blog, which contained a LOT of information on books, and methods, and therapists, and stories from her own experiences. One day the blogger wrote that she was excited to go to a retreat of other “trauma mommas” who understood how hard it was to parent these kids. Wait, there’s MORE of us? I immediately sent her a message through her blog and begged her for the information to the retreat and tried to convince her I wasn’t a stalker, LOL. She immediately sent me back the information and I signed up. It was two months away yet, but I was able to start connecting with other trauma mommas online and get to know some of the women I’d be sharing a house with for a few days. That’s when the Beyond started for me. To connect with other women, to read their stories, to find out their kids did THE EXACT SAME THINGS MY KID DID! My family was NOT unusual in this group! We were the norm! We were just like everybody else! And there were a lot of families out there just like us! I don’t mean to overuse the exclamation mark here but you have to understand that’s really how it was for me, exciting, shouting, dancing around my kitchen sometimes.
I went to the retreat. (Met my favorite blogger, but she wasn’t in my house, but she will always be near and dear to me!) I went with the idea of just getting away from home. Just going anywhere my family wasn’t. Sounds horrible, especially as an adoptive mom, so I can’t say that to very many people. But I was in desperate need of a break. So I arrive there, just looking for some solitude time, expecting to shy away from everyone else, because after my noisy, screaming, needy household the last thing I needed was more drama from a group of ladies I didn’t even know. I couldn’t even stand the cat jumping on me to be petted at home any more, just one more “need” I had to fill. Then came the real shocker for me. I met everyone in my house and I couldn’t stop smiling. I couldn’t stop laughing and cracking jokes. I was this, this other person, a person I thought had crawled off and died several years ago. I was myself again. Several of the ladies in the house were sick with colds, and we all tried to make them feel comfortable. I totally rearranged my own desired schedule with classes, etc. to meet some of the other women’s needs when they needed support – even if it was just to hold their hand for their first tattoo. The heavy burden that I carried at home all the time wasn’t there – and I was free to be myself, and by being constantly cared for by the other women there, was able to constantly give of myself as well, without ever feeling depleted, used, or put upon. It was incredible. It was euphoric.
I thought I would go and if I was lucky, maybe find one person I could be friends with. Instead I have a group of “BFF’s” that I talk to daily online, texting, or via phone or Skype. I have visited a few of them. My house is open to any of them visiting me, and at least one of them is planning to come this summer. When I need them, they are there for me. Always.
And it’s not just the women in my house from the retreat. The entire group is there. I have laughed and cried with people I have never met, and to some of them I am their best friend. I am the one they call in the middle of the night when things blow up in their house and they need someone to talk them out of running away from their life, or if they need advice, or just someone to listen who understands.
I can’t wait to go to the retreat this year and see my BFF’s and make new ones, to laugh til my sides hurt, and see what surprises are in store for me this year.
My hubby can’t wait for me to go to the retreat this year. I came back a totally changed person.
Although we are still in the midst of the trauma and attachment, we can also see beyond it, and are being helped through it, thanks to BeTA.
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Posted by admin on January 08, 2015
To tell you what Beta means to me, I have to go back to three years ago; right after we brought our two girls home from foster care. I had a 19 and 13 year old daughters, and loved parenting, and thought I was somewhat decent at it, and we had more than enough room, and more than enough love. We could do this. Four daughters, I was in love!
Well, four months in, and we were all tearing our hair out, trying to decide if we were even cut out for this “adoption parenting”, and because we loved them, and we thought we understood trauma,(well as much as you can, only 4 months in), why were we not getting it? Come on, it was four months already…and I loved them, but barely liked them.
Each night I couldn’t wait to put the girls to bed, jump in my own bed and cry. I did not think that I was called for this; I did not think I wanted this chaos anymore, and I thought I was ruining my entire life, my family’s life, and could not get answers on how to fix it. I wanted to fix it, the girls, their history, my life. However, as I struggled really badly, I would go to our local group and our caseworker and get ‘yep, that happens” and “you’re doing a good job”. I remember thinking What planet are you from, can you not see our life is falling apart here? I literally googled Successful adoption stories, Why Me?, Adoptions that don’t work out, Why me?, and typed in any thought about adoption that popped into my head. I knew three other families that adopted and they were okay, why weren’t we?
I had heard about blogs, but had never read one, so I am not sure how I happened across a blog written by a Beta mom, but as I started reading, I was OKAY, I was in love, and I followed links from one blog to another, all moms who were in the trenches or helping others out by writing their story. I happened across one where they were talking about this Retreat, and I was ready and wanted to sign up, and when I figured out how, I was a month too late. I think I cried. It was a month after the retreat of 2011, but I found Beta. So, unbeknownst to any of them, I waited until I could sign up for the next year, while reading every one of the blogs on the Beta sight. I could not wait to get into bed every night to read more. I would laugh, I would cry, and I would feel surrounded by woman that I didn’t even know.
When I signed up, my husband was a little nervous. He asked if it was wise flying across the US to stay with people I had never met. Well, I did meet them; they just hadn’t met me yet. When I got there, I was so overwhelmed and so crazy in love with all of the moms, and I said on the way from airport to retreat, I can’t wait to meet these moms…They are famous in my house, and they saved us. Still some of them did not know the extent in which I read their stories, but I met them and hugged them and cried with some. I met one of my favorite bloggers, and could not grasp that she was there, in front of me, because I had read her pain, and I sent her mental strength, and I loved her before she knew me, or I knew her. Now, if I have had a bad day or moment, my husband asks, do you need to go visit a beta mom. He could see the difference.
Beta women are part of a “tribe” to help others moms who are struggling, to help them out of the trenches, who tell me “I am Enough”, and Beta moms tell you “You are not Alone”! Beta is a group of women who are stronger than many, as they have had to deal with kids from hard places, with behaviors that can be extreme. However, watching and learning from them over the past two years, is what helps my family stay together with laughter and fun, in spite of all the trauma. I am going Beyond the trauma and filling needs for me, which helps my family.
Today. Every day. I'm going BEYOND.
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Posted by admin on December 17, 2014
When we started the adoption process I remember reading several books I thought would help me prepare for this new little guy and what life would be like. Very few of them talked about how hard the adjustment process could be when you brought your child home. The few I did read seemed so over the top to me anyway; no way was my child going to have any problems. We were expecting a smooth, easy process of course. I remember people asking what I thought it would be like and I naively just said it was just adding another kid to the family. I thought it would feel a little like doing childcare for another family for awhile as we got to know each other, but I had no fears or worries at all.
Our son came home and we had a brief honeymoon period and then life got busy and I remember also telling people that he should be happy and not feel any different than any of the other kids; I treated him just the same as I did the other ones. He loved hanging out with men but he wasn’t too interested in women, including me. We chalked that up to life in the orphanage, brief as it was. The men came to visit and play; it was the women/nannies who were the disciplinarians.
Things settled into routine, or so I thought. Then the periods of blank stares and defiance followed. I could not believe how ANGRY this little boy could make me. I tried to ask some questions on an online support group. I was met with silence, a call to pray and love him more, or sometimes, a not so nice admonition to be quiet. The guilt and shame were huge. I prayed for this child, worked to make it happen, and now it was hard. It must be all my fault.
I did seek support from a bible study group at church. I know they tried to help; looking back some of their advice was probably pretty good. But I felt like they just didn’t get it; they didn’t understand how I felt, why I did things differently, why it hurt so much. None of them were parenting children who came from hard places.
Soon I started blaming my son for everything he did, that it was connected to him wanting to “get back at us” or manipulate us, or get his own way. Sure, there was a level to that in the whole thing. But I just couldn’t see beyond my own hurt to see why he was doing it.
We struggled for over three years. I wanted out, I wanted to be done, I wanted an okay reason to disrupt. But I knew I couldn’t. I knew I hadn’t really tried. I didn’t know how to try; but I didn’t want to try anymore either.
We finally went to an adoption clinic and got some evaluations and some counseling. A long, hard year of speech therapy, occupational therapy, and play therapy for our son began. I went into counseling myself. My son went from an eight year old down to a two year old (behaviorally) and back up. It was hard, lonely work. I felt no one around me “got it” then either. “Boys will be boys” they would say, or “all kids do that”. There was a huge sense of relief when my son finally had an all-out rage in front of my family so they could see just a small glimpse of the things we were dealing with.
Eventually I learned that I loved my son-that I could be patient, kind, gentle. I learned that love can look different with different people, but it is still love. I learned that love doesn’t have to be a fuzzy feeling. I also finally learned that I wasn’t alone. I found some blogs of other women who parented children who had experienced early trauma. They weren’t afraid to say it was hard-that it downright sucked sometimes! But they also didn’t let it sit there as a weight. They were choosing to share their stories so that others might see and grow and experience healing.
I am a part of Beyond Trauma and Attachment because it helps fill my bucket, so I can heal me. I may not post my struggle or make a comment on someone else’s, but I can read it and say to myself, “yup, you are not alone! This is hard!” I take a few days away from my 24 hour a day/7 day a week family obligations so I might take a breath and recharge to come back home to life on the go. I go for myself, but also to encourage and support other women who go through things I can’t imagine.
I have learned that I am strong. I am finding healing for myself...which means healing for my kids. I am going Beyond Trauma and Attachment.
Today. Every day. I am going Beyond.
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Posted by admin on December 19, 2013
I've heard a lot of talk this week about RAD kiddos and Christmas presents. Parents at the end of their ropes contemplating not giving any presents or leaving a note from Santa saying their behaviors don't warrant the presents they wanted, but here's some socks.
Do I get this? 100%, in fact I have stared at the Nintendo DS box wrapped up under the tree every morning and contemplated taking it away. My son has been particularly challenging and I have been particularly annoyed and irritated by his behavior. Does he "deserve" the Nintendo DS? Absolutely not!
We've already lost so much at the holidays, do we really want to lose presents too? The rest of the day may totally suck, the kids will be ungrateful and unappreciative. They may break the very thing you bought them and that they wanted so badly. BUT before all that there is a moment where they are excited and happy, truly happy. It may only be a second, but YOU did that. That happiness you see, the twinkle in their eye, it's not there often is it? That smile is what "normal" parents live for, and YOU have given that to them. This year on Christmas morning I want you to take that moment, however brief it is, and cherish it, because you brought joy to an often joyless child. YOU had a moment where you felt like a "good" parent, a "normal" parent enjoying their kids happiness on Christmas.
What will you get for YOU if you take away the presents? Your child will NOT learn a lesson, there is no logic or cause and effect thinking with attachment disorders. Your child will not remember this next time and say "Hmmm...last year I misbehaved and didn't get any presents, by golly this year I'm going to behave so I can have what I want." Not. going. to. happen. Likely the lack of presents or a note will only solidify what they feel inside, worthless, bad, un-loveable. They will take that feeling and run with it the rest of the day their years. You can guarantee a raging tantruming melt down will be had, ruining not only their day but certainly YOUR day, cause you will now spend your Christmas trying to contain a crisis and keep everyone safe.
Why do that to yourself on Christmas? Sure you may have a moment of satisfaction, a moment of "See what happens when you don't behave! See what happens when you treat me like crap, the one person who pours out their heart and soul to help you every single day!". But is it worth it? I for one would much rather have the fleeting moment of joy in my child's eyes then that moment of satisfaction. A moment that in reality continues to make me feel like crap, a crappy mom who cant even enjoy Christmas with her kids, a crappy mom who can't help this child, a crappy mom who will never be enough. This year I am going to be enough for me and enough for my kid. I'm going to watch him open that Nintendo DS and see the quick twinkle of his eye however brief it may be.....and Ill hold on to that twinkle and remember it when he breaks this Nintendo DS (just like he broke the last three**! LOL).
***To my oldest son's credit the third DS was dropped in the toilet by his younger brother (he also has attachment issues) who thought peeing and playing at the same time sounded like a GREAT idea ;)
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Posted by admin on December 02, 2013
An Adoptee’s Perspective:
10 Things Adoptive Parents Should Know
By Christina Romo
1. Adoption is not possible without loss. Losing one’s birth parents is the most
traumatic form of loss a child can experience. That loss will always be a part of
me. It will shape who I am and will have an effect on my relationships—
especially my relationship with you.
2. Love isn’t enough in adoption, but it certainly makes a difference. Tell me every
day that I am loved—especially on the days when I am not particularly lovable.
3. Show me—through your words and your actions—that you are willing to weather
any storm with me. I have a difficult time trusting people, due to the losses I have
experienced in my life. Show me that I can trust you. Keep your word. I need to
know that you are a safe person in my life, and that you will be there when I need
you and when I don’t need you.
4. I will always worry that you will abandon me, no matter how often you tell me or
show me otherwise. The mindset that “people who love me will leave me” has
been instilled in me and will forever be a part of me. I may push you away to
protect myself from the pain of loss. No matter what I say or do to push you
away, I need you to fight like crazy to show me that you aren’t going anywhere
and will never give up on me.
5. Even though society says it is PC to be color-blind, I need you to know that race
matters. My race will always be a part of me, and society will always see me by
the color of my skin (no matter how hard they try to convince me otherwise). I
need you to help me learn about my race and culture of origin, because it’s
important to me. Members of my race and culture of origin may reject me because
I’m not “black enough” or “Asian enough”, but if you help arm me with pride in
who I am and the tools to cope, it will be okay. I don’t look like you, but you are
my parent and I need you to tell me—through your words and your actions—that
it’s okay to be different. I have experienced many losses in my life. Please don’t
allow the losses of my race and culture of origin to be among them.
6. I need you to be my advocate. There will be people in our family, our school, our
church, our community, our medical clinic, etc. who don’t understand adoption
and my special needs. I need you to help educate them about adoption and special
needs, and I need to know that you have my back. Ask me questions in front of
them to show them that my voice matters.
7. At some point during our adoption journey, I may ask about or want to search for
my birth family. You may tell me that being blood related doesn’t matter, but not
having that kind of connection to someone has left a void in my life. You will
always be my family and you will always be my parent. If I ask about or search
for my birth family, it doesn’t mean I love you any less. I need you to know that
living my life without knowledge of my birth family has been like working on a
puzzle with missing pieces. Knowing about my birth family may help me feel more complete.
8. Please don’t expect me to be grateful for having been adopted. I endured a
tremendous loss before becoming a part of your family. I don’t want to live with
the message that “you saved me and I should be grateful” hanging over my head.
Adoption is about forming forever families—it shouldn’t be about “saving” children.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I may need help in coping with the losses I have
experienced and other issues related to adoption. It’s okay and completely normal.
If the adoption journey becomes overwhelming for you, it’s important for you to
seek help, as well. Join support groups and meet other families who have adopted.
This may require you to go out of your comfort zone, but it will be worth it. Make
the time and effort to search for and be in the company of parents and
children/youth who understand adoption and understand the issues. These
opportunities will help normalize and validate what we are going through.
10. Adoption is different for everyone. Please don’t compare me to other adoptees.
Rather, listen to their experiences and develop ways in which you can better
support me and my needs. Please respect me as an individual and honor my
adoption journey as my own. I need you to always keep an open mind and an
open heart with regard to adoption. Our adoption journey will never end, and no
matter how bumpy the road may be and regardless of where it may lead, the fact
that we traveled this road together, will make all the difference.
Christina Romo is an adoptee who was adopted from South Korea at age 2.
She works for a child welfare organization and lives in Minnesota with her husband and their two sons. This piece was posted on her blog, Diary of a Not-So-Angry Asian Adoptee
Please contact Christina at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to use or distribute this piece.
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Posted by admin on November 19, 2013
The list of symptoms for Reactive Attachment Disorder ends with "parents present angry or hostile." When I read this before our adopted kids came home, I felt a patronizing kind of pity for those parents. Now I am one of them.
Our adopted kids don't make us angry like normal kids. Our bio kids frustrate us and occasionally that frustration boils up to anger. By contrast, these attachment disordered kids make us angry every day. It's on a whole different scale. Our kids do things all day long that are INTENDED to make us angry. They're not making mistakes, they are intentionally breaking rules to piss us off and keep us at a distance. Part of me wonders if they aren't even trying to get us to beat them. By the end of the day, when they've been working at it all day long, we are left with a seething anger that doesn't shake off easily. Oh, and I did I mention, that all the while we've been working at nurturing, soothing, and connecting, because that's the only way to get the behavior to change.
Living with anger that never fully extinguishes has been the hardest part of raising adopted kids.
This life requires that I have enough self-awareness to make sure my anger doesn't boil up to rage. That means self-care and respite. My husband and I discovered that respite isn't optional for us. I'd read that parents need a weekend a month away from the kids. It took seven months of crazy before we admitted we truly needed that kind of respite, but now we are committed to it. Those glorious two days let the fire of anger burn all the way out to cold ash. We come home with much longer fuses and much more capable of doing attachment work.
After almost a year, I have even discovered that our anger can actually be helpful. Our kids are very sneaky. Often they dance on boundaries but don't actually cross them. They're not obviously defiant or oppositional, but we still get worn out. Are they really being defiant or are they just full of energy? The answer is our anger. Low level defiance makes us angry, even when we don't notice it in the moment. Just reflecting on our own feelings helps us identify what's going on with the kids and respond better tomorrow.
Our lives are backwards. Attachment disorder began with our little children receiving coldness when they needed love. And now we find that anger helps us parent them better. Yep, it's crazy.
Mia (from Holy Crazy) used with permission
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Posted by admin on October 07, 2013
I feel your pain. You are not alone. Getting the RAD diagnosis is hard. I fell apart when I finally accepted that my son had RAD. I knew what it was before and knew how incredibly bad it was and how difficult it can be. I had been told by the psych doc that he wouldn't get better at all ever. Thank GOD that isn't true. They CAN heal. It takes a long time and a lot of love, but it can happen.
When I first began this, I wish I had known a few things, so I feel compelled to tell you what I wish I knew in the beginning.
First and foremost, take care of yourself. Find whatever you need to do to stay calm, balanced and loving. Some of us go to therapy ourselves, some of us take antidepressants. All of us need time away from the kids to recharge. It is not selfish, it is necessary for you to be a good mom. Develop a support group. If you can find a group where you live, great! If not, online support is always available day or night, always there to give advice, listen to us vent or cheer us up. BeTA is a great group (www.momsfindinghealing.com) but there are lots of others too. Find one that works for you.
Next, give your marriage the attention it needs. Parenting these kids is so hard and puts so much stress on the relationship. If there are any cracks, they will get bigger. Date nights are a good start, but do whatever you need to connect with your significant other. Doing this is hard, doing this alone is harder.
Read. Read all you can about RAD, not only the causes, but what you can do to help the child get better. Some books on RAD are better than others. I like Daniel Hughes' books, but there are lots out there. Ask for recommendations.
Corporal punishment (spanking) or other painful discipline does not work for these kids and will actually push them further into distrust and separation. We want to connect to our kids and causing them physical pain does the opposite.
Putting them in time-out alone can also be traumatic for these kids. I did this for a long time, only to realize later that this was a trigger and actually made him feel less safe.
Therapy for them can be good, if it is an attachment therapist and the parents are part of the therapy. The goal is to have the child attach to you and that can't happen if you are in the waiting room. Behavior therapy does not work and actually will make the behaviors worse. But more than therapy, our parenting is what does the most good for them. We are with them more than anyone else. What we are striving for is attachment. Once that happens, they will begin to feel safe and the behaviors should subside. They may never go away completely, but they will get better when the kids are better. Look up Christine Moer's. She is big in the therapeutic parenting world and knows her stuff. We have her video.
Relax. We cannot expect the same obedience and diligence from our RAD kids that we do our others. Always put your relationship with the child ABOVE all else, above discipline, chores, homework, everything. If we do this, we may be able to expect more from our children once they are healed. Oh, one more thing, discipline doesn't work. (At least with our child.) Most kids will stop doing something if there will be a negative consequence, our kids don't seem to get cause and effect, therefore, they just don't "get" it. Prolonged trauma, when the brain is in the "fight or flight" mode for too long, causes chemicals released in the brain to cause frontal lobe damage. Some of our kids just can't get cause and effect. It isn't their fault. They aren't choosing this.
Give up control. Our RAD children feel the need to control everything because they feel unsafe. Side-step, go around, find ways to negotiate, but don't try to force your will on them, it won't happen. Practice "Yes, of course, absolutely". Whenever possible say yes. Let them eat ravioli for breakfast or stay up an extra few minutes, or wear shoes without socks. Think about why you are saying "no", is it really that big of a deal? Many kids are triggered by the word "no", so use it as little as possible. Get creative in the yes process, say "yes, you may, as long as you clean your room first." "Of course, just empty the dishwasher, then you may." Remember, giving in a little isn't giving up everything. Relationship is primary.
Document everything. Keep a journal, video tape them, keep good records of everything, you may need it later.
Educate those who are around your kids. Help them to understand what he is going through and what they can do to help him.
Don't expect to have those warm and fuzzy mom feelings toward your child all the time or ever for that matter. It is hard to love someone who is mean to you all the time. Kids who are healthy, give back. They make us feel good about ourselves and make us feel loved and wanted. Our sick kids can't do that. I have had to "fake" those lovey feelings, because I know it’s the only way he will get better. I sing "You are my sunshine" to him every night. And even on days when he is definitely NOT my sunshine, I pretend he is, for his sake.
Stay safe. If your child hits you or is very aggressive you may need to call 911. Mine was 7 when he first hit us. We didn't call the police for another year and only did that at the insistence of his therapist. In our case, calling the police stops the rage in its tracks and got him admitted to the local children's psychiatric hospital. We tried to restrain him, but inevitably, either he or I am hurt during this. For us, the safest option is to call for help. Do what you need to keep everyone safe. If you suspect your child is abusing another child in your home, trust your instincts. It is sad, but it happens. BE on guard even if you can’t fathom that it could happen.
And last, I want to say, as with anything you read about RAD, take what you want and leave the rest. I don't know you or your child and can only speak from my own experience.
- Sarah R. (BeTA Retreat Alumni and amazing momma)
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Posted by admin on September 16, 2013
Beyond Trauma and Attachment would like to address the issue of “rehoming” that has been brought to the forefront of the public attention due to the series of articles published on Reuters.
As an organization that reaches out to families who are raising children from hard places and caters particularly to families who are dealing with the affects of early trauma and children who are attachment resistant, we are very aware that rehoming children is something that occurs for many reasons. Many times families are not made aware of the affects of trauma prior to adopting and are side-swiped with the crippling affects of trauma in their child. Many times, families are well equipped, but the child is unable to successfully be a part of a family environment due to their own issues. In some instances, we find that families are unable to provide appropriate therapies and treatment centers due to insurance constraints. In most cases, families are trying desperately to protect themselves or other children in the home from aggression and violence and are left with few options for a variety of reasons.
It is BeTA’s opinion that rehoming should occur when all other options have been exhausted. Finding support for the family so they understand they are not alone can allow for the exchange of ideas and information that may help a family be successful in keeping a child in their home is vital. BeTA’s goal is to reach out to as many families as possible who feel they are parenting a child who is unlike many others. Parenting a child who has experienced early trauma and exhibits attachment resistance is very alienating. Living in this type of environment can be draining and can reframe what you previously thought about parenting. It can lead to desperation and can allow you to consider things you thought you never would.
A family who makes the decision to rehome a child is not “evil”. This family is doing the best they can with what they are living with. BeTA is well aware that what a family goes through on a daily basis is not known to most people. It is a personal decision that the family must make and live with. BeTA holds the position that it should be done in a manner that is respectful for the child and is done legally and with conscience. The proper channels should always be followed. A home study should be done and verified. Background checks for the entire family should be done as well as fingerprinting. Visits to acclimate the child to the new environment are essential for a good transition. Making certain that the new family has full information on the child and their issues and is safe is of utmost importance. It is not the job of BeTA as an organization to judge a family, but to hold them up.
BeTA will still continue to be involved with any family who has to make the heart wrenching decision to rehome their child. The affects of trauma and attachment are not limited to just the child. The affects ricochet through the family and leaves the family crippled even after the child has been rehomed. Families need to be held and supported in a decision that is strictly theirs. BeTA can still offer support and guidance in the aftermath of disruption.
While our ultimate goal to help children from hard places heal and families to succeed we acknowledge that sometimes the “system” (adoption agencies, County offices, mental health and medical professionals) fail our families. Sometimes the child is unwilling to change for a variety of reasons. In a perfect world rehoming would be unnecessary. In a perfect world, our children would be able to stay with their birth family! Sometimes, families have done all they can do. Sometimes damage is already done and moving to another family is the one thing that will affect change. Sometimes the damage is done prior to getting there and other times damage is done by a well meaning, uninformed family. Removing the stigma of mental health and offering appropriate services for families who are flailing in the affects of trauma is the one thing that we believe can make a difference. Accepting that children who are “broken” by the affects of trauma and that those affects can be very far reaching is the first step. Villianizing families who are doing the best they can is not going to change anything but lead to more stigma, more hiding and more hateful anger.
There is a life beyond trauma and attachment. There can be hope and healing. There can be a positive turn out. Sometimes that may not look like what we think it should, but it can happen. Sometimes rehoming is a part of that future and that positive outcome. BeTA’s job is to support families and help them deal with their choices.
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Posted by admin on July 24, 2013
I have this incredible friend named Christine that taught me about this, in the way she leads her life, problem solves and reaches into the depth of herself so bravely and deeply it too pushes me forward. In many ways, finding her has been my Game Changer. I love her so, trust her deeply and learn everyday more about how the way we react impacts our experience, just by this gift of friendship she offers me.
When I was eight I tried playing UNO with my colorblind cousin.
It was me my brothers and two other cousins.
We were at the family cabin, and our games of war, Indian & cowboys ,bear hunts and trying to make chipmunk traps and become famous chipmunk trainers had been thwarted by the rain.
There we sat, our play options an incomplete Chinese checkers game, Uno, or sit there, watching the rain indefinitely. Uno it was.
Have you ever tried to play a Color matching game with a colorblind person?
Yeah. After 3 rounds of correcting him, and him offering to quit, and us wanting to include him, things were not going well. There were tears and name calling.
I game paused said we were going to do a redo...and grabbed all of the cards.
As the boys all shouted, complained and said “See we should have never let a stupid girl play.”
I snuck into my Grandma's purse and found a black marker in her checkbook,hid in the bathroom and sitting on the floor useing the toilet lid as a desk wrote
on each cards corner, I wrote R for red, G for Green, B for Blue and Y for Yellow.
My brother caught me mid stack, probably coming into pee, and sucked in his breath “ Youuuuu are sooooo not supposed to mark cards...that is AGAINST the rules, I am going to TELLLLLLL!!!”
In all my 8 year old maturity, I think I told him to “Bite me, this way we can all play.”
Pushed him out of the bathroom and finished my stack.
And we play we did, for hours.
Later Sam came to me and told me how much it meant to him that we didn't give up on letting him play, finding a way and changing the rules so he didn't miss out.
His experience of the game was different, because of his handicap, but still he was able to play with our adaptation, and the experience was great for everyone involved.
In truth we totally stole Grandma's entire box of double stuff Oreo's and ate them giggling and playing under the stairs.
Sometimes you have to be a Game Changer.
If something isn't working for you, for your kids, what is the point in the forcing, in the keeping the rules, or the way you do things inside the box if it is not helping and creating growth?
I so often speak to parents STRESSING, WORRIED, in DENIAL or DEPRESSION over what their kids are struggling with.
“We can't do homework, it ends in fights, and tantrums and ruins every night...I HATE This time with my kid.”
~Then DON”T DO HOMEWORK. Write the school, talk to the teacher, find other ways of experiencing knowledge, math by baking cookies, shopping, science by watching a documentary with pop corn. Be near your child and learn with them. That is the goal right education? Do that.
“I have read ALL of the books, been to therapy and conferences, no matter what I try NOTHING is getting through to my kid.”
~ Sounds like tooo many rules and techniques. Pick one thing at a time you think 'might' be effective, try that, and add on...Games with too many rules are not FUN, and STRESS people out. You are already NOT having fun...try adding FUN and that one thing you think might help, or even better taking one thing away, like yelling and adding more Music, and Fun, if not for your kid, for you.
(this one I heard at a conference, and the answer is not mine, but brilliant and helped me re-frame some fears and worries)
“My kid has all of these resources for school an college but anxiety wise and academically they don't do well in a classroom.”
~ Then even though it is free, it is not for them. Opportunities are only opportunities if they can be taken. A blind kid can be given a billion beautiful books, but unless they are written in brail, can he use them for anything but a coaster?
How often in adult like situation, unless we are educators or perpetual students do we live or operate in a classroom setting, this inability will not equal life long failure. Breathe.
“I don't like my life anymore, everything is negative and HARD, and not what I would expect raising a special needs kid, I don't fit in anymore anywhere.”
~ Here's your chance your kid has broken you out of that box, take it as an opportunity to BE WEIRD.
Do and find things that you love that are NOT Mainstream, take a belly dancing class, wear fun colors that make you happy, delve deeper into things that make you happy, because if your kid can't be happy, damn it, take care of yourself and see where that lands both of you. Find your tribe of people that will get you, walk with you and support you, I guarantee you will come out better and stronger and more supported because of it, even though it is hard and SUCKS.~
Rules are there to keep things mainstream, and THAT IS GREAT.
BUT, is it O.K. To Game change a little, deviate from the rule book in order to create a better outcome?
As a former rule follower to the inth degree of the wording, a believer in “You live your life a certain way and life will be easier and good things will happen” I have learned that is not always the case.
I have learned this the HARD, lonely, painful way, and I have changed things up.
In taking the knocks while writing permanent marker on cards, spray painting perfectly good walls with affirmations, dying my hair bright happy red, dancing to music turned WAYYY up in the Walmart parking lot with my kids, vetoing homework, recognizing what is going to work and what isn't and admitting it and changing due course,I have learned life is better,more rich and healthier for me and my family . Life can be hard, it also can be a game, you choose how you keep the rules, how you take care of your pieces and most of all how to enjoy, play and have fun despite the handi-caps.
Be a Game Changer for yourself, your kids, accept, pull another card and move on, it will be so much more fun than being that kid with your nose stuck in the rule book.
To that kid I say:
“Bite me, this way we can all play.”
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Posted by admin on July 02, 2013
It is in our nature to want our children to learn from their mistakes. As a "typical" child growing up in a "typical" family, I learned early on that if I did something wrong, there was a punishment that made me not want to do that particular behavior again. It may have taken one time and it may have taken many times, but eventually I realized certain behaviors were unacceptable. I either learned to stop those behaviors or hide them from my parents better.
As a parent, I hope to instill good values in my children. I hope to have them understand that if they make a poor choice, there are consequences. Sometimes those consequences are natural, sometimes I choose what they will be. I hope that they will change their behavior to get a better outcome in the future.
In the case of children who have suffered early trauma, those connections may get missed. The reason that the consequences and even punishments worked for me as a child, is because I was bonded with and trusted my parents. I understood immediately that even if the punishment was strict, my father only wanted me to be a better person. He never lashed out unexpectedly, or harshly. He was firm and strict, but he was fair and loving. My connection to my parent's that I made early on allowed me to see that even through my own anger. My parents were not cruel they simply wanted to make certain that I understood I had chosen wrong and that I would remember there was a consequence for the next time that choice rears it's head. I didn't have the fear that my parents would hurt me. I had not experienced early trauma and I was safe in the fact that I would not be hurt, neglected or abused for my choices. My adopted son cannot say that. The trauma that he endured in his early years has shaped the way he reacts to me daily. In cases of punishment and consequences given it is magnified. They trigger him and it affects his reactions.
In blogs and online support groups, there is talk daily of our children's behaviors and how we can offer consequences that will make an impact on these behaviors. It is so helpful to understand that you are not alone in parenting a hurt child and dealing with behaviors and outbursts that you wouldn't normally be exposed to in a "typical" family, sometimes on a daily basis. One of the first things that I always see mentioned is taking items away from the child until they can prove they are able to have access to certain things and they can earn them back.
Even with my "typical" children I struggle with this concept. Now, I know there can be reasons that something should be removed from a child. My "typical" son routinely loses time on Minecraft when I can tell he has been overloaded with "screen time". But it is not to punish, it is a time to take a break and regroup. It is a time to spend time with real people not your game character and build relationships. We approach it as a much needed dose of reallity instead of a punishment for your nasty attitude. I often say, "Apparently dealing only with a game has warped your sense of nice-ness and you need a break! Time to deal with real people. "
On blogs and online support groups there is a tendancy for people to reccommend taking things out of a child's room when they rage. It may be a situation where they have gotten angry and broken something or simply thrown a big ol' fit. Nearly every time I have seen a mom talk about a whopper of a fit or a rage that broke things or injured someone, I see another mom suggesting that items be removed from a child's room with the exception of their mattress, a few sets of clothing and 1 or two toys. Then it is suggested that as the child begins to obey the rules of the home and behave appropriately they earn things back one at a time.
I undestand the thought process behind this. The parents are assuming that the child is dealing with a sensory overload and they need a calmer, more streamlined environment. They are also assuming that the child doesn't not respect their belongings when they get angry and break them and they sholuld prove they do in order to get them back. They think they are teaching them a lesson in caring for what they have. They think that if they continue to return the items when they are shown to respect them, they are instilling a lesson in them. The problem is our children are traumatized! Some of them know poverty, they know what it is not to have their basic needs met and here we are taking things away. Most of these children are impulse driven. Even though they know what they are doing is wrong, that may not be able to stop the rage. Their ability to process is lacking and impulse has taken over. They know what is acceptable, they are having a hard time controlling themselves to act on that knowledge. Children who come from early trauma are less likely to have their emotional age match their physical age. So, even though they are raging with the anger and hormones of a 12 year old, they are emotionally a 2 or a 3 year old and need to be handled in the way you would a toddler.
For instance, a toddler who spits on us would get short, immediate consequences. If I were draw out the punishment or take everything out of my older child's room (who has experinced trauma) I would be furthering their abandonment issues. This child is using toddler behavior to express their frustration I would use toddler consequences. I may say, "Wow, spit belongs in your mouth or in the toilet, if you feel the need to spit, you can go right in their and spit all you want." I would also give them cleaner and a rag and have them clean up their spit. I would have them apologize and give them words to do it. "Mom, I am sorry I was so angry that I couldn't use my words. I am sorry I spit on you, that was gross."
If we remove all the items from the child's room then we have the added bonus of giving them more ammunition. In so many cases it is a challenge, "she already took everything and I'm grounded so it doesn't matter if I behave because I have nothing left to lose." I tend to give over as much control as possible...give options that I can live with and let him make the choice...you will never win a power/control battle with kids who are having trouble attaching because they HAVE to control their relationship with you (withhold love from you) because it is the only way they know to survive. It is the only control they have left. NOw, there may be reason to remove some things from the child's room to simplify their environment, and I have done that in the past too. We talk about it being "too much for their brain to handle" so we will pack peices away and we can exchange stuff out later when they need some new items to keep them busy. I have learned that drapes are much better than mini-blinds that just invite my child to clip the cords that hold them together. I have learned that if the curtain roads are screwed into the frame they have a better chance of staying up for a rage instead of removing them completely. There is almost always a solution that will help them keep things available to them.
It is much more important to model respectable behavior. It is more important to further those bonds by building relationships then removing items. I cannot teach them to be "in control" when my consequences look an awful lot like their raging. I cannot teach them not to yell, by losing my cool and hollering at them. Even with my typical children we talk a lot about "character" and what is being perceived by others. If one of my children yells at me and calls me stupid, I will ask them if that is something that someone who has good character would do. I may ask, "Would you say that to your teacher or your principal?" I would likely add " I am happy that you know that I love you so much that calling me that name will not change that. You don't really think I am stupid, you are just angry and it is easy to call me a name because I am making you do something you don't like. I understand that, but it hurts. Think about what it would feel like if I said that to you." I refrain from asking questions, I simply state what the issue is and leave it at that. I try my best not to get bent out of shape about it and build on it for future communication. I try not to engage in a power struggle.
As parents, we have such a short time with our children before they are on their own, especially if we started late into their life through adoption. It is ok to go ahead and let them be the toddler/baby they never got to be. Keep the consequences immediate, short, and sweet. The goal is for our kids to CHOOSE to obey us, joyfully because he wants to please us, not because they HAVE to in order to get stuff back. Our goal should be building relationships and furthering their healing. We should be building up not taking away. We need to invest and not withdraw. It is easier to live life and make memories when we are not so concerned with punishing each and ever misstep and battling for control.
-Sheri (Who blogs at Ain't That Sherific)