I haven’t ever taken this much time off blogging since I started a number of years ago. I miss all the connections I get from this blog, but truly, I’ve been soooo busy with all the mediation courses I’m taking that most of the time I just can’t scrape another minute out of the day. This will all end in mid December so then I’ll be back complaining about everything and you might wish I was busy again.
I’ve had a lot of people asking me why I’m training to be a mediator- well, I think there are many, many adoption situations in which mediation would be of more use than counselling. After all, in the adoption world we are often dealing with a lot of things that aren’t going to change, or at least they aren’t going to change now, so best to just to work out a tolerable arrangement. What are some of those – well, how about mediating access with recently surfaced genetic parents. Or, disputes between agencies and parents. Or, parent/teen conflict. Or, perhaps the saddest —–mediating a separating and parenting arrangement when adoptive parents split up. That happens more than the adoption industry likes to admit. However, there’s no denying that raising extremely challenging children can be one of the factors that sink a marriage.
When adoptive parents split – well, there are issues and concerns and costs that many don’t understand. After all, how do you work out parenting time with a child who can’t manage change or transitions? We can agree that the primary consideration is the child’s best interests, but what do you do if the child needs both parents but can’t manage going from one home to another? Or, when a child who can’t manage loss suddenly loses daily contact with one parent, and maybe with a sib who now lives with the “other” parent, or when the parents both have to move. Oh, and then, there’s the whole issue of what happens if one of the parents starts to date again and the child who can’t adjust is expected to deal with blending family issues. Well, I don’t think counselling works for that stuff nearly as well as mediation, so that’s what I’ll be doing.
I also undertook this training because I need to spark my brain. I don’t know everything in the therapy world, or the adoption world, but they are familiar worlds and I’ve been using the same neuronal circuitry for those since…a long time. So, this new direction will get my decaying neurons lighting up again and keep my cognitive processes functioning for a while yet, I hope.
I’ll still be doing my regular practice and trainings etc, but I am sure hoping this becomes the larger part of my day. We’ll see.
In the meantime, have your best day possible. You really are entitled to a better day.
Check out my Youtube videos and my Hazardous Parenting facebook page, if you have the time.
I was listening, yet again, to someone go on and on about the *secondary* trauma that we parents experience. Oh my, I deserve a medal for my restraint. Let’s get this straight, friends, our trauma isn’t secondary, it’s primary. Many of us live for years with children and youth who simply can’t achieve or maintain any form of emotional regulation due to the conditions of temper dysregulation disorder, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, fasd, adhd, trauma including ptsd, bi-polar disorder …..the endless list…..these conditions result in children who are verbally, emotionally, and often, physically violent.
We live with their explosive and violent behaviors day in and day out for the years in which we are raising them. We try our best to get them all possible services and the right therapies and the right meds. We love them unconditionally. We make mistakes as we try to be the best parents we can be, and we hang in there. But the violence goes on and on and on, and it is part of our daily lives.
So, how come we’re the only group of people whose trauma is not acknowledged? How did it come to be that others believe and expect that we can live like this and not be emotionally harmed? Truly, I reject any notion that I failed or that I’m weak or that I’m not a good enough parent just because I acknowledge and seek help for the trauma I experience. I hope you don’t either. After all, you can’t begin to recover until you’ve identified and acknowledged what you are experiencing and found the appropriate help for you – not just for your child.
By the way, sorry for being away so long. I’m really busy with my training for the Family Mediation Certificate. Love the training but I’m squeezing in lots of courses in a short period of time so hard to find those spare minutes for connecting via the blog.
I hope you are well, or at least well enough, and I hope you have your best day possible.
If you have the time or the inclination, check out my training video at Udemy and the stress management tips on facebook (Hazardous Parenting site) and Youtube.
I’ve had a number of inquiries lately from organizations wanting to book me for speaking engagements over the next year or two and it seems like a lot of upcoming conference themes are about looking at the positives in our children. That’s great because there are many of those and we need to focus on them. I also really support looking at our kids from a more holistic view rather than simply from the pathologies. However, I think have to be careful not to slip into denial when we try to float in hope and strength and forget that we are actually swimming in a sea of complex behavioural disorders.
I experience this often when new parents contact me wanting counselling for their newly placed, severely acting out, child. They have been led to believe that as long as they have the right supports and the right therapy then their child will soon become just like a neurotypical child. Oh, they understand maybe it will take a few months or a year, but they are sure I can make it all better. And, if I can’t, then there will be someone else whose books they have read who will know what to do. So many therapists promise that the children can be healed soon and the family can be like ……well, like their fantasy of what their family should be.
I feel sad when I tell them what I believe, which is, that yes, someday your child really may do well in life. But, it won’t be in 6 months because the brain doesn’t change that fast and, some parts of the brain that have been harmed by fasd won’t change at all. I also tell them that if they want counselling services from me, then they need to understand that most of the time and energy will spent with the parents, because they are the ones who will have to a) reduce their expectations of their child b) increase their expectations of themselves c) change the fastest and d) change the most. Really, it kind of makes you wonder how I get any clients at all.
My own experience is that many of the behaviours simply have to be lived with = as parents we have to learn to let go and disengage. We really need to get it that every moment and every event and every interaction doesn’t translate into a teachable moment. As a parent, I look back on how much time and energy I spent/wasted always trying to help my older children enhance their social skills and manage their tempers and so on and so on and so on. I realize now that those efforts were so little of what actually helped them – what really worked was that when they got older and the emotional dust began to settle, they saw that I was still there - and that I still loved them, and that I was still willing to give help and support when needed. That’s what made the biggest impact. It was never about the therapies, or therapists, or child care workers, or parenting strategies – it was only about me hanging in and hanging on.
With my younger children, I spend more time disengaging and I put more energy into the quality of all of our lives, including mine. Many disagree with my approach, and that’s good because every approach to our lives has something to offer. Families need a wide variety of therapists and therapies from which to choose and thank heavens there are so many.
Hey there, have your best day possible.
If you have time, check out my Stress Reduction Tips on Youtube and on my Hazardous Parenting facebook page. Pretty soon I will actually have that Internet Radio Show up and running, too. Oh, one more thing, I have a new set of powerpoints up at Slideshare – this one is about the dynamics of Pre-parented children (that’s my term).
Take a minute to watch this magnificent video on how thought changes the brain. So magical and spiritual and just plain exciting. The part we have yet to fully figure out is how to help ourselves and others (ie our children) buy into the need to change, or really, to create a better version of ourselves.
That’s really what it’s all about as far as I’m concerned. I’m never going to turn into someone else, however, much my teens would like me to, but I could be better at being me – I could be nicer, more patient, and more emotionally well-regulated….and so could my kids. Ah well, since I’m the adult, I guess it’s me who has to lead by example. So, before I leave my office I will spend some times visualizing that better version of myself and I will pray for some speedy neuronal growth.
I’ll also get back to more regular blogging shortly – summer has been busy and I’ve been all over the place but I’m home for a while so I can get some routine going again.
Take care of yourselves and have your best day possible.
Don’t forget to check out my Udemy course and my daily Hazardous Parenting Stress Reducing tips at the Hazardous Parenting facebook page.
This summit is stretched over several days and is filled with really super speakers. My section is on September 13th. Check out the link to see who all is speaking. I think its a great opportunity to hear from top rated speakers on this topic, many of whom are also parents of children and adults with fasd and can present effective strategies.
Hey, have your best day possible!
I often receive referrals for children who have recently been placed in their new adoptive home. The referral is generally worded as a request to facilitate the child’s healing from past trauma and to enhance the new adoptive bonds. My first question to that kind of referral is “Why now?” What I don’t understand is – the child’s abuse/neglect experiences happened a long time ago (in child years)- so a) why didn’t she get counselling while in foster care? and b) why now, when she’s just about to undergo the immense challenge of becoming somebody’s child, is she supposed to do her trauma work? Yes, I know that trauma interferes with attachment and bonding – but really, how much can we expect a child to do at once?
Also, when an adoptive family is created, or re-created with the addition of a new child, the parents naturally become very focused on the present and the future. They become totally absorbed in the task of claiming and engaging this new child. Most aren’t in a very good place emotionally to be able to help the child do his healing walk. Nor do they know their new child well enough to understand what will best help him. I think, too, that beginning past trauma work at the time of placement forges a prominent link between the past and the present that doesn’t need to be so immediately blatant. As well, the child hasn’t had nearly enough time with the new family to be able to trust them with his needs and fears and to let them take care of him as he struggles though his past.
I do believe that the family can often use some very fast help in learning how to live with each other, and in learning some new communication and parenting skills, so I am always happy to do that right at the beginning. But I think that’s enough work for any family. There is time enough to deal with the past once the dust has settled.
To me, the issue seems to be that some professionals simply don’t understand how immensely overwhelming it is for a child to enter a new family and learn to be someone else’s child. They don’t get it that the child will now have to turn into someone completely new – someone with a different name, with different family members, with different clothes and different toys and different foods and a different bed and a different school and different rules and different expectations and……its an endless list of new and different. So much adjusting, and many of the adults expect the child to be visibly showing adjustment and bonding almost immediately. There’s no emotional room for going numb from overwhelm, or for anger for having another life transition forced on them. There is a great deal of respect for the child’s grief, but little patience for the child to simply work it through.
I do believe in therapy, after all, I am a therapist! But I think there is a time and a place, and that is rarely at the beginning of a placement.
Well, that’s my thought for the day.
Have your best day possible.
So, the day before we were to leave on our tenting adventure, I accepted my own reality – I am not going to spend any nights in a tent. I then hopped onto hotels.com and booked us into some places with kitchenettes. I am always exhorting people to accept who and what they are and here I am totally denying my need for high end comfort. Ah well, another lesson learned and more pride swallowed.
It was wonderful to see my out of town grandchildren and spend time with their parents. Some worries were eased, some new ones created. Nothing I can do about any of it but remain available and connected.
Much of most days were spent driving because we covered a lot of territory. One particularly rough day, I decided to re-focus from the screaming fights in the second row to consider all the diagnosese that were contained in my van – there was adhd, fasd, ocd, o.d.d., a.d. (anxiety disorder, not attachment disorder), t.d. (that’s the new DSM diagnosis of temper dysregulation), and a burgeoning conduct disorder as well as a possible borderline personality. Quite a crowded vehicle, wouldn’t you say? I certainly excelled in my distracting and detaching skills! Sad to say, my own emotional regulation suffered a bit on occasion.
Along with the predictable stress, we also had fun. We swam daily, often for hours at a time. And we went to movies, and we ate in restaurants, and we visited with people who love us. I know I’m fortunate that my extended family members love my children and accept them as they are. I am going to have to make this a yearly trip so that I can be at least a minimal presence in the lives of these particular grandchildren and now that I have experience I will be much more prepared next year.
People ask me why I care so much about some of these grandchildren since I will never likely live near them or see much of them – but I’m sure you understand why – it’s because they are not starting life in the best of circumstances and I know, and I believe, and I preach, that human beings have to know they belong to someone and they have to know that there is someone who cares about them forever. So, I will visit as I can and hope to use skype and other social networking methods to have a relationship with them as the grow up. I can’t fix their lives anymore than I can fix my own, but I can let them know they are loved now and every day of their lives.
Hey, I have a new course I’ve put up on Udemy. I’ve called it “Adoption: What You Need To Know”. Please check it out if you have the time and the inclination. And don’t forget to check out the Hazardous Parenting facebook page.
Also, I will be going to NACAC for the last time next week. I won’t attend again, so I hope those of you are going to be there will grab me for dinner or lunch or something so we can chat and have a laugh.
Remember, you are entitled to a better day!
I have two unpleasant things looming in the next week. I have to have a root canal -I know everyone else in the world survives these, but so what – I am not looking forward to this!
I am also going on a tenting trip with 3 of my not so littles. We are going to visit our out of town grandchildren and some other family, all scattered around the province, so it means about 10 days on the road and staying in tents. I don’t actually mind the tenting part. It’s kind of fun to be that minimalist, but I hate the inevitable 3 a.m. trek to the washrooms, which are always at least a 5 minute walk from the tent. As much as I support walking for heart health, I don’t like stumbling around outside in the wee hours.
I own a rather large and fancy RV that we normally use on vacation but I can’t haul it, just not one of my skills, and I refuse to pay hotel rates for that long, and I also can’t stay with my adult kids because these two sets live in very tiny spaces. So, it’s a tent for me. I can’t tell you how much I don’t look forward to that. But, I am the mom of many, so I am well trained in making the best of things; in looking happy even when I’m not; and in finding the joy wherever I am and whatever I’m doing.
I’m taking the 3, not the 5 who still live at home, because I need some time alone with these 3 – they are at an age where I have to make special time or they will emotionally drift away as they move into adolescence. And that takes me back to my ongoing issue with attachment – these 3 meet the criteria for “attached” but that sure hasn’t *fixed* their behavioural issues. I guess it makes it easier for me to sustain my parenting with them when I feel that connection – but I’m not sure it means anything much to them as they rage or steal or whatever their dyregulated brains lead them to do in the moment.
I was thinking about this in relation to one of my adult sons who is very strongly attached to us now, but certainly wasn’t during the years we were raising him. I had 2 thoughts in relation to this – Thought 1 – the really, truly, best thing about adoption is that it is lifelong – so when he had worked out his issues in his own way and his own time, we were all still there. When he was finally ready and able to accept a family, there we were. \He was still totally important to our lives and he knew that. There simply isn’t any other form of non-genetic care that makes this possible.
Thought 2- I can’t help but wonder if all the emphasis on attachment isn’t really for the parents sake, rather than being in the children’s best interests. I know for me, it’s way easier to deal with the negative stuff that comes from my children who are *attached* than it is do deal with the negatives from those with whom there is no attachment.
I still think that taking abandonment as the script writer and then adding the players (belonging and emotional regulation) and the director (attachment) after is the way to go. It’s not as convenient, it’s not as easy for me as a parent, and it doesn’t help me mimic a neurotypical family dynamic (which I don’t believe we have to do). But, it does address the most basic of issues for my children, and isn’t that what it’s supposed to be about?
Hey – don’t forget to check out my Youtube videos, and my Hazardous Parenting facebook page. Also, if you are going to be at NACAC this year, I hope you will track me down and say hi or have dinner with me or something.
Have your best day possible – you deserve it.
Once again I received a referral to do *attachment work* with a child. I don’t know what *attachment work* is. I do know how to work with a child or youth or adult who has issues with abandonment, with grief and loss, with identity, with trauma, and with various behaviour disorders, but attachment work? I believe that any sense of belonging, and the subsequent developmental capacity to engage in an actively reciprocal and attachment based relationship, will evolve out of the rest of the work.
I mean think about it – babies aren’t born attached - in fact they are literally dis-attached with the cutting of the umbilical cord. Neuroytpical babies begin with a brain that is ready to be switched on and developed by nurturing and stability so that by the end of the first year, that rapidly growing brain has the capacity to experience and participate in an attachment based relationship. They aren’t expected to rush out of the birth canal waving at mommy and daddy and grinning with joy at being the child of these particular parents. They are given some time – it is only a few months, but in that short a life span, with such a fast growing brain, a few months is enough.
But, and it’s a big but, our children are not neurotypical – lots of their brain parts are shrunken or dormant from fasd and/or pre-adoption neglect, abuse and loss. As well, even the healthiest newborn brain lacks the capacity to manage abandonment. Humans are a pack animal – the greatest punishment we can give (aside from the death penalty) is isolation. Yet, there is an expectation that our kids, who are abandoned pre and post natally, and who are abandoned repeatedly by caregivers and foster parents and others, are supposed to get plunked into our families and through some kind of magic they will quickly present the same kind of brain function aka attachment, as a neurotypical child of their age.
How did we get to this place? Why do we have this expectation? Why can’t we respect the limits that abandonment and fasd and trauma create? If we don’t respect limits, if we keep imposing our version of “potential” and our time line of when it should be met, then we simply create another level of abuse and we aren’t open to perceiving the unique and natural route that our child will find on his own – if we give him the chance.
My emphasis is always on starting with abandonment and understanding that this is main factor to be worked on. Parents often have trouble grasping this – they believe that their good intentions to remain committed to Johnny should be enough – that he should accept their declarations of love. I tell them, in turn, that if they want to understand Johnny’s negative behaviors, then they need to realize that it all comes from one main source —– abandonment. Every hug is a risk for Johnny, every morning that he wakes up to a breakfast that was made just how he likes it means he is at risk of losing again; every time we show the slightest irritation with his behaviour he knows it will soon be anger; he knows how badly he will feel when he’s moved once again from the room you painted in his favorite color; and, how much it will hurt when you stop saying you love him because you’ve finally realized he can never be what you thought he was……. well, his brain sends every second of that to the abandonment place and he has to either shut down or act out. Some kids don’t even know that they are taking a risk – because everything that has to do with belonging is so out of their experience that it’s as if you and I are talking in a foreign language about a topic he has never heard of.
From my perspective – the factors of grief and loss, attachment, trauma, pre-natal exposure are all actors on the stage - and they are acting out a script that was written by abandonment.
I know I’m out on a limb here and there’s no one willing to sit on this branch with me – oh well, it’s just my opinion.
Well, that’s my thoughts for the day. I don’t know how coherent I am because at the moment I have a tooth ache and an ear infection and I’m at a campground, not near a dentist.
Have your best day possible -and don’t forget to check out my youtube videos and my Hazardous Parenting Stress Management facebook page.