No is an attitude…

foster care stressYesterday I was pulled into a conflict with one of my not-so-littles. She isn’t a rager and there are no attachment issues, but she does have a temper and a teen ‘tude. It all started when we were shopping and I refused to buy her something she wanted. She made one of those lightening fast mood transitions that are a normal part of adolescence, but she added some extra ingredients of overt hostility & rudeness and she was moving quickly to verbal abuse.

I stopped and used my ACE (Acknowledge the feelings; Calm myself;  Exit the conflict). Well, I got to E and couldn’t exactly get myself out of it so while I was focusing on my breathing and pondering my Exit, she said “You know, this is all your fault, you started it. We could still be having fun except you ruined it”.  Mmmm that was a bit of a puzzler so I asked at what point did she perceive me turning our shopping and talking time into a conflict – she looked at me as if I’d just dropped from another planet and replied “When you said no”.

Yes friends, I understand that *NO* is a trigger word,blog lightening but I don’t think I’ve seen it played out so clearly before – and I was surprised by her insight as well as her firm belief that *No* is a reason for bad behavior. I said – “When I say *no* does that give you the right to be angry with me?” and she said “Well of course it does, everyone knows that”. Okay, I know that parents and therapists understand that as a dynamic, but I hadn’t realized how clearly the kid might see it. She stated this as if it was the same kind of known fact that the sun will rise tomorrow and the rain is wet. There was no room for argument or reason -it was a fact in her mind. I said, “Okay, so if I ask you to do something and you say no to me, does that give me the right to be mad at you?” Her reply “No, you just have to put up with it.”  So much for insight. However, for me, it was a real reminder of how quickly the mood can be changed and how much the conflict is often only about the trigger words rather than about any real issue. And yes, I know that abandonment and pre-natal exposure and early abuse/neglect play into this as well, but in terms of managing the moment, it really is only about the moment and the words that are used.

I didn’t then move onto any great parenting – I just said that I didn’t agree and it was too bad the shopping fun was over.  My feet hurt and I was tired and I wanted to go home.

My point is, I often forget that my kids and I live by different rules. And, I forget that I don’t really know their rules, nor could I live by them if I did. I also realized that I don’t need to engage in every conflict as if it has some deep meaning for either of us, and instead, I need to simply focus on my A.C.E. and move on. After all, I’m sure you’ve all been involved in horrible conflicts with your chronic conflict kids in which you are left destroyed and feeling hopeless, yet 20 minutes later the same kid trots happily into the room and asks if there are any leftovers for a snack. The underlying feelings may have deep roots, but each conflict is likely just a surface event to the child.blog frustrated kit

Well, that’s my thought for the day. As you can tell, I’m working on some new stuff about conflict with chronic conflict kids, and I hope you don’t mind if I use this blog to process my thoughts. I welcome your comments and thoughts on this.

Hey, you are entitled to a better day.

Don’t forget to check out my daily tips at my Hazardous Parenting facebook page.

When they won’t grow up…

As adoption changes and adoptive families evolve, there are going to be new issues that arise. One that I’ve been seeing more and more of  in the last couple of years is this – older child adoptees who refuse to leave home at a reasonable age and stage. When I speak of this with colleagues, I get these responses;

a) the adoptee now feels secure in the family and needs more time experiencing the safety and the emotional connection

b) neurotypical & non traumatized young adults are remaining in the family home till their late 20′s so why shouldn’t older child adoptees?

c) moving out re-triggers the adoptees’ original abandonment fears and attachment issues and so they need more years to resolve these

Well, I agree with these theories. The problem is that no-one seems to be talking about the toll this takes on the parents. Many that I work with were older parents when they adopted (I was young with my first adoption, much, much, much older at my last). For the older parents, they are near, or past, retirement age by the time junior reaches his early 20′s and they can’t continue to support either the size of house or the number of people living in it. They may be facing enforcement retirement, or their skills and ability to do the work are no longer viable. 

The parents may also have experienced years of managing their child’s negative behaviours due to fasd, conduct disorder, severe anxiety, adhd, temper dysregulation disorder etc and they have their own PTSD from which they need to recover. The parents have likely put their life on hold while raising their child(ren) and now are desperate to have a few last years of being able to have friends and activities that are not related to behavior disorders. And, these behaviors don’t magically disappear just because someone turns 23. The young adult may be more emotionally self regulated, but that doesn’t mean he has suddenly become easy to live with – there will still be issues.

The parents may have their own parents to deal with at this stage. Their parents may need extra help and time due to aging issues but the continuing needs and demands of the live in adult adoptee preclude the parents from being able to carve out the time or find the energy. 

The adoptive parents own health may be vulnerable and on a down hill slope. Years of chronic stress begins to devastate the health of the aging adoptive parent and to have to continue managing the needs of the adult adoptee further decreases the parents’ health and may increase their depression and anxiety.

I’m not suggesting that older child adoptees need to be thrown to the curb at age 19. Might as well leave them in foster care if that is the plan. I know in my own family that some of my children didn’t really get the whole concept of family bonds till they lived with us in their young adult years. It took that long till they had enough distance from their original traumas, as well as an adult brain, to really begin to form positive relationships. However, there comes a time when the adoptive parents simply can’t do it anymore – and that needs to be acknowledged, respected, and supported. Can't do it anymore

I don’t have any ideas on this as yet – would love to hear your thoughts or suggestions or ideas on this. In the meantime, I would like to see this topic have more public discussion and input from parents.

So, remember my friends, you are entitled to a better day.

If you feel so inclined, please check out my Youtube videos, my Hazardous Parenting website, and my Hazardous Parenting Weight Loss Blog and my course on Udemy.com *Adoption: What You Need To Know*.

I disagree…again…

Here’s the 1,456,967th thing I don’t agree with in today’s adoption industry. I don’t agree that parents should be therapists to their own children. I know that the term *therapeutic parenting* has been popular for quite some time, but I have never bought into that. My children are my children, they are not my clients. And, I believe that what my children need from me and what they need from a therapist are very different. And, as a therapist, I don’t want to be treading into any part of the relationship that should be developing between the children on my caseload and their parents. I totally agree that as parents of pre-parented children, we have to know a great deal about the neurobiology of abuse and neglect & changing caregivers & pre-natal exposure to drugs and other toxins.brain neglect I also agree that we need to learn parenting techniques that are effective with children who are neurodiverse rather than using those that are generally successful for parents of neurotypical children. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still be primarily parents. The way in which I am present for my children is pretty different from the way in which I am present for my clients. For my clients, I am as emotionally present, regulated, and attuned as possible. I am aware that I’m there for the client only, it isn’t at all about me. It doesn’t matter if I’m tired, or crabby, or worried, or not feeling well — that is all put aside while I am with the client. At home, I should be allowed to be *me* -at least to some extent. Like all parents, I get up with the kids whether or not I have had enough sleep, and I cook a good meal whether or not I would rather just have a sandwich (or go out for dinner). I listen to their day and take them to lessons when I get home instead of sitting on the patio and having a cup of tea.  I put their needs ahead of mine almost all the time. Still, I get to make my needs known, whether or not anyone is interested. I don’t get to whine (at least not often)  but I get to mention if I’m tired. I get to say “not now, wait till I’ve finished cooking, or laundry or whatever”. I get to get mad on occasion, and I get to be sad on other occasions, and once in a while I get to say “nope, I”m not engaging in that”. I believe it’s important for my children to learn that while there are no limits on my capacity to love them, I have some limits on my capacity to give. I don’t believe that in my family, I have to leap on each and every teachable moment. I believe my children need to learn that they make other people, including me, angry and that there will be an appropriate consequence for that. I believe that my children need to learn to tolerate and care about the needs of others and to understand, or at least act like they understand, that others are important, too. I most certainly need my children to learn that I can’t be perfect and that at times I will not be the best parent I can be, and at times I will totally blow it and will parent from my temper instead of my heart.blog crabby mom That is all part of normal life and its okay for my children to be exposed to *normal* in our home.

Over the years we’ve benefited from some amazing support people who took on the therapeutic role and left me free to be the mom.  I know my children have cared deeply about some of them. But, I’m the mom. I’m the flawed, loving, dependable, predictable, mom – they aren’t being raised in a therapeutic placement – they are being raised by their parents in their family home.

Well, that’s enough of that for today.

If you would like some free resources – check out my Hazardous Parenting facebook page, and my Youtube videos, and some of you may be interested in my Hazardous Parenting Weight Loss Blog.

Take care, and remember, you are entitled to another day.

Changing tactics…

I’ve spent my adult life trying to be a better parent to my challenging children. I’ve also tried to stay at the forefront of effective therapies in order to help my clients. Now, I’m taking another look at this. I still want to be a better parent, in fact, I’d like to be a better person in general (and I’m sure anyone who knows me would agree I could use some improvement). However, I feel like I’ve missed some stuff along the way. I’ve tried to improve me, and to help my children resolve issues and increase their relationship skills, but what I’ve learned is that all of this takes time, and more time, and more time that I could ever have imagined —-and—in the meantime, we all have to live with the stress, anxiety, and conflict that is generated by the emotional dysregulation that runs my children’s lives.

So, with that in my focus, I’m now working on how to manage the conflict, rather than resolve the trauma. Of course, trauma needs attention, but as I said, brains change slowly and it’s a long process and we all have to live together in the meantime. I’ve started taking lots of training in conflict coaching and management and I’m now integrating that into home life and the daily conflict that occurs. I like it, I think it has a far more immediate impact on our daily lives.

Anyway, that’s what I’m up to these days, I’ll be writing more about it as I get it into a thought out form. If you’ve got any comments on this, love to hear them.

In the meantime, remember, you are entitled to a better day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WOW!!!

Sprint Announces New ”Neurodiversity ID Pack” for Android Devices

sprint1Sprint announced last week that it is launching a bundle of Android applications that are designed to provide neurodiverse individuals with access to tools that help them to better manage their lives.   The bundle includes 25 separate applications including an alternative augmentative communication app, a portal to thousands of audible books, reading and math skills programs, and much more.  The fact that Sprint has chosen to use the word “neurodiversity” in their description of the bundle is good indication that neurodiversity is approaching mainstream acceptance in the culture.  Ironically, it seems that the corporate sector is far ahead of the schools in embracing this more strength-based paradigm since only a few special educators have begun integrating a neurodiversity perspective into their practice.  Let’s hope that this announcement by Sprint will encourage more educators to take neurodiversity seriously, and that they will begin using the Neurodiversity ID Pack and other strategies to help students succeed based not on what they CAN’T do, but rather on what they CAN do!

Evolving thoughts…

Here’s what’s been bubbling in my brain for a while – and it’s not going to be popular – I think we, the adoption industry professionals and consumers, are on the wrong track. Why? Because we put all, or most, of our intervention/support eggs into one basket – therapy. I am a therapist, have been one for 30 years, so I value it highly. However, I don’t think therapy is the way to resolve all issues. Certainly its good for trauma, but it’s not always used in a timely way. I’ve written about that in past blogs – how I get referrals for kids who’ve just been placed and now suddenly everyone decides it’s time for the child to resolve all the past abuse and abandonment issues. Well, I think it’s better if the child first learns how to spell her new last name. Therapy has a time and a place and a purpose – but it isn’t always the answer, or at least, not the only answer.

So, it not therapy – then what? Okay, here’s what’s bubbled up to the top of my cognitive layers – I think we need to be more focused on developing skills, empathy, and tolerance in both the parents and the children. I mean really, if the parents don’t learn the skills to parent high needs children, then they little chance of creating a successful family. They also need to learn skills that are actually relevant to the life they will have post adoption – to me, that’s going to be a combination of effective parenting skills and conflict resolution skills. And, although the children/youth arrive in our lives with great survival skills, they don’t have much in the way of appropriate social skills nor do they have a clue about how to resolve conflict in a healthy way. Further, we need to be collaborating with parents and kids on coming up with the plan – what skills do they identify that they need? rather than the professionals descending on them with a list a mile long that may or may not be relevant to that particular family situation.

I believe too, that the empathy part is important because often the parents have sympathy, but little empathy. They understand that the child has had horrible experiences, but they don’t understand how that plays into the youth’s resistance to attend school or to stop stealing. And, the children/youth have almost no capacity to experience empathy at all. They have been self-focused their entire lives just to survive the changes and the trauma – yes, they are on high alert  - but it’s an alert to help them respond in the way that best gets them through the moment – not an alert that opens the emotional doors to understanding and negotiation and relationship.

Then, we have the lack of tolerance. Parents are always asking me how to change their children’s negative behaviors; and, of course the kids want me to get the parents to back off. Neither starts out able to grasp their own responsibility to manage their feelings of frustration and to simply let some things go. Kids aren’t perfect, adults make mistakes. We all need to tolerate a bit more in each other. And, no, I’m not suggesting that a parent should tolerate being sworn at, or threatened with a knife – nor should a kid tolerate any form of abuse from a parent. But along the spectrum of behaviors from irritating to abusive – well, there’s a lot of room for movement and tolerance.

So, that’s where I’m at today. Going to be doing a lot more thinking on this and likely going to be changing my workshops and my clinical practice and my parenting to move more in this direction.

Love to hear your thoughts.

Remember—– you are entitled to a better day! 

 

How do I want to be remembered…

In my practice I often see adult adoptees who seek treatment for trauma experienced in their adoptive familyattachment sad. However, I also see some who weren’t traumatized, but who were desperately unhappy in their growing up years. In the latter group, it occasionally seems to me that the parents were doing the best they could to manage the challenging behaviors of the adoptee.  That is, the parents weren’t mean or abusive or neglectful or blaming. They were simply overwhelmed and under supported in their attempt to raise a child with adhd & fasd, & odd & ocd & rad etc.

These situations cause me to reflect on how my children perceive me as they reach adulthood(9 grown up, 5 still growing). Most of the adults seem to recall their childhood with me as being pretty good. Most have some wonderful memories mixed in with the reality of life in a behaviorally challenged household; but, one or two have some pretty negative stuff about me. One felt that s/he was never good enough for me. As we’ve worked through that in his/her adult years, we’ve recognized that this developed as I sought service after service to help with his/her severe learning deficits. S/he doesn’t feel the same way about this anymore, but the years of feeling *not good enough* damaged him/her and nearly wrecked our relationship. I don’t know what I could have done differently, but as I seek help now for my children who are still growing, I make sure I balance the need for help with the acknowledgement of what they do well. I thought I was doing that with the grown up kid, but apparently not well enough. I don’t know if it will turn out different for the younger ones because they have very different personalities and they didn’t experience pre-adoption neglect and abuse so their basic self concept is stronger. Well, I know that sooner or later they will advise me of their perceptions and I will learn some more.

The thing I reflect on the most, however, is whether they perceived me as loving and caring and nurturing and whether they recall ever having fun as a family. When they looked at me did they feel they were looking into the eyes of someone who

adoption course eyes

loved them deeply? I’ve never been able to be the mom I thought I could be, or wanted to be. I’ve felt broken at times. I’ve felt too tired and depressed to try anything more. I’ve felt angry and I’ve expressed that anger too strongly and in ways that didn’t do a damned bit of good for anyone. But, that wasn’t all I presented as a parent. I know I did a lot really well, too. I know there were days, times, events in which I was really in top form and my parenting was the best. Which do they recall as adults?

 

I don’t want to be remembered by my kids as an angry mom.blog jealous I don’t want to be remembered as a mean mom. I don’t want to have created any part of what they have to resolve as adults. I want to be remembered as a mom who, despite moments of failure or exhaustion or anger, was a mom who made them feel loved. After all, that was the whole point of being a parent, wasn’t it?

So, that’s what I strive for now. I will never be perfect, I will have moments of anger again. But, as I experience the impact of living with children with severe behavior disorders, I will keep most in mind that if I want to be remembered well in the future, I had better manage well in the present.

So, I’m going to be in Albany, New York in May doing a key note and some workshops at the NYSCC conference. If you are attending, please look me up and maybe we can have coffee or lunch. In the meantime, remember, you are entitled to a better day. And don’t forget to check out my youtubes and slideshares and my Hazardous Parenting facebook page for free resources on parenting children with challenges.

Be sure to check out this new research on how the father creates fasd – we’ve been waiting forever for this!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140214075405.htm

 http://nysccc.org/conference/

 

 

Earning first choice…

Before we start – sorry about the weird insertion of the Contact Form – I don’t know why it’s there and I can’t get rid of it – so please just skip over it and read on.

So, here’s another thing I think should be in pre-adoption programs and never is —— I hear so much talk in the adoption industry about how pre-parented children want parents. Well, that’s a lie. I don’t think they want parents, I think they want the parents with whom they began life. Just sticking them with any set of parents ten years later doesn’t meet that most basic need. Yes, I believe adoption is a vital means of providing safety and security to children and its a viable means of creating family – but – that doesn’t mean that older children want new parents. They don’t want a mom and dad – they want their own genetic mom and dad. I know, those parents may be violent, they may be child abusers, they may be addicted to substances, they may be really, really awful at being parents, they may be unknown or not remembered, they may not even want to be parents – but that doesn’t change the basic biological drive of the children to be with those who created them.

I’ll say again, I still support adoption. I just think we need to be more honest with the adoptive parents and with the older adopted children – that is, we need to acknowledge that we are the second choice for the children and we may pay for that as they act out their emotional trauma for many, many years. The children don’t understand that this is the dynamic that fuels their anger at the adoptive parents and the burbling emotional discontent that seeps into all of their relationships. How could they understand this when no one acknowledges it?

I do believe that most parents can bond to any child, but I don’t think that most older children can bond to just any parents that come along, at least not for many years. Sooner or later they will, but that underlying need to be with the original parents will hold them back for a long time. I have heard countless people say “There are so many waiting children that need a mom /dad”.  Nope, they need the originals. Yes, they can learn to accept the new ones, but that takes time, effort, tolerance, and acceptance on the part of the parents. 

I look at my own children and I believe they all have strong attachment relationships with me and they are well bonded to the larger family unit. However, I also believe that the struggles that we went through with those who were adopted at an older age could have been lessened if we’d all accepted that I was the second choice and that there was a stronger need going on for my kids.

I don’t believe that access to the original parents would have helped, because these people were still highly dysfunctional and their whereabouts have not always been known to us – I saw that when access to the originals did happen (via facebook) it often created even more problems for my kids – they had to reconcile their underlying and unacknowledged needs for the fantasy of the birth parents with the reality of who these people were. More pain and more heartache for my kids as they struggled with this, but it was something they had to go through eventually in order for them to finally make me their first choice. The point is that they eventually made that choice – they had rebelled and raged and rejected enough to move away from accepting me as a parent simply because a social worker made the placement; and, instead, they chose me because I’d lasted long enough and loved them hard enough to earn the right to be their mom. And, it is not an entitlement, it is something we parents have to earn.

I hope I haven’t made this sound like I’m treating this like a contest where one parent has to win the prize of a being a parent.Indeed, there is no contest and little to win in the world of adoption. I’m trying to say that this is yet another dynamic that we have to acknowledge – that just because some policy allows for parents to be chosen for older children, it doesn’t mean the children’s biological needs have signed on.

Okay, time for me to leave the office early today and go for my swim that I missed this morning.

Take care of yourself and have your best day possible.

If you have the time and the inclination – please check out my adoption course at Udemy.com or my powerpoints at Slideshare.com or my videos at Youtube or the daily tips at my Hazardous Parenting facebook page.

Changing…

Now that I’m swimming every day I have some time for thinking. I try to focus on the feeling of the water and get some kind of connection with the Universe but that seems to last only a couple of minutes and then my mind wanders. Something that has been rolling around in my brain for a long time and I’ve been dwelling on the last few swims is about how everything in adoption involves changing the people involved.

For the child, there’s the unfathomable change of having to become the child of someone they’ve met before and  to fully belong to people with whom they have no genetic connection and usually no previous relationship. This is not usually how it’s presented, but its what really happens. Whatever survival skills the child has used prior to the placement are no longer effective and are often downright disliked by the new parents – so the child has to figure out how to behave in a way that is acceptable to the new parents. The child usually has some kind of brain challenges such as fasd or the harm done by early neglect and abuse so it makes turning into a new person even harder as their own brain works against them. When the child can’t change fast enough to suit others, then she’s rolled off to a therapist for some kind of attachment therapy – and again, more people expecting him to change and evolve into this new person.

I know that the change is not just to suit other people’s versions of what this child should be or do – after all, you can’t just leave a child to self harm, or to harm others, or to behave in ways that will get her totally rejected by society – but, for the child, it very often feels like an overwhelming and unspoken demand to turn into someone different.

I recall how stunned I was when one of my now adult sons was still in his angry phase and he said (or yelled) that he could never be good enough for me.  My jaw truly dropped when he said that, because I couldn’t see where such a thought could come from. After all, I had only been trying to help him acquire skills and resolve the issues associated with fasd, adhd, multiple learning deficits, early neglect and abuse, multiple caregivers, etc. But, when I truly put myself in his place, I could understand that to him, getting all the supports and the help would, of course, feel like nothing about him was okay.

Then, of course, there’s the change that parents go through. Nothing we believe about life or parenting is relevant to or effective with the behaviours that are presented to us by each new child who enters our lives. I don’t know of any pre-adoption training (other than the one I offer on Udemy.com) that clearly states that who you are when you enter adoptive life is not going to be who you are two years later. We learn soon enough that we aren’t good enough – we have to learn a whole new set of parenting and life skills, and we have to challenge ourselves to manage the ghosts of our own histories that are triggered by our new child. And, most of us have to learn to live through years of our child’s chronic non-compliance and on and off again rejection, and some of us have to learn to live with  chronic violence. We also have to learn new and usually awful things about ourselves (new  adoptive parents rarely believe me if I tell them that they are going to sink to levels of anger and pettiness that they didn’t know existed).

The trauma we experience in adoption isn’t just from the behaviours, it’s also from the changes we undergo. Most of the children eventually turn into the successful adults we had believed they could be,  and most parents eventually turn into the kind of parents the children need us to be. It happens. But it takes a toll.

Well, that’s as far as my thinking on this has gone so far. I’ll be swimming all next week too so maybe some more will come to me on this topic. Maybe you have some thoughts on this too. I’d love to hear them.

If you have the time and the inclination, be sure to check out my Hazardous Parenting facebook page for daily coping tips; and, my youtube videos for interviews and tips; and, be sure to have your best day possible.

Returned and re-energized…

Wow, what a marvelous holiday season I just experienced. Probably the best in many, many years. My not -so- littles were in pretty good form most of the time, no real rages, only the regular daily tempers, foul language, and screaming sib fights. And on 24th and 25th of December we had most of our grown up kids (and their children) in  and out of the house for visits and dinners and gift exchanges. It was so incredible to see these young adults doing so well and all treating me and each other with love, kindness, laughter, & tolerance. Five years ago I had no hope that this day could ever exist – I couldn’t foresee a time when our family could have such a positive and affirming and emotionally connected experience with each other. I guess that’s one of the advantages of being around a long time, I get to see how things turn out!

The season also reconfirmed my belief that attachment, and all the brain development and emotional regulation that it involves, doesn’t really happen until adulthood, when the those children and youth who have walked and fought on that that dangerous path of growing up and healing have reached an age and a stage of brain development where they can look back and see that we were walking that path with them, and that we are still here.

I also know, more than ever, that I should have taken better care of myself along the way. I do that now with my not- so- littles still presenting stress and challenges. In fact, I recently received a really bad set of results in my last health check up and so I’m more determined than ever to focus on my emotional regulation and to make my well being the priority. I have faith that regardless of what it feels like at times, my not- so- littles will grow up to do as well as my older children have done, and so sacrificing myself along the way is just plain stupid. I can pull back, regroup, and take the steps that are necessary to ensure that when they are young adults, they too will be able to see that I’m still here.

So, I’m back to blogging, back to healthy living, back to writing, back to my clients, and feeling great.

Check out my 5 new videos on Youtube – and don’t forget the Hazardous Parenting facebook page of daily tips and strategies. Next week, I’ll be starting my Hazardous Parenting blogtalk radio program.

Remember, you really are entitled to a better day.