Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Regulating Mom & What's Behind That Mad?

We had a big issue with our ten year old daughter Sunday night.   I was MAD.  Madder than I have ever been at her.  I went to bed mad, woke up mad, and spent the whole day mad.  I am usually able to shake any mad quickly and stay in calm, therapeutic mom mode.  Not this time.  She crossed the line on a safety matter and I couldn't shake my anger.

When I dropped her off at school, I told her her to tell her friend that there would be no Girl Scouts because we needed to talk about what happened.  She said, "I'm not participating in any talk." 

When I picked her up from school I gave her a huge hug and told her I was glad to see her.  She said, "I'm still not participating in any talk about last night."   Argh!   We had a tense car ride home (just a couple minutes) with arguing and immaturity (on both our parts).  She refused to come in the house when we got there.   Since she has lost our trust, I had Hubster watch her while I changed out of my work clothes.   It hit me that even though I was trying to do all the right things with the hug and telling her I was glad to see her, my anger was still shining through.   She could hear it in my tone, expressions and body language.   I took some deep breaths and went out to her.

I said, "I think my voice sounds really mad and that is freaking you out."   She softened a bit and said, "Yes, it really, really is."   I said, "I am struggling with this mad, but I love you so much and will try to make my love come through more than my mad."   Then I asked her if she would play me a song on her recorder and told her we needed to go inside after that.   She played her song and then we went in without problem.  I cooked dinner and she did her homework. 

Then the three of us talked about the previous night.  It was a hard and heavy conversation.  She listened.  She did not argue.   She cried in a real and appropriate way over her consequences (loss of trust = loss of freedom and fun activities).  She spent some time hanging with her Dad while I cleaned up the kitchen and then she went to sleep without issue, immediately falling asleep.

She couldn't become regulated because I wasn't regulated. 

Once I got myself in check, she was able to do the same.


So simple, but so huge.

Of course, I always tell her that mad/anger are just masks that other "scaredy cat" feelings hide behind.  They are "scaredy cat" feelings because they are harder to deal with than anger.  I always ask her, "What's hiding behind the mad?"   So what was hiding behind my mad?   Fear that she would do something unsafe again.  Embarrassment/shame that I couldn't keep my child from doing something unsafe.  Confusion at why it happened.  Sadness for her and our family that so much trauma happened to her to cause her so many issues.  Frustration that we have to work so hard to help her heal when we didn't cause the trauma.  Lots of stuff hiding behind my mad.   Acknowledging it really does feel good, but it sure does suck to "practice what you preach" sometimes! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"There is nothing wrong with that child."

When you are parenting a traumatized child.. the special needs just aren't as visible to the world. My daughter appears to the untrained eye to be a well mannered, engaging, happy go lucky eight year old. To the trained eye she is too easily familiar with strangers, and socially immature by about 2 years. My daughter says "I love you!" over a hundrend times a day. I've counted. "Awww! She loves you so so much!" people say. I know "I love you!" means many things: 1. I think I am in trouble! 2. Are you there? 3. Don't leave me!! 4. PAY ATTENTION ONLY TO ME! 5. Hello stranger! Watch my mom roll her eyes at my declaration of love! 6. Respond to my demands! 7. I love you. 8. I hope you love me. Over the 19+ months since I brought my daughter home from foster care (then 7, now almost 9): many people have assumed I was merely a bad parent. 8 yr old screaming in the store? Licking the floor in a restraunt? In a psych hold at the movies? Kicking a wall and screaming "SORRY SORRY SORRY" at the mall? What a bad parent. The number one tool of trauma mama is a SUPPORT system. When you bring home a child....some people stick around and sort of get it, some people fade away, som people thing you are nuts. BUT out there in the world there ARE people who understand you. Because they live JUST LIKE YOU AND I do. Or worse. I hope you have found some of them. If not check out the map on the side bar and find someone near you. This week a fellow adoptive special needs mom in our support network has had the worst possible outcome for her three year old son. She is preparing to let him go into the arms of Jesus. Though we can not imagine her pain, though we may have never seen her face to face or held her hand: the support network has rallied around her. With hourly or more words of encouragement, prayer/meditation chains through family friends and churches across the world, and financial assistance. Support is invaluable. Sometimes your f@cebook friends are the friends you can count on in a pinch. Sometimes the people who get it are states away. Find some support!! YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It's All Just a Bad Dream...

How do you tell a child, frightened and alone.. "Don't worry.. It's all just a bad dream?" with a straight face.  How do you look that child in the eyes and say it with complete honesty... knowing that most likely it was more like a "Bad Memory"?

You don't.. you don't tell them it was "just a bad dream".  You just hold them and tell them you love them.

Prior to taking this placement, I had been told that both girls would carry on "from sun up to sun down" about monsters and the like.  The girls would refuse to go to bed and were just inconsolable.  However, we haven't had any issues with bedtime.. well not ANY.. but few issues.  Yes, there are nightmares or night terrors (I am not an expert so I can't tell you the difference).  Yes, there times when both girls would "carry on" but all it took was the comfort of a loving touch (holding, cuddling, rocking)... there are things that happened in their past that allow the "touch" to be sufficient comfort to them.

Our foster children have visits with their birth parents and they also have weekly phone calls.  After a recent phone call, Big Girl woke up drenched in sweat and screaming/crying.  She had a bad dream.. with monsters in it. 

What did I do?  I did not tell her that monsters weren't real.. because I am sorry if a child BELIEVES they exist.. they EXIST.  I brought her downstairs.. and we sat at the kitchen table.  And I asked her to draw her dream.  She did.. I asked her to draw the monsters, because I needed to know what they looked like in case they ever tried to show up at my house.  She obliged.  Then, I brought her back to bed and asked her what she planned on dreaming about that would be happy dreams... she responded "Rainbows and Unicorns".

The next morning.. she told me "I had good dreams.. about Rainbows and Unicorns!"

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Morning Glory

For those of you that don't me... I am a 30 something Foster Mom, Wife, Student, and (yes AND as if those titles aren't enough) Working Mom.  You can call me M.  I blog over at Hurdles Life, Love & Family. We have three foster children who were placed with us last year.. a sibling set ages 5, 3 and 11 months.   "C"indy is our 5 year old, "B"ella is our 3 year old, and "A"arron is our 11 month old.  Fun ages, but also lots of work.  Our mornings sometimes get in the way of enjoying things, considering I am getting myself and 3 children ready and it definitely isn't the easiest thing to do with a smile and stressfree.  Especially when you are working with children who have PTSD, Anxiety and Anger Issues (well "C"indy and "B"ella)... who knows there might even be some RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) that we are dealing, but we don't have a diagnosis for that.
With our 3 year old (aka Little Girl "B"ella) she can be a peach in the mornings... or she can be amazingly difficult and defiant.  We hear "I TANT!!" over and over again.  There are days when the "I TANTs" can be OVERWHELMING, but you have to get to the root of the "I TANT".  If it is a day that we have a visit with a biological parent.. the "I TANT" is really "I DONT WANNA DOE!" and thus she needs help and comforting.  But on other days.. it is typically and simply "I DONT WANNA DO IT AND YOU TANT MAKE ME!".   Basically it is an ODD moment (Oppositional Defiant Disorder).  There are lots of methods out there to help a child work through their ODD moment, for us and for Bella.. Time Outs work wonders.

Now we have our "Morning Glory" ... Big Girl "C"indy (our 5 year old).  This morning she was in a mood.. woke up on the wrong side of the bed, I am not sure what. 

First she HAD to wear "tight pants" -- basically jeggings, then the "tight pants" were a little bit short, so she need socks that went to her knees.  At this point I used a little L&L (Love and Logic) on her.  "You have two choices.. you can wear the knee socks with jeans, or you can wear these ankle socks with the tight pants.  What do you choose?"  She elected to keep the tight pants on, but threw her T-Shirt (that she had planned on wearing over a pink thermal) onto her bed.  I grabbed her and pulled her close (my version of a Time-In)... "Look at me.  Is pouting and crying helping you right now? Come on breathe." [try saying this calmly... I think the "Come on Breathe" is more for my benefit than hers].. "C"indy kicks and screams... I pull her closer.  More kicking, sobbing, pushing, screaming... again I pull her closer (now she is basically being held like an infant and I am rubbing her back).  She can't calm down, or won't calm down.  I carry downstairs from her room to the living room couch, repeating "What were your choices?" She finally relents and relaxes in my arms and sobs "different pants".  I respond "Okay, so is this helping you at all?" she madly replies "NO!" again breathing and calmly ask "Well, do you think you can get over this? Do you plan on having a happy day or a not happy day?" again with anger she answers "HAPPY!"  I tell her "I am not letting go of you until you are calm and aren't crying, because I think you really need a hug today."  (mind you the time that has elapsed from start to end is about 15-20 minutes before she calms herself down)  CRISIS OVERTED... or so I thought!

We get in the car (everyone is buckled up and I am backing out of the driveway) she sobs "I FORGOT MY T-SHIRT" (well at this point I am already LATE for work.  I tell her (as empathetically as I can muster) "I am sorry, that's a bummer that you forgot your shirt.  What do you think you could have done differntly so that you wouldn't have forgotten it?" again I get an angry response "NOT POUTED!" -- okay I guess the Crisis is not Overted.. CODE RED!! CODE RED!! We get to daycare and I decide.. well I am already late for work.. might as HUG IT OUT!  I attempt to hug her and she starts sobbing again and pushing me away.  The mantra begins again ... "Come on breathe.  Is this helping? What can you do to stop?  Do you plan on having a happy day or a not happy day?" [elapsed time 5-10 minutes.. on the floor of the daycare center... with teachers and students staring at us -- I guess thats a win... sort of]  She even gives me her "special kiss" goodbye (a butterfly kiss).

The thing I have learned this morning... "C"indy needs positive touch and affection, whereas "B"ella will just take the affection/attention she wants.

Now.. onto my breathing.. so now you can ask yourself, as I ask myself :

"Is this going to be a happy day or a not happy day?"  
You can choose!