Tuesday, February 28, 2012

RAD Parenting is like Construction work

If you like watching home improvement shows, you may have come across the show Holmes on Homes. It is one of my favorite home improvement shows to watch. It is a show based on a contractor who goes in and fixes mistakes that other contractors made and most of the time are fairly significant issues. To the naked eye you cannot tell that something is wrong, everything looks great cosmetically but as time goes on little things start to pop up that make the home owner concerned that the work was not done correctly, or they spring a leak or have no heat whatever the case may be, but on the surface all looks fantastic.

Holmes comes in and rips down the walls and finds often , short cuts taken, shotty work, and sometimes serious defects in the structure of the home due to neglect by the prior contractor.

When parenting a RAD child it is a lot like being Holmes from the show I just described. On the outside our kid’s seem all put together and capable and functional and nothing seems wrong. It is when we start to rip down the layers that we start to find the underlying damage caused by inexperienced and sometimes abusive caregivers. The work to repair the damage is extensive and will take time.

Parenting a RAD child and helping them to heal is not a weekend do-it-yourself job. It takes time and effort and experience and commitment to the task at hand. Helping to tear out all the old messy work that was done and re-build with a strong foundation in trust, love and safety is so important for these kids. This is a job that will takes years and sometime’s a lifetime to finish and you still may be finding work to do daily even when you think you are done.

I learned watching this show that repair work is much harder than just starting new. Actually it is really hard ,and sometimes you have to just work with what is already there and make due the best you can. A new stronger beam may need to be butted up against the old one instead of taking the old one out because the old one is holding up the foundation and can’t be removed. You can make things better and structurally sounder but the old beam will always be there.

I think that is a lot like our kids. We can come along side of them and help to build new trusts, and boundries, safety and hopes and dreams but the old memories and hurts will always be there along side the new and we have to allow them to process through that and let the new beam take the weight of their burden as the old beam crumbles away.

My “R” has so many levels and they run so deep that there are days I am still finding new fears and history out after 2 years. Her outbursts and rage toward me are a reflection of her still being under construction.   I have committed to therapeutic parenting her to the best of my ability. I have not been great at this in the past year and I am working to repair that. So I put together a tool belt with all the things I will need daily to help me to be the best contractor to help repair my “R” and help her to have a successful life.

My RAD Toolbelt

A measuring tape of Patience
A can of Empathy
A Roll of Playfulness
A bottle of Love

Tools including:
Self control
Quiet in control voice

Each morning I am working on strapping on my toolbelt so that I can face the day head on and help my "R" to be fully restored.  I look forward to seeing the finished product some day.

Monday, February 20, 2012

" I put up a wall"

During a therapy session, after a week of endless tantrums the therapist looked at “R” and said “What do you think it is, that makes you get so angry?” To which “R” replied “ I put up a wall”.

In my head I thought, “ I totally know what you mean” I have been putting up walls my whole life and it took years to let people past the outer shell. Breaking down my walls has taken a long time, and my story isn’t even half the trauma she has been through.

Each pain, and each hurt has added bricks and height to my little girls wall and she has enclosed herself in this world of pain, hurt and fear and she can’t get out of it. Her past comes back to haunt her and she can’t find a way to break through. The Reactive Attachment Disorder is the foundation for her wall. The inability to allow others to have control, the lack of self confidence, the fear of allowing anyone close so she uses tactics to keep them at a distance. The fear of rejection, so I will reject you mentality is evident every day.

So,I thought about his wall that she metaphorically said she has put up. I want to help her in any way I can.  So I think... Ok, let’s put up a wall and on each brick write what is keeping that wall up. On the other side of the brick, I will write what it feels like to take that brick down and what the opposite of the brick is saying. When Little “R” is struggling with a particular brick we can go to it and look at the back. My hope is that eventually she will be able to start peeling down the bricks.   We talked about burning the bricks as she conquers them and she loves the idea.

Underneath the bricks is a big heart that "R" helped make. She chose what she thinks a heart should have in it and how much of it... She picked the following:

“R” was able to jump in with both feet on this project and she was able to tell me lots of things that keep her wall up, which was hard work for her.

I then spent quite a bit of time coming up with words of encouragement to put on the back of her bricks.

We then velco'd them to the board over the heart.  All of these pains and hurts are keeping her from the peaceful heart she wants and we are going to work on breaking down this wall and getting rid of these bricks.  If she is feeling any of these feelings she can take the brick off and look at the back and remind herself of the love we have for her. We eventually want to completely expose that heart for her.

It is now hanging in her bedroom.

I dug out “R” profile from our initial meeting and re-read it with a fine tooth comb. I couldn’t believe the enormity of the pain she had been through.  They couldn’t write down everything on file, but what was there, was clear that little R had suffered tremendous emotional pain. Things I missed when I first read the profile.   I needed to re-read that to remind myself that her anger and rage is a reaction to her trauma. I am going to do everything I can with God's help to give this girl a fighting chance to heal and help her tear down that wall she has put up!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Falling On My Knees

“I can’t fix this, how do we fix this!” I cried out to God after dealing with somewhere between 14-20 tantrum’s this week.

I had reached the end of my ability to parent this child. I feel like a failure as a mother. I can’t meet her needs and she makes it so hard to love her. At times I don’t feel anything, but pain when we are together. What kind of mother says that about their child? But this is no ordinary situation and this is no ordinary child. This is a child with a history of trauma and abuse and neglect. She can be as prickly as a porcupine and use all tactics to keep anyone from loving or hurting her again.

I am so frustrated at the upheaval in my life, the quiet and calm is gone replaced by screaming and slamming of doors and destruction. What I thought parenting would be is a faded memory. What I thought I would be as a mom is gone and replaced by guilt because I can’t change things and shame that I can’t completely explain.

I laid there crying for some time begging God to take the pain away I was feeling and begging God to help me to fix the situation. Help me to know what the next step should be, how to find her help and get her the help she needs. Help me to love her and find compassion for her.

 I laid in bed thinking about all we have been through and I was quietly reminded by God: “I AM the only one who can heal her”, “I AM the only one that can heal her heart and spirit”.” Stop trying to do this alone”

I realized I have been going about this all wrong. “R” looks completely healthy on the outside. I have met to her physical needs and I even meet her emotional needs as far as her nurturing but I cannot meet her spiritual needs. This need runs so deep that it rattles her soul. She has a broke spirit and the only one that can reach down in and take away that anger, rage, fear, resentment and hurt is GOD.

So on my knee’s I went in prayer and I will continue to do so each day. I will pray for the words to say and the way to act to help “R” to continue to heal and I will pray for God to touch her and reach her in an amazing way. I pray that He will heal this little girl and help her broken spirit to be healed and that He will be able to restore her. Each morning before I get up I am asking God to help me to know exactly what to say and do during times of trial to be his hands and feet. I am praying every day for the bonding that has not taken place to become evident and that we will be bonded and connected.

This isn’t about what I can do, because I have done all I can, this is now about what God is going to do in this girl’s life and I am the tool or the vessel he is using. I want to be a benefit to this healing process not another one of her broken piece.

It isn’t going to be easy; it isn’t going to change overnight. God didn’t say following him would be a bed of roses. I do know a peace I haven’t felt in a long time that God is in control and she is his child and he will see to it that in his timing He will start to heal her.   I lean on that, and in the mean time I will do whatever I can to get her the services and help she needs to help the healing process.  

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Family Rules

When we went through our foster classes they asked us to create house rules, so when “R” first moved in  we had a list which we created based on the Traditional way of parenting . Our rules where typical. No running in the house, take your shoes off and then we had the more serious set which we had in a frame on “R” wall and on the fridge.

1. Use only kind words no swearing or yelling (that one went out the window week 2 when trucker mouth came out of “R” and lots of yelling)

2. Always tell the truth ( ummmmm RAD kids lie all the time…. Telling her not to lie is like telling her not to sleep)

3. Respect the animals ( ok I’ll give this one to her she has done OK except for a few times, the animals really do not like having legs and tails pulled)

4. No stealing ( we are good on this one at least I think....)

5. Do not use your hands to Hit ( well… that was broke week two and pretty much every week since I had the black eye to prove it)

6. Do not use your feet to kick ( she is really good at this, want to see our shins?)

7. Do not use your mouth to bite ( she is a pro on herself and others when mad she even made a bite on my arm that when healing looked like a heart...go figure)

I think there were 10 on the list but these were the top 7. They may work great in a traditional parenting home with well attached children but it definetly did not work in our home since most, if not all the rules were broken within the first month.

Since taking on the Therapeautic parenting approach more fully I wanted to find the best set of house rules I could. Is started to make my own up with the families help, but then we were in a department store and I found this huge plaque of family rules and it fit our family perfect. “R” Read it out loud which is great because she can now and she said “Those are great family rules” and I said “your right they should be ours” and so we bought the plaque and it is now hanging front and center in our living room. You can see it when sitting on all the couches and from the kitchen table.

There are no words in it of negativity and nothing in it which will produce shame or anxiety when not met. This has been another great milestone for our family.

Friday, February 10, 2012

It is not so RAD

I have recovered from my ranting post the other day and I am ready to tackle this disorder head on.  Bring it on RAD.

Reactive Attachment Disorder what an ugly disorder. It has been under controversy for many years as to whether it is a true diagnosis for behavior exhibited by some children due to early neglect and abuse. The stories most people hear are about children who are violent, set houses on fire and torture animals and kill parents. All of that does happen in children with RAD but there is also the side that is the daily tug-of-war to maintain control, learn to love, trust and feel connected. A child with low self esteem but hyper vigilance in everything going on. Lacks motivation to succeed and makes few real friends. Our story is a testament that it is fact a real diagnosis.

What makes me so angry about RAD is that it is completely avoidable. Loving and nurturing a child in the early formative years and meeting a child’s needs and being a present caregiver would eliminate the years of pain a child goes through to recover. My “R” did not deserve this and it makes me so angry that she has to go through this painful healing process.

I hurt for “R” the fact that she is unable to trust adults, have healthy relationships with adults and peers, and has a battle inside of herself daily about whether she can trust me or her dad at any given moment.

They say that parenting a RAD kid needs to be backwards parenting. What works for normal functioning families for parenting and discipline does NOT work in a home with a RAD child. I did not want to believe this, to me it just didn’t make sense. She should respond the same way Right? No, living with a RAD child for two years I’ve learned that, that is exactly how you have to parent. The opposite of everything you learned. Throw it out the window and start over new.

I know it seems scary and it has been for me and Mike. We are learning all over again how to parent in a therapeutic way. In a way that creates safety and trust and bonding. It is a parenting style that requires that you don’t punish for wrong doing that may seem like it should be punished for but rejoice when your child comes and looks you in the eye and apologizes. That is a victory with RAD kids. Also, allowing natural consequences for actions so they learn life skills. Allowing yourself to laugh when the situation just seems so silly that you have to laugh about it or get angry. Letting yourself have freedom to see growth in the small things. Not to take it personally because it isn’t your fault.

This morning as we got out of the car “R” got mouthy with me and sassy and rolled her eyes and used some not so nice words with me about wearing her winter coat…. (Ummmm it is 24 degrees out and she has been sick, I think she needs her coat on). I looked at her and said “Honey, I am thinking that you don’t trust me right now to make the best choice for you and I get that, it is tough. I would like to talk to you about it if you could come over here” It took about 5 minutes but we had the conversation and a hug ended it and the coat was on. That was Progress. Do I like that she was rude to me “NO” but she was in a RAD place of panic and I needed to tell her I understood, and if I can get her calmed down to talk to me and get the point across then I have had success.

Therapeutic parenting isn’t about how strict you can be or how military you can be in your house. It is about finding a way to be empathetic. Reaching inside and finding that place of empathy for where your kiddo might be at that moment. Seeing the surface reaction with a tantrum or blow-up as a fear or concern that they cannot verbalize at the moment and maybe you have to put words to it for them.

I am finally getting it now and this isn’t what I expected from parenting and I have so much more to learn as I take one day at a time but by golly this is what we got and I am going to do the best job I can.

I can’t change her past but I sure as hell am going to fight to change her future.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

No real words today...

Disclaimer… if you want to hear the mushy, I love you, cutesy stuff about adoption please don’t read this. If you want to see the raw emotions of parenting a child with RAD and ODD read on.

New Mama in town didn’t work the way I thought.

I remember when we learned about little R they told us she was a tough cookie.  They mentioned homes she had been removed from and behaviors she exhibited.  They also told us that she just needed stability and love and she could change.   I was asked on several occasions if we could do this and I said “yes”. I can be stern and loving at the same time and guide and nurture. I love kids, I want kids. I yearn for children in my life.

Two years later and thousands of hours of tantrums, screaming, and every type of oppositional defiant behavior later I am not so sure. We are not talking typical kid tantrums here we are talking rage and deliberate defiant behavior and turn of the hat anger with little regard to living things when angry.

I don’t want to get blasted for this post about how I made this decision and so I have to lie in the bed I made. I don’t want to hear about how she will change if I love her. I don’t want to hear about the good job we are doing and how much change she has made in two years. I don’t want to hear about how she MAY grow out of this.  It has not gotten all that much better and in fact she has gotten bigger and stronger and the tantrums are scarier now.  Her mental stability is unhealthy and unstable and that scares me. We have worked with all sorts of doctors and mental health professionals to make life better for her.

No one is in our shoes on a daily basis. I wish sometimes you could be a fly on the wall to see.   It is tough. I am not sure that everyone could do this, I don’t know how I do.  This past week alone we have not gone more than an hour or so without a tantrum every single day/hour. Something as simple as “put your shoes away” leads to Screaming and hollering, door slamming, complete defiance, breaking things, and complete disregard for anyone else.  Being told I am hated and to stay out of her life. Triangulating one parent against the other is her new favorite.    Questioning if her homework is done leads to arguing, screaming and threatening to run away.

She is almost 11.  You can say this is hormonal changes, but this is so far beyond that.   The rage that we see in this child is terrifying and the anger and defiance is scary.    If we ask her to do anything she does the opposite and looks at us and says “what are you going to do about it” and walks away. 

Last night I cried myself to sleep.  The dream I had of parenting and loving on a girl and enjoying life together seems to have faded into a nightmare of tantrums and having to leave the house to protect my heart and sanity.  My marriage is struggling to cope with the constant tension in the house and neither of us have answers and we both want to “fix” the situation. We have come to a crossroads what do we do?  What help do we seek out that we have not already?   What is the next step to protect us and her?

Why am I writing this?  It isn’t to get your sympathy because although I appreciate it, it isn’t going to change reality. I am writing to let any other RAD adoptive mom out there know if you are going through the same thing you are not alone.  I feel alone, and most days feel like I am the only one in the world going through this and how I want to love my child and parent her and yet she fights that and doesn’t really want it in return.

Today I feel……empty, dead inside, used, defeated, lost and a failure