Pushing through behaviors to get to the real problems

I’m not sure if there are many people out there like me, other than my brother in spirit Mark. We tend to take the kids that no other therapeutic foster families want to take on. I am also lucky enough to have a great wife who has been trained to look at things going on and find plans to help the children we take in to learn skills to grow to become socially stronger, and personally more confident in themselves.

As I sit trying to figure out what to write, all I can think about is all the trauma that these kids have experienced and is now coming out in their behavior. Sometimes it is really hard to get through the yelling, self harming, or assaultive behaviors. So many things go through your brain, but most of the time I just get mad at the adults that have done this damage to these little ones.

It will come as no surprise to those around me, that I focus on stability, structure, and loving on others through respect. Mind you, we do a lot of other things in the midst of all that. These kids need to know that they are important and loved, but so do the other kids in their home, their school, and whatever other social environments they frequent.

Through all of this, I have found that if I stay the course and love on these kids (sometimes tough love). These kids will come out the other side of our time together in a much better place than where they came in at. Trauma is a hard place to live, but unselfish love will eventually win out.

Indifferent!

We have a 14 year old adopted son with Autism Spectrum Disorder type 2 that is pushing me over the edge!!! We have other kids with the same diagnosis and I have survived their growth through this age however, I do think I will make it this time.

We have worked through hours of therapy, every technique suggested, and more meltdowns than is humanly possible. Currently we are working with the indifference strategy, no matter what he does we are to be indifferent. I am struggling with this in every fiber of my body!!!! We have been doing this for over a month and honestly I just can’t do this anymore! If we saw one twinkle of it making a difference I would stick to my guns but when I continue to get looks like he is going to attack me or that I am abusing him when he doesn’t get the extra the others have earned it is beyond hard!

This is the battle I have been through with my heart over this strategy. How can I show him love if I am indifferent….well when I do show him love he is indifferent about it. Hum, but how will he know how special he is…..well if he isn’t being treated special he melts down so does it help to treat him special? Not really.

I understand that I am not a therapist or specialist but how is acting like him going to improve the situation? Well let me tell you something…it took a good month, but on Sunday when dad elected to play Xbox with the boys this particular 14 year old was not eligible. Bingo finally we see that he does care about something!

Now as I sit here on Tuesday and it took him 3 1/2 hours to answer two math problems and 10 history questions (yes you heard me right 12 problems in 3 1/2 hours!) and that small nerve we hit on Sunday is no longer sensitive! Now what? Well we are continuing this indifferent journey and once again my heart struggles! Being indifferent is not what God has made me to be!

As I talked with my mentor today I had my eyes opened once again! I needed a reminder that I do not see my children the way God sees them. This was an aha moment for sure! God knows my struggles and He knows their struggles. God knows my heart and He knows my children’s hearts. I need to turn to Him for guidance and the ability to see my children as He does! I truly want to see them as gifts when I am on that 4th hour of working on 13 problems! I want to see joy in the indifferent response from my 14 year old when he receives a gift!

I guess I just wait for the change! It is coming just SSOOO slowly!

Welp This is The New Normal!

So here we are at Monday once again and we are all into our new routine of getting through breakfast and clearing off the table for the five computers to be set up. It already feels like the normal school day grind.

To think just two short weeks ago this feeling felt so unobtainable….this got me thinking. What else has become our norm that at one point in our life felt like an unobtainable dream?

This took a little bit of thought and a whole lot of coffee,  but I have found those things that have become my new normal.

The biggest one that I so often overlook is… I never wanted to be a mom let alone a mom to 8 amazing children. I always looked forward to quiet days and doing everything for just me. Now I live every second of my life for these children which only two I gave birth to.

I think this is so easily over looked and … well under appreciated. Yes I often hear we are saints and while it is nice to hear (not really because I don’t do a great job most times), I don’t think that people really know what it is like to raise children who have lived through trauma. They don’t understand the overwhelmingness that day to day life can cause these children and in turn cause my anxiety and panic to sky rocket!

Little things like going to the library….. ABSOLUTE TORCHER!! This was one of my favorite places growing up! The world was all right there for me to discover! (Insert my longing sigh here!) Now it is a panic attack inducing environment. The options, the layout, the people, the excitement, the list goes on and on! This is a trauma history child’s biggest dreams and struggles all wrapped into one! “You mean I can only check out 15 items!” Or my favorite “No mom, this 15 page graphic novel will be the only book I need for the next two weeks!” While for me it was my peaceful place for these kids it is simply overwhelming!

Back to being a mom of eight. I have always loved to solve problems however, I never thought I would be faced with how to accomplish 11 people’s laundry for the week in the time frame of less expensive energy use, how to make an amazing dinner for 11 with next to no cost, how to provide for the special needs of each child, etc. These have become my daily puzzles, vastly different from managing 6 patients on my own, or managing the entire Family and Birthing Center for the day. Isn’t it funny how God uses us in weird ways?

Really think about it, what do you consider your gift? How does God use that gift? My gift has been used in ways no one could expect! I now work to solve how to reach kids that are mine, but aren’t responding to “normal” techniques! This is from the woman that was never having kids!

In short God knew I was ment to be the mom to these rascals and all my skills and training in my none mom life have lead me to be the mom I am today. I have been equipped to handle meltdowns, selfharming behaviors, selfregulation in sexual forms, and death threats from a 12 year old. I would have never expected the phrases, “bubbles” to be a constant utterance to keep children from assaulting each other or “Did you die?” when someone needs attention and fakes an injury to be a part of my normal vocabulary. It is though! It is our normal and at times used more often than even “I love you” as we work through the cycles of these kids. Their emotional cycles have become our norms. We have learned to accept, adjust to, and heck even love these kids during their tough phases and rejoice with them in their happy phases. THIS IS OUR NORMAL!!

When is Enough, Enough!

No, this is not a Covid 19 extended social distancing rant! This is a “what more do you flying monkeys expect from me….” post!

Yes we have been stuck in this house together for DAYS however, a little gratitude from the flying monkeys at this residence would be Earth shattering in a good way.

We have tried to make the best of the situation, working to meet every little monkey’s needs in the best way possible….even squeezing a 14 foot trampoline into 14 foot back yard (yes it is wall to wall trampoline which makes the HVAC units shimmy when they jump, and this momma prays for everything that can break).

Yes the dog even jumps with them!!

So today the flying monkeys are in meltdown because boys want to play cars in the dirt while girls want to jump. Typical right! But now we have all the older adults in the home being pushed to choose sides (which never ends well)! So after a 45 minute meltdown from one of the girls because everyone hates her, and because she feels so unloved because not everyone took her side. I had the joy of walking her through the fact that the issue isn’t that she was treated horrid. That due to the need to stop jumping for safety or that she had been disrespectful with her choices of how she chose to respond to her father, older brother, and anyone who got in her way, and that everyone loves her just as much now as we did the day before the trampoline came into the door.

After this 30 minute exercise of roleplaying, behavior mirroring, and co-regulation exercises, the little flying monkey decides nothing ever happened……

DEEP BREATH, smell the chocolate cake, hold that smell for 3 seconds, and now blow out the candles. Repeat!

Yeah so as I sit on the couch with the two girls arguing about who will sit next to mom, I am reminded that the hours I have spent working on this afternoons show of femininity are already completely forgotten. I am trying to let the flying monkeys return to their queen as though nothing happened however, I am frustrated and simply tired!

These are the moments that I just don’t want to continue this battle! It will not make a difference today, tomorrow, or next year…….but one day when her daughter is having the “worst day of her life” I can only pray that she will in that moment of anger, frustration, and exhaustion remember the way I handled the issue today. Hopefully she will handle her situation similar, and then call me to let me know how frustrated she is.

So cute when her attitude is in check!!

Oh the Ways We Teach!!

I know that right now, one of the hot topics in our world is teaching our kiddos. However, as foster/adoptive parents to children with trauma. We have been teaching for a while now!

Because our children have a traumatic past I have often voiced that we teach like Dr. Seuss! I have taught children by climbing in the shower with my clothes on to direct their hands to bathe themselves, I have taught 12 year old’s how to whipe after using the restroom (very awkward for all parties involved), and I have taught that the role of “mom” doesn’t mean that I will physically beat you (even though I have thought that I can see why someone would want to beat you).

I have learned that rhythm is a gateway to feelings, learning, and self-regulation. Honestly I have made myself sick rocking a child who is holding a book about feelings trying to read the book as it moves forward and backwards! 🤢 I have sat next to a 12 year old at the dinner table that craps himself to help him feel in control and not responded. 🤢 And I have tried my hardest to not laugh at the bipolar 10 year old, that in his emotional swing, is threatening to beat my head in with a chair at the loudest level his Italian voice could go!!

Sure it is crazy when we stop and look back at the ways we have thought out of the box to help those special kids God has brought into our lives, but I also feel to a point that it is normal.

It is our normal, to walking into a restaurant holding both hands of the child that is known to swipe all the cups off the edge of the table as he walks by. It is our normal, to know where all the exits are so that we can carry our 12 and 13 year old out of the room when it becomes too much. It is normal, to issue prompts to use skills while listening to church sermons or walking through a line at a potluck. Sure, all kids need reminders to not use their hands, but not many require reminders that they do not need to fill their pockets (literally to be eaten a week later) while walking past the food.

We have used map keys to teach long division, we have used blankets to swaddle teenagers and then stay close enough to use co-regulation to slow their breathing down, we have used picture roadmaps in the shower, and the list goes on. Basically we have learned that every child in every situation learns differently and that we need to be ready to think out of the box to meet those needs.

We just chuckle when a therapist says “you know this is going to sound weird, but why don’t we try….”. We have heard that we should only use blue lights, blue clothes, and blue walls as blue is a soothing color, we should only communicate in a whisper with our child, we should call the whole family into a child’s bedroom and take turns screaming, we should only communicate in the third person, and the list goes on.

We live with therapy equipment at the ready, and heaven for bid we go more than 30 minutes from home without headphones and a headweight to aid in regulating while on the drive or at our destination. We have paid for a weeks stay at a condo in Vegas to go to the strip less than than 4 hours total and to spend the rest of our time with the dark curtains pulled watching 5 seasons of NCIS so that the youngest two children feel safe.

I guess the big point I wanted to make is you know the kids in your care better than just about anyone…. don’t doubt yourself on how to reach them. You know what their history has been. You also know, that no matter what you do, their future may be as a mechanic rather than a college graduate. Don’t let this period of time turn into another dent in your relationship because they just won’t do the work the teacher has assigned! Instead teach them to their strengths and if the only lesson they learn over the next month is that you love them and they are safe then heck that is a win! TAKE IT!!!

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