adoption

Disconnected Parenting and Other TBRI Misadventures

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My mom with my “chickens.”

She’s screaming at the top of her lungs right now. Deep, guttural, animal cries that are meant to be heard by everyone in the vicinity. When I approach my daughter, she screams at me that I never allow her to get her anger out. I am bottling up all of her emotions. Sigh. I’m too tired to name the feeling and ask her what she needs. I’m too tired to give her choices or a compromise. Instead, I say, “Well in that case, carry on.”

Meanwhile, Carl is carrying on in his room. It’s so unfair. How dare I separate them when they are fist fighting? How dare I enforce limits on him when he attempts to physically intimidate me? How dare I suggest that there is a better way to treat women than attempting to scare them and dominate them? What gives me the right? He needs a chance to think it over. Normally he would do this near me with a “time-in. I just cannot, so he is yelling, “If daddy were here he’d see things differently!” from his room.

Daddy isn’t here.  Right now I think they are just being kids. All kids occasionally misbehave. I’m the one who needs to think it over and try again. It is my responsibility to help them regulate. It’s my job to teach them respectful behaviors. I should be helping them practice using kind words to express their feelings. But I’m on my own today and worn out.

Our kids are learning about how to have relationships like other kids learn how to play a sport. Practice, practice, practice. With that said, daddy would be having none of this. Despite Carl’s view about how to treat women, my husband does not feel the same. Our children were adopted at an older age. They spent more time in their biological home where other viewpoints were the norm. We are trying to undo that model of thinking and replace it with positive behaviors. I can only hope someday that Carl will follow Luke into the land where men are respectful, kind, and not scary. We certainly role-model and practice these skills with him.

I’m  making an attempt at being a connected, loving parent. It’s called TBRI or “Trust Based Relational Intervention.” But all I’ve succeeded in so far is putting on headphones with soothing music. And, yeah, we are all “taking space.” We all need some time apart. Even me. All of the time-ins in the world were not helping today. At this point we are all on edge. It’s all I can do not to yell back or burst into tears. Here I sit listening to soothing Spa sounds. I’m sipping decaf coffee. I purchased a book for myself on my kindle. I need to be calm before I can connect with a “soft voice and soft eyes.” I need to regulate in order to help them regulate.

I’m in the same boat as my children. I’m counting the minutes until Daddy gets home! Lucky for me, my mom makes an appearance at the door. I’ve already warned her about the screaming children. Who would willingly come over to the house today? “I’m brave. I can take it,” is all she says. For my mom there is no problem too small, no behavior too big. She will always back us up when trauma triggers threaten to ruin our day.

It’s finally quiet. Carl is working on a word search in his room. Mary is on her bed. A bit of time away from the anger and the screaming helped me. Being with my mom helped me more.” Don’t they deserve the same?” I think to myself. After some coffee and conversation, my mom leaves. I feel ready to try again.

They need me as much as I need her.

As I head to the kitchen, I feel a “thwack!” On my head. It’s a paper airplane launched from the upstairs loft. It contains a sweet note from Mary. In the letter are a list of coping skills she can use next time. It also contains an apology. It ends with a #Mommyisthebest.

We all come together as a family and group hug for a few minutes. We sit down to dinner and laugh and talk until my husband gets home. We brainstorm ways we can stay regulated as a family. We talk about farts. We each appreciate each other for one thing that the other did today.

I don’t feel like  #Mommyisthebest right now, but I’m working on it. It must take lots of practice to be like my own mom! Good think I’ve got do-overs just like my kids. I’m ready to try it again, but with respect this time. .

Oh yeah, and now Daddy’s finally home. “It looks like you’ve all had a great day,” he says without a trace of sarcasm.

https://fulltimetired.com/roundup/?vote

FTTWR

**TBRI or “connected parenting” strategies mentioned come from the book The Connected Child. You can also learn more by clicking on the link above.

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

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adoption, family

The “Do-Over” that Didn’t

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The closet is getting a vehement tongue-lashing. I can hear the muffled yelling of my 11-year-old son inside the hall closet. His behind is sticking out into the entryway, but the rest of his body has disappeared inside the coat closet.

“Carl? Honey, are you yelling at the closet?” I ask him.

“Yes!”

I am puzzled at best. “Why are you yelling at the closet?”

“Because!” He pops his head out to tell me, “If it keeps dropping things on me, then I’m going to keep yelling at it!”

I nod in agreement “Sounds fair,” I say.

As I walk away he continues to yell inside the closet. He also yelled at his trumpet this morning. He was upset because he had left the trumpet at school. The inanimate object wasn’t even present, and he was still yelling at it. He’s been having a lot of frustration lately and it’s hard for him to manage.

He will become enraged over the tiniest of irritants. He slams his fist on the counter. He throws books, remotes, or toys that bother him. He got upset at the therapists office because she didn’t have another stick of gum for him. He threw a football with force and smashed a picture frame. He didn’t mean to. He wasn’t looking. He just has to move, to do something, to release that feeling.

Carl has come a long way. I’m not worried about the closet, or the absentee trumpet, or even the remote. I have to admit I was a bit worried about the broken picture frame at the therapist’s office.We did offer to pay for a replacement. She refused the offer and said they should get plexiglass frames anyway. Bless that woman!

I know that Carl has big feelings. He works hard to control his body and his actions when he is upset. However, he isn’t directing his anger at people. He doesn’t hit his sister, or push her down. He doesn’t come after me in any way. Not anymore. In fact, despite what he is going through, Carl is the gentlest he’s ever been with me. I have back problems from an accident and I’ve recently had back surgery. Carl refuses to let me push the shopping cart. He brings my basket of laundry downstairs to start the wash.

He won’t hear of me carrying my own items into the house from work. “Don’t even think about it!” he’ll say. When he leaves with my husband he makes sure to open the garage door one my side, “in case I want to go out.” The door is too heavy for me. Six months ago, Carl would be dangerous while working through these emotions. A year ago, it would have been beyond imagining. Today, I am so proud of how he is trying to channel his anger.

During his shower last night a bottle of conditioner fell on his toe. I could hear him scream in anger and frustration. “The bottle did this!” he bellowed.”It hurt my toes!!!”he cried in indignation.

“Toss the bottle out here,” I told him, “I’ll deal with this.”

He popped his soapy head out from behind the shower curtain with a confused look on his face. (Yeah, both of the kids shower with the door half open. That’s a whole other story)

Dubiously he clutched the shower curtain around himself and threw the bottle to me. I snatched it up and sat it down in the corner. I gave it a stern lecture about having safe hands and safe bodies with our family. I told that bottle that it needed to take a break and regroup. I assured the bottle that it could return to Carl’s shower and try again as soon as it had taken some calming breathes and regulated its feelings. I have to say I was a bit tougher on that bottle than I would be on my children.

Carl and Mary died laughing and the tension was broken, if only for a little while. Why did I give a bottle of conditioner a “do-over?” Because that’s what we do around here.  We handle big feelings. We handle past trauma. We handle it like the champions we are!

 

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

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family

Your Holiday Might Stink, But You Don’t Have To!

Holidays for kids with trauma are a little bit like the apocalypse. All of the excitement and joy triggers an “end-of-days” type reaction withing them. There is yelling, lying, screaming, fighting, nightmares, rages, the works. I’m pretty sure a bunch of locusts just flew by the window. I might need more deodorant. Welcome to Christmas with children from foster care.

Thanksgiving starts the countdown. Christmas is on it’s way. It isn’t their fault at all. It’s not intentional. it’s simply their reaction to trauma. As parents, Luke ans I try to be as therapeutic as possible. We connect before we correct, we listen, we stay close, we are present with our children. We acknowledge their emotions. We give them choices. We give them a voice. Sometimes, we need to give ourselves a break.

Self-Care is one of the most important things we can do to support our kids. It is more important than making it to all their sports games, volunteering in their school, or even deescalating every meltdown. There is no way to provide the kind of parenting it takes to work through their childhood trauma, unless we get a break.

Luke and I rarely get out, so we take our self-care moments when we can get them. For example, last Saturday was one of those days. One of the days where our squawking little chickens are convinced the end is nigh! Carl spent most of the day arguing with just about everything anyone else said. He was loud, aggressive, and screaming. Even his hugs were leaving bruises. In short, his energy was off the wall. He yelled things like, “You’re ugly! I hate you! Your armpits stink!” See? I was stinking and so was this Saturday.

After a reapplication of deodorant, I doubled down on “time-ins.” I encouraged Carl to share his feelings. He shared that he was mad that Mary spit in his face. Mary shared that she was mad that Carl slapped her in the face. Carl shared that he was mad about “all of his mad feelings.” He shared them so loudly that I considered ear plugs. Nonetheless, I kept him close by all day. He wasn’t regulated enough to be away from his parents. He needed us to role play and practice “do-overs” with nice words.

After about 10 hours of the little chickens yelling at each other and shoving each other and generally just spreading their panic around in the form of anger, Luke and I were exhausted. Objects were flying through the air,  little chicken tears were mixing with little chicken screams. The end was indeed upon us, at least the end of our patience as parents!

We looked at each other and just knew. We both needed a time out. A mom and dad time out. Luke poured out two glasses of wine. I looked up at him adoringly in what can only be described as cinema-worthy romance. All we needed was background music.

Carl stomped by screaming, “And you know what else? I’m going to tell everyone that you pick your nose, mom! I’ll do it!! I will tell everyone that you stink!” Then I did something that we honestly try not to do. I sent them to their rooms to play for awhile. I phrased it as something along the lines of, “It seems like you might need some space. You two can play with the toys in your rooms for a bit. Go ahead and try out a couple of coping skills. Dad and I will check back with you in a bit. We will be right down the hallway in the living room.

Two doors slammed simultaneously. For a moment there was the sound of throwing toys. And then…blessed quiet…for about 2 whole glorious minutes. Luke and I bolted to sit in front of the fireplace with our glasses of wine. We snuggled in close and looked deep into each other’s eyes. From down the hallway Carl shouted, “I know what you guys are doing. Your kissing! You can’t trick me, I KNOW you are out there kissing!”

And then, for no discernible reason at all, Mary began belting out the Star Spangled Banner from her room. Finally, our romantic background music had begun! So right there, on the floor in front of a roaring fire, to the off-key tune of our national anthem accompanied by an enraged 10-yr-old boy, I kissed my husband. A lot. On the mouth!

Then we welcomed the kids back into the living room for a family art project and some real Christmas music. We were all ready to try again. And we all lived happily ever after. Without an apocalypse (at least not yet!)

The end!

 

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the children involved

 

*If you have ever thought about foster care or adoption, I encourage you to get started on your own adventure!

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