We are immersed in the day in and day out task of parenting our children. Often this leaves us emotionally spent. It’s easy to let our emotions fly out of control when our children are dis-regulated. But is this causing more damage than we realize?
My son spent the entire car ride antagonizing his younger brothers and asking me the same questions over and over. Three long hours on the way to grandma and grandpa’s house for Thanksgiving. Three hours of giving the same answers to the same questions I’d given countless times before. Three hours of listening to obsessive talk over and over. Three hours of wishing he’d just go to sleep. Three…long…hours.
What do you do when the child you love, parent, and pour tons of time into, continues to push you away and look for approval from everyone else besides the mother who never leaves? It’s difficult and defeating, but there is hope!
Recently I had one of those rare, peaceful days of TOGETHERNESS in parenting a teenage girl. I decided to spend the afternoon working from home. My daughter and I sat at the dining room table quietly working on our computers. We took a break and played in the backyard with our dogs and chickens, fixed a snack and even agreed on what type of music to listen to. The day continued on with an unexpected joy as we made dinner together, then prepared to go dress shopping for an upcoming formal dance she was attending. In the car, we sang along with the radio and laughed together. We hiked around the mall until our feet were aching. We finally selected the perfect dress. As we walked to the cash register side by side, my eyes welled up with tears as I marveled over the young lady my daughter has become. My heart inflated with the feeling of love and togetherness of this day.
Attachment disorder is one of the hardest, loneliest, and defeating aspects of parenting children from traumatic pasts. If you’re anything like us, you struggle to not take the words and actions of your child personally. So, how do you find light at the end of a very dark and long tunnel?
It IS personal. That’s the trouble with Attachment disorder. It is the opposite of the parental connectedness that we all desire with our children. Children attach through constantly having their needs met. When this attachment doesn’t happen during a child’s first few years, it can take a lifetime to recover the loss. As adoptive parents this is where we find ourselves with many of our children.
In 2004 our lives, and parenting, changed forever when we realized we were parenting a child with special needs. To say it’s been a journey is an understatement. Part of the challenge has come from our encounter with professionals who fail to understand, or know how to handle, the special needs our children have.
Honestly, the list is too long to recount. In 11 years of parenting children with special needs, namely Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), we’ve lost track of the amount of times we’ve sat in an office, a conference room, or our own home and looked into the blank stare of a therapist, police officer or teacher. Nor can we even begin to list the negative, off-handed, demeaning, or accusatory statements we’ve received.
There are classes, books, seminars, magazine articles, therapists, and websites, all at our finger tips for just about any struggle we have on the adoptive, foster and special needs journey. Most of them can help us heal from just about any wound we’ve sustained. But nothing is as healing as hearing the words, You Are Not Alone.
My friend John and I will often text back and forth in the middle of the day. I’m not sure why it’s the middle of the day, since both of us are busy, but that’s what we do. We’ll text about vacation plans, getting our families together, our kids having sleep overs, the comical thing the DJ said on the morning radio show and, most importantly, life’s frustrations.
It’s a question we receive several times a week from people all over the country. “How do I love a child who keeps pushing me away, and could care less about me or my family?” We, along with our co-host Nicole Goerges, are right in the middle of this trench.
That first real hug. Hearing “I love you mom,” and knowing she means it. Watching him participate peacefully with the rest of your family. Having her not melt down when dad puts a gentle hand on her shoulder to guide her on an afternoon walk through the neighborhood.
Back in November, we posted a video on YouTube that helped teachers understand the traumatic pasts our children have come from. The video was a hit and was shared with hundreds of schools and teachers around the country. Today, we’re including the audio version in the latest episode of Honestly Speaking…
Between Nicole and her husband, and us, we’ve been in hundreds of IEP meetings with our children’s teachers and principals. We’ve had many that went extremely well, and some that…well…didn’t! What we’ve learned from our experience is that teachers really do want to understand where we’re coming from, and why our children need the special care that they do.
It’s a common tale in foster parenting- A couple gets excited, joins the ranks of foster parenting, begins taking placements, and just a month in they’re completely overwhelmed or defeated! How can a person enter this journey better prepared? This is the topic of today’s podcast!
We figured out just months into our time as foster parents, that we were in over our head. But it really didn’t need to be this way. If only there were some folks willing to give us the inside scoop on what we could expect from this journey. Instead, we took the foster parent classes, signed our name on the dotted line, and took in our first placement, a sibling group.