Category Archives: problem behaviors

Help! My Adopted Child is Terrified of Sleep

For the first year or so home, my youngest (adopted) child literally screamed himself to sleep.  One of my adopted daughters would often yell out in her sleep (still does occasionally after 10 years), never fully waking up and never remembering it in the morning.  Another one of our adopted children used to get to sleep okay, but get up during the night or wee hours of the morning, unable to fall back to sleep (and wander the house which also caused problems).

Adults may be able to self-talk and work through their night-time anxieties, but kids have less experience and big imaginations!  Even as adults we understand that worries, fears, concerns often loom larger at bed-time, weighing on us.  But children from traumatic backgrounds may have an even harder time with all of this.  It’s harder for them to separate what’s real and what’s not, especially at night.  And it can really affect their sleep which affects their days and the rest of the family, too.  The cycle can spiral downward if it doesn’t stop.

Lack of good, restful sleep on an ongoing basis can affect a number of things and can be detrimental to their health.  It is during sleep that our brains make a clean sweep of accumulated toxins, so among other things we can think clearer the next day.  It’s during sleep that production of several hormones rises, including growth hormone.  Ever hear that children grow in their sleep?  Lack of growth hormone can impact not only growth in height but even cellular repair.  Another hormone, lack of melatonin, the sleep hormone can cause greater sleep problems.  A strong immune system is supported by good sleep.

Sleep is should be restorative and our children need even more sleep than we as adults do in order to function optimally during the day.  I recommend making sleep a priority for your entire household.  Try not to deal with stressful issues near bedtime.  If you can table it until morning, do so.  If there is always conflict over pajamas or tooth brushing, drop the issue or do a workaround – – maybe brush teeth right after dinner so it’s over and done long before bedtime, for example.

We are super careful not to use supplements with food coloring or msg (an excitotoxin to the brain).  But using melatonin has helped so much, as well as other supplements depending on the person,  and specific essential oils that are beneficial for sleep either for calming or with a sedative effect or to help alleviate racing/troubling thoughts.  Some are effective to help with pain that may seem worse at night and be a hindrance to getting to sleep.  There are different ones for different issues.  With my large family, we have had lots of sleep issues which vary from person to person.  I know I personally cannot take anything that will up my blood pressure.  Essential oils have been a huge help to me, too as well as my kids.  Wish I had had them sooner!

I want to emphasize that there are a lot of reasons you or your child may have difficulties sleeping.

IMPORTANT:  I am not a doctor and nothing in this post is meant to diagnose, treat or cure anything.  Please see your healthcare provider for any medical issues.  I am not giving medical advice here.

And please don’t give up looking for the right solutions.  There ARE solutions and it IS important.

When you become your own sleep detective you may gain new insight as to what you can change in your daily routines for optimal sleep to take place.

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Real life is often emotional and kid’s from hard places often have overwhelming emotions. As a parent, I want to help my children learn to use positive coping skills and give them helpful tools. 

Contact me to request my free “Sleep Detective” PDF booklet to download.  It’s a fun way to help your child or teen start to focus on their need for sleep and empower them to be an active force in making positive changes.

And if you like the content on this blog you might like to check out Yesterday’s Orphan on Facebook with the link in the sidebar.

 

 

Independence Overload!

Does your child with a trauma history seem to go to ridiculous extremes to avoid accepting your offers of help?  Do they seem to value independence over relationship?  I can relate.  And it can be maddening to deal with!!!

When they seem set upon personal failure in order to avoid compliance or obligation to anyone, it can be hard to watch them fail.  But failing forward may be the best teacher.  They choose not to participate in a family activity?  They miss out – – but it is set up in a way that they aren’t going to ruin it for the rest of the family.  And hopefully, they can do it with room to come back around.  I think sometimes my kids dig themselves into a hole and don’t know how to jump out – – how to change gears.

This type of planning takes some thought.  Birthdays, holidays and any type of celebration can bring on negative reactivity from some of our children.  By keeping plans low-key and flexible I am able to make adjustments to avoid their controlling (and ruining) the celebration time for everyone else.

For instance, for our daughter’s birthday, I was keenly aware that she had been incredibly oppositional and was apt to opt out.  It turned out that we had several in the family with accomplishments that were worthy of celebrating so I planned a family outing (we are party-sized without additional guests) to celebrate all of them including her birthday at the same time.  She was teetering on not going to the restaurant at absolute last minute.  We didn’t beg or bribe but allowed for her to stay if she wanted.  I told her she would still receive her present and we would bring food home for her if she chose.  Earlier in the day, I had given her a heads up so it wasn’t a surprise, and when she started in negative, just told her she didn’t have to decide right then, that it would be that evening and she had all day to decide what she wanted to do.  Either way was OK.  I think that was key.  She ended up going after all.

Of course, our disappointment or disapproval of the behavior sometimes shows, but be aware that what they may hear is that you are rejecting THEM, unaccepting of them — not just the behavior but the person underneath.  Because of this tendency, efforts to pressure them to change behavior by showing disapproval backfires.  The more you explain how wrong or hurtful their behavior is, the more they internalize rejection.  (So why do I keep doing it??? Insanity, I know!)  They really do want to please and gain your approval. (I know . . . REALLY!)

As we move full force into the Christmas season, I’m reminded of lessons learned; the “normal” separation and independence-seeking of my children given their ages; and the over-the-top independence that comes from their backgrounds.

The need for family and togetherness that is often at the heart of this season cannot be taken for granted.  It is there, but often under the surface of an outward stance of fierce independence which is fearful of depending on anyone else for anything, no matter how small.  Fearful of being/appearing vulnerable.  We can help them.  Help them anyway.  We can chisel away at the fierce exterior – – a little at a time – – here and there – – over time.  And allow their independence, their confident independence to grow past the fake independence that is a cover for their fear of being hurt.

Setting personal boundaries and keeping expectations flexible in the midst of progress toward relational goals is my go-to mindset for this season especially.

How about you?  I’d love to read your comments on how you are planning to navigate the holidays!

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Kids from hard places can have overwhelming emotions.  As a parent, I want to help my children learn to use positive coping skills and give them helpful tools.

I’ve gotten some great result in my own family since I’ve begun using premium essential oils.  Among the many benefits, they can make a big difference in dealing with overwhelming emotions, focus, and sleep.  

 

Hit Reply (if you are reading this in e-mail) or Contact in the menu above (if you are on the website) with “video” in your message to learn more about our premium essential oils and related products that you may want to add to your parenting toolbox.  

I’ll send you a short introductory video and then follow up to see what you think.  No Spam 🙂

 

Thanks for stopping by!

Dawn

Play’s the Thing

It can be hard to break out of serious mode when life gets chaotic. But notice your child. With them, play’s the thing. They might try to lighten the tensions with awkward attempts at play or joking that may seem inappropriate at the time to adults or older teens. Yet in their own way these children are doing the right thing – – attempting to move out of the negative and onto the positive, letting go of heavy, negative, even scary emotions and urging us to do the same.

When your child attempts to lighten things up, take their lead. And maybe initiate some play yourself, when feeling stressed. It may be just the thing to help everyone to recharge and tackle the serious issue with renewed assurance that it’s the issue – – not the person – – that needs solving. Knowing that the relationship is secure can be HUGE in garnering cooperation and communication.  And it may only take a little playfulness on your part to show that acceptance to your child.

Try it and see how it goes!

Zechariah 8:5 English Standard Version (ESV):

And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.

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Real life is often emotional and kid’s from hard places often have overwhelming emotions. As a parent, I want to help my children learn to use positive coping skills and give them helpful tools.

I have begun using some fantastic essential oils and other products that make a big difference in helping some of my family members with often overwhelming emotions, to manage and focus better.

Hit Reply (if you are reading this in e-mail) or Contact (if you are on the website) above or below to learn more about our toxin-free natural plant-based personal care products and dietary supplements.  Learn how they can help you and your family, too.

 

Staying Fragrant

This spring has been a banner year for roses.  My old (neglected) rose bush is blooming.  My neighbor with the green thumb said a bush that hasn’t bloomed in nine years is blooming this year! I remember as a child my grandmother’s double driveway was lined with beautiful roses through the middle and the scent was so lovely!   Pure Rose essential oil is a bit pricey, but no wonder!  It takes 22 pounds of rose petals for a 5-ml bottle of Rose essential oil.  Rose oil is one of the most valuable essential oils you can acquire! (Let me know if you want to order some from my online store.)

Spring time is a great time to focus on being fragrant – – and I’m not just talking flowers & fragrances here.  As we focus on the attractiveness and beauty of the abundant and fragrant rose blooms this time of year, we can draw an analogy to ourselves and how we want to “stay fragrant” in our relationships with others.

Let’s replace smelly, unattractive behaviors (ours and our kids’) with more attractive, fragrant ones!

I designed this poster to help us do just that  – – to help us think about and teach ways to “stay fragrant” this spring and summer.

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it. ~~Proverbs 22:6

With three key points, it can help us avoid being reactive in negative, even harmful ways and help our kids understand that people can respond in a more careful, intentional way that they purposefully choose, rather than allowing themselves to be controlled by knee-jerk reactions that are not well-thought out and not beneficial.

This colorful poster tells us to “stay fragrant” and to “Be the bigger (inner) person”.

stay fragrant poster YO

  1. Point one is to have Self-respect — with the affirmation: “I respect myself more than to speak or act in that way.  I won’t let you draw me into your misbehavior”  These affirmations may not necessarily need to be said addressed to anyone else and are meant mainly as helpful self-talk.
  2. The second point is Self-control — with the affirmation:  “I may feel upset, but I am not out of control.  I will feel better in a bit.”   Naming feelings out loud, such as in this affirmation, may help identify the feeling and help facilitate self-control, so though it is self-talk, speaking aloud might be useful, here, depending on the situation.
  3. The third is Personal Boundaries, Values & Commitments — with the affirmation:  “I choose for me. You choose for you.”  Allowing that others can have differing opinions and make different choices can help keep the peace and move forward in a number of different types of situations.

Save, print or jot these down as reminders to yourself and to teach and practice with your kids this spring.

And if you’d like a copy of the poster, I’d be happy to have one (or more) printed and mailed to you for $12 each.  Just contact me by email.

Hope this helps you and your family to have a smooth spring & summer!

Ally on Their Side

Friends.  Allies.  We all need them.

For my kiddos from an orphanage background, the drive for peer friendships and allies is possibly even stronger in them as well as more difficult for them.  The elements of trust and empathy (ability to understand another person’s perspective) have been missing to a large degree for some of them.  Add in additional delays in social skills and the need for allies, either within the family or outside can come to have a lot of anxiety attached because of the deep fear of rejection that has been imprinted on them from a young age.  As they reach adolescence it gets even more complex.

The need for an ally is so strong at times that (1) they may repel an alliance by going overboard (with hugs for instance); (2) they may self-sabotage from fear of getting too close or getting rejected; (3) they may be willing to “do anything” for this relationship, leading to endangering themselves and/or others.

Helping them navigate the need for friendship and find an ally (or preferably a few) may take more work.  Throw in mistrust of parents or adults in general and it can be even trickier.  What many children learn through trial and error may need to be shown more overtly.  At the same time, they may need help to them un-learn harmful patterns of thinking and behavior.  Establish clear boundaries early on as a given, not as a punishment or judgment on their new friend.  (Example:  “We don’t entertain non-family friends in the bedrooms.” It has nothing to do with this friend or what their family allows.  It has nothing to do with right or wrong.)  Save the rationale for another time.  It will be easier for them to learn from an objective stance than when embroiled in the struggle to hang out with their friend behind closed doors in this example.

Show rather than tell.  Showing our kids through our own relationships the basics as well as the more complex aspects of having a deep friendship, an ally is the way they may learn best.  This will take intentionally pointing out the basics, such as what we are thinking and why we do this and that in a way that seems less teach-y and more casual.

Especially in adolescence adults may be seen as unreliable.  It’s up to us to show them how relationships can be forged and maintained through thick and thin.  Talk about how we are doing in our own relationships, about our feelings and how we interpret the other person’s feelings in an effort to understand, if not agree, and about our commitment and efforts to move forward.

Our kids need to know:  How do you show acceptance of the other person, even in the midst of disagreement or disappointment?  How do you find an ally – – be a good ally.  Accept others.  Show them that you accept them and understand that they might have different wants/needs/opinions/beliefs than you and that’s ok.

Proverbs 18:24 New King James Version (NKJV)

A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

In adolescence, it seems kids may go backward.  They seem often to be toddlers in the bodies of teens.  Rather than thinking of them as young adults (“you should be able to . . .”), perhaps in the emotional/social area we can understand them as large toddlers (“I understand how you feel; let’s think about what you can do next; I can think of these options – can you think of anything else?”)  Having a long-range view can also help our parenting mindset as we navigate emotional flare-ups of our kids.  The road to maturity is a long one.  And take care to take care of your other relationships.  They are learning from you.

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Real life is often emotional and kid’s from hard places often have overwhelming emotions.  As a parent, I want to help my children learn to use positive coping skills and give them helpful tools.  We have begun using some fantastic natural products in our family that make a big difference in helping kids cope with overwhelming emotions, to manage and focus.

I’d be happy to fill you in if you think you’d be interested in finding out more.  Click on Contact me above and let me know you want to learn more about our toxin-free natural-based personal care products and dietary supplements.

 

Child-Like or Childish?

It’s normal for children to be both, child-like as well as childish.  In fact, it’s their nature. It is odd when a child behaves more like a little adult in ways that are highly age-inappropriate.  “Childish” connotes a negative comparison to a young child such as with a teenager who throws a tantrum like might be more expected in a two-year-old.  Yet being child-like in certain ways is a positive thing, even for adults at times. We are taught that to have a child-like faith is a good thing, with the trust and wonder and awe of children directed toward our Savior, Jesus Christ.  

 

Matthew 18:3

“And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'”

 

Being around children can often help us adults reclaim the child-like view that is so invigorating.  

Yet children are also inherently childish.  These are more negative traits that we might expect they would “grow out of” as children get older and prior to adulthood.  Yet being taught and trained is part of the work of adults as is being teachable the work of children.  Childishness is (1) expected of children, but not always desirable and (2) to be understood as normal yet not permanent in normal development.  Even in delayed development, we should work to help children put away the negative childishness to the extent that they are able.  

1 Corinthians 13:11

” When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

With once orphans, children from hard places as it were, the teachable part may be severely lacking.  So remaining childish long after one would expect these traits to be gone or at least greatly diminished, some children display behaviors more typical of much younger children for much longer.  Alternatively, they may exhibit attitudes and behaviors more fitting to a much older person. It is sometimes said that their emotional age and chronological age do not match. This can be a helpful way to look at it when trying to interact with, be more understanding and helpful to one of the children with social/emotional delays.  And though you may then take a different approach, similar to how you would with a much younger child, I think it is similarly important to remember the goal of helping them gain the emotional maturity and social appropriateness that they are missing out on. The danger lies in allowing their delays, gaps or disabilities to be an excuse for not progressing to the degree and at the level that they are able.

 

Rather than having an all or nothing approach adults in the child’s life need to be aware of the limitations and make needed adjustments in their approach to discipline and training.  Plus: Re-adjustments may need to be made frequently as well, as you reassess how the child is doing and as new situations and opportunities come up. Though it is a lot of work, this type of thorough planning with all the adults in the child’s circle may help tremendously.  It will not be a magic wand and will sometimes seem insufficient. Dealing with the persistent childishness of children who are much older can wear down an adult parent, teacher or caregiver and instead of enjoying the child-like view alongside them we may get cynical and despondent, going through the motions without much felt connection or even more childish ourselves mirroring their behaviors.

 

Having homeschooled for many, many years we are just getting into the world of IEPs with the school system, but my understanding is that this is the place to bring up these type issues and collaborate on strategies to incorporate into a workable plan for each child in the school setting.  As a homeschooler, I have also prepared personal IEPs for our own private use which addresses emotional and developmental concerns and a plan to incorporate specific strategies for each child. I recommend doing an assessment regularly as well, for school as well as regarding home and other settings as they may differ considerably.  Medical issues may contribute and overlap significantly with any emotional/social/ behavioral issues and your plans may need to be made with input from your medical practitioners.

 

A daily journal (paper or digital) can track patterns and be a good memory jogger for assessment time.  Planning how to respond to repetitive behaviors can help parents and caregivers be prepared and also to learn what strategies work best.  

 

There is a whole lot of advice, some good and some not so good, and some just might not be the right fit or best timing for your and your child’s current needs.  List some to try out and give it a go for a set time then reassess.

 

A few examples to start with:

Concerning behavior: Child often tantrums when they are faced with unexpected changes.

Childish or Child-like: Depending on age and degree of behavior this behavior could be normal developmentally or not.  It may be childish or simply child-like in that young children have a more limited understanding and may not have expected a change (like a change in routine for a holiday) that an older person likely would.  Thinking about the root of the behavior can give more clues, but that may remain a mystery and you are left with guesswork. My suggestion is to assume it is child-like at first and respond with strategies aimed at helping them developmentally to deal with the changes while preventing the tantrum by better preparation and understanding ahead of time.

Trial Strategy:  Does your child need a lot of prep time or a little?  Test how much is enough and how much is too much. Do they need help with breaking down the steps of the transition (“time to clean up and go” becomes “let’s get ready to go in a few minutes.  You can begin by putting these toys on the shelf. Would you like me to help you? I will have your coat ready when you are done putting the toys away. Then we can say goodbye”).

When there are transitions that are unexpected even to the adult, having thought through what your child needs will help think on your feet and give help rather than get caught up in reacting to their tantrum. When changes are unexpected to the adult, let the child know that you wish you could have let them know sooner and assure them they can handle it while calmly helping them as much as possible talking them through each step matter of factly (“That’s a surprise that the restaurant is closed for remodeling but there is another one nearby we can eat at.  You will have a choice of burgers instead of pizza. If I had known I would have told you sooner but that’s life. I know you like pizza but we can all eat burgers today.”)

 

Concerning behavior:  Child demonstrates lack of social appropriateness

Childish or Child-like:  Again, it may be either or both.  Children are not little adults and have a different level of what is appropriate in their eyes.  (Burping contests may be appropriate between a couple of 10-year olds but not for their dad’s business meeting).  

Trial Strategy:  If they are simply not catching on, then more deliberate modeling and being more deliberate to draw their attention to appropriate conduct may be a good strategy.  Using role play and having them actually act out the appropriate behavior can give them practice and confidence. Pick one or two areas such as greetings and introductions to work on and then review every so often as needed.

 

Concerning behavior:  Difficulty connecting the dots, does not connect cause and effect

Childish or Child-like:  It may be child-like even in an older child whose capability to connect cause and effect is developmentally delayed due to trauma or other causes.  It may be due to mistrust or a real lack of understanding.

Trial strategy:  Communicate consequences clearly and closely relate consequences to the reason for it.  (Example – “Good job” becomes “You followed directions and completed your assignment without any errors” and “You should know better” becomes “I am disappointed that you chose to hit instead of getting an adult’s help.  You hit, you sit until I decide you may join us again.”)

 

Letting go of the “should’s” enough to deal with the current state of things doesn’t mean we don’t work to help things get better with and for our children.  But it does help us step back and assess how things really are, get a grip, and set up a workable plan to move forward. Children are children, not little adults, yet constantly helping them in moving toward adulthood while enjoying their childhood and is a good goal to keep in mind.  While managing difficult behaviors can be a huge accomplishment, we need to be careful that we are facilitating our children’s move through developmental stages to mature as well as they can rather than staying stuck.  Just because a delay is there doesn’t mean that one day it won’t just click and be a huge leap of progress in an area you had been working on for some time.  Reviving your positive, child-like qualities can model a positive outlook for your child and help you both.

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Real life is often emotional and kid’s from hard places often have overwhelming emotions.  As a parent I want to help my children learn to use positive coping skills and give them helpful tools.  We have begun using some fantastic natural products in our family that make a big difference in helping kids cope with overwhelming emotions, to manage and focus.

I’d be happy to fill you in if you think you’d be interested in finding out more.  Click on Contact me above and let me know you want to learn more about our toxin-free natural-based personal care products and dietary supplements.

Remaining Calm in the Storm

With children from hard places, there are many who are triggered into rages rather than the typical childhood and teen behaviors such as tantrums and sulking which are unpleasant to deal with but not generally dangerous. In talking with experts about best practices in dealing with extreme behaviors the key is always for the parent (the adult) to remain calm in the midst of the meltdown/rage/storm. It sounds so simple, so . . . logical.

BUT . . . HOW?

Of course, we should be the adult, the one in control when they have apparently lost it. But imagine you are in the midst of a tornado. You remain calm, mostly, and then it is over and you are able to assess the damage and realize no one is hurt badly and there is just a bit of material damage. Then the next day, another tornado. And another after a couple more days. You start wondering each day if there will be a tornado today and brace for the coming storm. Your nerves get a little shaky when the winds howl. You are still cleaning up (and healing) from the previous storms and wondering how much more you can take of this before something gives. At this point, remaining calm may be a stretch.

Prayer and Faith that God is in control and is working ALL things out for good is key for me.

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

In addition, I’ve come up with this list to help me focus on remaining calm in the midst of the storms and realize that it will blow over.  Perhaps it will help you as well.

C. A. L. M.     M. O. M.

C. Self-CONTROL & CONFIDENCE (not reactive)
A. Look AWAY (not in their eyes) & ACKNOWLEDGE their frustration
L. LESS talk. (Wait ’til later)
M. MODEL better behavior & posture & calm with a MATTER-OF-FACT voice that communicates “everything is okay.
M. Get them MOVING with me (if do-able within safe limits) walking, jumping, dancing, etc.
O. OPT OUT if violent or verbally abusive (safety first)
M. ReMOVE myself, others, possible weapons/projectiles away for everyone’s safety.

For [C] I wanted to remind myself to show my own self-control and my own confidence so that it does not appear that I am out of control to my child or others.  If they perceive that I am out of control in the least, or that they have “pushed my buttons” it validates the mistrust of my attachment disordered children.

For [A] I want to acknowledge their frustration if possible.  I need to do this whether it seems to sink in or not.  Look away means I do not need to push them to look me in the eye during their storm/rage/meltdown, which puts added pressure on them (though it comes across as highly disrespectful to me).  I may need to sit/stand beside them instead of in front of them to avoid looking directly into their face.  If they are able to hide their eyes as part of self-calming I want to recognize that that is okay for now.

[L] is a tough one for me because I want to talk them through it and get to the bottom of whatever is at the root of the disturbance.  (Can you imagine trying to discuss with a tornado what caused such a disturbance?)  Less talk is something that is difficult for me and may need to be zero talk to keep me from opening the floodgates, making matters worse.

[M] is similar to [C] above, in that I remind myself to be the adult and model better behavior to the child/teen.  Not only do I want to avoid anything that could be perceived as a lack of confidence and self-control, but I want to overtly speak and act in a way that they may copy, such as speaking matter-of-factly with an un-shakeable, assured tone, one that assumes everything is or will be okay.  Not dismissing their frustration or upset but not entering into the fray with them, either.  This is a detached sort of stance that is new to me but may be more tolerable for my attachment disordered children.

[O] is Opt Out, and may pre-empt strategies that require the child or teen’s cooperation to a degree, like taking a walk. When they are violent or verbally abusive I need to be able to disengage in order to keep my calm and safety, and to model healthy boundaries.  This is not a time to talk them through anything or try to reason with them.

The last [M] is another “Move” – – “Re-Move myself and others, along with items that could be used as weapons or projectiles for everyone’s safety.  Not only in the midst of the storm, but in preparation for future storms items may need to be secured and a safety plan for other children in the home, as well as the one with the extreme behavior, parents and pets can be made.  It may seem extreme and out of the ordinary to make a safety plan for when a child or teen is exhibiting extreme behavior, but it is a precaution that can be necessary for everyone’s safety.

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I compiled the above tips for myself in preparing to deal with my own attachment disordered children.  Your children certainly may have different types of behaviors and needs, requiring different strategies from you.

I have found that taking care of myself is key to being able to handle the stresses of an emotionally challenged child or teen who sometimes has extreme behaviors.  Many things have helped, including the use of naturally calming essential oils that are available from Oils for Orphans.  Feel free to contact me for more information on ways they might benefit you.