Tag Archives: attachment

Feeling Like No-one Really Cares

Have you ever noticed that your adopted or foster child seems to have held onto orphan thinking? Orphan thinking can lead to choices, statements and behaviors that are troublesome. I’ve learned about seven specific indicators of an orphan spirit or orphan heart (there may be more). Yet these indicators can be found not only in orphaned children with traumatic backgrounds, but in each of us. We are all born with an orphan heart and may display one or more of these indicators. How can this awareness help you? I’m glad you asked!

We humans tend to distance ourselves from those who behave in ways that upset our sense of self, preferring to see ourselves as somehow beyond that particular risk. But an awareness of the orphan heart in each of us and in ourselves opens us up to more and deeper potential for connection to our children — children who may have disturbing thinking and behaviors which on the surface may seem bizarre and difficult to understand, even beyond understanding.

One of the seven indicators of an orphan heart that I have learned of is the following:

  • You struggle to trust that God cares about your cares; that he is working things out for your good.

Does this describe you? Your child?

My children with orphan thinking may think or talk about me as their enemy more than their loving parent, refusing to trust my love and care. This is more than the typical eye roll as a teen gets into that stage of feeling like their parents are out of touch with today’s reality and living in the dark ages. Rather, it is a deep-seated doubt springing up occasionally or constantly near the surface. It’s a doubt that says, not only does your parent not understand you, but they really don’t care, or care enough, about you – – regardless of the evidence to the contrary. It causes them to mistrust and misinterpret the parent’s motives.

But what about you? I want you to do a little investigating. Notice any time you think or talk about God as your enemy. You may not think you ever do this but pay attention. Do you ever talk about how angry God would be if you did such and such, or how he must be mad at you since such and such happened? Do you ever express fear of God’s punishment or reluctance to share your needs with God, refusing to depend on him to meet or even care about them? For example, praying minimalistic prayers like “Oh God, I’m not asking for much and I know you are too busy for me; I’m just asking for a few crumbs and I’ll get by”. Or “I don’t want to bother you God with these needs over here; I know I should take care of them myself”. Do you think you have to do certain things to stay on God’s “good side”? Take a week and notice, writing it down, anytime you catch yourself speaking or even thinking things that express doubts that you have about God’s care. Dig into why you have those doubts and see what God’s Word has to say about it.

If you do notice yourself doubting God’s care for you, you can repent. You can also understand a bit more how your child may be inclined to doubt your care for them. Think about how you feel. You might want to journal about it. Another thing you might do is to regularly repeat an affirmation based on God’s Word that will help revise your thinking.

Affirmation:
“God cares about my cares!”

Cast all your cares [anxieties] on him, for he cares for you.

I Peter 5:7

Write down the affirmation and the verse in your journal. Also write the affirmation where you’ll see it daily and recite it aloud to combat the orphan thinking and doubt of God’s care that you’ve noticed in yourself. Ask God for a change of heart and thinking. How can you reflect this change in the things you say? Write down alternatives beside the items you wrote down earlier that indicated your doubt and orphan thinking.

I hope this helped you understand how our orphan hearts are more the same as our children’s than they are different. The more we can identify with our children the better we can empathize and connect with them.

I plan to share the other seven indicators in follow-up posts. But to get my list of affirmations corresponding to all seven indicators of an orphan heart now, click the button below. Also, I’d love to hear about your experience using the affirmations! Get the Orphan Heart Affirmations list with the blue button below.

Pillow Presents

This is a photo of a pillow in my home office comfy chair. The Curious George pillow, lumpy and bumpy as it may be, is special to me. It was made (by my daughter) from a shirt that my youngest son had worn a lot. I didn’t want to get rid of it when he finally outgrew it. We felt like it was very fitting for him as he seemed so much like the famous little lmonkey character!

On this Mother’s Day Sunday I wanted to share an idea with those of you who have younger children (or even some older kids). They may require “help” in getting a present ready for next Mother’s Day (birthday or Christmas).

You can plan ahead over the course of the next few months or so and notice when your child outgrows a special shirt! You might suggest to him/her that you would like it and ask if they mind if you make it into a pillow and see their reaction.

Your child might be old enough and motivated to get in on the pillow project or even make it themself. If not, you could make it and let them give you the finished product.

For the how-tos just do a Google or Pinterest search for instructions.

Basically just trim the body into a square/rectangle shape (circles are trickier and would definitely require a pillow form) leaving enough fabric to form the sides and seams. Sew your seams inside out leaving enough open space to stuff with pillow stuffing or insert a pillow form to fit. Then turn right side out, stuff and stitch closed. And there you have it! Your keepsake pillow gift.

What do you think? Is this the type of keepsake that appeals to you? Do you think it might be meaningful to your child/children?

I do not tend to be very sentimental about things. There are just a handful. That’s probably a good thing with certain rabble rousing children. The idea of cherishing items from my children’s growing up years may not mean much to them right now. But hopefully in time it will be additional evidence that I love and cherish them.

Mother’s Day can be hard. It was hard today. But I was not surprised. I maintained my calm. Mostly. Lowering the pressure on ourselves and on the rest of the family to make Mother’s Day or any other holiday a picture perfect event can help.

My youngest daughter (whom I have had some extreme relational struggles with) had volunteered to make peach ice cream for Mother’s Day. I strategically waited until yesterday evening to take her to get the ingredients when it would be just me and her and not a regular grocery shopping trip. But the local grocery stores did not have fresh peaches yet and the produce stands were closed for the day. Yikes! But calm prevailed. I got up early and drove about 30 minutes away to “Peach Park” where I knew they would have fresh peaches. It was very much worth it in more ways than one! (Yum!)

Your child might be old enough and motivated to get in on the pillow project or even make it themself. If not, you could make it and let them give you the finished product. Helping them to participate in a way that says “we’re family” can dislodge another brick in the walls of resistance to relationship that may have been built as a result of trauma. There were some small (but huge!) Connections made today that could have been easily overshadowed if we had tried to pull off a larger event (that would likely have been an epic fail).

How about you? Do you have any helpful strategies for lowering the stress levels for holidays and events? Post them in the comments.

Battered MOM Syndrome (?)

Many people now are familiar with the concept of “Battered Wife Syndrome” or “Battered Woman Syndrome” as it refers to a woman being in a relationship (married or unmarried) with a man who over time is bullying her to the point that she develops psychological symptoms.  

 

A Psychiatric Times Article by Lenore Walker dated July 8, 2009 (Volume 26, Issue 7) titled simply, “Battered Woman Syndrome”, explains that Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) is a sub-category of PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  While BWS is centered around ongoing domestic abuse from the woman’s intimate partner/husband, I believe that a similar situation exists for many, many women — moms — whose abuse is coming primarily from their children.  Particularly from their Reactive Attachment Disordered Children.  Let’s explore.

 

I am most familiar with BWS from a legal defense aspect.  While not every situation may meet the medical diagnosis criteria of the DSM or the level of a legal defense, it may be helpful to see how these criteria or symptoms – – aspects that have been identified as a result of domestic abuse leading to BWS, line up with that of a mother of a child who himself/herself has a dysfunctional psychological disorder, namely Reactive Attachment Disorder.

 

According to criminal-justice.iresearch.net.com, there are various lenses that differing authorities look through to make a determination of BWS:

 

A law enforcement officer or an attorney might use the legal definition of domestic violence that appears in the criminal statutes, which differ from country to country or even state to state. A shelter worker or domestic violence advocate might use the definition that appears in the domestic violence injunction statutes. A divorce lawyer might use the definition that appears in the family law statutes or in case law in that particular jurisdiction. A medical doctor might use the definition in her or his hospital protocols. (http://criminal-justice.iresearchnet.com/crime/domestic-violence/battered-woman-syndrome/)

 

Further, this same article goes on to mention the inconsistent ways others in the woman’s community may view the situation, as well as fear of being labeled as “crazy” to further illustrate the difficulty in understanding and treating the psychological effects on women who are being battered in their own homes, noting that BWS occurs in all walks of life.

 

As BWS occurs due to “family violence” so does the violence against the mother of the child with RAD.  (RAD is also a psychological disorder generally based on early childhood trauma and itself, often referred to as a form of or having a component of PTSD.)  

 

The family violence that occurs within the context of BWS or what I am going to call Battered Mom Syndrome (BMS), because of the relationships and involved, as well as it’s ongoing nature contributes to the complexities and difficulties in identifying BMS and getting appropriate help.

Four Phases

Four phases have been identified in family abuse according to Peoples-health.com (http://www.peoples-health.com/battered_womens_syndrome.htm):

  1. Denial – the phase in which a woman makes excuses for the abuse, not anticipating it happening again.  *When a child is the abuser, the mother may continue to try to teach, train, parent better, serve, modify expectations in the home, excuse them due to their traumatic history or diagnoses or other limitations.
  2. Guilt – the phase in which a woman questions herself and feels guilty over not being able to be good enough for the abuser in some way.  *When the abuser is a child the woman/mother will tend to feel guilty for not being a better mother, and that guilt may be reinforced by the child, the husband, outsiders, even “helpful” friends and parenting advice which is completely insufficient for the situation in her home.
  3. Enlightenment – the phase in which the woman wakes up to the fact that the abuse is not her fault, that it is not justified, but is instead related to the abuser’s psychological problems. However, she is still committed to preserving the relationship.  *When the abuser is the woman’s own child with Reactive Attachment Disorder, the relationship with the mother/mother figure is the trigger for the child’s own disorder.
  4. Responsibility – the phase in which the battered woman realizes that the abuser must take responsibility for their own problem and behavior, that she cannot solve their problem.  In a battered wife situation, this is when she might decide to leave.  But when there are children involved it becomes more unclear as to which course of action will work best to keep them safe.  *When the abuser IS a child or teen, keeping them and others safe may be very difficult.  

Cycles of Abuse

There are also cycles of abuse that get repeated over and over again in BWS, which generally correspond to three phases:  Tension building phase; Battering phase; Honeymoon phase.  

Taking these in reverse order, the Honeymoon phase with a RAD child may be one in which their behavior seems more compliant and reserved, even “normal”.  

The Battering phase, may be physical abuse or threats to the mother or another child or even themself, knowing that the mother will be distraught over their self-harm, whatever they can do to hurt her even if it is self-injury.  As in a spousal abusive situation, a child or teen can be verbally and physically abusive in a variety of ways, including damage to the home or possessions that they know will cost the parent.  

The Tension building phase may be one in which they are less compliant, more oppositional and verbally aggressive.

Effects on Mom

Similar to the effects of the Battered Woman/Wife Syndrome (BWS), there can be effects on the mother with BMS such as reduced self-esteem, PTSD, injuries and health problems resulting from the abuse, feelings of guilt and shame, all of which she may need help with even after the abuse has stopped.

 

Finally, getting into a stable living situation and stopping the abuse can be financially difficult.  Treatment for the child identified as having RAD may be cost prohibitive and may sap any financial resources that might have been available for help for the mother. The state of the mental health resources for children, adolescents and adults in this country are woefully insufficient.  

Many mothers, like myself, have adopted children with the commitment to love and protect that child, only to have the child turn on them out of their own psychological dysfunction.  And after years of sacrificing for their children and families find that they, themselves, as well as their children are in danger.  

Because of the inadequacies of our healthcare system time and again, some of these parents are finding that to protect themselves, their child and the rest of the family they must relinquish their parental rights to this RAD child in order to get them in a (hopefully) safe facility.  But this does nothing to help that child recover from RAD or mend the relationship and further defeats the mother.  In addition, the justice system is resistant to get involved with domestic violence of any kind until there is irreversible damage.  

 

I hope to help you recognize if you, yourself or a family member or friend seems to be dealing with any of the issues of family abuse, yes even from their own child.  And to prompt you to recognize that there is help available and you are not alone.   

 

God, God’s Word, Prayer, and God’s people can help you identify the problems, get out of isolation and get the help you need.  Taking steps to help yourself will help your family as well.  You cannot help them when you have nothing but an empty bucket to draw from.  

 

My Personal Tips:  911 is your ally; always keep your cell phone handy; maintain a relationship with a friend or two you can safely confide in and seek helpful counseling for yourself as well as treatment for your child; keep a journal and photos of all injuries and damage; keep all your records, get copies of medical records (you and your child), police records if any, and school documentation especially of behavior issues.  Have a safety plan for yourself and other family members.  

And know you can find rest in God —

Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened; and I will give you rest.”

 

Disclaimer:  This post is for educational purposes and nothing herein is to be used as medical or legal advice.  Please check with appropriate professionals as needed in your particular situation.  

 

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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.  Just shoot me a comment and let me know you want to learn more about our toxin-free natural-based personal care products and dietary supplements.

Top 3 Shifts for New Adoptive Parents

From one adoptive parent to another I am no professional and so my perspective is as a parent, same as you.  It is easy to fall into thinking that parenting your adopted children with the same ways of thinking and parenting other children should have similar effects, but in my experience and from what I have learned from others it absolutely does not.

I want to touch on just three shifts that I think will help adoptive parents and their children in practical everyday experience.

The first shift is to add visual language. Since our adopted children were not native English speakers, one of the first glaring need was that of basic communication! Our youngest is deaf and hears now with a cochlear implant but still struggles with English. As the old saying goes, “if I had known then what I know now. . .” well, now I recommend adding visual language in your first year home (regardless of hearing status) and preparing ahead of time to do so.  While it seems like an extra step in the hurry to get them fluent in English, the extra effort will pay off.  If your child has any language delay or is switching primary languages I strongly recommend everyone in the household taking time to learn the basics of a visual (sign) language prior to bringing your child home and continuing to learn along with him/her.  Even if there is no language delay or language switch, I think adding a sign language component is a fun way to do something as a family, to have a bit of a secret code that not everyone will know (but some will – and that’s fun too!).  Plus, when a child can sign to communicate at times when they are too overwhelmed to use their voice it can be a huge way to stave off frustration.

Is is worth the effort and time to put into learning to sign? In the long run, a second language (or third) will only help.  ASL is a beautiful language that with fluency can open doors of opportunity.

We learned (and later saw it in our own children) that children who are moved away from their native language (as was ours with an international adoption) typically lose the native language gains faster than the gains they acquire in their new language.  As language builds upon language, the basics of a visual language can be learned rapidly and serve as a bridge to a more complex spoken language (and a great start to learning sign language) Language builds upon language. And building a new relationship with understanding, trust and attachment requires communication.

The whole family can begin to learn the sign language alphabet and some basic words and phrases while waiting for adoption finalization and continue learning together once the new child/children are home.  Children are very visual and pick it up easily.

Signing Time videos are a great child friendly start which adults can learn from, too. Lifeprint.com has a free video course which is terrific for parents.

The second shift I recommend is in the perspective toward stuff. While it may be tempting for you and all your friends and relatives to shower your new little darling with tons of new stuff, it is better to temper the urge and keep it simple.

Let friends and relatives know in the most tactful way possible that you have chosen to follow the advice not to overwhelm your child with gifts, but to focus more on personal relationships. An alternative for those who insist on giving something would be to suggest gift cards that you can use at a later time for your child’s needs.  Or perhaps a family membership to a local zoo.   (Along the same line is to avoid overwhelming them with crowds of people initially and keep it to smaller get-togethers spaced out over time.)

Finally, the third and most counter-intuitive big shift adoptive parents can make is in thinking about discipline.

Because of their backgrounds the typical rewards and consequences not only may not have the desired effects but may totally backfire!  Trauma and neglect plus a host of other possible issues can predispose your child to think in a way that defies logic.  Suffice it to say that instead of connecting the dots (Behavior X leads to Consequence Y, therefore if I do not like Y, I must not do X) responses to consequences and rewards seem often to result in reinforcing undesired behavior and/or thinking.

If you find that typical parenting techniques frequently leave you wondering what just happened over a period of time, I recommend seeking out knowledgeable, professional help.

Be proactive in these three shifts: adding a visual language bridge; prioritizing relationships building over stuff, setting firm boundaries on allowed items; and have trauma-informed understanding of discipline.  You will find it is time well spent to be ahead of the curve.

Proverbs 3:5 says Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding . . .”

 

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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 tools to help. While not a substitute for professional help when needed, there are some natural products we have begun using in our family that make a big difference in helping kids (and their parents) be ready to learn appropriate ways of coping with their big feelings, to focus and be more settled.

If you think it might be helpful for your family to learn more about these products feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to fill you in.

 

Rage Against Love

So WHO exactly are we fighting? ?

The post-adoptive home can sometimes feel like an ongoing war, like you have to PROVE yourself as parent. (Did anybody ever really doubt that you were the rightful parent of your biological children?)  It’s one thing for a legal decree, for a declaration of undying love and commitment, for being there for daily routines, ups and downs, and all that goes with parenting and loving your child, but somewhere deep in the mind of two of mine, they have a deep-seated belief that I am not their mom.

How do I know? Aside from the verbal screaming in hateful voices “You are NOT my MOM!!!” and “I HATE YOU!!”  along with other similar endearments (insert sarcasm), my training, research and counseling on Reactive Attachment Disorder.  Plus it’s not just a passing phase or exaggerated in the moment push button thing.  It doesn’t go away, just maybe hides under the surface a bit.  Not every adopted or foster child develops R.A.D, thankfully, but it is a REAL condition.

Things to Learn & Do Right Away

If you have a child in your life who may have Reactive Attachment Disorder, I recommend doing your own due diligence to familiarize yourself with not just the basics, but the practical outworkings and recommendations for steps and strategies to deal with the effects on the attachment disordered child AND the people closest to them who may at any time become a target.  And realize that the child may appear VERY different with different people.  Moms are primary targets in general, but it can also be dads if dad is the primary caretaker/nurturer.

Boundaries are important, and implementing boundaries BEFORE they are crossed takes some forethought.  It is a lot easier to loosen stricter boundaries when appropriate than to tighten them when things get out of hand.

Respite care?  Yes that would be nice.  Unfortunately, it is not until the stress has mounted or a crisis ensued that it becomes urgent.  And if the children are not well-behaved it is a big chore for parents to arrange for regular time apart, for the child/children to be cared for by someone else who may not comprehend all their different needs or issues.

Long Range View & Goals

I recommend a long term view, learning what you can, plugging into a support group and doing the work to set up respite care with regular visits in non-crisis times so that it is available when you most need it.  Plan for the worst; hope for the best; don’t be caught off guard.

In addition, I recommend intentional self-care, marriage care and keeping separate time with the child’s siblings on a frequent, regular basis, not letting their issues dominated the household.

Fighting against the child, spouse, friends and extended family?  Teachers, neighbors?  Legal issues?  All of these are all too common in the adoption community.

Adoptive parents as you recall jump through many, many hoops to get through the process and so the bulk of them are not going to just be “bad” parents.  Sadly, there is not a lot of support for raising an attachment disordered child and keeping the family intact.

Truthful Perspective

To answer the question posed at the beginning of this post — Who are we fighting? — I’d like to suggest that while it may be anybody and everybody at times, primarily it is and should be recognized to be our mortal enemy, Satan, the father of lies.

1 Peter 5:8 tells us:  “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Satan lies to my kids and reinforces the lies that they have already believed.  Satan lies to parents telling us we are failures.  Satan lies to others who are looking for someone to blame and accusations fly.  Satan says you are not good enough and that you are not loved.

BUT GOD tells the TRUTH!  And I have to hang on to the truth to be able to survive, just as my children need the truth to believe they are loved and valuable and as much a part of my family as anyone else.  And that that is GOOD!

I have to know and hang on to the truth that I am GOD’S CHILD, and dearly loved and provided for by him, no matter the lies that I am told.  Through any difficulty, God is my strength. I don’t have all the answers, but I know who does!

As my children learn that they are loved by their earthly parents, my earnest desire is that it will help them be receptive to the belief that they are treasured and loved by their Heavenly Father.  I believe God can heal them so that they will be open to receiving and giving love without all the resistance they now have, due to the trauma they have endured.  Someday they will understand that even then, their loving Creator was sustaining them, and he has good plans for them and their future.

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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 tools to help.  There are some natural products we have begun using in our family that make a big difference in helping kids cope with overwhelming emotions, to manage and focus.  If you think it might be helpful for your family to learn more about these products feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to fill you in.