Tag Archives: caregiver

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.

Self-sabotage

20171226_092851.jpgThis may seem an odd topic for Christmas time.  But it’s an issue I think many people face, including many once orphans.

It is incredibly frustrating to a parent or one who is trying to motivate or help the child who seems bent on self-sabotage! My best conclusion is to work around it as much as possible.  And let myself be okay with that!

I do recommend (to myself as well as to you) to be aware that behind this behavior is a need. Perhaps a deep, hidden wound that is crying out for attention, soothing, healing. Perhaps fearful feelings of the unknown, overwhelm, loss of control, or pressure of expectations.

“But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD” ~ Jeremiah 30:17

Just as with a surface wound, like a gash on the knee after a bicycle wreck, the thought of it being touched and  further pain, can result in a flinch or pulling away from the very treatment that would bring relief and speed healing.

(At the risk of overdoing this analogy, I ask your indulgence.)

We can see the open wound and know it needs cleaning. Hopefully we can explain to our resistant child that it needs cleansing, treating and bandaging, in a simple, gentle way. Hopefully they will trust us enough to cooperate and bear the fearful touch that they are so wary of for the brief moments necessary.

But with the hidden wounds that show up in frustrating behaviors it is not always so clear what is needed or how to go about getting cooperation from our child.

Because the underlying wound is hidden, it is likely that neither the child nor the adult completely comprehends what the wound is or exactly how to “treat” it.

Why my 15 year old daughter decapitated all the gingerbread cookies is just one of her baffling behaviors.  Her refusal to come out of her bedroom for our simple Christmas family meal and the next day skipping out on going across town to spend holiday time with extended family from out of town is backwards to what we would normally expect. Plus declaring she doesn’t like any of her presents seems strange!

From what I have gleaned from other parents, this is a mild version of the types of behaviors many children have, especially on special occassions.

My youngest child has an all or nothing reaction that is self sabotaging.  If he cannot have something now it must mean never. If he cannot have all it must mean none.

Unraveling the effects of early childhood trauma and helping the children heal from it is a long term process.  For me, it has taken a great deal of prayer, research, commitment and self control as well as active listening to arrive at some glimpses into the woundedness of my children.  Every layer of healing is progress!

I am happy we made it through Christmas with as little overall turmoil as we did.  One of the lessons I have been practicing is that my joy comes from the inside out.  It cannot depend upon the emotional state of my children or their behaviors.  The more they are out of control, the more controlled and non-reactive I must be.  The more I have to find my peace in my relationship with God.

Two or three of my children exhibit behaviors associated with Reactive Attachment Disorder.  While I am not a doctor and do not presume to know all the ins and outs of RAD, as a parent, my opinion is that at least some of these behaviors stem from their traumatic (painful) background in which their trust in adults, primarily those who were supposed to protect, provide for and love them, was broken.  Broken trust is a difficult thing for an adult to deal with – -ask anyone who has been through a divorce — but for a young child, who may have been physically injured/damaged by abuse and/or neglect, the broken trust trains their young brain to view the world as suspect, ESPECIALLY those who get “too close”.  The self-sabotaging reactions  (which seem to them as self-preservation) to perceived threats are sometime difficult to unravel.

Baby steps are progress.  Once hidden pain points have been partially unravelled in starts and stops in our family. We have also made some great baby steps in healing this year.

My job is to protect the progress.

I hope my end of year ramblings have given you pause to think about the possible pain points behind any of your children’s self-sabotaging behaviors and helped you some way.

ASIDE:  By the way, I have found a lot of success in general in calming anxiety and impulsive behaviors, and to support focus and overall health with a group of natural wellness products that support not only my adopted children, but the entire family!  They are available for purchase through me with Oils for Orphans. If you would like to know more just let me know and I’d be happy to share what is working for us!

Wishing you & your families —

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

 

 

 

 

Freeze – Fight – Flight!

 

Freeze!          Fight!            Flight!

That is the human response to overwhelm. We may literally be unable to move or speak, or at a reduced capacity, in the face of extreme danger. That is the freeze response. But think about it, freezing up is often a response to more subtle feelings of danger or less obvious overwhelm. We may be slower to respond, not because of laziness but because of the freeze response. We may be judged as procrastinating or delaying in decision making.

We know what fight looks like. Of course. But do we understand that in the fight response the ability to reason is lessened. The bulk of our resources are harnessed for the fight in a survival instinct! And there are different methods of fight. It may be a physical fight or perhaps we feel like fighting but have some restraint so we punch the wall or yell or stomp or throw things. The fight might be mostly a shouting match, but whichever way, it is a survival mentality, born out of fear.

Then there is flight. The felt need is for escape, and it can be strong. Sometimes children run away from home, or attempt to.  (You might take a walk or go shopping) While in this mode of flight from the overwhelm or danger, decision making and executive thinking is degraded so the dangers of running away, even if known, are not fully considered. That really goes for all three responses.

So dealing with responses in a logical, thinking way has to be done either before or after the stress response, with assessing what happened, dealing with the results, and planning ahead for next time.

Can you identify in your adopted or foster child whether they tend to revert to freeze, fight or flight?  Perhaps they have exhibited all three.  Are there certain responses that upset you more?  Do you respond more calmly to freeze, or shutting down perhaps, than you would to fight or flight/escape. Or perhaps flight scares you when it tends to happen in public places where you envision more danger.  What is your go to response? Can you relate to the child better if your typical responses (or what you feel like doing even if you do not follow through) are the same? Different?

Make it count. If a full blown stress response has happened, after the cool down, do not fail to make it count by revisiting what happened. Use the opportunity to take preventive measures toward the next time. Failure to do so will inevitably result buried feelings until the next eruption knocks the top off of them. A little understanding will go a long way.  But remember that it is an ongoing process, not a one time fix.

“Orphan mentality”

You may be wondering just what is meant by the term, “orphan mentality”.  As an orphan advocate and adoptive parent, I have observed (along with many others who are much more expert than I) some particular differences that are often manifested in someone having an orphan viewpoint or mentality rather than the viewpoint of a person who has a confident assurance that they are a beloved child. We deal with these types f differences day in and day out.

While children, orphans from traumatic backgrounds, may demonstrate traits of an orphan mentality more strongly, more intensely and/or more overtly than others in general, I have found that it is not strictly limited to orphans.

Here are a couple of examples:

First, a child who has an orphan mentality, though he is in a family with loving parents may view a minor correction as a sign that he is not loved or valued, whereas a child who is confident of his parents’ love and acceptance may feel a slight sting of guilt at disappointing a parent but understand that they are still deeply loved and valued, and can be taught that even the correction is made from the parent’s loving concern for their well-being.

Secondly, a child confident of their parents’ love might show annoyance at the correction, or even voice their disagreement, but still have an underlying understanding that regardless of the parent-child conflict there is a foundation of unconditional love and acceptance; whereas the orphan mentality says they have done nothing wrong, are their own judge of what is right for them, and their disdain for this parent who dares attempt to correct them. It has to do with the foundation. The foundation of love and acceptance, protection and provision, safety and security must be built but it is much, much easier to establish when there is not already an opposing foundation from a traumatic background and in place.

As a child of God I know I am valued and dearly loved by my Creator, yet I sometimes get into a bit of an orphan mentality, feeling like I am unloved, or like I have not done anything wrong and should not be corrected. The stronger the foundation of love and acceptance, the more consistently in touch with God I am, the quicker and easier to overcome this type of sinkhole thinking.

I have noticed as well that the orphan mentality is self-perpetuating to a degree. A person feels like the world is against them and so they find “evidence” to back up this belief and it grows stronger and stronger. This tendency makes it hard to battle and overcome.

Orphan or not, belonging to the family of God is available to everyone who sincerely calls on the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness. That is because you are dearly loved and precious, so precious and valuable that God sent his son, Jesus to suffer and die in order to have a relationship with you.

Matthew 7:25  says, “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”  Jesus is the rock that provides a firm foundation for us as well as our children.

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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.  Let me know if you are interested in learning more about specific products.

If you like this blog post you may like to check out and follow the Yesterday’s Orphan Facebook public page here, or if you are a parent/caregiver and would like to join our closed member Families group you can do so here.

Lastly, if you are interested in the natural products I’m using to support our health while avoiding many common toxins comment and ask me.  I’m happy to share!