I want to express a few thoughts and see if they resonate with any of you.
You may know that within our family we have special needs, attachment disorder (and reactive attachment disorder which is the upper end of that spectrum) mental health issues in addition to that; language delays, social delays; just all these special needs type things going on, and Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) and OCD , ADHD — and more alphabet soup!
What’s a mom to do!? I’ve learned that if you are all wrapped up in the family, the children, their special needs, and the relationships that attachment disorder has really put a negative spin on (with multiple kids and family members!) then it can really put you in a rotten space. If you have your own identity all wrapped up in the nature of being a parent of the alphabet soup, special needs, chronic illness and all that goes along with attachment issues that is.
The children are growing up and trying to forge their own identities. Some have additional issues with identity — identity crises — because of their past.
Now think about the parents. Moms in particular (and dads, I am not trying to exclude you but you know, I can relate most to moms).
What about your identity?
Your identity cannot continue to be wrapped up in the relationships and in the roles that you have — the roles that are changing — the roles that are up one day and down the next — the roller coaster ride that is this life, without some real damage, without losing yourself, without losing your own identity.
So, you MUST regain and/or hold onto your identity in Christ.
Your identity as God’s child.
Your identity as someone of value and intellect and purpose.
You can hold on to your true identity:
Whether or not a particular relationship goes haywire;
whether or not a particular illness continues or gets worse;
whether or not you have to deal with a mental health crisis that day;
whether or not behavioral issues pop up;
And whether or not other people judge you as someone who should handle things differently than you do, or should parent differently than you do, or is even the cause of some of the behaviors or issues with your children.
And so, who are we doing this for? Are we really just doing it for ourselves? No.
For our children? Yes! But not just for them.
If you are like me, then you agree we are really doing it for God.
And for our love of God.
And in obedience to God.
So we do it for our kids – yes, but as God gives us love and loves our children and our families through us he gives us the ability desire. And HE is the one we are really doing it all for!
He knows your heart.
He knows it all.
He knows these children.
He knows their background and he knows their needs. And furthermore, God is able to take them, continue to work on them, and maybe do it through you or maybe through other people or other ways. So it’s not all on your shoulders. Put it back on his, where it belongs.
That’s all of my rambling thoughts. I hope you ae encouraged. If you are, feel free to share and follow Yesterday’s Orphan for more.
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.
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.
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.
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 have been identified in family abuse according to Peoples-health.com (http://www.peoples-health.com/battered_womens_syndrome.htm):
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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