Tag Archives: parent

Time for an Empathy Self-Audit

Teach Yourself to be More Understanding and Empathetic

“Everyone that hasn’t suffered a brain injury or mental illness is capable of empathy.” – – so I read.

But some of our children DO have brain issues that impact their ability to show empathy. And it seems so easy to spot in them, and even easier to become exasperated at their apparent lack of empathy.

I’m guilty of this.

And so I end up being “the pot calling the kettle black” with my own lack of empathy.

Some of us are in touch with this ability, while others could use a little practice. If you’ve found yourself exasperated over your child’s un-empathetic behaviors, how about taking an empathy self-audit?

What is empathy?

Empathy is the concern for the welfare of others. It’s the ability to detect or predict the emotions and thoughts of others.

It’s easy to see why this would be a handy skill to master. Empathy has an impact on your relationships. This is true for both your personal and professional relationships. Empathy can make your life easier and more fulfilling at home and at work!

It’s an ability that our children need to become competent in. And our modeling empathy to and before them is crucial.

So after your empathy self-audit if you find you need an empathy tune-up, I have some empathy tune-up tips for you.

Empathy Tune-Up Tips

Try these tips to increase your empathy for your child/children and others:

1. Avoid making assumptions.

Your view of the world is limited. Your experiences are just your own. Others have lived a different reality.

If you’re from a well-off and intact family from the United States, you don’t really have a clue what it’s like to deal with the weight of growing up in an orphanage in Ukraine. If you’ve never lost a job, avoid assuming that you know exactly what that experience feels like.

Making assumptions only gets in the way of developing empathy. When you catch yourself making assumptions, question them. Prove your assumptions to be true or false before making any decisions.

2. Ask questions.

One way to understand others is to ask questions. Develop a genuine interest in them. Enhancing your communication skills assists your ability to connect with, and to understand, other people. Ask open ended questions.

3. Listen intently.

I used to think I was a great listener! But I’ve found myself only half-heartedly listening and dividing my attention with my kids. Yikes! What types of messages does that send to them?

I’ve also been trying to help a couple of my children learn to pause and wait for my attention before they start blasting out their message and getting frustrated at me then. If they want understanding they need to learn to wait for my attention. Plus that’s a clue to me to give it.

Listening intently is related to asking questions and avoiding assumptions. We also seek to understand the emotions that the other person is feeling. Asking questions and then listening to the answers is a pivotal part of creating empathy within yourself.

4. Learn about a group of people outside of your experience.

You could learn about people of another religious background or culture. If you’ve never been poor, you might learn about the homeless and how they live day to day. Read books and talk to people. Strive to understand what it would be like to be born a part of a particular group.

5. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

One way to relate better to others is to imagine yourself in the same situation. This can be painful. It’s not enjoyable to imagine that your spouse has died or that you’re completely out of money. Ask yourself, “What would I be thinking and feeling if I were in this situation?” Just asking yourself this question is the biggest step you can take toward being empathetic.

6. Be present. Give your undivided attention to others. You can’t be empathetic if you’re thinking about something else. This goes along with number three above, but extends to family activities, meals, meetings, etc. We are so tempted to multitask and it’s an even bigger temptation these days with our smartphones and other tech at our fingertips constantly.

Related: Be interested.

You’re not as good at hiding your disinterest as you think! You miss most of the information, verbal and non-verbal, communicated to you if you’re not paying attention.

7. Have more meaningful conversations.

Talking about sports is fine, but it’s not a deep and personal topic. One way to get the ball rolling is to talk about something that’s important to you. The more you share, the more you’re going to receive in return. Be open, and others will be more open with you. (Maybe.)

But don’t forget to give the other person a turn. One sided conversations are counterproductive to mutuality and connectedness.

Empathy is an important skill. It can greatly increase the ability to communicate and connect with others. Being able to understand their feelings and thoughts will boost your rapport with them, whether it’s your children, your spouse, or those outside the household. Enhance your relationships with empathy and you’ll benefit in many ways. And you’ll be modeling this important skill to your child or children!

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep”

Romans 12:15

First Things First

When our more basic needs are unmet is can put the brakes on empathy. If you feel unable to access your empathy or otherwise feel like you are missing out on basic needs such as safety I implore you to seek the help YOU need, putting your oxygen mask on first as it were, to address those needs and free up mental and emotional space for empathy.

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If this post is helpful to you you might like to join the small but growing Yesterday’s Orphan Facebook group for parents and caregivers. The group is free to join but closed — members only.

Posts in the group touch on a variety of topics that may affect you if you are caring for a child with a history of early childhood traumatic parental loss and possibly other serious trauma in their background.

Hello, Trello – – So Nice to Meet you!

So Trello, I wonder why no one has ever introduced me to you before (?) Perhaps I was just not paying attention or was otherwise engaged . . . but now at long last I am so happy to have finally found you!

Do you know about Trello?

I just started using this free resource and it looks fantastic! (There are paid options for their Business and Enterprise levels, but with unlimited numbers of board, lists and cards, the free version is not just a tease, but a well-rounded tool right out of the gate! And did I say free?!)

With Trello I can finally organize my life. (Yes!) And you can too. I’ve already started with a few boards and have been scoping out examples of more ways to use this fantastic tool for family, business, projects, whatever . . .

Get Trello for yourself here.

Trello Boards

If you’ve ever used Pinterest you are familiar with “boards”. Trello also uses boards as the main sections. Within your broad category boards, you then add “lists” and “cards”. These can be labeled by color and further modified for a variety of needs and uses. And you can share boards, lists and cards as well as switch up cards from list to list and board to board (or duplicate them)! Are you getting excited yet?

As I said, there are tons of uses for Trello and Trello boards. Want to make a Vision Board? Make it on Trello, or make several! Got a project to plan, or a joint project? Make it and share tasks on Trello!

How I am using Trello right now (and expanding):

I’ve set up Boards for primary areas of my life so far:

My Starter Boards in Trello

Family (with lists for each family member) – I do plan to separate these out into a board for each person. Plus you can color coordinate your boards if you like, even upload your own background photos for each one.

Business – Working from home is an amazing opportunity. I already see how Trello can help me integrate work with the rest of my life without dropping (so many) balls that I juggle. I can bounce from work to child to dinner and not lose my place now (smile).

My parent support ministry (You’re here! Yesterday’s Orphan); I am excited to plug the beginnings of some future plans into Trello to keep moving forward on them. Stick around to see what’s coming up!

My upcoming mission trip to Russia; no stressing over the to-dos for this trip. Just plug into Trello, set a due date and get’er done!

My Mission Trip Board

I plan to add a weekly schedule board to house repetitive items particular to days of the week, and some more project boards.

Key to Success with Trello

One key I already discovered is to add a due date/deadline to anything you can. This will bring up that item (card) in your daily “What’s Next” list. No matter what board or list they are on, the due date will pull up whatever you’ve scheduled in order. (No flipping back and forth between calendars and lists!)

Trello for Back-to-School

It’s that time of year and I am so happy to have found Trello in time for back-to-school. Not only can Trello keep my life organized, but my children as well.

Keep the (perceived) nagging away when you share tasks with them through Trello. They can check off as done and you’ll be able to see when an item is marked completed. (I would have loved this for home-schooling!) There’s even an application to save the ist of completed assignments to a spreadsheet on Google Drive. (Record-keeping? DONE!)

Example boards for homeschool parents:

Personal parent/teacher boards with Master Lists, Student boards, Weekly Routines, Resource Links, Current and upcoming lesson plans; Materials checklists; Extracurricular activities; Field trips; Library books (with due dates)

Trello for students:

Homeschool or not, students can have their own project boards with checklists to break projects down into manageable tasks. My high schoolers can set up their own Trello boards for each subject at the start of the school year and add in their projects and due dates, tests and study schedules. Plus any other links to resources or important information.

Trello is compatible to various devices and so I can work on my Chromebook and also see the app on my phone when out and about.

Pressure Relief

For the family with intense kids, parents need to be able to communicate in a way that won’t promote internal pressure. (Sometimes even a look can do that with my teens!) Trello is a way to do just that. You can collaborate and share information in an organized way that doesn’t seem like you are just barking out random commands. And the engaging tech is the go-between!

Let me know, have you used Trello for you family and found it useful? What’s your favorite benefit so far?

Free Parent Resource

If you have intense kids who have a hard time with transitions and if back-to-school season is stressing you out just thinking about it (!!!) – – then you’ll like the following free resource, my tips for being the chill parent during back-to-school season, even with intense kids. Get yours with the button below.

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Mom, this is for you.

 

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.

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.

Answering the Question, Who am I, Really?

As children hit adolescence they all tend to zero in on the things that they can hang their hat on as their own unique identity.  Some of the things they focus on are qualities that differentiate them from their families or help them stand out.

These can be a variety of things such as a sport or hobby focus or changing their styles of clothing and hairstyles.  And some are aspects that help give them a foundation of familiarity, mainly family-based, such as a heritage or tradition, cultural comforts or genetic traits.  Sometimes there may be friction when their choices differ strongly from that of their parents or accepted norms. It is a normal part of growing up.

But when children have a shaky past as our former orphans do, this process can be a lot more treacherous.  The analogy I would use is a tug-of-war rope with which the adolescent/young adult is being pulled one way toward individuation and breaking away from the family, and another way toward the foundational elements that would keep them grounded such as family relationships, traditions, values and beliefs.  pexels-photo-91416.jpegIn general there should be a balance so that it is not pulled too far to either side, but both sides having a firm grip in the life of the maturing young person.

Having less than a firm background can make it difficult for the rope to hold and more dangerous for the young person to pull away, as is natural to do at this age, without that invisible grounding tug.  (We are dealing with this in our family right now.)  And whereas many times tweens and teens are known for trying on different styles or hobbies or interests (“mini-obsessions” they hyper-focus on) like trying on new clothes, your child may have a tendency to get stuck on one and not be willing (or able) to let go or change gears.  Getting through to them that it is okay and expected that they will change their minds as they try new ideas can be difficult.  It is worth the effort to help these children realize that they can let go and try a new approach when the one they are using isn’t working well, without it being identified as a failure on their part, but an aspect of growing and maturing.

Does your child fear to go too far out of the familiar comfort zone and fear losing their footing? They may need extra help to find and expand on qualities they identify themselves with, aside from their family or background.

Negative things can loom large, either from a particular child’s background or about them as an individual at this age and can dominate their thinking.  As children who have had significant trauma in their backgrounds (whether they actually remember it or not) these things can be magnified and take on a larger than life quality, clouding the young person’s ability to see themselves in a positive light.  So they will need guidance to help them grasp a larger, more accurate perspective — one that includes the more positive and even neutral aspects of their identity to give them a better balance.

Helping adolescents and teens to latch on to a balance of foundational, grounding aspects of their identity, plus spread-their-wings, reach-for-the-sky aspects can be a difficult process and will look different for everyone.  Remember it’s a part of the growing up process, though it may look different and take more time (and tears and prayers) to get through for our once orphan children, so that as parents we can stay focused on the big picture and be less frustrated over the small stuff.

To find our value primarily in our relationship with God and his with us is the best foundation any one of us can have!  When your child is asking, “Who am I, really?”  it’s this foundation that really counts.

And knowing your value is in being a child of God is never a shaky foundation!

In Jeremiah 1:5 God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart . . .”  May we ALL find our identities in our relationship with God through Christ Jesus.

______________________________

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.

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.

______________________________

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!