On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Saturday, December 12, 2009

more RAD questions for Awesome RAD moms

Seems the more I read, the more questions I have. I REALLY wish our region had better mental health support and services, particularly in the form of RAD help. We have 3, THREE certified RAD therapists in our area of 350,000 + people and a strong adoption/biological children ratio. (Blame the Bible belt, high incidence of infertility and affluence)

Thanks to all that replied about the spectral diagnoses our RADishes get, even when it's not clear if it's the RADs or genuine developmental delay. Sissy is also diagnosed with bipolar so tossing Asperger's or PDD-NOS into the mix when all of it can clinically be explained by her RADs diagnosis makes me very leary of adding one more thing to her growing list.

Question #1
Nancy Thomas is a strong proponent of sugar = love. She cites several examples of giving sugar as therapy to RADishes and seeing very positive results. For example, she uses the milk caramels in snuggle therapy to mimic the breastfeeding bonding RADishes didn't get. She also explains about one particular RADish she had that responded very well to ice cream therapy, saying that in three weeks time, he said he'd had enough and afterward, he no longer abused sugary treats priveleges. There is also clinical proof of crack babies needing the sweet to repair brain damage. Thomas cites RADs development impairment to be similar to crack babies. Finally, Thomas says that which we take away, our children will reach for. Her example is that with her biological son was not given guns or sugar and he is now a marine that has very specific habits about his sugar consumption as an adult. Even in my own husband I've seen this issue. His father was a severe diabetic that held the principle that if he couldn't eat it, no one in the family could either. The result is that my husband has a VERY STRONG procilvity toward sweets and he'll readily tell you that he knows he's compensating for that which he did not get as a child.

Katherine Leslie has an exact opposite approach. In her book "coming to grips with attachment" (pg 78) she says "Sugar addiction is pretty typical of traumatized children. I locked all the sugar stuff in a tackle box and attached a combination lock. Only my son adn I have the combination because we are the only ones in the family who can control ourselves. All sweets must now pass through me. This ended up helping our whole family control their sweet teeth."

I know many RADishes have a hoarding issue. Sissy likes to hide food but she never actually consumes it. She is challenging at mealtime in the sense that she'll often refuse to eat (even throw away an entire plate of uneaten food) or she'll consume too much and I'll have to rehearse portion control with her. But my "the kitchen is closed, it is not food time" rule seems to help minimize her eating dysfunctions. But perhaps Leslie's approach is more affective for severe hoarders?

I was wondering which approach you subscribe to when it comes to sugar - Thomas' or Leslie's? If you've tried both, which has been the most successful? If you have more than one RADish, have you used different techinques depending on the child's needs? Has your approach been largely based on clinical evidence or your personal ability to enforce a rule YOU can live with? (because we all know as RAD moms, if we can't live with the rule or the child's consequence for breaking the rule, it's a lost battle before we've even gone to war)

Question #2 - Has being a RAD mom made you harder/cynical or have you managed to stay true to yourself in the midst of the mayhem? I ask because my counselor and I had this discussion this past week in my session with her. I was explaining my frustration with Sissy's therapist at the RTC, my reason being that the therapist was allowing Sissy to triangulate us, that I felt the therapist was too weak and allowed herself to be vulnerable to Sissy's charms and lies and that I felt vulnerable as the parent. My counselor asked me the question, "what is the therapist like as a person?" I explained that she's very soft, wears soft, comfotable clothing in subdued colors, had soft flowing hair in a pale blonde with light curls, she had very fair skin and a quiet, slow, almost child-like voice. I ended my decription with, "she comes across as a pushover which is counterproductive to heal a RAD kid!"

But as my counselor and I wend our way through my other needs, we came back to the issue of "soft is lacking in my life" partly due to the fact that I've had to be so cut and dry with Sissy, to the detriment of who I am naturally. If Sissy wasn't a RADish, would I be a more soft, gentle mom? Would my personal attributes be more like this therapist that frustrates me? Is my frustration with the therapist exacerbated by my inner struggle to be me despite Sissy's RADs? Reading and listening to all of this RAD material, I feel myself needing to be more staunch and less soft but it feels counterproductive to eventually seeking attachment with a traumatized child. If Sissy were an infant, I wouldn't be playing chess in my head all day long, thinking six moves ahead of her. I'd just be snuggling her and loving her, cooing at her, humming, rocking, rubbing, tickling, etc. I'd be "soft".

How about you? Have you found a balance and if so, how? Or have you found yourself in my position - a hardened, cynical mom that is currently struggling with my choice to parent because I didn't know how hard it would be to help a RADish recover, to be true to myself, to love despite the enormous deficits Sissy has created in my love bucket, to know that there is a clear reality that despite my best efforts, ultimately healing is up to Sissy and she may not choose it. Can I live with that reality and not take it as a personal affront to my role as her parent? Is it easier to be hard now, preparing myself for a possible reality to soften the blow for later? Or do we have to make ourselves hard to love these RADishes so they have a better chance at healing?

Oh, it's all so hard. I'm glad for my counselor. I highly recommend you get your own therapy. RADs is hard on the moms, maybe harder than it is on the kids.

Question #3 - How involved is your spouse/significant other in the RAD therapy at home? Are you a team or is the one parent the RAD "mom" and the other the co-parent that simply supports? Thus far, my husband is not actively participating in reading/learning about RADs although he is highly supportive. How necessary is it for both of us to be completely in the know about all the therapy techniques if The Dad simply supports The Mom in her therapy approaches for the RADish? In other words, The Mom institutes all the necessary therapy and The Dad supports The Mom and helps with the non-RAD siblings?

OK, finishing this rather heavy post with a funny. I heard this song on the radio and I imagined a bunch of RAD moms confidently walking side-by-side in slow motion down a busy street crowded with screaming RADishes in active defiance, the wind whipping the moms' hair but they had smiles on their faces and expressions of being all-knowing and all-powerful (perhaps this is a RADish's nightmare? lol) The lyrics of the song are very fitting for parenting our RADishes!
I give you, "running with the devil" by Van Halen


Christine said...

#1 - This is an area where Nancy Thomas and I disagree, to some extent. For instance, when I was bottle feeding my 8-yr-old RADish, I warmed milk (but it was always organic or soy/rice milk) and added honey to sweeten. Nancy talks in her seminars about how if a family of X number of members is not going through X gallons of milk a week, someone is not getting enough calcium. That's absolutely, positively not accurate. Well, it IS, if they only way your family gets calcium is through milk.

We use whole grains. We sweeten with honey or natural sweetners like Stevia. I nurture my kids through comfort foods which are still very healthy. The truth is that can and do become addicted to refined sugar. Cutting out refined sugar decreases your cravings. Doesn't mean you can't have things which are sweet, but you sweeten with things your body can actually process.

Not to mention, local honey has a crazy amount of good properties to it. My kids put local honey on all sorts of stuff.

So, I agree with the concept of utilizing sweets with bonding, but completely disagree with the definition of "sweets."

#2 - I remember sitting through some foster parent training, and listening to our instructor talk about how she questioned her best friend's judgement. This friend's husband was in charge of bathtime every night, and the olest kid was five. This fulltime case manager was appalled, and then admitted she was at their home one night and watched the bedtime routine unfold, and realized that, perhaps, it wasn't innapropriate.

This woman was totally jaded, due to her life experiences. I remember telling myself, "Don't EVER be like that!"

Annnnnd yet, here I am. You have days when you're pretty sure even the mailman is trying to manipulate you with his, "Good morning!" What did THAT mean??

I joke, but I totally get it. You balance it by acknowledging you are that way. Then you do what we have our kids do - you practice. You may still feel jaded, but you practice being soft and gentle. You fake it til you make it. And it is continuous, because our kids' stuff is continuous.

#3 - I have the best spouse on the planet. Hands down. If I thought I could rent him out, I would do so. YET, it is not because he always takes the initiative. I have to tell him what I want and need from him.

When reading something, I leave the book and post-it's all through it with "reading assignments." Leave them beside the toilet. Works like a charm.

I pulled him aside just this week and said, "Rocky is back into his old habit of treating me worse when you're not here. This is a time when you need to have the discussion about him receiving double consequences from YOU, on top of what he receives from me, etc."

Two weeks ago, he had the day off, and told me to disappear for the whole day. HOWEVER, before I left, he gathered everyone around and said, "Can anyone tell me why Mom does NOT deserve a day all to herself? No? That's right. She does. Not only are we going to give it to her, but we are not going to pay her back when she returns. If you are upset today about her being gone, you just let me know by misbehaving. I'll help you find a nice quiet place to read and relax ... for a very long time. If you decide to try to pay mom back tomorrow when I'm gone, you will receive double consequences from me, and it will involve doing lots and lots and LOTS of things for Mom the following day."

Sometimes, when I am away, he will text me for quick little "helps" on whatever situation is going on, so we stay on the same page. The kids play MAJOR dumb when alone with him, etc.

So, I brag all that to say this: he is what I ask him to be. Our therapist included him in attachment therapy as many times as possible. There are many times when I will say, "Could you handle this one?" and he does. I gently clue him in on my needs and we present ourselves as a united front. Always.

Like ... always.

Corey said...

Well, let me first say that Christine is my hero (seriously, and she knows it, because I tell her all the time.) and I *want* to be more like her but it is a constant struggle.

1) I am not a proponent of sugar=love. Which is kind of weird, now that I think about it, because I often show love by cooking for people. But sugar/candy/junk food is not healthy, it's not something I let my other kids have very often, it's a special treat.. and so I have a real issue with taking the kid that treats everyone like crap and makes everyone else's life difficult and giving them MORE of what the other kids rarely get. If they are "available" (through good behavior) for treats when the other kids happen to be having some, great. If not, sorry. And there are times when *I* get the reward of special candy and ice cream for putting up with especially difficult behavior, which makes Miss Defiant crazy, but the short (long) answer is no, sugar is not love (for me).

2) I am less trusting and more suspicious of everything Vivi does. Because when I let my guard down, she stabs me in the gut. But I think for the most part, I am able to still be myself with my other kids and the rest of the world. I think in some ways I am more compassionate with others, more empathic.. but in other ways more cynical.

3) Not so much. I am the RAD parent and he supports. He does not undermine as much as he used to (before our son went to residential) and he believes me more.. and I listen to his input more.. but still, he works out of the house and travels.. and I am with Vivi 24/7. I wish it was different. I don't know how to make it so.

Diana said...

Great questions! Here's my answers:

1. No, I don't subscribe to the sugar=love thing. Candy was used VERY inapproapriately in my boys' former lives (especially my youngest) and it's now a trauma trigger for them - and especially for my youngest son. Unfortunatley, if it is not carefully controlled, it turns my kids into complete monsters.

Early on when we first brought our kids home I did bottle feed them (at ages 7 and almost 3.) During those times I would use warm lightly sweetened milk or watered down juice. During those times, the sweeet WAS very helpful for facilitating bonding. But when it had served it's useful purpose, it was done.

I completely agree that refined sugar is highly addictive. I also try to use alternative sweeteners when I can to reduce the amount of refined sugar, but I'm not super strict about it. I guess it's because I've also seen many who are deprived take it to extremes as soon as they are able.

So, we do allow some sweets in moderation - as long as they come from us and not other people. We've also trained them to ask us for treats when they want them. We try to make a point of saying "yes" quite frequently so that when we do need to say "no" (it's dinner time or they've had enough) they will accept those limits without putting up a fight. What we've found is that this approach has significantly reduced the need to hoard (in fact, it's pretty much gone now) and it's also increased trust levels with us. They know that just because we said no this time doesn't mean they can't ever have them again or that they need to go crazy the next time they do have the opportunity for a treat.

My biggest struggle with candy and junk food is the copious amounts of the crap that other people give my kids. Every time they turn around, someone is giving them candy or cookies or other junk food. They regularly get candy at church, at school, at the bank, EVERYWHERE! And it freaks them out every single time. I hate it because I always have to be the bad guy and confiscate it. I feel like screaming from the rooftops "Please, people, I know you mean well and you don't realize the damage you're doing, but DON'T GIVE MY KIDS CANDY! It causes more problems than you can ever know. While you might only see it as a treat, in my kids' world, it's equivelant to giving an addict a shot of heroine. They'll take it, they'll love it, and then they'll take it out on me." Yet oddly, we don't have the same problem when the candy or sweets come from us.

2. I've found myself actually being more compassionate and understanding towards other people as a result of parenting my kids. I totally get what it means now to experinece hard thing and the toll it can take on your life. As a result, I'm a lot more tollerant and aware of other people who are going through hard times. I might not know what it feels like to live with a spouse who is suffering from cancer, but I do get how hard that can be and what a tremendous strain that type of thing can put on a family. I'm also a lot more able to recognize when other people really do need help - and especially when they aren't necessarily asking for it.

But, at the same time, I'm also much more cynical and much more of a realist than I ever was before. I don't do floofy-doofy, I don't do fake, I don't do materialistic, and I don't do fantasy. I don't have time for it, I don't have patience for it, and I know all too well what will really happen if I do try to escape reality, even for a few moments! So, I guess you could say that I'm a lot more "cut the crap and cut to the chase" than I ever was before.

3. Like most husbands probably are, mine is more supportive than actually in the forfront with RAD parenting. However, he sees that it works and has taken some initiative to learn about it. He's not always the best at implementing it yet, and he does get frustrated with the kids a lot easier than I do, but he's trying and that's what matters most.

J. said...

okay let me try to wrap cold addled mind around some of this.

1) I think food = love, it doens't have to be sweets per say but in this house food is doled out by me ( occasionally Dad) and we have had many conversations about how it is parents job to nurture and protect their kids and food is one of the things that you need to survive. Treats happen on occasion but there is not a lot of sugar consumed in this home.
2) I don't think it has made me cynical but I am not the same Mama I was a year ago. If we give Calvin an inch he will take a mile and run with it. I am tough on him and I have high expectations for him and I call out him on every little thing but it works and then with in those boundaries he is a great kid to be a round and we have a lot of good times together but I can not for one second sit back and relax with him or the walls we have worked so hard to build will come crashing down around us.
3) My husband is a gem, sometimes he thinks I am to hard on them but he never ( well almost never) says anything in front of them and when I am struggling to stay calm and I tell him that he has to field this one he does - we have struggled together as we have walked this road but we have both learned so much and he trusts me and my judgement.

Little Wonder said...

1) Yes, I have used the sugar method that Nancy Thomas prescribes. It's not a free-for-all-sugar binge, but rather a purposeful response to B's moods. I have a supply of tootsie rolls, milk duds and caramels, something sweet, chewy and that takes a long time to eat (and also keeps his mouth busy so he can't talk) and when he's got a sugar in his mouth he is on my lap like a baby with his eyes on me and I rock him and sing to him. It's a therapy tool, not a cure all, though.

2) Not sure what to say, actually, I have learned a lot....sometimes I think it's all just too hard and too unfair. But it has brought me closer to my God, and I believe that's the point of life.

3) My hubby and I are a team. he is very involved and capable in parenting & RAD parenting.

These other ladies all know a lot more than I do...but I keep plugging away!