Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas 2010

We enjoyed a nice, relaxing Christmas this year!
I am happy to say that the kids got through the day with overall great attitudes.

  They were thankful for their presents and handled themselves really well.

I wish I could say what contributed to our success so that I can be sure to repeat it next year, but honestly, I'm not quite sure. 

For kids who have been through significant trauma, holidays and special occasions can be difficult.  Our experiences during many of these days has attested to this.

Brad and I kept Christmas very simple this year.  Each kid got one present and a stocking.

My mom gave them each something that they opened on Christmas Eve.  I think with them only having the one present to focus on they were able to appreciate it and not feel overwhelmed with feelings of not deserving what they got.  (In my experience, these feelings has led them to exhibit behaviors to prove to us that they didn't feel deserving.) 

Anyway, maybe it was the simpleness of this Christmas.
Maybe it was a sign of the progress they have made.
I know that we are being blessed and I thank God daily for His watchful care over us. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

And the verdict is...

After an extremely difficult week with the kids, I have realized once again the benefits of their medication way outweigh how detrimental it is for the kids and our family to not use it right now. 

After a few days of watching them slide down hill rapidly, I felt that I was doing them a huge disservice by not allowing them to use this tool that has proven to help them so much.  Not to mention, I was beginning to feel that I couldn't go on, and that's the last thing my kids need is a mother who cannot be there or them.

I am still using the natural supplements to ensure that their bodies are getting what they need.  I am still doing the therapeutic parenting.  I am still trying to learn more and better strategies to help them at every opportunity I get.  We are still processing grief. 

And I have come to realize that just like the therapists, parents and doctors said (sometimes I prefer to learn things the hard way...) this is a tool that our family needs right now. 

Thank you everyone who gave me advise.  It really meant a lot to me and I did take it to heart.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Processing Grief - So hard, yet SO worth it!

It's been a challenging past few weeks for me and the kids.  We've been processing a lot of their grief together.  As great as it is to be able to do this with the kids, it is tiring and emotionally exhausting for all of us. 

It seems that their grief is not something that they can experience briefly then be able to quickly move on to other things.  Because a lot of their past and pain has been coming up a lot lately, we've had to tone things down a LOT. 

Outings have been very rare, and even our homeschooling routine has had to be flexible in order to allow the kids to feel what they're feeling and to process it.  We've been referring often to their life books and adding to them.

Because so much of their past is shared I often have several kids crying at once.  All of them need me to wrap my arms around them.  All of them need me to listen to their heart.  All of them are hurting.  Yet I am only one person.  At times, I feel so torn.  While I have 3 of the kids sitting on or near me, I leave one to cry on their own sometimes rolling around on the ground in fear that their grief will overcome them and become too much. 

Their rages and tantrums have escalated.  There are several more holes in the walls of their bedrooms.  Their behavior has regressed dramatically. 

Meanwhile, my sweet 19 month old baby needs her mama to comfort her while these rages go on.  She doesn't understand why all of her siblings are crying so much.  She doesn't understand why they are yelling, throwing things, breaking holes in walls.  She gets scared.  Last night, she got so scared she threw-up.  My heart aches for her, it aches for them.  Sometimes, I don't know what to do, who to help, how I can go on. 

It's been SO difficult! It's pulled at my every heartstring. I've cried wracking sobs nearly every moment I get alone to myself. I wonder if I'm up to the task. I wonder if I can ever be enough for them. I grieve that I cannot physically and sometimes emotionally meet the needs of all of them.  Sometimes I feel so worn out emotionally and physically from it all that I send them to their rooms for our daily quiet time knowing that they are not ready to leave my side.  Often their raging escalates during this transition.  Then, I hold my baby, rock her to sleep, and I cry some more.

Then something miraculous happens.  Today my son came out of quiet time with a hand written note for me.  it said:

"Mom ,
I love you mom so much mom.  I will never let you go mom 'cuz you are the best mom.  You help me so much mom.  I'll never let you go mom.  I love you so much!

That does a mama's heart good!  I'm crying even as I type this.  I know this is all worth it.  I know that I am witnessing miracles.  I know that I am so privileged to be able to do this.  And most importantly, I know that I am not doing it alone.  I know that our Lord is involved and His healing hands are touching the hearts of our family, including this mama's heart who often doesn't feel strong enough for the task that lies in front of me.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

To medicate or not?

With the advise of a therapist we were working with, I have taken my kids to see a psychiatrist. He and the therapist both suggested that some of them be on medication because they were SO disregulated SO often. Reluctantly, I put them on the medication to see if it would help. The potential side effects scare me and also I was afraid that they may become dependent on the medication.

I desperately want to find a way to help them regulate naturally, without the risks the anti-psychotic drugs have. Every time we get low on a prescription, I let it run out and decide that we can try to do our day to day things without the help of this medication. And after a few days of rages and kids who feel out of control (sometimes they tell me this themselves), I again, reluctantly, reorder the medicine and start over.

And their behaviors improve, dramatically.

Am I worring over something I shouldn't be? Am I wrong in not wanting to give them this medication when it obviously allows them to function so much better and it allows them to feel so much better about themselves? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

We all take natural supplements but have not seen much improvement by the supplements alon. There are other supplements that I have not tried that I think I will. In the mean time though, I feel torn. I feel torn between letting my kids have a chance at feeling in control of their emotions with a medicine that is proven to help them, but poses so many risks, verses trying alternative options while they feel out of control of their emotions and actions. Is that fair to put them through that?

In the meantime, I still have a huge learning curve ahead of me in how I can help them deal with these extreme emotions. Just when I think I've got a handle on it and I'm really helping one child, another will start to rage then sometimes even another all at once. Then I think, "How in the world can I meet all of their needs at once? How do I be there for them, help them through this when I need to be so much more than one person who is still learning?" Usually, I end up having to send one or more of them into their rooms to rage (to keep the others safe), while I help another one to regulate. Is that fair? I don't think it is. I feel torn and overwhelmed at the tasks that lie in front of me sometimes. I want to be there for them every time they need me but sometimes, I am forced to make them wait.

I know that it won't be like this forever. I know that once we all have the tools to help things run more smoothly (beginning with me, so I can subsequently give them those tools) things will get better. In the mean time, I'm studying every second I get. I'm leaning about natural supplements that helped other kids like mine. I'm learing about parenting interventions that will help their brains to begin to function differently. I'm praying with all of my heart that my learning curve won't have to last too long and that the kids will be able to live up to their full potential.

I can see their potential. I see a great set of kids who have so much ability and who are learning to love and care for others with such tenderness it touches my heart everyday. I don't fear for their future, because I believe that they will grow to become great adults full of kindness, love and responsibility. Having said that, I know that much of their progress depends on the kind of parent I am to them now. That is a responsibility I take very seriously. Because I can see so clearly where I lack, I am constantly striving to learn more, do more, and to be more for them.

I can't thank these kids enough for the awesome opportunity having them has given me to become a better person, a person with more understanding, compassion and love. They have given me the opportunity to evaluate my life, my actions and my thoughts in a very deep way, everyday of my life as I strive to become more like Christ and to love them as He does. And more importantly to care for them as He would if he were here.

But still I'm left with the question: Do I medicate them or not? Have any of you been in a similar situation? What did you decide? What was most helpful for your family?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Too honest?

I have a lot on my mind that I'm not sure I know how to put into words, so forgive me if this sounds jumbled or confusing. 

I've been thinking a lot lately about my family and the way I have been raising my children.  I've researched so much about parenting traumatized kids, yet I still feel like I know so little.  We have used several resources from therapists, parenting specialists, workshops and conferences to books, researching the internet and even reading blogs of other parents who have adopted traumatized children as well as briefly belonging on a yahoo group for adoptive parents.

In the process, I have come across parents who are feeling overwhelmed and out of control and who just wanted to vent.  (These ones feel very draining to me and I find that I have a hard time staying positive with my kids when I hear or read too much of this.)  Having said that, I feel that I have definantly been there and felt that!  I have also come across parents on the other side of the spectrum who paint a pretty picture that is all miraculous with no struggle, grief or adjustment period.  I have a hard time believing their story.  Don't get me wrong, there is MIRACLE in adoption.  There happiness and joy!  It is a beautiful thing.  However, there is also grief, loss and pain associated with it, especially when the child or children are older when they are adopted. 

I have also come across some ideas and theories in parenting these children.  And I have followed these ideas believing that the experts knew what they were talking about.  They had been there, done that and I was desperate for information and help.  I followed what they said.  It was hard!  And we have seen results from putting their suggestions into practice.  To be honest some of the parenting interventions didn't settle quite right with me.  Some of them were so unnatural to what I would intrinsically do and it was hard to follow, but since what I was already doing seemed to not be helping or improving our situation, I followed them. 

I don't want this to sound like I am ratting on or discounting what I have learned or done.  Please don't think that.  I think where my hang-up lies is in my own heart.  I think because I was dealing with so many behaviors I didn't understand or know what to do with, and because my kids were harming each other in MY home, I became overwhelmed and perhaps understood some things differently than they were meant. 

I did the parenting interventions.

I gave them all their own rooms.
I put alarms on their doors (to prevent them from harming each other).
I brought them home from school when it became clear to me that it was way more than they could handle.
I cuddled them.
I rocked them.
I bottle fed them.
I kept them near me.

All of these things I feel were absolutely needed and necessary to their progression.  All of these things have contributed hugely to their progression!

I also did some things, that were in the the books and seminars, that I regret and that I now am questioning.

I consequenced their actions.
I caught them in their lies.
I caught them in their stealing.
I've sent them away from the table for bad manners.
I've made them make restitution for harm and damage done to our home and members of our family.
I demanded respect and compliance.

In this process, I think I have allowed myself to become a behaviorist.  I've focused on their behaviors and trying to fix them.  I've allowed myself to become frustrated when they repeat the same behavior again and again, then to consequence them again and again, only to have them do it over and rage about the consequence once again.

I've demanded respect and compliance.  I did this because it is what I felt the experts were saying to do.  I now don't know whether that's what they meant or not.

I always felt that it didn't go along with how our Father in Heaven parents us and I have really struggled with this.  I've thought many times to myself, "I mess up over and over and over, yet He always is willing to accept me, faults and all, with open arms when I come back to Him.  Am I being that kind of parent?  Do I love my children unconditionally like that?  Do I show them love no matter what?  Or I am too focused on fixing them?"

I've decided that I don't want to be a behaviorist any more, I don't want to focus on fixing behaviors.

I want to look into what those behaviors mean and help my children find their voice.  I don't want to demand complaince and respect.  I want my children to want that for themselves.  I am realizing that that won't happen unless I help them find their voice, unless I listen to what those behaviors mean and address that instead of stiffling it by focusing on getting the 'behaviors' to stop. 

Everyone wants to feel important, loved, cherished and HEARD.  Am I giving that to my children?

My husband says that I am too hard on myself.  He says that I don't give myself enough credit for how far we've come as a family.  Maybe he's right, but sometimes all I can see is what I'm doing wrong and how it needs to get better.  I don't mean this in a depressed, poor me, kind of way, but in a way of realizing my mistakes and weakness so that I can do something about them.  So I can take them to the Lord and He can turn them into strengths.  Although I do sometimes feel overwhelmed with regret.  Sometimes, I just wish I could start all over and do things better, but then again, would I know what to do?  Even now?  I just hope and pray constantly that our Savior can make up for where I lack. 

Has any of this made sense at all?  It still feels jumbled in my head.  Can any of you parents relate to any of this?