Tuesday 30 March 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Adoption 101 or what no one ever told me.

A conversation was started last week by Living with RAD about the journey of adoption and how we live and survive in world that somedays overwhelms us and that many of us had no idea we had signed up for. A number of other bloggers have weighed in over the past few days.

I wanted to weigh in as well but in a different sort of way. When I started this journey with Jack, two years ago I had no idea just how hard it would be. I did not know that my life would be filled with anger, rage, poop, sadness, longing, fear and developmental  and cognitive delays that could of been prevented.

I knew it would be hard but no one told me it would be this hard.

No one told me because no one I spoke to had ever adopted kids like ours. There is not worker at our local agency who has adopted older kids. There is no one in my town and none of my friends had done it either. We stumbled through as best we could for the first 6 months. We had hope that it would get easier. It didn't.

We got therapy for Kevin ( Jack and I already had are own therapists), we learned about Beyond Consequences, we started using it. We read every book we could find and then one day I found J and through J her Mom. L saved me. Reading her blog was like looking into my living room and seeing my life from the outside. I learned that I was not alone. There were other parents waging the same battles that we were each and everyday.

Bloggers became my lifeline, I started spending hours reading and learning from other parents experiences. I started to see that they might be a light some where in this darkness that was parenting these children. I shifted and changed along with my children, learning to be the kind of parent that they needed. There were no instructions, it was all trial and error and most days I am still flying by the seat of my pants. I have learned so much from other parents and from their blogs along the way.

If you are new to this parenting journey may I suggest that you get your hands on the following:

Wounded Children Healing Homes - I can not say enough good things about this book. Kari turned me on to it and then Jayne ( one of the authors) left a comment on my blog. It is the first time that I have seen a book that talks about all the things we have all been saying about Adoption this week. It goes through just as brutally hard this can be while providing hope and help for the future with your children. I think it should be required reading.
Beyond Consequences - I talk about Heather a lot here. It helps you to understand your kids, it provide amazing insight into why the behaviours exist.
Deborah Gray, Daniel Hughes, Gregory Keck, and Denise Best are all amazing authors who provide hope, insight and some light for the journey.
When you know what a theraputic parent is, go and meet Christine, watch her videos, absorb her brillance.

Know that if you are just starting out on your adoption journey, half way through or feeling like you are drowning that you are not alone. There are lots of us out here, we have lived through intense challenges with our children. We continue to have new challenges, we are learnig and growing and changing.

I will not tell you that it is getting easier because that would be a lie but I can tell you that I am better person and parent than I was two years ago when I started this journey. I find hope in the little things and if I can get these two children to adulthood with some sanity still in tact then I will of been successful.

Archived Post 2010 - 10 tips to Toilet Train an 8 year old.

This is by far the most popular post I ever wrote in all my years of blogging!

Yes I said an 8 year old.

In the world of older child adoption toileting issues are very common and not something that is talked about very much. It is very real and very challenging for many adoptive families because it is not something that they can really talk about with other parents. We have been through this, we have worked hard, we sought medical interventions and although we are not free of the issue we are well through the worst of it. I thought I would talk about it here because I know that there are a lot of parents who are dealing with the same issues and after a lot of mistakes I have learned a few things.

When we first learned about our boys one of the first things that we heard was that Kevin had "soiling" issues andRandall rarely made it to the bathroom on time and had a lot of "accidents", (those were the terms that were used by the social workers who presented the boys file to us). We did not think that it was a significant issue but we would soon discover that we were wrong. Because the boys had very different issues and for very different reasons I will discuss them separately.

Kevin came into care when he was 5. He had been neglected, his biological father had bowel issues (which we only just found out) and he had experienced a lot of trauma. When Kevin was apprehended it was discovered that he was a "poop holder", meaning he would not got to the toilet when needed, instead he would hold his bowel movements until they began to leak out. This is a common behaviour among traumatized children and one that often leads to more trauma because the issue is not understood or openly discussed.

I was pretty sure that I could handle this, I had toilet trained a lot of little kids and I was sure this was just an issue of time and love - HA, I was so wrong. Kevin wore pull-ups every day in an attempt to control the mess and one of the first things we did was get him out of them. Then we used them as a threat when he did not comply with the toileting routine. That was a mistake. He also had a lovely habit or putting feces on his hands and wiping it on whatever was closest. It was awful. I began to understand that this was not something that was going to go away with a little love and training.

Here is what has worked  for us in regards to the challenge of encopresis (poop holding) in older children

1.  Buy them a large supply of underwear and keep multiple pairs in the bathroom where they are easily accessed by the child. Do not put your child is diapers or pull ups.

2. Create a schedule for sitting, in the summer it was after each meal and during the school year it was breakfast, after school and dinner. We always had to come straight home from school because Calvin had held it all day and was usually desperate.

3. Talk to your doctor, get your child on a daily stool softener, it may need to be given for as a long as a year. Prolonged stool holding causes damage to the bowel and the nerves of the anus, it is a medical problem and it often gets to the point that the child is unable to maintain any control because they actually do feel the urge to go. Chronic constipation becomes a secondary issue.

4. No Consequences for toilet issues. When your child soils their clothes have them clean up but do not assign any other consequence ( it does not work, trust me). Be vigilant, do not let them sit in soiled clothes because they will happily stay in them thinking that they are going to get some attention, negative attention is attention to a traumatized child. When I even thought that the odour in the room might be from Kevin he was escorted to the bathroom and his underwear were changed. Praising Kevin got us no where, if his underwear were clean I would apologise for making a mistake and move on.

5. Clean up is his responsibility. We used facecloths for clean up, underwear were washed out by Kevin and put into a bucket or washer with the rinsed out face cloths. This was supervised activity as he could not be trusted to be in the bathroom alone but no comments were made ( well not once I learned better), I just stood there. When he was finished I released him to go back to his task.

6. Talk to them about how your body feels when you have relieved yourself and about how that feels. Do not be shy, this is not something they understand and they need to learn it.

7. Teach them how to wipe their bottom. We had a lot of success with flushable wipes, it was easier for him to get himself clean.

8. Diet makes a difference. High fiber, whole grains, little refined sugar and lots of water. If the stool is softer it is easier to keep it moving.

9. Remember that many children who have experienced trauma use this as a coping strategy, do not be surprised when you have a week of good days and then it starts happening again. Sometimes anxiety or anger can cause a child to begin soiling again after a long period of success.

10. Be Patient, let me say that again Be Patient. It took us well over a year to get to a place that we had a lot of success and even then there were still steps backward. We came very close to major surgery in an attempt to correct the issues. It will 2 years this summer and we still use stool softeners everyday and probably will for some time to come.

Randall was a different story, he held his poop to but not like his brother did and it was easier to deal with because it had not become a medical issue with him. Randall was mostly just to busy to stop playing and go to the bathroom. Dealing with a boy who won't stop to go pee is a lot easier. He was having fun and frankly he just did not care if he was wet.

Do numbers 1, 2 4,6 and 10 from the above listand then buy a watch with an alarm. Set that watch to ring every hour. Put it on. Each and every time that it beeps you send that child to go to the bathroom. In summer we let him go outside which was a huge incentive for a little boy. Make him go all the time, make him be successful because he has no other choice. Carry lots of extra clothes when you are out of the house and when he says he has to go drop everything at find a toilet.

And here are things that I did that I regret because they did not work and I am sure that I will hear about them later when the boys are telling the world about all the mistakes I made.

1. Do not punish them for accidents/soiling/doing it on purpose. They clean it up, where ever it is and move on. Sometimes things get ruined, throw them away, explain it, talk about, pitch it and move on.

2. Do not shame them by saying that no other kid there age does this. No other kid they know has had the life they have had.

3. Do not lose your temper because they have had an accident at a friends house and you are embarrassed.

4. Do not put them back in diapers or pull ups or threaten to do so.

5. Do not expect that this going to be quick process, it may take years.

6. Do not let siblings shame one another about toileting issues at home or in public. In our house that results in consequence for the child doing the teasing.

7. Do not let your child manipulate you into believing things to distract you from the issue - oh well it happened because so and so was in the bathroom and I could not get it in - this was usually a lie in our house and attempt to distract the adults from the poop on the wall.

8. Do not let your guard down, it is an invitation for them to walk all over it.

9. Do not use a reward system, it is to hard for them to be successful in many cases and they just get discouraged.

10. Well I think I only made 9 mistakes because I can't think of another one.

Hang in there, be patient and know that you are not alone.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Half way there.

We are half way through March Break and we are all still alive. The boys are outside playing the yard with nerf guns ( yes I let my kids play with nerf guns, there are plenty of things they are not allowed and we live in the country so shooting foam arrows at tress is okay with me) and have been all afternoon. We are going out to Jack's son house for dinner tonight because he is leaving the country for 7 months and I would like the boys to have a little less energy than they currently do when we get there. Tired is sometimes a good thing and I know that once we get there the TV will go on and they will stare blankly for a few hours so running around now is a good plan.

I listened to the last of my Beyond Consequences (BC) parenting classes this afternoon and some of the things that Heather talked about as parents chatted in really resonated for me. One was remembering that the behaviour we see  in our kids is usually a fear response

BC is different from a lot of other parenting strategies ( for kids who have had trauma and have attachment issues) because the belief is that all the behaviour that we see comes form the fear that the child has deep within themselves that they are ________ ( worthless, unlovable, stupid, etc.). The solution changing the behaviours is addressing the fears and working through those emotions in a loving way.

Here is a perfect example from this morning, Kevin looked sad at breakfast I asked him what was wrong and he said that he had a bad dream last night. I asked him what it was about and he said that he dreamt that I was gone. I assured him I was not going anywhere and then Randall barged into the converation and it ended. A little later I assured him again quietly in his ear that I was here to stay and he shouted out " You wear bikini underwear" I corrected his language and pulled him back to what I said. I said it again and had him repeat it, gave him a kiss and moved on.

 I knew that he had actually heard me but he was so scared that he had put his fear out there that he needed to misbehave to take away from the fact that I was addressing his fear and making it a little less powerful. I knew this and did not react to the behaviour in the way that he expected, instead I just corrected him and moved on. He has been loving, affectionate and looking for reassurance all day but he has not been angry or disregulated wghich is what would of happened if I had gotten drawn into the behaviour that he was showing me earlier. We would of had a crappy day and I can bet that he would of worked at misbehaving until he raged and got all the emotions out that way.

The second thing that really stood out for me was her take on video games. When the boys moved in they were both addicted to game boys, Randall much more than Kevin but they both enjoyed getting lost in them whenever they could. Jack and I slowly weaned them off and by the time school had started they were not being played at all except for when we were in the car for more than 1 hour. It worked well and we started to see Randall learning to do other things like read comics and play board games. We allowed them to play computer games on the weekends but started to notice that Kevin would disassociate when he was playing and would always have an accident. Randall became a whining machine always asking when he could play and how long he could play for.  Eventually the computer was taken away as well.

Randall still longs for them, he asks to play and is always on us to let him have one but he is a happier kid without them. There is less arguing, whining and disassociating. I have heard/read and strongly believe that kids who have experienced significant trauma use video games to escape from the world, it is a coping mechanism. It allows them to hide and not interact and I am not willing to let that happen, my kids need to learn to function in the world.

Heather also believes that it is an escape, a way to move into a world were they can be really successful and not have to deal with all their feelings. I could not agree more.

I am not saying that you should take your kids video games away, I am just saying this works for us.

PS - I wrote this post this afternoon but saved it as a draft. I just got home from dinner out and a tough goodbye for Jack and the boys. 2 little boys who think that the big brother they love may never come back even though we tell them he will. Why the heck should they believe us, everyone else who leaves never comes back. Kevin raged on the way home and we had to pull the car over twice, he had a good cry on my shoulder the second time and then made it home but he is one angry and confused little guy. He is finally in bed althoughRandall has a few new bruises and scratches from Kevin trying to hurt him, Randall likes to ramp it up when he knows that Kevin is angry - not a good plan because he always gets hurt, one day he will get it.