Oct 052017
 

Bruce wore tiger-striped reading glasses today. Some I picked up from the dollar store. He has no fashion sense and doesn’t care, so it’s amusing when he is accidentally in style.

He needed a bandage because he just had something on his face treated by the dermatologist. So I heard him yell, “Don’t tell me this is all we have for bandaids?”

I responded, “What? You don’t like bright purple ones? Lime green? How about the ones with hearts? Oh, and we have some with Minions on them!”

Tiger stripes framed the resignation in his eyes. He must have sensed what was not fashionable right then. Imagine that. 🙂

Bruce has always had my back. I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did with Lilly without him. Working with a traumatized child is an uphill climb, and you have to have some help along the way. Maybe the “Bruce” in your life is a close friend, a brother, or a group of parents supporting each other. Don’t try to go for any length of time by yourself.

Where can you find some support? Try your local foster agency, either county or private. They will know about support groups. Ask around if you belong to a church. Here are organizations that are helpful:

BEYOND Trauma and Attachment (BETA)  A Facebook open support group . They offer humor, information, and retreats.

Attachment & Trauma Network (ATN)   Great international resource with a crisis hotline: 888-656-9806.

The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children is on Face Book. TLC 

Institute for Attachment and Child Development IACD

See my RESOURCE tab on the home page for more help. <3 Nealie

*(Minions is a trademark of Universal City Studios LLC)

 

Lesson from the Spider

 Chasing Lilly, Foster children, Fostering, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Lesson from the Spider
Sep 212017
 

I went to the sink and was surprised to see that a spider had crafted a web over part of the sink bowl, like it now belonged to HIM. I don’t know how he pulled that off.

When you make up your mind to love and stick with a traumatized child, behaviors they throw at you are like that spider’s web. The child may surprise and shock you with their sheer craftiness and obstinacy. Beware, though, of becoming entangled in the web of their antics . That happens so easily when our emotions and tempers explode. I know! Remember when my halo  cracked?

Another word to whoever will listen. My love may not demonstrate like your love, or the love that is politcally correct. Take care of yourself . . .and never stop loving.

-Nealie

Aug 312017
 

summer pictureI have to tell you about one of the funniest things I’ve seen recently.

Bruce and I got a trampoline for the yard, and it has an enclosure around the sides. There is a zipper to open the side to let kids in, and then it has to be zipped back up to keep kids from falling off the trampoline.

Ari, my book illustrator and granddaughter, got up on the trampoline and climbed inside the opening. She zipped it up quickly and said, “I’m glad there’s a zipper. That bee won’t get in now!”

I cracked up laughing, “Ari, don’t you think it could still get in? Look, the whole top is open!”

She was embarrassed and smiled when she realized she hadn’t seen the big picture.

But, I have to say that when you are taking a direct hit from something, you block where necessary, and given that, Ari wasn’t so silly.

I remember many stop-gap measures we took trying to parent Lilly. And some seemed ridiculous, like balancing a spool of thread on her doorknob to keep her inside her room at night. If the spool dropped and hit the metal cookie sheet on the floor, we’d know she was out… You may wonder, what about a motion alarm? Lilly learned to dismantle or get past those many times, and the alarms would go off because we or a cat went by, and that alarm noise is unbearable. So, a spool of thread carefully balanced on a doorknob worked for a while. Then Lilly figured a way past that. It gets complicated! 🙂

My point is this:  Do what you can, and never quit trying! Some measures work for a day. Some work for an hour. Some may work for a long time, but you have to block problems as they come. Do not give up. Don’t kick yourself for not always seeing the pig picture. At least you are doing something positive.

And, by the way, that bee gave up and went away. It wasn’t able to figure out that the top was open. At least not that time. Just like Lilly, LOL!

-Nealie

 

 

 

 

Aug 012017
 

Some time ago, a relative buried his mother. Not long after, he and his brother and father went to the gravesite to see the newly delivered gravestone. They took pictures, and he showed me a photo of the headstone on his cell phone.

It was an ornately carved, big, beautiful piece of marble. But something was wrong, and I noticed it right away.

“Your last name is spelled wrong,” I commented.

He thought I was joking, and I had to tell him to LOOK at the picture.

He was shocked. “I can’t believe it! How did we miss that?!”

I understood how three people could miss something so obvious. And it was their own last name, for Pete’s sake. It was because emotional turmoil blinded them.

That’s why those of us working with people who have mental health problems need a team of people to shape how we view things. I don’t know how we could have seen our way all these years with Lilly, without the different team member’s input and insight, because of the continual emotional upheaval and exhaustion. These team members have been guardians, social workers, doctors, medication RN’s, and therapists. And sometimes, it’s a friend who visits Lilly and notices something I don’t, because I am too close to the situation.

My advice is to take advice, as long as it goes with your gut feeling of what is right. Don’t try to be all and do all. You will need help along this journey.

<3 Nealie

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 042016
 

I ran into someone that I hadn’t seen in about fifteen years today. Long story short, she is really going through it with a child they adopted.

The girl is 14 or 15 now, and went back and forth between the birth mother and foster care from a young age. After a neglectful and turbulent early childhood, she was adopted by this friend, whose family had been respite providers during those years.

Good foster families play such an important part in anchoring and providing stability for children that have no stability in their lives. And usually there is no thank-you from the child, who may be unable to appreciate the safe haven that has been provided.

Helping a kid who doesn’t seem to want help, (and is often defiant and destructive to the family unit), is a hard burden to bear. I felt for my friend, because we have been there with Lilly. I feel like we’ve been to hell and back with Lilly.

Has it been worth it? Absolutely! What advice do I have for people in this situation? Here is a mini-list of tips:

1. Take care of your marriage. (I will talk more about this topic in two weeks, so stay tuned.)

2. Take care of your health. Eat nutrient rich foods and be active physically.

3. Have a list of people on your team, and their numbers. An actual list. After you put down the professionals, rack your brain to  add helpful people who are not professionals. When in crisis, if you don’t have a list, you may not be able to focus on who to call for help.

4. Know the signals that will tell you that your child is becoming dis-regulated or agitated. With Lilly, she would pace, suck her thumb, and hunch her shoulders. When these happened, I knew we were headed for trouble if there wasn’t an intervention.

5. Think about interventions. Make a list of things that could be used as interventions. More about this in weeks to follow.

6. Don’t hesitate to call for help! It’s when you try to do it all alone that either you get harmed, or something really bad may happen.

7. Document everything unusual and date it. Add names of anyone who heard or saw what you are documenting. I’m talking about unusual or bizarre behavior, harm to animals, self, or others; accusations, fire-starting, running off, breaking items, stealing, etc.

With the holidays coming, it is wise to be proactive if you don’t already have these things in place. Nothing is fool-proof, but you will fail if you don’t think about this seriously.

Love my readers, Nealie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 122016
 

Are You a PuristA Purist has strict or precise rules that do not vary, regardless of the situation.

I know God says that we aren’t supposed to lie, but  have to believe that He was okay with it when Corrie Ten Boom’s family hid the Jews from the Gestapo, and lied to do it.

A purist would have turned them over to the Gestapo, because it’s wrong to tell a lie.

What am I getting at? Someone had a special-needs child, and his fish died. It was a fish that could NOT have been identified by the child in a police line-up.

The purist insisted that the child be told the fish died, even though there was a high possibility of a melt-down and self-harming after the child was told the fish was deceased.

Someone else felt that it was fine to replace the fish and not say anything. Replace it as many times as needed, and make that the longest-living fish in the history of the world. Why? Because there have been too many crazy incidents in this child’s life, and he isn’t stable.

Personally, I don’t believe that one-size-fits-all when it comes to damaged children, and I’d vote for the fish that lives forever.

Comments either way are welcome. 🙂 Nealie

This post contains an affiliate link.

 

 

What is Therapeutic Parenting?

 Foster children, Fostering, Uncategorized  Comments Off on What is Therapeutic Parenting?
Jun 112016
 

Therapeutic Parenting means parenting in a manner that brings healing to the child. That’s my definition. I have a confession, though. I used to see the “peu” in therapeutic and think pe-u, because it’s HARD to be therapeutic. It’s work!

Here is an excerpt from Chasing Lilly that demonstrates therapeutic parenting:

The teachers looked weary and relieved to see me because their classroom had been turned into a three-ring circus. Lilly had taken off her shirt and thrown it, chewed on her undershirt and pulled at it until there were holes, threw her shoes, peed on the floor in several places, blew snot out of her nose, fought with the teachers, and cussed them out.

Miss Coops started to gather up the scattered clothing from the floor as well as a jacket, and she brought them to me. I took the items but said, “Evidently she didn’t want to wear these in class, so she won’t be wearing them home. It’s kind of cold out, but she made her decision.”

Mrs. Firm looked awed and said, “You’re even tougher than I am.”

I marched my little charge down the hall, through the crowd, and outside toward the car. More than a few stared at us and (I’m sure) wondered at the homeless-looking urchin in bare feet, but I was getting used to being Lilly’s mother.

I didn’t scold her, but asked if she’d like to hold my hand as we walked to the car. At first she said no, but after a few yards, she grabbed my hand and sadly said, “I’m not a good girl.”

“Why do you say that?”

“I don’t want to tell you,” she said with her head down.

“I already know, Lilly, but I still love you.”

When we got home I told her that I was going to rock her.

“I don’t want rocked,” she said.

“Well, I’m going to rock you anyway.”

“Why do you have to rock me?”

I looked at her little face and responded, “Because I want you to know that I love you, and I am so proud of you when you are a good girl.”

Lilly paused to contemplate that statement, and she then climbed into my lap. We rocked quietly and the only sound was the chair creaking on the hardwood floor.

She sighed and said, “I am so worn out today.”

 

There are time that I have failed miserably being therapeutic. Other times, I’ve seen great success when the extra effort was spent, and healing and progress would result.

Dr. Karyn Purvis has excellent information on parenting in a way that brings healing.

Therapeutic parenting takes time. You can’t do this in a day. Keep at it! -Nealie

 

 

Apr 242016
 

For a long time every morning I would pass a sign that said, “Miss a Day, Miss a Deal.”

I hated that sign. I don’t even shop there. But that slogan … it made me slightly anxious, because it implied that I was missing something.

Stupid, I know. It goes in the same category as comments such as, “Why did you do that?” Why did I do what?

I remember being at my sister’s house when she was dying. She ordered me to pack her things in boxes, and to use packing tape to seal them. I haven’t been able to hear that rip of packing tape without sadness since that day.

Think of something that causes a little anxiety for you. If little things like these can get us going sometimes, imagine what might trigger a traumatized child.

The color of a room may bring back bad memories.

A certain noise may be a trigger. Maybe it preceded abuse.

Seasons, holidays, people with dark hair/light hair -who knows? We need to be sensitive to the things that may seem to be triggers, and not just chalk-up behavior to disobedience or defiance.

If there are problem behaviors that defy reasoning, then maybe something like this is at work. Pay attention to repeated reactions to certain people or things. Trauma kids often don’t even know why they get upset, so we need to help them by paying attention. Say a child has a memory of dropping their ice cream cone and getting beaten for the mess it made. It would be easy to assume that ice cream could be a trigger. Who would think that something that is good and fun to you, could be a negative for a child?

Keep a log of episodes and what went on those days. What season was it? Where were you? Any sounds in the background? Any different foods served?

A therapist with trauma training and knowledge can be valuable.

Listening to other trauma-parents can also be helpful.

Love my readers, Nealie

 

Apr 122016
 

Lilly is in her twenties and wants to smoke. She’s told me that she has the right to smoke cigarettes, and she is correct.

The only thing that I could come up with (to deter her), was to say that I also have a right. I have a right to stop bringing sweets when I visit her, if she starts smoking cigarettes.

Today she asked me again about getting a hooka pipe. That was probably the 20th time she has asked. Picturing Lilly with a big hooka pipe makes me giggle. Can’t help it. I think that she means an electronic cigarette.

So, do my readers have any input here, other than getting religious on me? (I don’t think that smoking will keep you out of heaven, but you will get there faster if you smoke.) What about an electronic cigarette? What are the potential dangers to Lilly and those around her, and what are the costs?

Do you think that she should smoke an electronic cigarette? Do you think she should get a hooka pipe?

Can you think of other ways to talk her out of it?

Developmentally disabled people can and do drink, smoke, and become addicted to drugs and alcohol. I added a new resource that will help families of DD people navigate when this happens.

Love my readers, Nealie

Jan 292016
 

Not again. But if I don’t write down what he says, how will I remember it -and laugh? Here goes today’s conversation:

“I really want to live in a cave.”

“Then you would be called a caveman. A lot of guys want to do that.”

“Yes, and I want to eat steak. They eat steak, don’t they?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“I wish I could find a steak.”

He continued, “They wear fuzzy dresses for clothes. I wouldn’t want to wear a fuzzy dress.”

“Hmm, well, they must want to stay covered.”

He giggled, “And some cavemen have bones in their hair. Pretty funny, right?”

I began to wonder if the caveman thing is a dream that all men think about from maybe age three? I know that Bruce has mentioned it a time or two. 🙂

Love my readers, Nealie