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

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

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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

 

 

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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

 

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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

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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

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Jan 202016
 

cat smelling flowerIt’s imperative to take care of yourself when you have special needs kids, multiple small children, a member of your family with long-term, chronic illness, or similar demands that suck you dry.

Make time for yourself, (even a few minutes), when you have any of those situations, or when you have any crisis that lasts for more than a week.

I think that a week is about all a person can handle without beginning to do some type of mind and body refreshing, or self care. It could keep you from running down the middle of the street, screaming at the top of your lungs.

What does self-care look like? It’s not usually just one thing, but a series of small things that will help you feel a little better, and it is different for all of us. It is something that gets your head out of the situation -at least for a few minutes.

I like to put cream on my feet, and if a week has gone by without that, then I have been under too many demands. I like to connect with a best friend for a visit or long conversation -uninterrupted! A meal in a restaurant, a short walk. A babysitter for the kids! A soak in the tub, a manicure or haircut. Sometimes, it is fifteen minutes near a sunny window with my eyes closed. (It’s winter here, or a lawn chair would do just fine.)

What little things refresh you? Make a list, and be reasonable. (No trips to Hawaii.) Try to do one thing every day. When we had Lilly, we had years of one crisis after another. Hey, I lived through it with her, and now there are new ones with other family. Does anyone have a life without troubles? No.

And take time to pray and connect with the Creator. He created you, and is able to refresh you.

Wishing you the best, Nealie

 

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Jan 112016
 

If I can just get through this, life has to get better.

If I can just get through this surgery . .

If I can just get through the funeral . . .

If I can just get through these obligations . . .

If I can just get through . . .

When life has you by the neck, and each day is a struggle, how do you get through it?

A friend told me yesterday that she gets mad when people say to those struggling, “God will never give you more than you can bear.” She said that is not true, and that verse concerns temptation, not the burdens of life. She said that sometimes we do have more than we can bear, and that’s when, if we know God, we can say, “But for God . . ”

But for God’s help, I would have died.

But for God’s intervention, I would have lost hope.

But for God. He will give you the strength to get through the worst situations, which are impossible without Him.

When we were raising Lilly, we had days that were so traumatic and draining that we didn’t think we’d survive.

You may be in the middle of something that has emptied you of every ounce of energy and hope. Step back and put the situation in a very big hand, (after all, the earth is His footstool), and little by little there will be change enough to get through. It may not become perfect, or what you want it to become, but you will be able to breathe again. -Nealie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dec 102015
 

We all have routines that we like and seem to thrive on. Get up, drink coffee, pray, exercise, shower, eat breakfast, look at the news, begin work, etc. Chosen routines help you feel content and more peaceful. God help the person who might keep you from getting that java or shower!

Breaks in the familiar are magnified for special needs children and kids from trauma backgrounds. Holidays, vacations, parties, and illnesses can cause emotional upheaval and disruption similar to how you feel when your routine is fractured, only much worse.

Our special kids may not have the internal regulation or understanding that assures them that life will return to normal in time. Put yourself in their place when you think things through.

These kids need structure to feel safe. Parties and holiday breaks may sound fun, but the feelings that they generate may be scary. My advice:

1. Keep things simple in decorating and planning. And is your idea of a “terrific trip” suitable for what they can handle?

2. If you want to go all-out on something, make sure your child is insulated from it, or your all-out will result in fall-out. (Is it worth it?)

2. Gifts should be few and keyed specifically to the child.

3. The fewer multiple strangers around, the better.

4. Plan ahead. Have a “buddy” for your child. Make it someone the child knows, and who will stick with them during an event. A spouse or mature sibling could do it for thirty or forty-five minutes, then have the next person assigned relieve them so that there is a rotation, and nobody gets burned out.

5. Where/who is your backup? I remember writing in Chasing Lilly about a time that we took Lilly out of state, and almost didn’t get her back home, because she went completely ballistic at a rest stop. What would we have done if she had taken off and been picked up by a stranger before we could have found her?

6. Prep your special needs kids, but don’t talk about an event too much beforehand, as that increases anxiety.

7. Realize that there may be a fixed internal clock that is triggered by certain events and times of the year. If a child is new to your home, tip-toe through these until you know your child better. There is no trip or party worth tearing up your family.

8. And lastly, I might get some objections to this, but expect your verbal child to say thank you for gifts. One Christmas, Lilly received a very nice gift from a family member. When she opened it, she rudely said that she didn’t want it. They offered to return it and get something else, but I handed the gift to them and said, “No. She has been rude to you and is not thankful. Return it and go out to eat with the money.” Lilly realized her loss, and she was more appreciative of gifts given to her after that.

Peace and joy to you, Nealie

 

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