I mentioned in my post last week that I've been feeling overwhelmed for a while (read that for several years) and that I'm implementing some things that are helping. There are several things that are working together, and it has definitely been a journey.
As you know, my husband and I have adopted 4 of our 6 children. With adoption comes some extra "stuff". Their behaviors are different. Their responses to normal discipline are different. They are in many ways "extra".
Many people think that if you adopt a baby, you will give them all the love they need to heal from whatever because they won't have experienced all of the same things that a child who had been in foster care for years might have. But, the reality is that simply the fact that they are adopted is a trauma. And many were traumatized in some way in womb, either by abuse of the mom, or excessive stress that the mom was under, or drug use during pregnancy, or more. This almost guarantees that there will be physiological differences in these children that need to be addressed throughout their lives. And, being an adoptive family, we have to approach some of these issues differently because these kids often have deep feelings of shame and fears of abandonment that need to be addressed and understood.
So, these facts and thinking have steered a lot of my parenting techniques over the last several years. And, I've offered more grace to my youngest two than I did my biological children as they were growing up. But guess what- a lot of parents find that they struggle with their biological children because of other things outside their control, be it health issues, environmental issues, financial issues, etc. The list goes on and on. As parents, we are all truly doing the best we can with what we are given. I don't want you to hear any superiority in my voice here, and I want to be very clear that judgement does not have a place here. As moms, we judge each other more often that we help each other sometimes, and that can leave us feeling even more alone, and helpless. So, just because I can find tangible factors that contribute to where I am in this parenting journey does not mean that another mom has something to be ashamed of because they don't have these visible, obvious factors that lead to where she is.
So, here's my heart.
My youngest two are very hard. But I am a seasoned parent, and part of the "if your kid doesn't tell you they hate you at least once, you're doing it wrong" club, and feel like I can let things roll off of my skin fairly well. But then I have these kids who are constant constant. More often than not I am reminded of the fact that I am simply not enough. Some days this leaves me in the corner of my room in tears of desperation. Sometimes it serves as a sober reminder of just how much we all need Jesus. The truth is "we" aren't enough for anyone. We all need Jesus, because we are all people who fall short of the Glory of God All.The.Time.
So, as my kids' behavior became more and more difficult I got really good at ignoring the bad behavior not because I didn't want to deal with it, but because I wanted to pick my battles, so that I could choose relationship. They could say and do quite a lot and it really wouldn't affect me (as far as they knew) unless they said something like, "You don't love me". Then they would get my attention and quick because I know very well what it feels like to feel like your mother doesn't love you and I never ever ever want any of my children to feel that way.
Well, over time they learned real well that the way to get mommy's attention was to say I didn't love them, and that escalated to that I hated him, and eventually to I wish I was dead. It's a truly humbling and heart breaking experience to hear these statements separately, but even more so when they're all strung into one statement.
We took the kids to psychologists, and neurologist, had sleep studies done. We've been to different counselors and read every book we could find. We've prayed over them, and prayed for ourselves. To say it has been a heartbreaking experience would be an understatement. We've had many diagnosis thrown at us, ADHD, ODD, PDD, SPD, maybe Autism, or Bipolar. My mom heart says attachment has a whole lot to do with it.
Finally, we found a psychologist who specializes in what's called ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) Therapy. She doesn't bill insurance, and we have to pay cash, but she is worth her weight in gold. Through her techniques we have begun to see more of their personalities, and they are happier children. We are much more strict on what goes on during the day, and we have a structured plan of discipline in place and while I would not say our life is easy now, it is definitely better. Instead of a constant state of rage, we now deal with them as they come, and it's frequently only a couple of time outs/ etc a week. We have been able to isolate that our son especially has some pretty intense anxiety and that brings out the worst in him.
One major component of this program is that William has a schedule. He doesn't get to move on to something until he completes the task. Implementing a schedule has been a huge thing for us all. I'll talk more on that next time, because it can hold it's own post....