Does Your RAD Child Do Sports?

Having a RAD kiddo involved in extracurricular activities is several blog posts worth of conversation. The pros and cons of whether to and how to have a lot to unpack. But I wanted to focus on this particular question…does your RAD child do sports? Because sports had a special set of potential pitfalls for the RAD kiddo that some other activities do not.

As we have discussed, our RAD kiddos are control freaks. They want things to happen when they want, how they want and the way they want. This makes team sports especially difficult when selfless play is valued or it’s the policy of the league that everyone get a chance to play. And they may not be on board with all the rules the coach requires be followed for practices, particularly if you are also dealing with additional ADHD or ODD disorders.

Then there’s the impulsivity side of RAD. Sports which don’t have constant motion like baseball or football or track can be difficult for a child who may not be able to control his impulses for action or outbursts. Sitting for long periods of time or standing in an outfield may not match a child prone to unchecked impulsive behaviors. Riding on a bus to an away game may be difficult for a child who cannot keep their hands to themselves.

August is naturally athletic. Has been since he was little. He has boundless energy and is extremely coordinated. And fearless. And he wanted to do everything. Baseball, swimming, basketball, ice hockey, you name it. But he didn’t want to learn any of it. He loved ice skating and was very good. He wanted to play hockey but we told him the league required that he take lessons to learn how to play the game and learn the rules. August said he knew how to play. We said it didn’t matter, that was the rule; he wouldn’t budge and never played hockey.

He was good at basketball but he was a ball hog. He was good at baseball but not the best on any team and quit because he kept getting put in the outfield. August thought he was better than the other kids on his team. We had some good success with lacrosse. It very closely matched his favorite non-sport activity which was whacking at things with sticks. And it was constant motion. But his off the field behavior finally got in the way of that as we had to move him to a school with no team. And eventually to a treatment center.

So, what is the answer? Of course, as with everything, you know your RAD kiddo the best. What is doable this year may not be next year and vice versa. But of course it starts with excellent conversation. If your child is young and wants to be on a city soccer team, it may mean a parent steps up to assistant coach. If that’s not an option, then an in-depth conversation with the coach is necessary so they understand your child and their particular issues. Not as a warning, but as a way to continue the treatment you provide. Make sure the language is the same from all the adults who interact with your RAD kiddo. Same as you have with teachers.

Also, consider which sports might be easiest. For August, I thought sports where he was an individual contributor but in a team environment might be best. Swimming, track (except for the down time), golf, tennis (more whacking!). Of course, things got bad before we could ever explore those avenues (though we did do golf lessons) but that always made the most sense to me.

Whatever sports your child chooses, make sure you are their biggest cheerleader on the sidelines and support their dreams. Seeing you rooting for them will be a great boost in your bond!

Until next time,

Shannon

When You Just Need Sleep

I had something else planned for today but then I saw this in a magazine and I had to reprint it. Sometimes us RAD parents need all the help we can get to get a good night’s sleep. Sometimes, some more “unconventional” methods would be even more helpful. This comes from Elizabeth Preston from the latest issue of Real Simple Magazine:

Sound Machine Options That Would Actually Help Me Sleep

  • Flowing stream outside a rental house where I have absolutely no cell reception unless there’s an actual emergency at home, in which case I will be instantly reachable.
  • Engine of an airplane on which I have booked only one seat and no lap infants.
  • Sounds of the rain forest,where I live with no responsibilities because I’m an orchid now.
  • Crickets chirping at the exact same time of the year they always have, because the planet is not warming and it never was warming, in fact the climate is setting records for its unchangingness.
  • Traffic sounds without music, beeping, or cartoon voices mixed in, because the child in the backseat of the car is silently reading a book instead of blowing past her screen time quota.
  • Air conditioner that doesn’t add to the electric bill.
  • Bubbling pots on the stove, but I can’t offer to help cook because both my arms are broken
  • Lapping waves of an ocean my child is at least 100 yards away from, enclosed by a fence, even though she is a strong swimmer and is wearing a Coast Guard-approved, full-body flotation device.
  • Clothes dryer being run by someone else, who will also fold and put away the laundry.
  • Chatter of people talking in a nearby room at a party I didn’t plan the menu or tidy up for, because it’s at someone else’s house, and I’m lying on their four-poster guest bed with all the coats and I’ve locked the door.

But seriously, sleep is so vital and often so elusive to parents of RAD kiddos. Many live with alarms on the doors (not just on the outside). And even total exhaustion at the end of the day doesn’t shut down a brain full of worry and anxiety. So here are some natural herbal remedies for helping with relaxation and sleep.

Four Herbs to Help You Fall Asleep

  • Chamomile: A cup of chamomile tea before bed will help you unwind and fall asleep faster. A heaping tablespoon of the dried flowers in a cup of boiling water is all it takes.
  • Hops: Yes, hops is a component of beer, this doesn’t mean drinking a beer will help you sleep. Drinking tea made from 1-2 teaspoons of hops flowers (called “strobiles”) will help you get a deep restful sleep. Not a tea drinker? Make a sachet of hops, chamomile and lavender to tuck in your pillow and this will be a great sleep-aid as well.
  • Valerian: This is a well-known sleep aid. Use 1-2 teaspoons of dried valerian root to make a tea. In some places you can also find it in a pudding! Warning-it doesn’t smell great.
  • California Poppy: This has a mild sedative and anti-anxiety effects. Yes, it is a relative of the opium poppy but it has no opiates so it is in no way addictive. Steep 1-2 teaspoons of dried aerial parts of the plant in boiling water to make a soothing tea.

A good night’s sleep has so many benefits. If you find no other self-care, make sure this is one you focus on!

Until next time,

Shannon

Fall Family Fun

August at home our first Fall! I’m not sure they had Fall leaves in Murmansk. I think it went from a week of summer right back to winter!

Maybe it’s because Autumn is my favorite season that I love thinking of all the Fall Family Fun there is to have. And it may be why I’m able to think more positively and hopefully about family activities this time of year. For the most part we always had a great time doing Fall family fun adventures. August liked being outdoors so much which helped things a lot. So I thought I’d offer some ideas of fall family fun which might be good ways for your family to enjoy some time together before winter drives you all indoors (depending on where you live!)

Here is a list of 50 wonderful Fall family activities for you to try with all the information you need to pull them off. I could create a list but it would include all these activities and it wouldn’t be nearly this thorough! My personal favorite is going to an actual pumpkin patch to get your pumpkin and doing everything else that goes with that. The hayride and corn maze; the apple cider and caramel apples! The boys always enjoyed doing that also. For August the scary haunted corn mazes were his favorite. He had no fear; I should have picked up on that!

We could almost get August to participate in raking leaves just for the benefit of jumping in the piles. But jumping was so wild with him it was like no raking took place so it was kind of a wash. But looking back, anything that was an engaging family activity makes a fond memory.

That is the take-away from the change of seasons and what can be the fun of Fall. Some of these ideas are small, like reading a book. Some are more involved like going camping. But the key is everything you do together as a family is a memory. And as I’ve said before, when times might not be so memorable, having these to think back on may make a huge difference for you and your RAD kiddo. Bring them up when to your child when you feel the Grand Canyon sitting between the two of you. Share the memory and watch the Canyon disappear.

Make sure you take advantage of your Fall family fun time. The weather is great and it can be done easy and most of the time for not much money. Enjoy the views and make some memories!

August whacking at things with sticks, his favorite thing to do!

Until next time,

Shannon

When you get “that” phone call…

It took about two weeks most years for me to have the phone number of August’s school memorized so that when it appeared on my phone I knew who was calling. And you all know that feeling. You may be shopping, working, at the gym, anywhere when you get “that” phone call. And your breath gets tight and your skin crawls and you think just a bit about whether or not to answer. Right?

I confess, I have not answered more than once. Just to have a couple minutes to collect myself. And then called back and apologized. Because I just couldn’t get hit with whatever “it” is. Maybe I’d go sit in my car if I was somewhere in public, just in case. But I didn’t want to be blindsided always by whatever was on the other side of that phone.

So what could happen when you get “that” phone call? Well it could be anything like the simple, “Your child forgot their lunch” or, “Your child isn’t feeling well.” But with our RAD kiddos there is an equal likelihood that it’s something way more complicated. With August it was the interesting things he chose to bring to school like the pocket knife and the water bottle full of vodka. Or the behaviors like looking in the women’s restroom or run-of-the-mill anger. Then there were some bigger issues like the stolen cell phone or when he ran away from the residential treatment center.

So what do you do when you get “that” phone call? I think there were days when we immediately would have sided with our child and blamed the teacher. Or sided with the teacher and blamed the child. But those of us with RAD kiddos know that nothing with our children is that clear cut. Ideally, you have established a close relationship with your child’s teachers so that when situations occur, communication is easy. And hopefully, your child’s teachers have an understanding of their behavior and can put the incident in that context.

The key here is this is where all your work at the beginning of the school year pays off. And if it hasn’t been done yet, now is the time to get it done. For example, I was working as a substitute teacher a couple of weeks ago in a high school social studies class. There was a student who was giving me a lot of back talk from the moment I walked in. Now I’m not saying he was a RAD kiddo, but he did remind me a lot of August. This kept up until he asked to go to the bathroom. I said yes at which point he took all his books and left. I asked the class if he was coming back and they said probably not so I notified the Dean who let me know later they had him.

At the end of the day he came back to the room and apologized. He said he knew he wasn’t doing well so he left. He apparently has medication that he takes and he knew he needed some. I told him I understood and that I had a son very much like him. What I wish I’d been able to suggest but couldn’t is why didn’t he have a behavior plan that gave him the opportunity to leave without the chance of getting into trouble. The class knew him as a trouble-maker. There was no information from the teacher. He didn’t have any “out” to help him. I was pleased he knew himself enough to remove himself from the situation but I wish he had some support to make it easier for him.

Hopefully when you get “that” phone call you will already have the relationship that will allow you to process whatever prompted the call in the context of RAD and your child’s unique behaviors. If not, consider this your open door. One of the reasons we moved August between third and fourth grades was that he was labeled in his prior school by a teacher who wouldn’t work with us. Getting teachers informed and knowledgeable about RAD generally and your child specifically is critical to a successful partnership in handling behavior.

Of utmost importance is for the teacher to understand that you know RAD doesn’t excuse your child’s behaviors; it explains them. And you’re not using this illness to let your child get away with anything. Here’s a very good article for teachers on how to deal with a traumatized child. It may be a good reference for starting a conversation with your child’s teacher. Don’t be afraid of the phone…it’s all part of the process.

Until next time,

Shannon

Homemade Self-care Products

When we are feeling the most stressed and at our wit’s end, some easy quick self-care can be just the trick to bring us down to earth. And taking care of ourselves doesn’t have to be expensive and even creating self-care products can be soothing if you are a slightly crafty type (and even if you aren’t). These homemade self-care products allow you to make your own calming comfort products for face, body and hair. Also, you can pick some of the smells and other materials to make them the best for you.

A pretty jar can make having the lotion even more fun!

Homemade Lotion
1/3 cup coconut oil
2 oz. Beeswax
5 drops essential oil fragrance of your choice
Supplies: double boiler, bowl, hand mixer, clean jar for storing

In a double boiler, heat up coconut oil and beeswax. When completely melted, add the essential oil. Next, pour into bowl and wait until cooled. Then, using hand mixer, whip the lotion until it is the consistency of…lotion. This is how the coconut oil keeps whipped at room temperature. Homemade lotion doesn’t last as long as manufactured; it will be good for about two months.

Vanilla Olive Oil Body Scrub
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 cups Turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw)
1 Tablespoon honey
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon Vanilla extract or your favorite essential oil
Supplies: bowl, spoon, airtight container

Mix together sugars. Then, add olive oil. Last, mix in honey and vanilla or fragrance. Store in airtight container. Some notes: this is NOT a face scrub; body only. If it’s too coarse, you can use regular brown sugar instead of Turbinado. The olive oil will settle so you’ll need to stir it and if you want a more liquid consistency you can add more oil after it’s packaged.

Jelly sized mason jars are perfect for storing!

Homemade Bath Salts
2 cups coarse sea salt
1 cup Epsom salt
1/3 cup baking soda
Essential oil of choice
Food coloring
Supplies: bowl, container with stopper or airtight container

In a bowl, combine the sea salt, Epsom salt and baking soda. Add a few drops of your chosen essential oil and combine. Next, add food coloring to get the color you’d like. Store in container. Sea salt is an exfoliate, Epsom salts soothe and fight inflammation. Baking soda softens water.

These can also make great gifts for other stressed out friends or family members with the holidays coming up. But this is the time for you. Now, I’m off to make some body scrub…enjoy!

Until next time,

Shannon

Setting Up A Family Contract

Just the title of this blog may make you shudder a little, particularly if you have teen RAD kiddos. It’s important to find ways to set boundaries and establish rules and maybe when ongoing conversations are hard, a contract can help. A contract or agreement or plan can take away some of the drama or confusion surrounding expectations. So setting up a family contract where you get buy in from the entire family can make for a less stressful family life.

When August was in elementary school, we would have battles over clothing. Our first family contract came about clothes! I couldn’t deal with it anymore so our agreement became this: what he wears has to be clean, it has to be occasion appropriate, it has to be weather appropriate. After that, I didn’t have a say. Unless it was a major event or holiday. Then I pulled rank.

We certainly had a contract when he got his first phone. He had time limits. There was a GPS on it and he knew that if I ever looked for him on the find my phone app and he had turned it off the phone was gone.

Now let me clarify. These aren’t the same as chore charts or weekly behavior expectations where kiddos get stickers every day they set the table. For one, RAD kiddos are all about control and immediate gratification which makes these tools not so effective. These are broader agreements covering bigger issues. Which should trickle down into the everyday activities. That’s the hope!

“A little bit” may have a different definition in our world!

There are some great samples out there that I found which you can customize to work for your family. Here are a bunch. The idea is to come to an agreement before the fight over the subject can begin! I can’t promise this will solve every issue. But if you approach each topic with respecting your kiddos opinions and giving them some control over the outcome (within reason), then you are more likely to get buy-in and ultimately compliance.

The key then is, how do you approach these conversations? Of course, the expectation is that your RAD kiddo will try and ask for the moon. And will want to control everything while agreeing to nothing. That’s the RAD way, right? I think the important part it to make sure it’s a low-stress conversation that’s focused on the goals, not the process. If it feels like rules being imposed, you’re going to get immediate push back. Call it a contract, call it a plan, call it an agreement; whatever will sound the best for your children’s understanding.

Then when you enter into this agreement, you all have to have “skin in the game”. This can’t just be you telling your kiddos what you want them to do. You have to make promises of what you will do also. Remember, it’s called a “Family contract” and all the members of the family have to have responsibilities to make it work. So you have to think about what you’re going to own up to, what you’re going to promise (no yelling, some levels of freedom, getting that family pet, etc.).

This can be the start of great family conversations and healthy interactions. Once you set the stage, let everyone know that anyone can initiate a family agreement. It puts everyone in the mindset of leveling the playing field and treating each other equally and with respect.

Until next time,

Shannon

Who are your child’s friends?

Sometimes RAD kiddos who don’t want to bond with anyone seem yet able to make attachments. But are they the right ones? It’s not always easy to figure out how children make the choices they do or why. But friendships are important for a child’s development. Here is a great article that talks about how it happens and about why it matters. So it can be good to know…who are your child’s friends?

August is very charming. He has a big personality and never had trouble drawing other children to him. From pre-school on he always had friends. However, it was kindergarten when I started to notice he had a gift for attracting the bad influence in any group situation. The child in his class with the spiked hair and frosted tips was like a magnetic for August. He was too cool for school and August worshiped him. It wasn’t a pattern yet but I wish I had noticed the way he was mesmerized by that child’s style because I would have known what to watch out for down the road. But five-year-olds aren’t that scary. And it can get much scarier.

As he moved through elementary school he always seemed to make friends. He had a friend who was Mormon. The seventh of nine children. This is the first child I saw August try to control. I think he was susceptible due to growing up with so many older siblings. But August had the intuition and was able to capitalize on it.

After we moved to North Carolina he made friends very quickly. As I mentioned in a prior post, the first day of school he came off the bus with a friend who he remained close to for years. But because we had to move him out of his neighborhood school, it became hard to keep friendships with the local kids. And making friends with kids at a school where kids come from all over the city was equally complicated. But he did pretty good at having friends though all the trouble he got into was by himself.

Some of his attempts to have friends came off as showing off. He didn’t have much, if any, interest in learning. His way to “fit in” was to carry around the biggest hard bound books he could find. And when taking tests if he couldn’t get the answers right he would rather be first. So he would always finish his test way ahead of anyone else.

Middle school was such a whirlwind of change that I don’t really know what to say about it. He was in sixth grade for half a year until he got in trouble and we pulled him out and I homeschooled him. We did have a good homeschool community where we lived so he did have the opportunity to spend time with other children. After a year of that, we tried putting him back into public school but that proved a disaster which ended with his bringing a water bottle full of vodka to school. That was another attempt to show off to some other kids. He was continuing to find the kids who would get him in trouble no matter where he went.

After this school attempt was the 16 months in residential treatment. It seems like maybe everyone in there would be a bad influence but there were definitely some at the extremes. And yes, August found those. The ones that set off the smoke alarms, the ones that convinced him to run away. I’m not saying he wasn’t culpable in these but he certainly was good at finding partners in crime.

Then there was high school. The first attempt was a private school designed for students who have behavioral issues. Small school, small classes, seemed like the perfect environment. He immediately found one student who thought like he did. Yes, another partner in crime. And in less than a year he’d been expelled. A new city and a new high school found new friends with whom he skipped school on a regular basis. And from there we were off to the races. The wheels fell off completely after that and the rest, as they say, is history.

It’s always good to know who your child’s friends are. They will have an influence on how your child acts. And your child will have an affect on them. The same manipulation and controlling you see used on you can be used on their peers. So don’t be surprised if they lose friends or if you hear from parents. August did have a hard time with friends who would go periods not wanting to be around him. He sometimes had to be taken in small doses.

This is another aspect of RAD that just doesn’t show up in the same way with every child. But it will take some vigilance on your part to try and surround your child with the friends who will help them feel secure and validated. Here is an article with ideas about what to do when your child has a friend who is maybe a bad influence. And teach your child how to be a good friend and try and make sure that happens.

Until next time,

Shannon

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Do you remember being asked this question when you were a child? Do you remember asking this question of your own children? It comes along as children learn language with favorite color and food and others as we begin to form our identity as separate humans from our parents. We develop our own tastes and interests and passions which lead to our potential career choices. But for many of us, life takes turns between that question when we’re very young and now. So, what did you want to be when you grew up?

For a long time when I was growing up I wanted to be a doctor. Specifically, a pediatrician. I’m not sure where that thought came from. But that’s all I can remember ever wanting to be. And I, and my parents were very proud of that choice.

Until I realized an amazing fact. I loved ice skating when I was young. My best friend and I would go ice skating outside in winter at the pond in our hometown and at the ice rink down in Cincinnati other times of the year. You may or may not know that the machine that put down a new smooth coat of freezing water on an ice rink is a Zamboni truck. Well, one day at a Red’s baseball game there was a rain delay. They brought out a machine to suck up the water from the Astroturf and blow it over the outfield wall. Guess what that machine was? Yep. A Zamboni. I was thrilled. When I figured out I could work year round driving a Zamboni truck, I almost fell out of my chair. That became my new career obsession. Still is a little bit!

But the serious career aspiration of becoming a pediatrician stayed until college and my first semester when two things happened. My first chemistry class and my first psychology class. I hated chemistry and fell in love with psychology. Became a psychology major and never looked back. A semester or so later I took my first political science class and then every poli sci class I could make room for. Walked into college pre-med; walked out with a BA in psychology and a minor in political science.

Now I’m sure I’m not the only one with this kind of story. Part of the reason for college is discovery. Learning what you are passionate about and what you have a talent for. It’s part of the reason colleges don’t make you declare a major for the first two years. And I’m sure there’s a lot of you out there who are doing nothing even closely related to what you went to school for. That’s probably the second most common thing after having changed plans once we get to school.

So beyond a career or a college degree, what else did you want to be? Obviously we all wanted to be parents. But did you say when you were little, “I want to parent a RAD kiddo that’s going to test me every single day. A child that’s going to force me to put locks on my door and have a safe for all my valuables. Who I’m going to someday call the police on?” Was that what you wanted to be when you grew up? I imagine probably not.

You probably dreamed as we all do of your well-behaved children who would excel in sports and academics, grow up to respect you and other grown-ups, go to your alma mater and then take care of you in your old age. And wherever your dream veered off course, you may not have landed where you planned. But how has your life been enhanced by the challenges you’ve had to face? The people you have met along the way? The strength you’ve had to use that maybe you didn’t know you had?

I never planned to become a writer. I have always loved to write and it’s always been easy for me but I never saw it as a career. It took having a RAD kiddo to help me find this path and realize that writing was what I wanted to be when I grew up. There can be blessings that come from RAD that we don’t see in the moment but they show up in other places and times. My career has definitely been one of them.

Finding the good in the midst of bad is a great form of self-care. You may not have the idyllic dream you saw when you were young but there are happy moments and celebrations coming and still to come. Let that be your focus.

Until next time,

Shannon

Should Your Family Get A Pet?

Kids can wear you down. Their persistence is never-ending. When they want something they are like little Energizer bunnies and the, “Please, please, please…” just never ends. Nowhere is this more evident than the desire for a pet. Cats, dogs, hedgehogs, whatever it is…they can go forever until you cave. But for RAD kiddos, it may not always be the best idea. So, should your family get a pet?

August wanted a dog when he was five or six. His brother was just a baby and we we knew we’d be moving. I said he’d have to wait until the move and his brother was four. Which happened in the same year. So after the move, the negotiating began.

I decided that the first step was to keep some lower life forms alive first. Beginning with hermit crabs. We picked some up at the beach but those didn’t prove to like being relocated. So we bought some and got the whole set up. They require virtually no care. They are fun to watch and you can take them out which keeps them from being more like fish. But they aren’t very resilient. We went through a lot of them. The most memorable was when we thought we’d lost one and I threw it away in the bathroom trash can. Later that night it came crawling across the floor. For days later their dad would ask, “What do we do if Mommy says Daddy is dead? Call the doctor!”

From Hermit Crabs we moved to a Hamster named Oreo. This required regular food and water as well as cage cleaning. Food and water wasn’t so hard to get the boys to do. As expected the cage cleaning was another story. They were not fond of dealing with hamster poop. When Oreo died, August did have a very sweet funeral for him in the backyard, complete with a homemade tombstone and a requirement that all the family be present.

We didn’t get a dog. Soon after Oreo’s passing was when August’s behavior got really difficult and the timing just wasn’t right. Followed by divorce, followed by his going to CALO. I haven’t talked much about this period. CALO is Change Academy, Lake of the Ozarks. It is one of, if not the only, inpatient treatment facility just for RAD kiddos. I looked and looked and every place focused on addiction or all mental illnesses and I knew these wouldn’t work at all. And the cherry on top with CALO? They used dogs in their therapy!

August was able to get AKC-certified while working with Mia from when she was a puppy. Mia is a beautiful golden retriever who was bred on-site. The boys all got to name the puppies. The dogs were with the boys 24/7 except for meals. And the place was so joyful with all those dogs around! When August graduated and came home, he’d done the work for Mia to come also, but just as our dog. She’s retired now.

But it doesn’t always work for RAD kiddos and animals. Later on when he left home and was on the streets he tried to come get her and sell her. Mia wasn’t his first dog at CALO. The first dog was Destiny and her personality was more excitable. She was hard to train and August had little patience for her. He wouldn’t take her out when she needed but he did eventually realize that they were a bad match and make the switch. Mia was much more mellow and it worked great.

The RAD groups that I am on have story after story of children hurting pets or wild animals. It’s a manifestation of the hurt and rage they feel. And a way to hurt the people in their lives without actually hurting them. And something else to exert control over, which is central to the RAD mental state. Nancy Thomas parenting has a great article here on RAD and pets.

If you have a pet in the family, make sure you have thought through whether your RAD kiddo is mentally in the right place to have one and be alone with one. Then you can make sure you teach respect for animals so that they can grow up with that dog!

Until next time,

Shannon

How to find out what your child thinks of school.

For many years I would ask August at the end of a school day what was his favorite part of his day. That had to be quickly followed by, “Besides lunch and recess.” Otherwise, I got one of those two answers. Which was pretty predictable. For a child with ADHD and other undiagnosed learning issues as well as reactive attachment disorder, school can be a pretty tiresome and frustrating place. So I’ve put together some ideas on how to find out what your child thinks of school. In case you’ve experienced the same dilemma.

Every child usually has a favorite subject or a favorite teacher. That is the best place to start. Asking open-ended questions like, “What is your favorite teacher’s favorite word?” or “What did you work on in [insert favorite subject]?” These kinds of questions will hopefully get you more than one-word answers. And will then foster more questions and more conversation.

Asking questions about peers is also helpful. You might not be able to learn about specific children but you might be able to get a read of the room. Questions like, “Who said something funny today?” or “Who would you like to sit beside?” Now a quick word, this last question can be very helpful. August had a gift. He could seek out in any situation, the one child who could get him in the most trouble. Like a heat-seeking missile, he had the ability to find the one child he could connect with who had just as much ability to get into mischief as he did. He did it in school, summer camps, extra-curricular activities, you name it. It really was a gift.

I would recommend keeping some notes, particularly if some of the answers give you pause, to discuss at teacher conferences. You and the teacher can compare notes and it may give you both a more well-rounded picture of what your child is feeling about their school experience.

I found this article which has many more questions, some of them really funny! Whatever questions you ask, make sure your children know you are interested in more than their grades and their homework. Make sure they know you care about how they feel about being in school. Particularly with RAD kiddos, that may be harder to get to but it’s much better to put in the work than be caught off guard when the explosion happens, right?

Until next time,

Shannon